How did the two brands become one?
The Barcelo Hotel Group was formed when Barcelo Hotels & Resorts acquired Occidental Hotels & Resorts in June 2015. After a year of review and €150 million investment in the hotels, we now have four distinct hotel brands: Allegro, Occidental, Barcelo and Royal Hideaway. All our Caribbean properties are sold on an all-inclusive basis.
How do the four brands sit in relation to each other?
I like to use the analogy of a traditional trifle. The first level is your jelly, which to me is the Allegro brand. The jelly is a simple thing, although versatile in that you can add fruit, sponge and sherry to the jelly, so never boring. It’s the ideal brand for a first couple getaway when all they need is to stare into each other’s eyes, or simple family holidays where the kids just need ice cream, a pool and a fabulous beach.
Occidental is your next level – the custard. A very good-quality custard, certainly not your Tesco value – it’s more Ambrosia. It’s top-end four-star and well suited to couples who have been together a while and are may be looking to tie the knot or families that need more entertaining.
Moving up is Barcelo, the cream – single, double or whipped – the full range. These resorts are ideal for those with a bigger budget; couples with kids of all ages and for more elaborate weddings.
Finally, Royal Hideaway is the luxury chocolate dusting. It’s five-star-plus, adults-only and one of the Leading Hotels of the World. It is appropriate for clients who would like to spend the kids’ inheritance or want a dream honeymoon, plus it’s perfect for vow renewals. The dining in this hotel is amazing. Theatre dining shows run twice a week and guests can upgrade to the chef’s table for a private dining experience with a chef cooking a 12-course tasting menu in front of their eyes.
Have you moved properties between the brands?
We had two Barcelo hotels in Cancun, which have become Occidental properties as we felt they were more suited to that brand ethos. On the flip side, we have upgraded the Occidental Aruba to the Barceló Aruba. This resort also offers gay and lesbian weddings following the recent decision by the Aruba government to recognise same-sex unions. And there have been several more changes across the European portfolio too.
What’s new for the Barcelo Hotel Group?
There are constant improvements to facilities in the flagship resorts Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort in Punta Cana and Barcelo Maya Beach Resort in Riviera Maya to ensure they maintain their market-leading status. New hotel openings in Panama, Guatemala and Nicaragua are also taking place.
What’s special about the Occidental at Xcaret Destination?
This hotel is such a favourite for the UK traveller as it is adjacent to the Xcaret Park and offers two private entrances and a unique holiday experience. Xcaret is an archaeological and ecological attraction and a must do for travellers to the region. Agents know to sell the UXX package allowing guests to upgrade to an unlimited in and- out pass for the duration of their stay. It’s only a seven-minute walk to access the park from the hotel and compared with other Mexican and Caribbean resorts it offers so much more nature than the traditional beach holiday.
What does Barcelo Hotel Group offer agents?
We have the Barcelo Partner Club and agents earn points on every booking made to redeem on their own holidays or shopping vouchers. Bonus points are given for training and agents can backdate any bookings for 12 months to any hotel within the group. There are more than 100 hotels in 20 companies offering lots of opportunities to earn points. Our agency sales manager Adam Weatherby is also on hand for in-store training – we host around 10 regional training events a year and we have a coffee and cake sales plan for January to keep agents boosted throughout the month.
I think we’ll look more towards Central America, and for the UK a specific focus on Costa Rica, where we have four hotels. We continue to develop our agent loyalty schemes and hope to strengthen our trade relationships for 2017 and beyond.