Marriott & Sunwing Launch Partnership for All-Inclusive Resorts

Well here’s a partnership that I never saw coming…

Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, has announced the addition of 19 all-inclusive resorts to its portfolio in partnership with Sunwing Travel Group, the parent company behind the Canada’s very own Sunwing Airlines.

These properties are expected to roll into the Marriott umbrella by mid-2021, and are expected to introduce new ways for Marriott Bonvoy members to redeem points for all-inclusive experiences.

19 All-Inclusive Resorts Will Join Marriott’s Autograph Collection

In recent years, Marriott has ramped up its plans to compete in the all-inclusive resort space and add more all-inclusive properties to its portfolio. Indeed, there are already a few such resorts where we can earn and redeem Bonvoy points, such as the Westin Reserva Conchal All-Inclusive in Costa Rica.

The hotelier has also indicated that many of its brands will eventually offer all-inclusive resorts, including The Ritz-Carlton, Westin, W Hotels, Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection, Marriott, and Delta by Marriott.

In partnering with Blue Diamond, the hotel subsidiary of Sunwing Travel Group, Marriott will take a major step in adding no less than 19 existing all-inclusive properties to its Autograph Collection brand and doubling its existing all-inclusive portfolio. 

These 19 hotels are listed as follows:

In particular, the St. Lucia and Antigua properties will represent Marriott’s first foray into these markets.

While it’s always good to see new properties joining, I do question the choice of the Autograph Collection brand for these 19 new resorts. It would seem to me that the cookie-cutter nature of an all-inclusive resort fits better with something like a Delta or a Westin, rather than potentially diluting Autograph Collection’s reputation as a brand for upscale boutique properties around the world with a unique character.

(Indeed, Autograph Collections in the Caribbean have already been a bit of a cookie-cutter brand, such as the Atlantis Bahamas resorts, so this would only be a continuation of that trend.)

Then again, change was always going to be afoot with Marriott’s intention to grow in the all-inclusive space. I’ll be very interested to see what a Ritz-Carlton or W all-inclusive looks like, and whether these will dilute from the high standards that these brands have set or if Marriott can indeed find a winning formula.

Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa

Will We Be Able to Redeem Marriott Bonvoy Points?

It remains to be seen to what extent these resorts will participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program, including the ability to earn and redeem points, which hotel categories they’ll fall into, the ability to redeem Free Night Awards, and the elite status benefits that members receive.

Tony Capuano, Group President, Global Development & Design and Operations Services at Marriott International, was quoted as follows:

Sunwing Travel Group’s premium, all inclusive resorts will serve as excellent additions to the Marriott portfolio, adding two new leisure destinations – St. Lucia and Antigua – to our footprint and doubling our presence in this segment. We will draw on their expertise in the all inclusive segment to bring even more choices and exceptional experiences to our Marriott Bonvoy members.

Based on this statement, as well as existing all-inclusive resorts in the Marriott portfolio, I’d expect a high degree of integration with the Marriott Bonvoy program at the new all-inclusive resorts. And that would be a very good thing, since one of the common complaints about the all-inclusive travel style is the monotony of the “resort factory” experience, so it’d be great if elite status could provide some differentiation.

(Then again, with unlimited food and drinks already included in your stay, the properties would need to come up with some creative new benefits to deliver for high-status Bonvoy members.)

The other outstanding question is whether there might be a closer level of integration with Sunwing Airlines, who would presumably have favourable rates and access to these 19 properties under their parent company.

It would be interesting to see all-inclusive packages, including return flights from key Canadian markets, being offered for a Bonvoy redemption at a good value.

I think the most likely outcome here is that we’ll see all-inclusive packages being bookable as part of Marriott Bonvoy Moments, similar to offerings we’ve seen from Marriott’s other global partners in a variety of industries.

Hideaway at Royalton Saint Lucia

More Options for All-Inclusive Travel

The all-inclusive travel style can be pretty polarizing. It’s undeniably popular among the travelling public, and for that reason, some segments of more experienced travellers like to turn their noses up at it.

(“Don’t knock it until you try it,” they say. Many moons ago, I had taken an all-inclusive trip to Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba back in my university days, so I do feel I’m able to comment.)

The way I see it, an all-inclusive experience can be a solid entry-point for first-time travellers to get a taste of international travel and inspire them to embark on other trips in the future.

For groups of young adults or families on a tighter travel budget, an all-inclusive beach resort can be the simplest and most affordable way to enjoy a much-needed sunny getaway. If the traveller gets a chance to visit, say, Havana’s old town, Costa Rica’s jungles, or the ruins of Chichen Itza on a day trip, their curiosity might be piqued to pursue a more independent travel style in the future.

In a similar vein, the ability to earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points at an all-inclusive resort can greatly expand the appeal of the Bonvoy program itself.

Previously, there was never a good way to book all-inclusive trips on points other than redeeming fixed-value currencies to offset the cost. If Marriott Bonvoy can fulfill that gap in the market and offer high-value ways to redeem points, it can also expand its loyalty program to cater to a much wider range of travellers in the long run.

I think Marriott’s increased involvement in the all-inclusive space will be a positive development for travellers on the whole, even if I don’t personally plan on booking an all-inclusive trip anytime soon (well, aside from the highly aspirational all-inclusive Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai, of course). 😉

Conclusion

Marriott International has partnered with our very own Sunwing Travel Group to add 19 new all-inclusive Caribbean resorts to its Autograph Collection brand in 2021. It’s expected that Marriott Bonvoy members will have access to a wider range of choices if they’re interested in redeeming points for an all-inclusive stay.

While the all-inclusive travel style may not be the most appealing to more experienced travellers, it remains undeniably popular among the general public, so it’s always good to have more options on the horizon for booking all-inclusive stays a lower cost.

I look forward to seeing how Marriott will integrate the all-inclusive resort model with its Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, as well as what future all-inclusive resorts under other brands like Ritz-Carlton and W Hotels might look like.

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