Mexican 'hideway' unveils latest expansion

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ZIHUATANEJO, Mexico -- Villa del Sol has pumped new life into its hideaway on La Ropa Beach and stepped up promotional efforts to let agents know it has an even higher line of accommodations they can market to clients.

The property, which has garnered a reputation as an upscale boutique retreat in Mexico, unveiled a number of suites as well as a restaurant and pool.

Expansion is nothing new for owners Helmut and Muriel Leins, who have steadily boosted the room count since opening Villa del Sol with just six guest units more than 20 years ago. With the current enhancements, the property has a total of 54 guest units, the latest of which are luxury accommodations, including 11 beach suites, six lagoon suites and a two-bedroom, beachfront presidential suite.

The expansion has not compromised the intimate atmosphere of the property, according to Peter Koehler, Villa del Sol's general manager. "The objective is to maintain the low-key atmosphere. You are not going to see a move from a hideaway to a large resort," Koehler said. "We still personally welcome every guest, and our repeat clients are very happy with what we have done," he added.

Although Villa del Sol has experienced as much as an 80% repeat clientele in past years, the Leins built the new units to better compete with the other high-end resorts in Mexico. "We have always been perceived as deluxe and tucked away, but people did not put us on the list with some of the other top Mexico properties," Koehler said. "With the new beach suites, we now can compete in a different league."

One-third of Villa del Sol's room inventory is categorized as luxury suites, enabling the property to target a new type of client, Koehler said, adding that many of the repeat guests also are expected to upgrade to the higher-end units. The new suites, ranging in size from 650 to 1,800 square feet, were designed with unusual interior features in order to put them in a class above Villa del Sol's existing guest units.

Each individually decorated suite contains colorful Mexican fabrics, ceramic tiles, handpainted furniture, wood and stone carvings, local artwork, king-size canopy beds, a separate living area, terraces or balconies with lagoon or ocean views, private outdoor minipools and oversized chaise lounges and hammocks. Among the other standard amenities are bathrobes, a satellite television and a stereo with a cassette deck and CD player. Some of the suites also feature living rooms with queen-size convertible sofas and an extra bathroom.

The majority of the beach and lagoon suites are situated in a new beachfront section adjacent to the original property. The new area also features a pool overlooking the beach and another restaurant, La Cantina Bar & Grill, a casual beachfront venue specializing in seafood and Mediterranean cuisine.

To help agents better promote Villa del Sol's new offerings to clients, the property created agent discounts and launched outreach initiatives. From June 1 to Sept. 30, agents who want to visit the new suites can take advantage of a 25% discount on nightly rates, based on availability. Koehler said agency presentations and a direct-mail campaign also are part of the effort to educate agents. Additionally, Villa del Sol appointed Crown International Marketing as its sales and marketing agency.

The property is still a member of Small Luxury Hotels, and it received the AAA Four-Diamond Award for 1999.

Koehler said additional enhancements and expansions are planned for Villa del Sol, including the renovation of its older guest units this year. In the future, the Leins plan to build 18 more lagoon suites, move the lobby and build a spa, although plans are still on the drawing board, Koehler said.

Through Dec. 21, rates for Villa del Sol's new suites range from $300 to $750 per night, double.

A four-night Romance package also is available. Included are accommodations in a beach or lagoon suite, a welcome cocktail, a fruit basket, flowers, a half bottle of champagne, coffee served daily on the guest terrace, a honeymoon gift, a half-hour massage, airport transfers and taxes.

Through Nov. 14, Romance package rates are $1,550 per couple for a lagoon suite and $2,500 for a beach suite. Villa del Sol, Phone: (888) 389-2645; Crown International Marketing, Phone: (800) 628-8929.

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