A New Jamaican Treasure: One on One with Kathy Halpern, Palace Resorts
Following “industrial problems” that delayed its opening by several months, Palace Resorts opened the 700-room Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in the resort town of Ocho Rios this summer. The new resort is located on the site of a long-established local property, the former Sunset Jamaica Grande, and enters a highly competitive region filled with popular resorts.
The new resort is Palace Resorts’ first in Jamaica following the company’s establishment of several successful all-inclusive properties in Mexico. The multi-million dollar project represents major expansion into one of the Caribbean’s top destinations for North American travelers. We spoke with Kathy Halpern, Palace Resorts’ vice president of sales and marketing, to discuss the new resort’s guest amenities, facilities and services, plus its future in Jamaica.
TravelPulse: How is the resort operating presently following the opening this summer?
Kathy Halpern: Following the soft opening of Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, the brand’s first property outside of Mexico, in July, Jamaica’s newest luxury resort continues to evolve. In addition to a truly impressive world-class Awe Spa, eclectic culinary offerings and an extraordinary nightclub, Noir, we recently unveiled the destination’s first Flow Rider Double wave simulator. From our eclectic cuisine and unmatched service to our guest-centric amenities and superior product, we keep getting better every day.
TP: Will the property remain open through the Caribbean’s typically quiet fall season?
KH: There’s nothing typical about Moon Palace Jamaica Grande and most certainly no such thing as a "quiet season" for Palace Resorts. After hosting the 6th Annual Destination Weddings Symposium this September, we look forward to continuing the momentum and showcasing our group facilities and capabilities via a variety of meetings and events taking place on property for the remainder of the year.
TP: The Moon Palace Jamaica Grande adds a new property to what has been one of Jamaica’s top resort areas. What are the advantages to the resort’s location in Ocho Rios, and also in a prime waterfront area?
KH: We were driven to Ocho Rios for a variety of factors, including the destination's brand equity in our key markets, the quality of its people and culture and the wide acceptance of the all-inclusive model in Jamaica. One of the primary advantages of our premier location is that we are situated on a superb 17-acre beachfront featuring the longest stretch of private beach in Ocho Rios. Our secluded beach provides the backdrop for unforgettable experiences including weddings and events that sets us apart from competitors.
TP: By the same token, both Jamaica and Ocho Rios offer a number of upscale resort properties, and competition will be ever-present. What separates this property from its competitors and what in particular will make it successful?
KH: Discerning travelers today expect high caliber, well-rounded variety from an all-inclusive resort. Palace Resorts offers more and better amenities than any other brand. Top amenities available at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande include: Beauty industry-leading CHI amenities in every guest room; top-shelf liquor brands at all bars and restaurants and in-room minibars; unlimited long distance calls to the U.S. and Canada; complimentary wireless internet throughout entire property.
Another major differentiator is the brand’s Resort Credit promotion. Guests who book a stay of five nights or more at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande can take advantage of the most valuable vacation promotion on record – a $1,500 resort credit, which can be used on spa and beauty salon treatments, romantic dinners, and off-site excursions and tours.
TP: The previous resort, the Sunset Jamaica Grande, was a well-regarded if time-worn, long-term player on the local hotel scene. What work was done to public areas and accommodations to create the present property?
KH: Moon Palace Jamaica Grande features a fantastical design by Francois Frossard. Francois, which elevated the property’s aesthetic appeal to be reflective of the resort’s Jamaican setting. Renovations and improvements included modernizing guest rooms, revamping and expanding meeting spaces, a redesign of the property’s facade and common areas, restaurant updates and the addition of amenities synonymous with the Palace Resorts brand.
Comprised of three stand-alone towers, Moon Palace Jamaica Grande boasts five lavish swimming pools, a signature Awe Spa with a dedicated wellness center, 25,000 square feet of multifunctional meeting and event space, a beauty salon, and a Flow Rider Double wave simulator where guests can test their surfing skills on endless waves. The ultra-chic Noir nightclub features top-shelf liquor and cutting-edge music. Children can relish in group activities like ping-pong and mini-Olympics at The Playroom, while teens can stay connected at the Wired Teen Lounge. With such a broad range of renovations, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande.
We are confident our first property outside of Mexico will capture the attention of new and past guests alike by coupling the appeal of Palace Resorts’ stellar offerings with Jamaica’s vibrant allure to create a truly unrivaled destination resort.
TP: The Moon Palace Jamaica Grande was originally scheduled to open in March, but the debut was delayed due to “industrial problems.” Have those problems been addressed and how did the delay impact the hotel’s present operations.
KH: Palace Resorts continually seeks to offer our valued guests the highest quality products, services and experiences at each of our oceanfront properties. After assuming ownership of the Ocho Rios’ landmark property, Sunset Jamaica Grande in July 2014, Palace Resorts commenced an ambitious enhancement project that created exciting new amenities and attractions while also updating facilities and guest rooms in order to provide the highest caliber vacation experience. As with any opening of this magnitude in a new market, operations and procedures took time to be honed in order to effectively meet the highest standards. Our first property outside of Mexico is fully operational today and will undoubtedly resonate with new and past guests alike.
TP: Will the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande offer educational training, fam trips and other programs for travel agencies? If so, can you describe the company’s plans?
KH: Palace Resorts truly values the agent community. Travel agencies are very engaged with our brand, and we see high levels of participation in our training programs. Our strategy with Moon Palace Jamaica Grande is clear – we wish to empower the agent to become a Palace Resorts expert in the eye of the consumer. In addition to offering familiarization trips, we will continue utilizing our various programs, events and incentives to improve their bottom line.
Travel agents can take advantage of the newly launched Palace Resorts’ PRO Destination Wedding Specialist Program in order to further develop their knowledge and learn new techniques on how to market their business in the growing and exciting destination weddings industry. Agents who successfully complete this program will be certified as a Palace Resorts Destination Weddings Specialist professional, which garners value-driven benefits like: being listed as a trusted agent within the Palace Resorts consumer wedding website, bride and groom amenity vouchers, and access to a branded wedding booth valued at $9,000.
The Palace PRO Program that provides our valued agents with the essential tools for success. From education to marketing support, the program provides key elements that keep agents ahead of the curve and helps them capitalize and create tangible opportunities.
TP: What is most important for vacationers to know about the new resort?
KH: The unveiling of Moon Palace Jamaica Grande has been the most anticipated event in Palace Resorts’ 30-year history. Palace Resorts takes great pride in our ability to deliver an unmatched product of equal parts value and quality while exceeding the expectations of our guests through exciting amenities and attractions. Moon Palace Jamaica Grande is a testament to our relentless pursuit of redefining what an all-inclusive resort can and should offer.
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