At this all-inclusive beach resort, you’re handed a cellphone at check-in, with a direct line to your personal butler. You have private loungers at the beach and a cabana at the exclusive pool. You may even return from dinner to find a bath drawn, full of rose petals. Other perks include private pickup at the airport, swim-up suites and higher-end dining options than the dubious buffets catering to the hoi polloi elsewhere in the resort. Of course, luxury like this comes at a cost: up to $2,000 a night.
All-inclusive resorts have traditionally been a favoured haven for frazzled families, couples who just want to unplug, and hard-partying singletons drinking their weight in cheap rum. The allure has always been value, and the fact that you know how much your vacation will cost before you even depart. But increasingly, resorts like the Paradisus Palma Real in Punta Cana, have been increasing their efforts to woo upscale travellers with more bespoke experiences. Paradisus calls theirs Royal Service.
According to Meliâ Hotels, which operates Paradisus resorts in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica, its Royal Service is a hit with the well-sandalled crowd. But who exactly are they?
“Business people, musicians, football players, actors, people from the television industry, basically anyone who wants to indulge themselves,” explains Rafael Torres, managing director of the Paradisus Palma Real. Vancouver travel industry consultant Daniel Edward Craig thinks services like Royal Service offer upscale travellers the convenience of an all-inclusive with the added feeling of exclusivity. “It’s the land equivalent of choosing between Carnival Cruiselines and Crystal Cruises,” he says, the latter being famous for its exotic ports of call and its wine cellar—and its lack of bargain offers.
To bolster its brand, Paradisus has hired Michelin-starred chef Martin Berasategui to head up a new restaurant at the Palma Real, and help develop a chain-wide series. Trip Advisor currently ranks it first out of 67 restaurants in Punta Cana. “You won’t find any all-inclusive resorts with this kind of food,” Torres says. “That is very important to us.”
So far, Paradisus has few competitors. “There are some luxury brands—Bulgari, Armani—also doing top-level things, but on a more urban level,” Torres says. “Banyan Tree, in Bali, can also be considered a competitor, and that’s all.”
Ultimately, this corner of the industry banks on a steady ow of wealthy travellers, folks looking for quick escapes but with a level of pampering not commonly associated with all-inclusive resorts. “Fifty per cent of our people come back every year,” Torres says. “And they bring their friends.”
Doug Wallace is a Toronto-based writer and editor with a fascination for velvet ropes