Almond Resorts, already a major player in Barbados with three all-inclusive resorts, is continuing to establish a second beachhead in St. Lucia with the opening last month of Almond Smugglers Cove and the debut on July 1 of the Almond Casuarina Beach Resort.

Within an 18-month period that began in 2005, Almond has grown from a two-resort, one-island chain of 500 rooms to a five-resort, two-island chain of 1,600 rooms.

For the moment, Ralph Taylor, Almond's chairman and managing director, is content with that accomplishment.

"We are taking it all in stride," he said. "We have to digest this rapid growth and get our new resorts fully established with the travel agent community before branching out further."

The company's Barbados properties are the 161-room Almond Beach Club & Spa; the 400-room Almond Beach Village, which will open 100 more rooms by the end of the year; and the 289-room Almond Casuarina Beach Resort, opening July 1.

In St. Lucia, the 250-room Almond Morgan Bay Beach Resort opened just over a year ago, and the 357-room Almond Smugglers Cove opened on Feb. 26 on the site of the former Club St. Lucia.

"Our St. Lucia resorts have been very well received. The reaction of, and the support from, the island has been very positive, and our booking picture is strong," Taylor said.

Taylor is not ruling out further expansion and the unfurling of the Almond banner on other Caribbean islands. In fact, he's got the eastern Caribbean in his sights for 2008.

"Wherever and whenever we next open, it will be an all-inclusive resort," he said. "We know how to manage and run all-inclusive properties very well."

Along with its new inventory, Almond unwrapped a major promotional campaign in the U.S. that encompasses print, TV and the Internet. 

The TV ads will run in mid-April on select cable stations across the U.S. After that, the ads will target specific markets, Taylor said.

At the heart of the campaign is Almond's slogan, "For You. About You."

"What it means is that Almond offers a different kind of all-inclusive concept where our guests are free to do what they want, when they want," Taylor said. "The choice is always theirs."

Tied into these choices is Almond's new concierge program.

"It's all about delivering an added service for our guests," Taylor said. "The concierge component assists guests and their travel agents by handling arrangements and requests prior to arrival, either online, through our reservations centers or at the resorts once the guests arrive."

If the arrangement is commissionable, the agent collects the commission.

Team Almond is the resort company's preferred-agent program, which now numbers over 2,000 agents.

"We have loyal, dedicated agents, and more are joining all the time," Taylor said.

Incentives for Team Almond agents include cash bonuses and free hotel nights depending upon booking volume.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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