February 2014 archive

Beware of the Hidden Mega Resort!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

Looks like a beautiful Resort, But beware, it is larger than you think!

I am finding a disturbing trend in the resort industry. It’s been known for awhile now that most people don’t really like a resort with 2,000 plus rooms in it. In fact the perfect maximum size seems to be between 6-750 rooms. If you find a resort with say 1-200 rooms, many people would expect to pay a premium for this type of location.

This is creating a dilemma for the resort operators that want to have as many people as possible per square metre of ground space as this means maximum revenues can be achieved. So what is “their” solution? It seems the trend is to still put up these mega resorts, but to simply divide them into smaller sections called … wait for it … Resorts!!

That’s right; they have a layout of say 2,000 rooms, running down to the beach. It has a centre pool area and specialty restaurants at the top and somewhere near the bottom. You know the ones I am talking about. Here is the Steak, the Italian, the Japanese, the Seafood, etc.

So here is what is happening. All the rooms to the left of the pools are called Resort “A” and the ones to the right of the resort are called Resort “B”. Now they can advertise a resort of 1,000 rooms instead of the 2,000 rooms. But wait, it gets better. This number is still too large for that magic figure, so they take the rooms closest to the beach and make them Premium and … you guessed it, these are now another Resort. Let’s say “C” and “D” of 250 rooms each. These rooms are usually “Adult Only” and come with Premium drinks a private small, sometimes very small private pool area and so on.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

You are looking at 6 different resorts when advertized to you.

Now the main two resorts are now reduced to that magic number of 750 rooms each. Here is where it get’s nasty in my books. If, for the entire 2,000 rooms, there are say 7 specialty restaurants, they are available to everyone at all the “Resorts”. The same goes for the main pool area and sometimes the one pool swim up bar and other bars. So, what is advertised to us, the buyers of these rooms? They will tell the tour operator the following

  • 750 rooms
  • 7 specialty restaurants
  • 2 buffet restaurants
  • 8 bars (only one open at night in the main lounge area)
  • 1 large swim up bar
  • 1 Gym
  • 1 Spa
  • Beautiful beach area.

The problem is that this is all true except all of these services are being shared and sought after by 2,000 room guests or say 4,500 people.

4,500 people competing for

  • Restaurants
  • Seating at the bar areas and show areas
  • Spa appointments
  • And a seat by the pool or beach.

Any experienced traveler knows in these situations, that if you have one person in your party that is an early riser, they are elected to travel to “your” spot and claim your chairs for the day with the old towel and book routine.

But, we, as innocent travelers arrive at our 750 room resort with all of the restaurants and amities, do not feel the need to rush down and select your reservations for the entire week and guess what happens? You are at the buffet for most of your trip, you missed the lobster that you saw in the picture and it takes you 4 days to figure out the towel and book routine.

Of course, the Premium section does not have to go to the main guest services to book the restaurants. They have a special number to call or a private guest services that will either book the restaurants for you or in some cases, sometimes depending on your tip in advance, will watch for a cancellation and get you in whatever night you want.

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the "lobbies"

Have a closer look at the bottom of the map, you will see two of the “lobbies”

So, what do we do about all of this? Can we boycott it and expect it to change? On a trip I took last year to Mexico, this really became apparent to me and started me on this research. I called the resort and they said this is normal business, I called the tour operator and they said they cannot check on the facts sent to them from every resort and have to assume they are telling us the truth.

Well, that was a year ago and you will still find the same resorts advertized as smaller ones. With a very small amount of work, it is easy to figure out. The resorts do not hid it once you are there, so if you find pictures people take of the resort maps, of the names of the resorts as you drive in, you will pick up on this.  As well all most any resort built more than 10 years ago is most likely a single resort. It is the newer ones that are constructed to take advantage of this.

To give you some examples of this, and yes, I know you are waiting for this part, let look at the Majestic / Colonial resorts in Punta Cana of an example of this done right. Here they have two resorts next to each other. I say next to because everything advertized as being in one resort is in that resort. There are no ads to my knowledge where they include any restaurants from the sister resort.

They have the Colonial and the Elegance resorts. Each has its own pool areas, their own restaurants, etc. but you can walk from on to the other easily.  

In Mexico we have the newer style example. For example, you can book a room at the Grand Sunset Princess but, at least through Canadian tour operators, you cannot book a room or even have a hint that, across the pool the Grand Sunset Riviera exists. I just re-confirmed now and they still advertize that this resort has the following:

Property Amenities : • 672 Room(s) • 12 Pool(s) • Medical Centre ($) • Beauty Salon ($) • Air Conditioned Gym/ Fitness Centre • Jacuzzi • Kids pool • 11 Restaurant(s) • 9 Bar(s)

Once you arrive, you will discover that most of these are shared between over 2,100 rooms. To me, this just does not seem right and YOU need to be aware of this beforehand.

What can we really do? Check out the resorts. I strongly recommend that you read the reviews I have posted here at http://StevesTravelBlog.com and everyone’s reviews at TripAdvisor.com Spend one hour researching the Resort, not for what you want, but what you now know you do not want. Ask questions on blogs and you usually will receive answers quickly.

I hope this has helped you have a great upcoming vacation.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a "Crazy Gringo!" but having fun at this huge resort.

Yes, that is my hand and I was being a “Crazy Gringo!” but having fun at this huge resort.

On a final note, I am not saying that you will not have a great time at these resorts. Most people have an awesome time, I just want you to get what you pay for. I would guess that up to 80% of travelers go for the fun in the sun, the more the better and only go indoors to grab a bite at the buffet and to sleep. It is for the ones that enjoy the extras and the atmosphere expected that may experience disappointment without this information. At the Resort(s) I am talking about in this article, the staff were all fantastic. 

Enjoy, travel well, and I just might bump into you somewhere this spring season.

 


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What to take or not take (Part 2)

Best Bavaro Runner Guide ever!  Luis R "Mimi"

Best Bavaro Runner Guide ever! Luis R “Mimi”

In my last letter, I covered some of the basics on light travel packing. Now I want to share a few interesting things I discovered over the years.

Once you go to an area for five or more times, you will most likely buy less and less to bring back with you, In fact you may find yourself leaving more there then you bring back.  Many times now we have packed in many different formats with thinking about what can we bring to benefit the locals to how we can save money on travel bags with those nasty airline fees.

So here are some helpful tips for different types of travelers.  I hope you read my earlier article and think about how you can get your packing down to smaller amounts of bags. It might be from 4 to 2 or as my wife and I travel from two large to one small suitcase.

  1. For the traveler that loves to shop and will be buying something for all the Grand Kids, Friends and neighbors, let me suggest a few things. First try to get your own packing down to on average suite case.  Then with a matched set of luggage, the real packed bag can fit inside of the larger one. If you can’t quite do that, you will find lots of room around the outside of the smaller bag to free form pack things like T-shirts, or other things that can be rolled.

    With our set, we can even put a soft sided medium duffel bag on wheels. So if you are travelling somewhere new that you want to buy “stuff”, you will only pay the airlines for one bag on the way down and you will have the choice of one or more bags to hold the goodies and only pay for that portion on the extra bags.

  2. Now for people traveling to returning locations, you most likely can get away with the one bag and save in both directions, but I want to suggest that  the more you know about a people group, the traits of a country, the more you can have an extra highlight by bringing things that people will really like.

    Now, this is directed at the traveler that is going to one location, usually today this means an all-inclusive vacation that you will be staying at for a full week. In this case you will travel with two pages and do the double bag trick and return with one bag.  Let me share with you some of the things that you might want to do.  The first time we went to Cuba, we knew the basics that we could take for people.  Ten years later we returned to Cuba and this time we did it a little differently.

    Now before I get into this, you have to realize that we get a real kick on seeing faces light up and knowing that we gave them a few things that are sometimes hard to get there.  It is not that they cannot afford to buy them, the resort staff are very highly paid in tips (and sometimes supporting large extended families), but they just cannot buy things that are extras.

    Travel Bag in a bag

    Different shot showing all the extra space between the smaller bag and the larger one.

    So knowing that the staff in the rooms will change sometimes day to day once they know you have gifts and you will also meet a bunch of great staff in the restaurants, and on the resort in different area. So my wife spent all of a few extra dollars and went to the dollar store for gift bags and tissue paper to make up nice looking presents. The staff, were all so pleased with this and it really did make our trip better seeing the smiles.

    I remember on the day we left, we asked if the people who were so friendly to us could meet with us for a little something. To our surprise, they were ALL there and lined up in a line to say good bye.  It was very touching and it was so nice to have the gift bag concept ready to go so we could personalize each one.

  3. Finally, I want to switch gears to the Dominican Republic. How can we apply the same thing here?  On one hand we have a country that still has a very low income level, but we are dealing with resort staff that really do make a good living compared to other countries. 

    One of the things that you will find here is the need to help the school systems. There are other writers that are trying to make a mark and tell you not to bring school supplies as the delivery of the supplies causes interruptions and actually hurts the system.  All I can say is we have never experienced this and there is a right and a wrong way to do any of these outreach things.

    In this case, I have to really tip my hat to a local company that supports one school each year. The school agrees to be interrupted in order to get the much needed supplies. Seems like a good trade off and everyone is on board with it. The company is Bavaro Runners.  When you take their safari trip, and you let

    Bag in a Bag minus our cat.

    Great trick to save on paying for 2 bags when you will only need 2 in one direction. — No the cat is not being packed.

    them know you have school supplies,  they will stop at one of more remote schools, away from the resorts that are really, truly in need of paper (heavy and costly to import), pencils, rulers, etc.

    If you want to read more on this check out their “Giving Back Page” 

    I want to also recommend a good friend and one of the best guides they have. If you want to go this route and you are in the Punta Cana area, please ask for “MiMi” and tell him Steve from Canada sent you.


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