CEO: Margaritaville’s all-inclusive move a natural fit
CEO: Margaritaville’s all-inclusive move a natural fit
28 JUNE 2019 8:01 AM

With Margaritaville Holding making a push into all-inclusive resorts, CEO John Cohlan said that segment works both from a business perspective and with the general ethos of the brand.

NEW YORK—The Margaritaville brand is built around a simple promise: relaxing, ideally on a beach, without a care in the world.

And that’s why Margaritaville Holdings’ move into all-inclusive resorts with its newly announced Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma brand is such an obvious one, CEO John Cohlan said.

Speaking with Hotel News Now during the 2019 NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, he said the simplicity of the guest experience at all-inclusive resorts is a natural fit.

“You can make the argument that the highest and best use of the Margaritaville brand is an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean,” he said. “It’s the place you want to go with palm trees on beaches. The idea is about having no worries, and with this you don’t have to worry about paying for your dinner tomorrow night.”

He said it also reflects consumers’ understanding of the brand.

“Margaritaville is considered paradise by most in the country, and the most popular vacation in the country is all-inclusive,” he said. “So what’s so popular about all-inclusive vacations? It’s that you don’t have to worry about anything.”

The new brand launched in early June with plans to grow across Mexico and the Caribbean. The first property—the Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun by Karisma—is slated to open in winter 2019 with additional properties planned in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Margaritaville’s partnership with resort owner and operator Karisma Hotels & Resorts was initially announced in early 2017, but the formal branding wasn’t unveiled until earlier this month.

Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, chief marketing officer for Margaritaville Holdings, said that span was needed to get their approach to the brand just right.

“We spent the last two years talking through what a (Margaritaville all-inclusive) experience means,” she said. “We could’ve started building them right away, but it made more sense to be thoughtful about what each of us do really well. We’re excited that this could be really special.”

Cohlan said his company decided to partner with Karisma because they viewed them as the best-in-class operator.

“We’re blown away by what they do,” he said.

Cohlan said his company will stick to its asset light approach with its all-inclusive growth.

Karisma owns and operates properties in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe under various brands such as El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels, Azul Hotels & Villas by Karisma, Generations Resorts by Karisma and Allure Hotels by Karisma. The company’s recent growth has focused on growing resorts tied to broader consumer brands, such as Margaritaville and Nickelodeon.

Kelly Poling, then-SVP of marketing for Karisma and now CEO of Premier Worldwide Marketing, who serves as Karisma’s exclusive marketing representative, said there is significant opportunity in leveraging the strength of those types of brands.

“We’re betting on the fact that brands like Margaritaville have wide consumer recognition and represent a true lifestyle, which is something beyond just a hotel room,” she said. “That’s where the future is going to be with the next generation of travelers. They want brands that are not synonymous with hotel rooms and that stand for something bigger. Nobody does that better than Margaritaville.”

While Cohlan noted the natural fit between his brand and all-inclusives, that doesn’t mean they’re taking away focus from growing in different ways, including its select-service brand Compass by Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts, and various other forms of real estate like resort homes, entertainment destinations, high-end condos, active living.

“We don’t stand for any one category,” he said.

He said the growth in all-inclusive and overall for the company has helped establish a Margaritaville “ecosystem.” He said his company is a lifestyle brand in a very different way than many hotel companies approach that term.

“We provide a lifestyle when you’re our guest or on the radio, and when you’re at home you can walk around in Margaritaville flip flops,” he said. “You can live our lifestyle in any phase of your life.”

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