"Jamaica did not invent the all-inclusive concept, but it perfected it," says Earl Foster, manager of Sandals Ocho Rios, the newest property in the Sandals family of Jamaican resorts.
What it means is that all meals, drinks, water sport activities, entertainment, taxes, gratuities and airport transfers are included in the pre-paid price --sort of like taking the cruise-ship experience and moving it to land. It's a popular plan at many of the Jamaican resorts.
The island, with its tropical atmosphere, white, sandy beaches and spectacular sunsets, is famous for something else: romance.
And it is this combination that Sandals has paralayed into a successful concept.
The company noticed that about 80 percent of its bookings were from couples and decided to go after this market. In addition to being all-inclusive, all Sandals resorts are for couples only. Honeymooners, retirees, and everything in between, soak up the atmosphere at the various resorts. For a little extra, Sandals will even throw in the wedding. So far, more than 600 couples have been married at one or the other or the resorts.
With five properties, Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Carlyle on the Bay, all in Montego Bay, and resorts in Ocho Rios and Negril, it is the largest resort company on the island, and second only to the govermnment in number of rooms it provides.
"To make the couples-only concept work, you have to have romance," says Gordon "Butch" Stewart, the man behind it all. That means an intimate atmosphere, he says, and plenty of service. Sandals properties have a ration of almost one-to one as far as staff and guests are concerned. Each property also has two swimming pools, health club facilities, tennis courts, four bars serving a variety of drinks and fruit juices, airy public areas, a full complement of water sports -- from snorkeling and scuba diving to wind surfing and sailing -- and a host of "playmakers' organizing and directing activities. There is also plenty of opportunity to take life easy, to visit local attractions, or whatever tickles the fancy.
And, there is an accent on Jamaican culture. Each resort features a restaurant that specializes in jamaican cuisine, and all materials used in building and decorating the resorts come from the island.
All this comes at a price, of course. Sandals admits it aims at the upscale client, although there are several price levels at each resort. At Sandals Negril, for example, rates throught march 30, 1989, start at $1995 per couple for an eight-day/seven-night stay. Shorter stay packages are also available. Airfare is not included. (Rates go down slightly after March.)
However, says Stewart, the response to the all-inclusive, couples-only approach has been good. Last year both Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean had an occupancey rate of 94 percent. Negril opened in November of last year, and Ocho Rios just this month, so it is too soon to tell how they wil measure up, but things look promising.
Stewart, a native Jamaican, began his career by selling air conditioners on the island. maybe that's why he places his resorts to take full advantage of the sweet tropical breezes that blow in across the bays, why rooms have patios and balconies and beach fronts. He knows artificial is nice and sometimes necessary -- but nothing's quite as good as the real thing.
For more information contact unique Vacations, 7610 SW 61st Avenue, Miami, FL 33143, 1-800-327-1991, or your travel agent.