For luxury without the crowded tourist scene, look to the smaller, value-driven markets of the Out Islands.
Don’t get us wrong—The Bahamas’ tourist epicenters of Nassau and Paradise Island have plenty to recommend them. The airlift is plentiful. The accommodations can rank among the most luxurious in the Caribbean. And they offer plenty of tours, activities, restaurants and boutiques, all serving the large number of tourists who visit the islands each day.
But therein lies their downfall: the large numbers of tourists crowding the market and depersonalizing the experience for clients who seek that classic, serene, unfettered Caribbean ambiance. For rates comparable to those on Nassau or Paradise island, clients can truly get away from it all in the Out Islands of The Bahamas, offering every bit as much luxury, minus the crowds.
Luxury is a personal standard, with each individual imagining his own ideal amenities and services. For Mario Leon, sales manager for Pink Sands resort on Harbour Island, privacy and serenity are two of luxury’s key ingredients. “I find it very hard to consider a hotel with 1,000 rooms a luxury resort,” he explains. “Pink Sands is the antithesis to that. It’s 26 very private cottages on a secluded beach. Our guests really don’t have much contact with the other guests unless they’re really looking for it.”
And he’s not alone—many of Pink Sands’ guests, Leon says, come from major cities where a full day of solitude is truly a precious commodity. “Pink Sands is truly a place to get away from it all, and not be at all in any kind of hustle and bustle…. What true luxury is these days is time and space. For people that live in a crowded city like Chicago or New York or Paris, space and time are the true luxuries of our age, and Pink Sands affords both. The place itself forces you to create time without a million distractions.”
Of course, that’s not to imply that Pink Sands is just a bunch of nicely decorated villas on the beach. “The beauty of it is, in our day and age, that you don’t have to slow down if you don’t want to. You have the wireless Internet access, you can watch eight million movies on cable, you can do all those things, too—but the setting and space in the accommodations are all very large and very comfortable, and then there’s the sheer beauty of the actual island. Those things really make for a luxury vacation.” Rooms at Pink Sands also come with private patios, iPod docking stations with complimentary iPod rentals and DVD players, and oceanview rooms even have their own private pathways to the beach.
It appears that a lot of travelers have the same ideas about luxury as Leon. Even in the midst of the recession, he says, Pink Sands is “having its best year ever. We have been aggressively monitoring the situation and aggressively soliciting, but we’ve been very cognizant of where people’s priorities are and where people are looking to put their time and money, and so we’ve been fairly successful at maintaining a very healthy occupancy.” One of the resort’s recent specials is the Pink Escape, offering guests complimentary breakfast from the menu at Blue Bar, as well as their fifth night free, with rates starting at $600 per night.
Ultimately, Leon says, it comes down to value. “If you provide real value, there’s always going to be someone who’s going to want that. And I really do believe we provide real quality and value.”
royal retreats The villa resort concept is big on the Out Islands, and it’s not hard to see why. In addition to the luxuries of private space, villas often come equipped with money-saving features like full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, allowing couples or families traveling together to share their costs.
At the new Royal Plantation Island in the Exumas, for example, guests can choose from six villas of up to three bedrooms, all with kitchens, modern electronics like DVD players and wireless Internet access. What’s more, Royal Plantation makes it easy for guests to explore the lush, watery surroundings of the island, with a dedicated golf cart, beach cruiser, bicycles and motorboat available for every villa.