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Hotel Riu Palace St. Martin

XSM_Krystal_RestaurantBuoyed by first winter season results

 

The Riu Palace in Anse Marcel is currently ticking off all the right boxes since the family-owned Spanish chain took over last June from the former Radisson to become an all-inclusive resort, and that was very evident from the enthusiasm displayed by management over its first high season results during a media tour of the hotel on Monday.

 

With average room occupancy of 96-98 per cent in its first high season to now 85 per cent as low season approaches, it's no wonder management is smiling. According to Assistant General Manager Claire Guion-Firmin this contrasts with a peak occupancy rate of 70 per cent in the Radisson era.

 

Recently appointed to the position and having risen through the ranks of almost every department of the hotel St. Martiner Guion-Firmin's intimate knowledge of the hotel operation in 29 years she has worked there is a valuable asset to Riu.

 

"Because of the all-inclusive concept we've added roughly 100 more staff and that's good for the local economy,' she notes. "With Radisson we had 124 employees and now we are up from 172 to 250 and most are St. Martiners. 50 per cent of the existing staff is still here and repeat guests appreciate that. A bonus for us is that the Radisson guests are coming back.

 

"For me it's a great experience. I'm learning something new about all-inclusive even though I have the know-how in the business."

 

At 258 rooms, Riu Palace St. Martin is the smallest in the group of 105 hotels where over 70 per cent are all-inclusive operations. Guests are predominantly from Canada, USA, Argentina, and France and Riu has exclusivity with Sunwing charters for the Canadian market. The average length of stay is five days for American and Canadians to two weeks for Europeans. Activities, entertainment, and live shows are laid on every day and evening.

 

There are no perceptible changes to the entrance and lush grounds and the vast infinity pool remains the same. The decor and furnishings in the rooms have not been changed either since Radisson's major refurbishment and the only change is to the amenities in the rooms. Room types include Junior Suites, Superior Suites and Grand Suites. Safe boxes are

 

Rooms have a unique feature amounting to a stroke of genius by Riu; an upside-down liquor dispenser in a cabinet containing premium Scotch, Gin, Vodka and Rum, is both amusing and entirely practical. Naturally in an all inclusive resort mini bars and liquor are free.

 

"The guests just love it," says Press Manager Virginia Casado of the dispenser, and who is joined by Sales Manager Elodie Crespin on the guided tour.

 

Needless to say hotel security has a number of wheel chairs to take guests discreetly back to their rooms after imbibing a little too much, an obvious side effect of unlimited alcohol. Because of this the hotel does not take "spring breakers."

 

That said an all-inclusive resort might conjure up visions of a rowdy cruise ship-type atmosphere however there was no sign of that on the tour. As Castillo pointed out the property is big enough that guests seem to melt away from view. That is until they turn up to the restaurants.

 

The hotel has three à la carte restaurants, one of which is its signature fusion restaurant serving international cuisine and with a menu created by Michelin-starred chefs, and one buffet restaurant. The hotel also offers 24-hour room service. Everywhere waitresses and chefs are seen smiling and interacting with the guests.

 

The restaurants have been completely renovated and decorated to conform to the Riu concept and standards.

 

"The good thing about Riu is you can find the same standards of service, good food, and quality everywhere you go, and our guests love how they are treated by our staff," Casado adds. "At every location we try to adapt the restaurants to the culture of the country."

 

The health spa is in the same location but has been taken over by the company Renova. The Spa is not included in the all-inclusive concept, but the Gym is included for guests.

 

General Manager Francisco Benito is from Madrid , Spain and has run hotels in France, Egypt and Cuba.

 

"When we took over we gave all the Radisson staff the option of whether they wanted to stay or leave, but a not a single person has been fired since we arrived," he said. "We were well aware that not everyone would like they way we work."

 

The Riu hotel group was founded in 1953. It currently has over 100 hotels in 19 countries with 28,000 employees catering to 4 million guests. It is the fourth largest hotel chain in Spain. View the site at www.riu.com