Article repost from Travel Pulse

Kevin Froemming on the launch of the Panama Jack brand and new resorts in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Since going public in March 2017, Playa Hotels & Resorts has been on a roll, creating the new Panama Jack resort brand and acquiring resorts on Jamaica’s North Shore—the Hilton Rose Hall, Jewel Runaway Bay, Jewel Dunn’s River resort and Jewel Paradise Cove—and managing a fifth, the Jewel Grande Palmyra. Playa also assumed management of the Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. Vacation Agent discussed the new developments with Kevin Froemming, Playa’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

The portfolio of hotels owned by Sagicor was extremely attractive to us because of their location, their very high occupancies, and average daily rates, plus Jamaica is one of our core destinations. When you look at what we’re trying to do as a company, it was a strong fit for us because we already have a major presence in Mexico, and Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are right behind it at two and three in terms of importance and overall size in the all-inclusive market space.

This gives us over 2,000 hotel rooms in Jamaica, with a major footprint in Montego Bay and the Runaway Bay region, all the way up to Dunn’s River and Ocho Rios. For us, this is a brilliant opportunity. We will retain the Hilton logo on the Hilton Rose Hall, so now we have a relationship with Hilton as well.


Will any of the Jewel branding remain intact?


Some of it will. We are looking at a Panama Jack rebrand for some of (the properties) toward the end of the year. We are going to be spending $20 to $30 million for upgrading and modernizing the various resorts. We think that at least one, if not two, of the Jewel resorts, would fit very well in the Panama Jack portfolio. It would bring our Panama Jack brand into Jamaica as well. We think the Jewel Grande, which is right outside of Montego Bay, will probably stay within the Jewel brand.


The first two Panama Jack resorts opened in December in Mexico. Tell us about this new brand.

We converted the Grand Caribe and Grand Porto into Panama Jack Cancun and Panama Jack Playa del Carmen. Those are the first two of what we believe are going to be many Panama Jacks throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic.

Panama Jack fits into the 4.5-star level and is a popular-priced brand. It doesn’t focus on extraordinarily fancy amenities like maybe the Hyatt Ziva and Zilara do. It’s comfortable, natural, authentic Caribbean. That brand is for everyone—it’s great for couples, families, newlyweds, and people coming down for vow renewals and things like that. Panama Jack is an exceptionally strong brand name.It literally has a 99 percent positive brand appeal among consumers. People think of them as ‘fun and sun.’


How does Panama Jack compare to Playa’s other brands?

Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara are in that 5.5-star area. Ziva is for families, and Zilara is for adults only—so it does a tremendous amount of weddings and couples’ getaways. We do get a good number of adults who go into the Ziva product, particularly at Ziva Cancun. So, we opened a brand called Turquoize, which is the adults-only tower within Ziva. It has its own private spa elevator, its own swimming pool, a restaurant that’s adults only, and it’s all butler service.


Now we have Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic, which sits in at that 6.5-star area—it’s like ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’ It’s a beautiful place, right on Cap Cana’s beach. When we purchased Sanctuary, we got the rights to the Sanctuary name. It’s a very strong brand with some of the more upscale travel agents.

It has (approximately) 180 rooms and lots of villas. We’re doing a renovation project this year that will add another 140 rooms. It sits on an unbelievably sized footprint, which normally would have 3,000 or 4,000 rooms in another destination. But we’re going to keep it tight because we want to keep that special feel to it.


Do you want consumers and travel agents to recognize the Playa brand versus the individual brands?

At the consumer level, we want our brands to be known. So, it’s more important at the consumer level that the consumers know Panama Jack, Hyatt Ziva and Zilara and Sanctuary (brand names). It’s important that the travel agent knows the Playa (brand) because we have rewards programs. Because we are a publicly held company on NASDAQ under the symbol PLYA, obviously it’s important for investors to know us.