The concept of all-inclusive resorts began in 1950 with Club Med.
What originally was an exclusive members'-only experience slowly opened up and became an inclusive experience that people came to associate with certain vacation locales such as the Caribbean. From the humble beginnings of thatched huts, this genre of the hospitality industry has spawned into luxurious villas and opulent amenities.
Most all-inclusive resorts are beautifully designed, with luxurious rooms, some with even in-room Jacuzzis and a well-thought-out list of activities included in the price that gives one a touch of adventure and local flair. Sadly, though, when it comes to the palate, they have a reputation for being sorely bland. There is the typical assortment of a variety of cuisines badly represented and poorly executed. The only upside seems to be the copious amounts of free-flowing spirit, in liquid form and general vibe.
Indeed, most visitors to these resorts expect this and are really quite happy with the just the uninhibited flow of alcohol. But, it does make me wonder — how much more effort would it take to make the dining actually appreciable?
So, when I was invited to experience the new Discovery Dining program that Sandals Resorts was rolling out in an effort to differentiate themselves and add to the guest experience, my interest was more than piqued. Dare I hope? Could it be that finally a brand was seeing the merit in plying guests in more than liquid form?
Sandals Resorts has been pretty darn successful in maintaining its commanding position in the industry, despite the economic ups and downs, and, in the face of competition. Their fortitude and foresight in choosing locations that are in some of the most beautiful and unique areas in the Caribbean definitely lends to this success. More so, they have been leading the league in guest appreciation and customer experience. It seemed then, that the new program focused on elevating the dining experience would only further feather the fedora!
After spending three nights at the La Toc property in St. Lucia and testing this new program, I came away with restrained hope for a step forward in this industry.
So far, they have started on a good note. Sandals shows commitment to bring the diner a quality experience, whatever cuisine they may choose. They have enlisted chefs from the countries of each cuisine to lend authenticity. They have also elevated their offerings of spirits by offering top-shelf liquors.
They are actively engaged with local farms to source the produce for each of their kitchens. Where there are legal limits enforced, they abide and respect them while attempting to maximize the flavor of the local land. As aforementioned, they are also strengthening the authenticity of the execution in the international restaurants.
These measures give me hope.