Last updated: 02:29 PM ET, Mon October 05 2015

Destinations Are Using Time to Improve Guest Experience

Features & Advice | Ryan Rudnansky | October 05, 2015

Destinations Are Using Time to Improve Guest Experience

PHOTO: Surfers enjoy Las Catalinas. (photo courtesy of Las Catalinas)

Time travel may not be a possibility yet, but that doesn’t mean destinations and resorts can’t use time to mold the guest experience in other ways.

Las Catalinas — a small, budding town in Guanacaste, Costa Rica — and Bahia de Banderas — a municipality of Nayarit, Mexico — are examples of how destinations are using time to their advantage … and changing the guest experience in the process.

Las Catalinas, a beach town founded in 2008 by Charles Brewer, is encouraging travelers and residents to adapt to Costa Rica’s time zone, whether they come from the East Coast of the United States, Los Angeles or across the pond.

Bahia de Banderas, on the other hand, has actually changed its own time zone to accommodate travelers. Hospitality properties in Bahia de Banderas, such as Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, have followed suit.

East Coasters may not initially like the idea of getting up two hours earlier to meet the day in Costa Rica, but Neal Herman, president and COO of Las Catalinas, said they have adapted quite nicely … and actually are warming to getting up at 5 a.m. Costa Rica time.

“Some of these guys wake up at 5 a.m. and say, ‘Wow, this is great, maybe I’m not going to even change my watch,’” Herman said. “We started to hear that more and more.

“When you travel, you need to adapt to the time zone you’re getting into,” he added. “There are these magical hours in the early morning to take advantage of. (Travelers) see vacation as a great time to connect with themselves, connect with the environment. They’re so much more pleased with themselves that they’ve gone out, shaken off the cobwebs, had a great experience and connected with themselves. They actually have the rest of the day to enjoy and they’ve already had a full one.”

Getting up early has become an extension of how Las Catalinas lives, and how guests experience the 1,200-acre town. The locale is eco-friendly, devoting 1,000 of its 1,200 acres to a nature preserve. When people there get up early, they get to wake up with the environment, whether they are hiking or mountain biking through the tropical jungle, surfing or paddleboarding on pristine waters, or exploring the abundance of wildlife.

“We wanted to make sure people could connect with the surrounding areas,” Herman said. “It’s just so much easier to be connected with the environment here than anywhere else because it’s always top of mind in Costa Rica. We’re a product of the environment.”

As for Bahia de Banderas, Mexico, it decided to adapt to travelers, rather than the other way around. In 2010, the municipality switched from Mountain Time to Central Time to coincide with Puerto Vallarta International Airport’s time zone. 

“It was more practical for guests, suppliers and associates moving around the area,” a Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita spokesperson said. “It made travel for guests seamless as there was a lot of confusion with the airport being on a different time zone.”

The rest of the State of Nayarit still operates on Mountain Time.

Las Catalinas features residences, shops, restaurants and recreational facilities. A new hotel and a new beach club are currently under construction. Las Catalinas does not have gated communities, designed to create an open, welcoming atmosphere that is one with the environment.

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