Playa confirms at least 4 new projects underway in the Caribbean


Playa confirms at least 4 new projects underway in the Caribbean
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

Kevin Froemming EVP and chief marketing officer, Playa Hotels & Resorts, has confirmed that at least four major projects are underway in parts of the Caribbean, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.

After much success with Playa’s current Panama Jack product down in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Froemming hinted that Panama Jack might soon make an entry into Jamaica.

“Right now, we have two Panama Jack’s, one in Cancun and one in Playa del Carmen, and we’re very pleased with the response that we’re getting from the customers in terms of the quality of the product, the experience, and the entire lifestyle,” Kevin Froemming, EVP and chief marketing officer, Playa Hotels & Resorts, told PAX over the phone. “We think that this project has a lot of legs in the Caribbean, and in Jamaica, we think the product will work. We haven’t decided if it will be a rebuild of an existing property or a new development from something we purchase, but we’re actively engaged in expanding all of our portfolios right now, including Panama Jack.”

There are no plans to change current operations at Jewel Runaway Bay right now or in 2019, as Froemming explains the product is doing very well, having just returned from the resort on Wednesday.

“We have about four or five projects underway for 2019 right now, so I think what we’re going to do is to assess that property [Jewel Runaway Bay] further down the road in 2020,” Froemming told PAX. “We see this as a big opportunity to do better with that product, so whether that becomes a Panama Jack or a Hilton, ultimately, our strategy is to be the outsourcer of brands; with a stable portfolio, we already have a nice portfolio of consumer-friendly brands that all fit into a different niche for various customer profiles.”

READ MORE: Playa announces new agent booking platform with Sagicor merger now complete

A luxury balancing act

According to Froemming, Panama Jack falls just below the five-star product offering, making it an extremely popular brand, due to its ability to balance luxury and affordability.

“There’s a tremendous amount of four-star properties that are unbranded, and we’re already seeing customers gravitate towards the product, partly because of the quality of what we’ve done to those resorts, but also because of the strength behind the Panama Jack Brand,” Froemming explained. “We’re currently in a major expansion push, and Panama Jack is part of those plans.”

More family-friendly options coming to Jamaica

As it stands, there aren’t too many all-inclusive family-friendly properties in Jamaica. In earlier years, it’s always been branded as more of an adults-only escape.

But, according to Froemming, Jamaica has the potential to take the luxury all-inclusive market by storm.

“Part of our plans include expanding at the Hilton and adding more rooms over the next couple of years,” Froemming said. “Waterparks are essential if you’re going to attack the family market; the other waterpark at Runaway Bay also suits that market, and part of our acquisition [with Sagicor] was to diversify that portfolio, and one of the reasons why we like that portfolio was that it offered several products that are currently already family-friendly. The family product is underserved in Jamaica, and we feel that by adding more of that product, we’ll meet a need that’s out there in the market.”

Down the pipeline 

Froemming confirmed that Playa will be undertaking four major projects over the next few years, including the renovation and expansion of the Hyatt Zilara in Cancun, Mexico. Two additional properties, the Hyatt Ziva and the Hyatt Zillara Cap Cana will open November 2019.

Recently, Playa took over what used to be Dreams La Romana, now the Hilton La Romana, and it’s going through extensive renovations throughout 2019. Three-hundred and fifty of the 700 rooms are family friendly, and Playa is looking to expand and diversify both the family-friendly and adults-only sections.

“The La Romana will remain open; we’re closing the adults-only section on Dec. 1 2018, for about five months, and once that work is finished we’ll reopen the section and close the family side of the property, with everything complete in November 2019,” Froemming said. “What’s important to note is that because the property is so large, we’re doing the construction in a way that won’t impact guests on either side. The interference and noise will always be away from the guests, and we would never keep it open unless we could deliver a quality guest experience.”

The Hyatt Zilara Cancun will close for several months in the fall of 2019 for major renovations.

“What we’re really focused on is bringing new customers into the all-inclusive market,” Froemming said. “When you look at Hyatt and Hilton, the two of them combined have 85 million members in their loyalty program and almost 90 per cent of them have never been to an all-inclusive resort. We’re not looking to steal business from competitors, but we’re expanding that marketplace to an entire segment of people in a destination that’s the number-one request for mileage redemption. Anybody can lower prices, but when you create a strategy at the brand level, you’re increasing the market share and that helps travel agents, tour operators, and hoteliers bring new guests into the destination.”

Dates to remember

Canadian agents can look forward to the following opening dates:

  • Sanctuary Cap Cana: September 1, 2018 with the new tower opening December 1, 2018
  • Ziva/Zilara Cap Cana: October 2019 
  • Hilton Playa del Carmen: December 1, 2019
  • Hilton La Romana: December 1, 2019
  • Zilara Cancun: December 1, 2019
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