The 'New' Caribbean Means High-Design Hotels & Younger Crowds

by  Alex Schechter | Nov 8, 2013
Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos
Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos / Photo courtesy of the property

Things change. Those words are particularly apt when talking about the current hotel expansion happening in the Caribbean. On Wednesday, we showed you photos of the still-in-construction 1,000-acre mega resort Baha Mar, set to open on New Paradise Island in the Bahamas in late 2014/early 2015. Of the resort's four hotels (totaling 2,200 rooms), one will be flagged as a Mondrian, the design-forward brand normally associated with urban destinations like New York and Miami.

With its trendy cocktail bars, pool cabanas, and "Sunset Strip vibe," the Mondrian will be specifically targeting fashion and nightlife crowds. This signals a 180-degree shift from the Caribbean's usual family-oriented, mid-range hotel offerings. But this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Just yesterday, Hyatt opened its first all-inclusive resort, the 619-suite Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (from $296), which will be the first of several such Hyatt properties set to open in Caribbean destinations like Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Hyatt's said that the idea is to "introduce Hyatt's authentic hospitality to a new guest base," offering plush accommodations, sophisticated amenities, and a "Club Premium Plan" for extra VIP service. Judging from the number of Ziva and Zilara (these are the names of Hyatt's new Caribbean-focused brands) hotels in the pipeline – six in total – it's clear Hyatt is looking to cash in on the rapidly-expanding all-inclusive market.

Over in the Dominican Republic, a new adults-only resort known as Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa (from $642) opened this month, too, targeting singles, couples, and groups of friends. It, too, is all-inclusive, though the "adults-only" tag actually hints at the hotel's highly-curated "unlimited luxury" atmosphere and extensive nightlife offerings, all of which will appeal to guests in their 20s and 30s. In addition to the rooms and restaurants, there will be four open-air jacuzzis, free Wifi, and a dedicated spa; at the opening event last Saturday, one of the Kardashians made an appearance, which gives you some idea of the audience Breathless is catering to.

Two other hotels – the Kimpton Grand Cayman, opening in 2016, and the hip Gansevoort Turks + Caicos, which opened in 2008 – also target a younger generation of travelers who are more interested in DJ parties and rooftop bars than just splashing around in an outdoor pool or eating at a generic buffet restaurant. Of course, with rates at the Gansevoort starting at around $550, these younger travelers also have plenty of money to spend, and the hotels know it.

With openings like these slated for the immediate future, it's all but guaranteed that the tourism landscape of high-volume Caribbean destinations (Los Cabos, the Bahamas, Punta Cana) is in the midst of a dramatic change. How successful these newer properties will be at attracting the crowds they want – not to mention keeping them separate from the more family-friendly venues the Caribbean has traditionally thrived on – remains to be seen.

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