Unique Elite: Q&A with Elite Island Resorts' Steve Heydt
PHOTO: Steve Heydt, Elite Island Resorts president.
Caribbean resort management firm Elite Island Resorts (EIR) is a genuine rarity among operators in the category.
While the EIR portfolio has features found at other upscale Caribbean resorts, all properties in this collection also feature a quality frequently missing among other premium resorts: specialization. Each EIR resort is designed to appeal to a well-established leisure traveler profile. We recently spoke with Steve Heydt, EIR’s president, for a look into the company’s unique operation.
In a 2012 Vacation Agent interview, you said Elite Island Resorts offers "upscale Caribbean beachfront" vacations. Is that description still accurate?
That is still true, but now to a greater extent. We are continually improving our vacation offerings and have redefined the all-inclusive experience. While other brands tend to replicate a universal theme from one destination to another, our resorts are far more authentic in nature and each one is uniquely different from the next. We are also known for our high level of service and true Caribbean hospitality. Our staff is definitely our biggest asset, as evidenced by numerous glowing reviews.
Where does EIR operate resorts? What are the distinguishing aspects of each property?
Elite Island Resorts operates seven different resorts on five different Caribbean islands: Antigua, Barbados, Palm Island in the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Each property has its own personality and caters to a different clientele.
Galley Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua and Palm Island Resort in the Grenadines are considered our luxury properties and cater to a more mature and affluent crowd. They are also adults-only and very romantic, and so they are popular for wedding and honeymoons.
St. James’s Club & Villas and The Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua are family-friendly with an abundance of activities and classes, and so are perfect for multigenerational families or larger groups. St. James’s Club Morgan Bay is our largest property rooms-wise, and is situated just 10 minutes away from Castries. This family-friendly resort is chock full of activities and adventures to be had on St. Lucia. Long Bay Beach Club on Tortola is quintessentially Caribbean, with a laidback island vibe, and perfectly situated for the numerous sailing, snorkeling and diving activities that the British Virgin Islands has to offer.
What facilities and amenities are signatures of the resorts?
A smile, a “thank you,” and a memorable experience. We are known throughout the Caribbean for our exceptional service and our personable staff. Our guests know their favorite staff members by name, and even after years and years the staff remember the guests’ names as well, and even their cocktail of choice!
Do the resorts all offer wedding and romance packages? What are the best and/or newest?
Although we aren’t particularly known for our weddings, we can offer sophisticated brides a personalized experience that they will remember forever. A great deal that we offer at all of the resorts, except for The Club, Barbados and Long Bay Beach Club, is our “Free Wedding Package.”
Couples need only to stay seven nights or longer in a beachfront-category room or higher to qualify for a free wedding ceremony. Some other great honeymoon/romance packages are our “Romance & Private Package,” which varies slightly by resort. We also have the “Action & Adventure Package” that includes a day trip off resort, one-day car rental, diving or tennis lessons and two matching resort-branded T-shirts.
EIR is not a brand known to Caribbean travelers, although the resorts themselves are popular. What is the strategy behind EIR's lack of an all-encompassing brand identity?
We are not a hotel brand; we are a marketing entity. This is why each hotel is a brand within itself. Our resorts are unique and individual, so it makes more sense to market them individually. Elite Island Resorts is set up as a travel agent portal. We are agents’ concierge to the Caribbean.
Has EIR implemented any renovations in the past year?
We have so many new and exciting updates, as well as ongoing projects! At St. James’s Club & Villas we recently introduced our All-Inclusive PLUS program for the Royal Suites. Guests in this room category will enjoy enhanced amenities, VIP concierge services, special gifts and discounts, and more. The resort is also building a brand-new expanded fitness center, updating the Jacaranda Lounge, and now has an elevated culinary offering under the direction of world-renowned Master Chef of France Eric J Scuiller.
St. James’s Club Morgan Bay has tons of new updates, including the new Tree Tops Pizza & Pasta restaurant; the Choc Bay Café, which serves up specialty coffee and tea beverages and homemade pastries; a refurbished Morgan’s Pier restaurant; the newly renovated Calabash Conference Center, with capacity of up to 140 people; an expanded fitness center with a yoga and Pilates deck; and expanded menu offerings, including a multitude of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options.
The Verandah Resort & Spa is currently in the process of building six new two-bedroom villas with individual plunge pools and partial water views, to be completed by the end of this year. The beaches have also just recently been expanded, and there is the new Wadadli Snack Shack on Rasta Beach. Galley Bay Resort & Spa is slated to begin renovations to the Gauguin Cottages later this year, and also now features a new beachside massage pavilion and a yoga and Pilates deck right on the sand.
The Club, Barbados Resort & Spa has redone the Rum Shop Bar and Enid’s Restaurant, and will close for two months, starting July 6, for full refurbishments to its rooms.
Palm Island Resort has expanded its activities to include seasonal yoga and Pilates, cricket games, hermit crab racing and weekly “Silent Cinemas” on the beach under the stars. Long Bay Beach Club downsized to just the beachfront accommodations and the 1748 Restaurant. The rooms have been refreshed and a brand-new beachside swimming pool has been built.
What should EIR travel agents know about EIR?
We are available to you seven days a week at our central office in Deerfield Beach, Fla. We have a dedicated Travel Agent Concierge line at 800-498-3548 for assistance. We also recently launched our improved chat function, available virtually 24/7 on all our websites.
We even offer education programs for agents, including the Elite Island University, accessed through our dedicated Travel Agent Portal at www.eliteislandresorts.com/travel-agents.php. Agents can create a custom vacation experience for their clients with help from our knowledgeable reservation agents. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com and share with me what your clients want in an authentic Caribbean vacation.
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A version of this article appears in print in the July 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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