JAM-IberostarRoseHallIt's unusual when a hotel opens on schedule. It's virtually unheard of in the Caribbean.

So when the Spanish-based Iberostar Hotels & Resorts unveils its second property in Jamaica in October, three months ahead of its original timetable, that's cause for a party.

Iberostar will follow that feat with the opening of another resort in Jamaica in December, bringing to 16 the number of all-inclusive resorts in its Caribbean and Mexico portfolio.

The hotel firm currently has eight properties in Mexico, five in the Dominican Republic and one in Jamaica. It will unfurl its Grand Collection line in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, by 2011 and has plans for a luxury Grand Collection property in La Romana, Dominican Republic, at a later date, according to John Long, vice president of sales and marketing.

All of Iberostar's properties are newbuilds.

"The continued growth of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts worldwide includes a significant expansion throughout the Caribbean," Long said.

"Jamaica's culture, history, beaches, scenery and eco-adventure offerings are factors perfectly in line with the Iberostar product and portfolio," he said.

Opening in October is the 319-unit Iberostar Suites Rose Hall, to be followed by the 295-suite Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall in December, both in Jamaica's Montego Bay area.

The company's 366-room Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort, which opened in June 2007, is adjacent to the two new properties.

The secret to opening two newbuilds within three months of one another is to "build two at the same time," said Long.

"This has worked well for us in Mexico," he said. "Since the two Jamaica properties are close to one another, it was logical to follow the same plan, and it has resulted in an earlier opening date for the Iberostar Suites."

Also opening in December is the 274-suite Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The resort's 18-hole, Pete Dye-designed golf course will open in April; golf fees will be included in the resort's all-inclusive rates.

"We launched our Grand Collection in 2007 with our Riviera Maya property," Long said.

The Grand Collection resorts are for ages 18 and older and offer butler services, a variety of specialty dining options, spas and luxury amenities and facilities.

"Already we have repeat customers, and we will continue to expand that brand," Long said.

Long explained that the concept behind Iberostar's expansion formula "is to build an upscale family property, such as the Iberostar Suites Rose Hall, in conjunction with a luxury property, such as the Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall. That way, we target two specific and important markets at the same time," he said. 

All rooms at the Iberostar Suites in Jamaica will have an ocean view and a balcony, and 44 of the 391 suites are oceanfront.

"The suites are in a league of their own, aimed at the upper-midmarket price range," according to Long.

There will be a Kids Club, a lazy river ride, concierge services, several restaurants and a dine-around program with the two neighboring Iberostar resorts.

The Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort next door also is geared to families with a miniclub for ages 4 to 12, pool, watersports, three specialty restaurants and an international buffet.

Iberostar is "not a mass-market operation," Long said.

"We don't have 1,200-room properties; we are all-inclusive, but we operate on a more intimate scale with higher-end amenities and facilities," he said.

Approximately 40% of bookings in Iberostar's Dominican Republic properties come from the U.S. market; that figure increases to 60% in the Jamaica resort, primarily from the Midwest, a figure that Long anticipates will increase with the two new resorts.

The challenge for Iberostar in the Caribbean "is to price our products correctly, especially given the current situation with the sluggish U.S. economy, coupled with higher airfares."

Then there is the challenge of separating and differentiating Iberostar's brand and product from other Spanish hotel chains that have staked claims in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica.

"As our portfolio continues to grow and our market reach expands, Iberostar's product speaks for itself," Long said.

Bookings this summer were good, according to Long. The long-range outlook for the winter season is "up and down. Last winter followed a late-booking trend, but we are going to be more aggressive this winter with incentives, promotions and package deals." Iberostar's Mexico properties are outpacing the Caribbean resorts so far this year, he said.

The hotel chain also includes the Grand Amazon cruise ship that offers luxury cruises on the Amazon River.

Iberostar has three resorts in Brazil and will open a fourth in October.


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