The plethora of large luxury properties and brand names dominating the Caribbean landscape, with beaches, butlers and boatloads of perks, often means that other properties not so well known are overlooked in the crowded resort landscape.
I recently chatted with Jacqui McDermott, sales and marketing manager of the family-owned Ocean Hotel Group, whose portfolio includes three properties on the south coast of Barbados and whose general manager is Patricia Affonso Dass, the incoming president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
I admitted to her that none of the three were familiar to me: Sea Breeze Beach House on Maxwell Beach, Ocean Two Resort & Residences on Dover Beach and South Beach Hotel on Accra Beach.
"We are a well-kept secret or have been until now," McDermott said. "The U.K. market knows us and makes up about 75% of our business, but we are building awareness in the U.S. market.
"We are not cookie-cutter resorts. We're four- and four-star-plus resorts. All are different, with affordable luxury, contemporary, comfortable in a great location, and we offer personalized service with a Bajan twist."
The all-inclusive Sea Breeze Beach House -- the last word in the property name was changed from Hotel to House following a seven-month closure for refurbishment last year -- reopened with renovated rooms with floor to ceiling windows in many units, a lap pool, a new kids' club, chill-out zone for teens and four bars and six restaurants.
The Mahogany Lounge, the main restaurant, opened earlier this year.
In April, the room count moved from 78 guestrooms to 122 with a new collection of multiple-bedroom suites that range from one to four bedrooms.
"We changed the name because the word 'house' means coming home to a place where guests are cared for rather than served. The word 'hotel' was just too generic," McDermott said. "At Sea Breeze House, guests feel as if they own the property."
Guests "feel the welcoming vibe" when they arrive at the Beach House, which is set on two acres with 1,000 feet of beachfront, according to McDermott. More than 90% of the rooms have ocean views.
The 88-room Ocean Two Resort & Residences is a European Plan property (room only, no meals included), although the rates in 2019 will include complimentary breakfast.
"It's a great space for families, with large one- and two-bedroom units, a rooftop patio with a plunge pool, loads of water sports and several restaurants," McDermott said.
The boutique-style, 49-suite South Beach is an ideal fit for independent travelers "who want easy access to nearby restaurants, shops, a two-mile-long boardwalk and the nightlife of St. Lawrence Gap," according to McDermott.
She said it is a "big hit" with U.K. families, who represent a high percentage of repeat guests.
Ocean Hotel Group is developing a travel agent incentive program for U.S. agents in the coming months.