Palace Resorts' recently launched All-Inclusive Collection will serve as the sales and marketing arm for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and the three Hard Rock properties that will debut in Mexico within the next year.
"The All-Inclusive Collection was developed out of the need to market the Hard Rock properties differently and independently from the Palace Resorts portfolio, while creating healthy competition within the marketplace," said All-Inclusive Collection COO Rafael Chapur.
The plan calls for four resorts in Mexico that currently operate under the Palace brand to switch to the Hard Rock banner in 2012 and 2013.
The 601-room Cancun Palace is scheduled to convert to the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun this spring, and the 348-room Vallarta Palace will be reflagged as the Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta next fall.
In early 2013, the Hard Rock Riviera Maya will combine two adjacent resorts: the 489-room, family-oriented Aventura Cove Palace and the 777-room, adults-only Aventura Spa Palace.
Each hotel remains open under the Palace brand during the conversion processes.
Hard Rock entered the Caribbean in November 2010 when it joined with Palace Resorts to reflag the former Moon Palace Resort as the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, the first Hard Rock in the region.
"We have now extended that relationship with Hard Rock to include the first all-inclusive Hard Rock hotels in Mexico," Chapur said.
The new All-Inclusive Collection will independently promote the Hard Rock properties, while a separate marketing and promotion team will cater to the existing Palace Resorts luxury properties.
"We're marketing the two brands to different audiences and segments, with a laser focus on the needs specific to each brand and product," said Palace Resorts COO Sandor Winkler.
Palace Resorts is a luxury, all-inclusive product line with seven resorts in Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit and Isla Mujeres.
"We target the 35-to-65 age group, but since each Palace resort has its own identity based on its location and room count, the demographics shift slightly at each property," Winkler said.
By contrast, the Hard Rock brand is an edgier, hipper resort product with a vibe and a fun element, which targets a younger lifestyle and is geared around the theme of music memorabilia and signage, ongoing schedules of concerts and other live entertainment and signature rock star suites.
"We looked at where we had Palace properties in Mexico and where we needed to diversify, which is how Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya were selected as locales for the Hard Rock properties," said Frank Maduro, vice president of marketing for All-Inclusive Collection.
Although there are no plans for additional Hard Rock hotels in Mexico, "there are other destinations we're exploring elsewhere in the Caribbean," Maduro said.
Topping the priority list for both Palace Resorts and Hard Rock Hotels is communicating the marketing messages of the two brands to the travel agent community.
"Agents are critical to the success of our brands," Winkler said. "They account for more than 80% of our leisure FIT bookings and a large percentage of our group business, as well.
"We have teams of business development managers in the field, calling on agents and updating and training them about our product line."
Palace Resorts' four-tiered Palace Resorts Official (PRO) agent specialist program launched six months ago and already has topped the 600 mark. "By our [one-year] anniversary, we expect to have more than 1,000 agents enrolled," Winkler said.
PRO agents benefit from spa and golf discounts, exclusive marketing campaigns, lead-generation programs, special rates for family and friends and bonus commission incentives, based on the number of bookings per year.
Palace Resorts and Hard Rock run an extensive fam program as part of their agent support programs.
"Agents are the main vehicles for bringing the customer to our products," Maduro said. "In order to do that, agents have to experience the properties firsthand."
The all-inclusive field is a crowded marketplace, particularly in the Dominican Republic and in Mexico, so how do Palace Resorts and Hard Rock Hotels stand out in the crowded marketplace?
"Our service sets us apart," Winkler said. "We include so much value in the inclusive price for both brands, such as free WiFi all over the resorts, free long-distance calls, resort credits up to $1,500 per room on a five-night stay, top-shelf beverages and no dining restrictions."
Entertainment is key, as well. Palace recently hosted acts such as Shakira and Enrique Iglesias at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun.
. For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.