Taking Upscale Exclusivity To New Heights
PHOTO: A riverfront infinity pool villa at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. (photo by Richard Bryant/Arcaid Ltd.)
Ritz-Carlton Reserve, the uber luxury brand operated by its namesake hotel company, has taken upscale exclusivity to a whole new level. With three properties open so far — Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Krabi, Thailand); Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico); and Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Ubud, Indonesia) —and several more under development, these resorts combine local culture and ambiance with highly personalized service in choice locations around the world.
“We’re taking the Ritz-Carlton foundation and going deeper,” says Nick Teare, the company’s senior director-marketing. “We seek to generate an understanding of what the guest is about and why they’re there. It’s the idea of being cared for rather than just cared about.”
To that end, each guest receives a customized program based on a personal consultation with a staff member upon arrival. This type of individualization and flexibility is a major distinguishing factor for Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties. “We recognize that these guests’ time is so precious, so we shape the experience around the guest,” Teare says. “It’s about what you want, when you want it. Want to have dinner on the beach in the middle of the night? We’ll do it.”
Moreover, the resorts are “very private, very discreet properties,” he says. And the low-rise structures blend in with their environments. “Each property strives to pull through the elements —sun, sky, sea, fire, water —for an indigenous feel.” For example, Mandapa’s design was inspired by an indigenous Balinese village, complete with a rice terrace.
“Culture is extremely important for this brand,” Teare says. “Guests are not just experiencing a destination but unlocking a destination.” Culture is evident not only in the hotels’ ambiance but also in opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in local activities, which allow them to participate rather than just spectate. For example, Mandapa guests are invited to participate in the blessings at local temples each morning. They also can plant and harvest rice on the property’s rice terrace. And at Phulay Bay, guests can interact with a baby elephant that the hotel cares for, as it walks along the beach.
Future properties will also offer activities that suit their environments —from sailing in Bermuda, where Reserve guests will have access to a 77-slip marina, to hitting the slopes at Niseko Village, Japan’s largest ski resort, where the Reserve property will have ski-in/ski-out access. Guests will even have opportunities to interact with one of the world’s most bio-diverse marine environments on Panama’s Pearl Island, when a Reserve property opens there.
Accommodations are lush, with luxury appointments. At Phulay Bay, for example, those perks include rainforest showers, verandas with lounge beds and plunge pools, and his-and-hers walk-in wardrobes. And at all properties, guests have access to 24-hour butler service.
The resorts also offer spas that focus on wellness. Dorado Beach offers the five-acre Spa Botanico, with amenities like tropical pools, outdoor Vichy scrubs, local botanicals and “treehouse” treatment platforms under a forest canopy. Mandapa offers comprehensive wellness and lifestyle programs that focus on topics like nutrition, alternative therapy, and healing.
Additionally, each property features several restaurants, with an emphasis on local ingredients and recipes, as well as international cuisine. The Dorado Beach property focuses on locally caught seafood, with a menu developed by Chef Jose Andres. And Phulay and Mandapa offer Southern Thai and Indonesian specialties, respectively.
The properties typically have fewer than 100 guest accommodations.
Currently, the exception is Dorado Beach, which has 114 guestrooms and suites, plus Su Casa, a four-bedroom villa that was built in the 1920s as a private residence and has been fully restored.
The brand is targeted to travelers who are looking for unique experiences and are “explorers” and “adventurers,” says Teare. The properties cater to every age group, including children. For example, Dorado Beach offers family amenities like the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program and the Rockefeller Nature Trail. Mandapa’s Mini Explorers Program focuses on local culture with an organic farm and the educational Mandapa Camp.
A considerable number of bookings are generated based on glowing customer reviews. “We provide a product that provides the level of service that generates positive word of mouth,” says Teare.
That personal, discreet service, combined with the properties’ local ambiance and environmental and cultural sensitivity, are the top selling points for travel agents with clients who are looking for a unique experience that couples flexibility with exclusivity. “They’re story collectors,” Teare says of Reserve guests. “It’s the notion of connoisseurship. They pride themselves on [having] a deeper level of knowledge.”
For more information, visit ritzcarlton.com/en/reserve or call 800-542-8680.
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A version of this article appears in print in the May 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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