Bookings for the upcoming winter season at Carlisle Bay, a luxury 82-suite resort on Antigua's southeast coast, are double the pace of last winter, reflecting a high-season trend seen at many Caribbean properties.
This Christmas the property, which opened in December 2003, will see its first-ever guest return for his 10th visit, according to Jon Reynolds, general manager.
"Our level of repeat guests is strong, and this bolstered our bookings last year in a challenging period," Reynolds said. "We're optimistic about this winter."
The resort -- a member of the CampbellGray Hotel Collection, which also includes two London properties and a hotel in Beirut -- tweaked its room decor this year with new fabrics and flat-screen TVs, added a line of Spanish spa products and welcomed a new spa director.
Carlisle Bay reopened Oct. 15 after its annual six-week closing for refurbishing and updates. New this winter will be yoga classes on the beach jetty as well as on the resort grounds.
Jeremy Bates, a U.K. tennis pro, will be at the resort all winter to offer classes. Crush, the year-round program for teens, now offers a teen lounge and new off-site sports activities, including kite boarding.
"We're working on a calendar of events that includes sailing weeks, tennis weeks, Carnival in July and a culinary program where guests cook with the chef," Reynolds said.
While not an all-inclusive resort, Carlisle Bay will offer an optional rate structure in 2012 that includes meals and drinks.
"Times are changing, and our guests want options," Reynolds said. "They also want value. Our rates have remained the same for three years. It is better to have a bustling hotel rather than an empty hotel due to rate increases."
To buck the last-minute booking trend, the resort is offering a 20% discount on rates from Jan. 2 through April 24 if booked by Nov. 30.
Numerous packages pegged to specific markets such as families, couples and sports are available, as are free-night programs such as a fourth night free when three are booked and a seven-night stay when five are booked.
Family suites are at located at one end of the resort's beach, couples at the other. "Our guests are well-traveled professionals and span a wide demographic range, but we know that couples want their privacy and families want their space," Reynolds said.
The resort hopes for an uptick in its wedding business. "We did 10 weddings last year, but we'd like to do one a week in the near future," Reynolds said.
The U.K. market accounts for 49% of bookings, the U.S. market for 33% and the rest is a mix from Canada and Europe.