The terms “luxury” and “all-inclusive” have long been at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the group experience—until now.
With experiential tourism on the rise, attendees essentially demand that the local culture be part of the all-inclusive concept, whether it’s through the use of authentic decor, F&B or even programming and off-site excursions.
“Luxury now has a wider meaning, one that is more about brag-worthy experiences such as rolling your own cigars with a glass of rare rum or a private dance lesson,” explains Juan Perez, senior VP of sales and marketing, USA for Barcelo Hotel Group Latin America.
To keep up with the times, all-inclusive resorts across the world are revamping their resort offerings so that they, too, can promise the same local experiences once saved for boutique hotels and vacation property rentals. Fresh dining concepts, experiential activities and an emphasis on high-level service are a few of the ways these all-inclusive hotel groups are redefining the all-inclusive concept and breaking the mold of its all-in-one reputation. Here’s a look at what Barcelo is doing.
Authentic & Immersive Experiences
Last fall, Barcelo Hotel Group announced a new, multi-brand strategy in response to the changing traveler dynamic. Its four brands—Royal Hideaway Luxury Hotels & Resorts, Occidental Hotels & Resorts, Barcelo Hotels & Resorts and Allegro Hotels—are shifting their focus to provide more authentic, culturally immersive experiences. That also means a $120 million overhaul of key resorts in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Central America and Aruba.
Cultural immersion is top of mind at Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort, which includes the Barcelo Bavaro Palace and Barcelo Bavaro Beach – Adults Only properties, in Punta Cana, Domincan Republic. Here, attendees can take traditional Bachata dance lessons or venture off-site to visit some of the local cigar factories. “Additionally, the resort’s annual “Culinary Week” is a great way for groups to experience authentic cuisine from different regions via interactive activities and events such as cooking demos, mixology classes, tasting and samplings,” says Perez.
You don’t have to venture far from the 764-room Occidental at Xcaret Destination hotel to explore some local history. It is conveniently tucked away within an ecological and historical preserve in the heart of Riviera Maya, Mexico, and offers a complimentary trajinera (or riverboat) that takes attendees through the property to the eco-archeological Xcaret Park, located adjacent to the resort. There are also authentic Mayan ruins on the property: one oceanside and one enclosed in a mangrove.