Sunday, April 07, 2013

Serene Progress: Adults-only hotels

Is the family hotel becoming a thing of the past? The emergence and growth of the adults-only (AO) hotel would suggest that its days are numbered. They aren't of course, but AO is catching on, and catching on fast in Mallorca.

Melía Hotels International is just one chain that has been reaping the rewards from branching out into this niche market. In its first season of offering AO in Mallorca (two hotels) plus one apiece in Ibiza and Menorca, the hotels exceeded the company's expectations. It expanded the concept by introducing AO in other destinations in 2012 and its annual report for last year identified the importance of "premium" brands, such as AO, to overall company performance. There are greater margins to be made, in other words.

The trend towards AO has been in place for some years. The original AO holiday complex is generally considered to have been Sandals in Jamaica's Montego Bay back in the 1980s. The concept has grown in popularity since then, the result of a number of factors, such as a rise in the number of couples without children and of adults simply not wanting to have to listen to kids screaming in a pool all day.

In Puerto Alcúdia, the Golf Hotel has been adults-only since 2008. Branded by the Viva group as a Vanity hotel, it has been one of two AOs in the resort, the other having been the Platja d'Or. There is now a third. It is not so much a hotel as part of a large apartments complex, Sea Club. 41 apartments have been sectioned off, been given a makeover, had a wooden solarium built around an exclusive pool and been dubbed Serenity. Am I alone in seeing a certain similarity between the two brand names - the "nity" part?

The Vanity name has always seemed, to me at any rate, less than ideal. It may imply some exclusivity, but I'm not convinced that a further implication that guests might be branded as being vain is necessarily a positive. But then what do I know? It's obviously successful, vanity or no vanity, and it can boast Team Sky among its clientele.

Serenity is arguably a better name. The suggestion of tranquility, of peace and quiet, is, one presumes, what adults want from an adults-only establishment. The name also conveys an impression, one of its location. Serene, to me, would probably be beachside, the only noises the rustling of palms and the gentle waves of the Mediterranean. This is not the location though. Serenity, as part of Sea Club, is some distance from the beach and in between two of the biggest tourist complexes in Alcúdia - Bellevue and Club Mac. It is part of one of the next biggest complexes, Sea Club itself.

This said, I applaud what has been done. These large complexes offer the possibility of being broken down into individual components and niched and branded separately. It is a strategy that Bellevue is crying out for. Sea Club have stolen a march, and it is a very good march as it is just the sort of tourist business that should be happening.

My only real gripe with the name isn't the name Serenity as such but the full title of this AO enclave. It is Serenity by Sea Club. This isn't "by" as in next to, it is "by" as in from. I am wondering when "by" was first used as a marketing device ("by Terence Conran" perhaps), but its use is now widespread. There is a restaurant in Puerto Alcúdia which has a "by", and it is intended to convey a certain cachet, a presumption that the one who is doing the providing is somehow well-known or is synonymous with exclusiveness. It does no such thing when you haven't a clue who he is.

There again, the mere use of "by" gives greater kudos to the provider. Sea Club, a complex of otherwise bog-standard apartments, cranks its reputation up a notch simply through an association that "by" gives. It's a clever move, but how durable is this "by"? It is a word that can now be added to many in the marketing lexicon that, if anyone dares use them, demands that he or she be given a good slap with a hefty marketing textbook. Words like "friendly", "service", "quality", "team"; all the no-no's of contemporary marketing promotion that are trotted out in the meaningless fashion that they are.

Serenity by Sea Club. It sounds ok, though. Adults only, it will not be the only such addition. More will follow. The family hotel will be with us forever, but its pre-eminence is being challenged.

Any comments to please.

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