Looking through old editions from the TTG archive is not just an opportunity to giggle at some questionable hairstyles. It’s also a fascinating way to track how some of travel’s biggest brands have evolved and changed their positioning over the years.
A Sandals advert I came across this week is a case in point: in the 1980s, the Caribbean all-inclusive operator’s adverts focused more on what you got for free than on the quality of the dining or guest-room interiors. But if you’ve visited a Sandals resort more recently – and particularly its new Grenada resort – you’ll know that in the past few years, Sandals has changed the game.
Investment and innovation in decor, dining and accommodation has created a more discernible gap between what clients can expect at Sandals versus some of the glut of other all-inclusive hotels that have sprung up around the Caribbean. And yet communicating an extensive product like Sandals remains a challenge, in terms of both agent and consumer perception.
Sandals’ decision to open a high street retail outlet in London – its first in the world – therefore seems a clever move. At the store launch in Kensington last week, I was impressed to see how well the store conveys the elegance of “Grenada-spec” Sandals, with a touch of the high-tech fun kids can expect at Beaches.
While the store will undoubtedly generate some new walk-in business, Sandals insists it is more about helping agents make sales than courting consumers direct.
Travel agents have been suspicious of suppliers launching a high street presence in the past – and had those suspicions confirmed by Virgin Holidays last year.
But Sandals has been careful to site its shop at a distance from any high street agencies, and insists it is not the first of many outlets. It has also incorporated a sizeable training facility, where it will welcome agents.
If you’re already selling Sandals, this remarkable new store looks set to be a useful tool in raising consumer awareness and helping you sell more. Or, if your own perceptions of the brand are still more 1986 than 2016, you might like to pay a visit to Fulham Road.