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Signage for Marriott International Inc's corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, United States (Photo: Hotel Management)

Marriot Intl plans ‘all-inclusive’ expansion in Latin America, Caribbean

Signage for Marriott International Inc's corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, United States (Photo: Hotel Management)

Marriott International Inc has expanded its all-inclusive portfolio in Latin America and the Caribbean by signing of a multi-unit franchise agreement with Blue Diamond Resorts, which will see it more than doubling the number of rooms by the end of the first quarter in 2021.

The agreement will also see Blue Diamond Resorts, a division of Sunwing Travel Group, incorporating its 19 Royalton hotels — in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St Lucia, Antigua, and Costa Rica — into Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

Sunwing’s hotel division, Blue Diamond Resorts, has entered into a franchise agreement that will see its Royalton hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean joining Marriott International’s Autograph Collection. (File photo)

“We are thrilled to work with Sunwing Travel Group and expand into two new leisure destinations — St Lucia and Antigua,” Marriott’s President of Global Development, Design and Operations Services Tony Capuano stated in a release last Tuesday.

In August 2019, the world-renown hotel chain announced its foray into the market with the launch of its all-inclusive platform that extended the offering of eight of its brands: Ritz Carlton, Luxury Collection, Marriott, Westin, W, Autograph, Collection, Delta, and Tribute. By December in the same year, the company announced the acquisition of Elegant Hotels Group, which then operated seven hotels in Barbados with 588 rooms.

Additional pipeline of deals

And the group isn’t stopping there. According to Laurent de Kousemaeker, chief development officer, Marriott International, Caribbean & Latin American Region, the hotel chain has a significant pipeline of deals that it will add to its Autograph Collection by mid-2021 and thus boost its market share in the all-inclusive space.

Chief Development Officer, Marriott International, Caribbean & Latin American Region Laurent de Kousemaeker (Photo: Hotel News Now)

“In the pipeline, there are 650 rooms in Yucatan in Mexico under the Autograph Collection, in Jamaica 800 rooms under Marriot’s all-inclusive Autograph Collection and in Curacao, 283 rooms – that adds up to three hotels in the pipeline totalling 1,733 additional rooms,” Kousemaeker told Caribbean Business Report in a recent interview.

“Today’s announcement adds another 12 hotels, so basically we are more than doubling. We are going from nine and then we’re adding 12 more hotels. And those are larger hotels, so it’s 3,937 rooms. So, we’re gonna have a total, with open pipeline and this project, [of] 6,258 rooms,” he added.

As the largest market for all-inclusive resorts, Latin America and the Caribbean plays a significant role in Marriott International’s strategic move into that space. At present, the region boasts over 50 per cent of all-inclusive rooms worldwide.

So, with the addition of Royalton’s over 6,700 rooms, and the pipeline of deals to come onstream in mid-2021, Marriott International will break into the top 10 largest all-inclusive providers in the world. In the luxury all-inclusive niche specifically, the group will rank second in rooms to AM Resorts.

Marriott’s economies of scale

Like Royalton, the hotels will be integrated in Marriott’s Autograph Collection and will, therefore, benefit from its economies of scale.

“The big advantage, of course, is that they will be connected to our systems, like all other franchise arrangements we have, and benefit from our 145 million BonVoy members, which we’ll be able to provide to them and work closely with them,” Kousemaeker explained.

With regards to the Sunwing deal, he said Marriott has been engaged with the travel company over the last 10 months, though there had been discussions years prior. However, he pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity both for companies to “rethink and recalibrate”, especially about how they will emerge and reposition in the aftermath.

Of note, Kousemaeker said both Marriott and Blue Diamond resorts share similar values and their strengths are complementary.

Blue Diamond’s Royalton hotels will, like other franchise partners of Marriott International, will have access to Marriott BonVoy’s 145 million-strong members.

“They have great assets, they are great operators in the all-inclusive space, they’re vertically integrated and they are strong with the Sunwing source market in North America…” he noted, adding, “So it was really interesting because it was a very natural fit.”

As part of the integration process, over the next several months, the hotels will invest in improvements to their properties that adapt to the Autograph Collection’s quality standards. Notwithstanding, they will continue maintain own names, unique identities and value propositions as part of the co-branding exercise.

Kousemaeker is optimistic, bullish even, on what the future holds for Marriott’s all-inclusive business post-COVID. While both hotels and travellers try their best to wait out the pandemic, he senses there is a “strong, pent-up demand, and the moment that people feel safe, we know without a doubt that leisure travel will be the highest priority for customers

The Royalton Grenada Resort (File photo)

“[That is] why this transaction is important for us now more than ever: there’s a lot of frustrated demand for vacations in the all-inclusive space that is hassle-free or worry-free,” he told Caribbean Business Report.