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Luxury Hotel Biz Rebounds, Sandy Lane Astounds

Sandy Lane resort's coastline in Barbados.

If the state of the luxury hotel business is a leading indicator of the direction of the global economy, things are looking up. If the state of a gorgeous Barbados resort called Sandy Lane is a leading indicator of the direction of Caribbean and West Indies lodging standards, then things are definitely looking up.

I pair the two thoughts because I recently attended an annual press event held by The Leading Hotels of the World, an association of more than 430 luxury hotels, from Paris' Hôtel de Crillon to The Pierre in New York and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

Each spring, Leading hosts a get together for travel journalists, and it reports on the state of the industry. This year, the association held its confab in Barbados at Sandy Lane, the resort in its collection that boasts the highest average room rate.

A room at Sandy Lane. Photo courtesy of Sandy Lane.

When examining the luxury hotel business, 2010 was the first upbeat year in the past three. In 2009, Leading booked $485 million in revenue for its members; last year that number jumped by $68 million. The average room rate in ’09 was $407 a night; last year it was $435. $28 more a night might not sound like a lot, but it’s music to the hotel accountants, and it’s a real indication of a recovery.

I understand $435 sounds like an expensive hotel room, but Sandy Lane boosts the average with a breathtaking rack rate that begins at $1,400 a night. Is it worth it?

Yes, especially when you consider that other Caribbean islands have less attractive rooms that can start at $1,000 a night. Sandy Lane is a tropical oasis with spacious rooms, a tiered pool tucked in lush landscaping and restaurants that serve—hands down—the best food I’ve ever been served in the Caribbean. With a professional staff that takes pride in service, Sandy Lane is the resort I’ve been looking for in the Caribbean for four decades.

Sandy Lane's oyster presentation.

Of course, it would help if I were an executive at Goldman Sachs—as was one of the guests while I was there—with dinner buffets and Sunday brunches costing north of $140 before tax and service and without drinks. But I’ve seen a few buffets and Sunday brunches in my life, and none have ever compared to what’s offered at Sandy Lane; I’d buy in just for the platters of oysters.

Leading took the occasion to unveil a new guest loyalty program that deserves your attention if you’re a five-star hotel kind of traveler. You must pay to join, and there are two levels.

Pay $100 a year, book your hotel stays through Leading, and you’ll receive a free continental breakfast for two every day you stay plus free Internet service at member hotels. I think this is a no-brainer. Have you ever seen the price of a continental breakfast or Internet service at a European hotel?

Sandy Lane's pristine pool.

Pay $1,200 a year, and you also get a room upgrade and membership in Priority Pass, a program that allows access to hundreds of airline lounges around the world. Plus complimentary guest memberships for family members.

At both levels, you earn a free night’s stay for every five stays you book in a calendar year. I’d consider Sandy Lane for those reward nights.

Photos by Rudy Maxa, unless otherwise noted.

Comments

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rocky point mexico on 3/5/2012 4:49:43 AM
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About Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa is host and executive producer of the public television travel series, Rudy Maxa's World. The 78 episodes he has hosted have won numerous awards, including a 2008 regional Emmy for his episode "Rajasthan." He's a contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler magazine and has written for a host of national travel magazines and newspapers. For nearly 15 years he offered consumer travel commentary on public radio's business show Marketplace as "The Savvy Traveler," which was also the name of a one-hour, coast-to-coast weekend show on public radio that he co-created and hosted for four years. Prior to his career as a travel writer and broadcaster, Maxa was an award-winning Washington Post investigative reporter, magazine writer, and columnist for 13 years, during which time his reporting was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He was a senior writer at The Washingtonian magazine and Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Spy magazine. The author of two non-fiction books, Maxa lives in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.