Associate editor Paul Felt visited the Beaches Boscobel Resort
& Golf Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. His report follows:
f only these walls could talk,
the recently opened Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club would
probably have quite a few things to say. What is now the resort,
was -- under its first swingin' incarnation in 1959 -- the Playboy
And while Hugh Hefner really hasn't changed a bit, this property
certainly has. Close to $18 million was spent renovating the
224-room property, which is spread out along the slope of a
The property, I soon discovered, has other unusual
characteristics, such as its method of hiring.
"One of the things we wanted to do was hire people who never
worked in a hotel before because they had the good attitude, smile
and the friendliness we were looking for," according to Jeff
McKitty, general manager of the property, who also opened Beaches
Negril, the first Beaches resort, in February 1997. "And we knew we
could teach the skills. It's hard to teach attitude."
Some 90% of the resort's 400 employees are new to the hotel
industry, McKitty said. The staff was trained for a period of four
weeks before the property opened, McKitty said.
During my stay, I chatted with several agents, including a mom
and pop team vacationing with their family, and others hosted by
Beaches on a golf tournament fam.
They seemed pleased with the resort, although some said the
staff wasn't fully up to Sandals' polished standards just yet.
The hiring process, McKitty said, "is paying off for us already.
It is reaping good dividends."
Many of the guest response cards, he said, rate stay
satisfaction in the high 80s and middle 90s.
"The idea was not just training people to be waiters," he said.
"We wanted them to know something about Jamaican history, so when
guests asked questions they could answer them."
The staff also was helpful in arranging the many activities
offered at the resort.
At the activities desk, a staff member helped me plan my day. The
choice was between swimming with a family of dolphins at Dolphin
Cove or riding a horse into the sea at Chukka Cove.
Both activities are very popular, McKitty had said, and it was a
tough decision. But because riding a horse into the ocean is a rare
thrill, the woman behind the desk steered me toward riding.
Climbing the famous Dunn's River Falls is the most popular
excursion for guests, but they also can enjoy local river tubing
and hiking in the Blue Mountains.
Of course, there's always the option of staying a little closer
I did that, as well, and enjoyed my first Swedish massage, which
required a little more effort in pain management than I had
Much like a visit to the dentist, I knew it was good for me, and
I felt renewed afterwards, if a little sore.
Thoroughly relaxed, I figured it was time to check out the
At the top of this 22-acre resort, on a secluded perch one
generally sees only from far below, sits what once was Hefner's
10th-floor oceanview penthouse, now a one-bedroom suite that goes
for $705 per person, per night, in the winter (Jan. 1 through April
The resort has 10 categories of rooms and suites. A deluxe
family room, for example, starts at $315 per person, per night in
Dining is particularly savory at the Venetian, which serves a la
carte Italian, and at the adult's-only Eleanor's Restaurant,
serving Caribbean cuisine.
At Eleanor's, I tried an appetizer of Jamaica's national dish,
ackee, a tree-growing fruit brought from Africa, and saltfish, or
As for the hotel's public spaces, my favorite was an extra-large
hot tub, which overlooks the ocean for a spectacular view.
Not surprisingly for a family-oriented property in the
back-to-school month of September, business at Beaches Boscobel was
slow when I visited.
By the numbers
John Lynch, Sandals and Beaches Resorts' executive vice
president of sales worldwide, said recent occupancy level
percentages were running in the high 70s to low 80s at Sandals, and
in the high 50s to low 60s at Beaches.
"We've gone to a 35%-off promotion for arrivals after January,"
Lynch said, "because we've seen some softness there and we want to
get the early birds."
Sandals' guests typically book far in advance, Lynch said,
"because our price inhibits impulse purchasing."
"But we are getting three to four points of occupancy within 30
days, which two or three years ago we never saw," he added.
Overall winter booking levels, Lynch said, are 12% below last
He said he hopes to see booking levels back to normal by
January, hence the unprecedented 35% winter discount, compared with
25% off last year.
"Every year, if you're not careful, January will get away from
you," Lynch said. "You can't decide in January that you're going to
have a problem because people are focused on getting their lives
back together after Christmas and New Year's. It's a thing you need
to work on early."
Lynch said he believes this winter will be a tougher one than
the last, but holds faith that it will improve once the air of
"It's just a confidence problem. There are too many 'ifs' out
Meanwhile, at Beaches Boscobel, Thanksgiving is "pretty full,"
and Christmas and New Year's are "pretty well booked," said general
For the Kids
Patience seems to be the virtue Beaches was looking for when it
hired the 22 full-time employees who staff the Kids Kamp children's
center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"We have another 25 trained nannies or babysitters, who come in
on request," McKitty said.
The fee for private sitters is $7.50 per hour, which the guest
pays directly to the sitter. There also is a Teen Center sports
club and GameWaves Interactive Zone video game room.
For more on Ocho Rios, see related articles:
• Area resorts boast new offerings
• Ride a swimmin' pony for a sea change
Room key: Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf
Address: P.O. Box 63, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Phone: (876) 975-7777
Reservations: (800) BEACHES
General manager: Jeff McKitty
Rooms: 224 rooms and suites, in 10 categories.
Opened: July 1, 2002.
Location: Beachfront locale, 10 miles east of Ocho
Rios, five minutes from Boscobel Airport and two hours by
motorcoach from Sangster Airport in Montego Bay.
Rates: From $315 for a deluxe family room to $705 for an oceanview
penthouse one-bedroom suite. Based on per person, per night,
double. Children ages 2 to 15, $85 per night.
Noteworthy: Prompt and friendly service. Excellent
options for family fun.
Not worthy: Sliding glass doors of oceanview
suites mean curtains remain drawn and air conditioning stays