Elegant Hotels Group in Barbados appears to be challenging conventional wisdom about leveraging a brand. Each of its five properties targets a completely different consumer segment and offers different meal plans, atmosphere and price ranges.

It's as if Starwood had only five hotels in total and one was a W, one a Sheraton, one a Westin, one a Four Points and one a Le Meridien.

If it turns out that each of the EHG properties is, in fact, a prototype for a sub-brand, that wouldn't be such a bad thing. It may not have consistency within the group, but EHG has put together a portfolio of attractive and well-managed properties in a very competitive landscape.

Its high-end product, the adults-only The House, has no concierge nor bell desk, but has 14 white-suited "ambassadors" to serve guests in its 34 rooms.

Two ambassadors are specifically assigned to each room, though guests are encouraged to convey their needs to whichever ambassador they happen to chance upon first.

"I watch how the ambassadors work, and they remind me of ducks swimming," said Catherine Beckett, the hotel's general manager. "You look at them, and it's like they're gliding along, but below the water their little feet are paddling like mad."

There is much attention to detail at The House. A "sense of arrival" is orchestrated for guests:  They enter along a torch-lit boardwalk driveway, with their ambassadors present to greet them with a cold towel and drink. Peering into the doors of the hotel they see more torches and rows of candles.

They are offered a complimentary, 30-minute, jetlag-revival massage. Guests in the four luxury garden suites can further unwind in their private plunge pools.

The House's next door neighbor, separated only by Daphne's, a sister to the high-tone London restaurant of the same name, is Tamarind Cove, another EHG property serving a very different clientele.

With 110 suites and rooms, it's an upscale, almost all-inclusive property (that is, drinks are not included). Each room has a private balcony or patio, and it has an expansive, hammock-strewn lawn leading down to the beach.

Further up Barbados' west coast (or, in marketing-speak, Platinum Coast) is the Colony Club.

A former private club, it has recently been renovated, and the new bathrooms alone would make my apartment weep with feelings of inadequacy.

It has 96 suites and rooms and manages to feel spacious, intimate and exclusive simultaneously; it has retained the private club feel.

Each room has either a balcony or a patio (more generous in size than Tamarind Cove), and several suites have private entrances to lagoon-style pools. Its only obvious shortcoming was its health club, which is long overdue for a well-check. (Management promises that a renovation of the gym is forthcoming.)

Also on the west coast is Crystal Cove, an all-inclusive -- drinks, too -- that has a more mass-market feel than Tamarind Cove.

It is situated on a plan that includes more vertical drop, and rooms are set along nicely landscaped walkways that lead down to the beach.

It has a very family-friendly environment and, although it has fewer rooms and suites than Tamarind or Colony (Crystal has 88), it feels more densely populated.

I was unable to inspect the 164-room, all-inclusive Turtle Beach Resort along the rapidly developing south coast (not yet nicknamed). Although marketers tend to gravitate toward shiny metals for inspiration, I suggest dubbing it "The Less-Expensive, Better-Nightlife, Rougher-Water Coast."

EHG's Turtle Beach fact sheet suggests that the property has a stunning, wide, white-sand beach, and that it's very kid-friendly.

Although the properties face different markets, the ones I saw all had similarities that help define EHG as a brand: Each appeared to be well-managed, had multiple pools, were exceptionally well landscaped, and it's clear that management views patios and balconies as more than just a small expanse of concrete.

It's not a group in which clients will necessarily move from property to property over succeeding years, but that's not necessarily a problem: If placed in the right property to begin with, they may simply return to the same hotel year after year.

To contact editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, send e-mail to [email protected].


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