PHOTO: The new overwater bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.
When Karisma Hotels & Resorts Executive Vice President Mandy Chomat was asked what he attributed the company’s ongoing success to, he wasted no time with his answer. “The philosophy was always to deliver a better all-inclusive experience,” he said. “One of the key objectives was to go after the market attuned to exceptional food and service, which is what we’re known for.”
But Chomat stressed that was just part of the equation. “The other objective was to train a distribution system of agents that would be different from anything else out there,” he said. In 2008, Karisma created the Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultants (GIVC) program to attract these high-caliber travel advisors, who are paid 21 percent commissions.
In addition to those high commissions, GIVC agents are privy to exclusive offers for their clients that are not available to non-GIVC agents or OTAs. “We want to work with travel agents who want to market themselves to consumers, and we’re here to help with any marketing assistance they need,” Chomat. “Agents are really important to us, because we recognize that when somebody really knows our product and how to sell it, the consumer has a better experience with the product.”
Going forward, Karisma will need that travel agent distribution system more than ever, as it significantly expands its reach beyond Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In all, the company plans to add nine resorts to its portfolio of 26 properties, virtually doubling its room count from 4,592 to 9,424 by 2021.
“To stay in the game you have to expand,” Chomat said. “Up until two years ago agents could only sell us in the Riviera Maya. For agents to be successful we had to give them products to sell beyond a single destination.”
The company plans to debut three properties in Jamaica, two in the Dominican Republic, and one each in Antigua and Huatulco, Mexico.
The first of the three Jamaican hotels, an Azul Beach-branded resort in Negril, is scheduled to open its doors in May 2017. The first of the Dominican properties, Sensimar Cap Cana, is slated to come online in 2018. The Antigua property is slated to debut in 2018, and ground is expected to be broken on El Dorado Huatulco in 2017.
Plans are also underway for a second Nickelodeon property, the Nickelodeon Rivera Maya, which is set to come online in winter 2018. Additionally, Karisma is scheduled to break ground on eight family-friendly overwater bungalows at Generations Riviera Maya in 2018.
Beyond those expansion plans, Karisma recently forged a partnership with Margaritaville to create the all-inclusive Margaritaville resorts throughout the Caribbean. A groundbreaking for the resort is scheduled for 2017, with a launch at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in 2018.
“It’s an honor and point of pride for Karisma Hotels & Resorts to partner with Margaritaville,” Chomat said. “We see the deal as a testament to our exceptional quality of product, service and amenities, and to Karisma’s ongoing ability to exceed customer satisfaction, that a company like Margaritaville feels confident in working together to launch an entirely new collection of properties.”
However, it’s not as though Karisma rested on its laurels last year. In 2016, it unveiled 30 overwater bungalows, or palafitos, at El Dorado Maroma in Riviera Maya and debuted the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.
Chomat said the response to the palafitos, which are exclusively sold by GIVC agents, has been nothing short of phenomenal. “We’re seeing more travelers looking at our product who didn’t consider us before,” he said.
Response to the Nickelodeon resort has also been extremely positive, Chomat said. The property offers adults-only dining options, a luxury spa and such activities as yoga, snorkeling and tennis. For kids, there’s the Nickelodeon Experience, which features such activities as meet-and-greets with Nickelodeon characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and the Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In the final analysis, Chomat believes that Karisma’s success will continue to hinge on the travel agent community. “We really believe in the power of agents,” he said. “And we want to grow with travel agents who believe in us.”
Grandparents Stay Free at Generations Riviera Maya
Reiterating its commitment to introduce more families and multigenerational travelers to its properties, Karisma Hotels & Resorts unveiled a “Grandparents Stay Free” promotion at Generations Riviera Maya earlier this year.
Guests booking two-bedroom suites will receive a complimentary one-bedroom suite for grandparents 55 and older. The offer applies to new bookings and must be redeemed by a guest 55 or older.
Adults staying at Generations have access to all the facilities and amenities at the adults-only El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas Royale, which adjoin the resort.
Karisma’s Nickelodeon and Azul Beach brands also cater to families, and the Nickelodeon Experience is available at Azul resorts.
Azul properties offer guaranteed connecting suites and those that can accommodate two adults and three young children. “We’re trying to make sure when families go on vacation at our hotels they have the ability to be together,” said Mandy Chomat, Karisma’s executive vice president.
The Generations, Nickelodeon and Azul brands also provide families with strollers, cribs, bottle sterilizers, baby monitors, bottle warmers and highchairs – and Gerber baby food is available in restaurants and through room service.
“If your clients are thinking of a family vacation, there’s a big difference between a family vacation with us and a family vacation at other resorts,” Chomat said.