By Bob Schulman
Back in the old days, there was a fairly standard process for vacation bookings. You called your travel agent, and he or she helped you pick a spot and then set up all your travel arrangements. What’s more, the agent didn’t charge you anything – the airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers paid commissions to the agent for your bookings.
Then the Internet came along, about the time airline commissions went the way of the (now extinct) dodo bird.
You can still do business with travel agents, although now you’ll likely have to pay for their professional savvy. But thanks to the Internet, there’s a dazzling array of do-it-yourself options out there. Like direct booking websites for flights, hotels, cruises, air-ground and -sea packages, timeshare rooms, car rentals, guided tours and so on. You name it, and chances are you’ll find all kinds of websites for it.
One of the hottest hotel products these days is the “all inclusive” stay, where a flat price covers your room and all the chow you can eat. Often, such deals also comp all the booze you can down, or a hefty selection of drinks, and then gyms to work all this off.
Fast gaining in popularity are various kinds of vacation clubs, where members buy points or credits to be cashed in for stays (normally all inclusive) in hotels, resorts, villas, condos or on cruise ships.
One of the leading clubs is Royal Holiday (http://royal-holiday.com), which uses the buying power of its 100,000 members to negotiate deeply discounted rates at 180 worldwide destinations along with the club’s sister properties in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Members also get special deals on ships cruising 3,000 routes around the globe
Here’s how it works: Members buy credits on five successively higher levels offering increasingly attractive benefits. Besides stays at more luxurious properties, the upper levels feature perks such as VIP services, luxury cruises, tour discounts, lower prices for additional credits and longer advance booking periods.
Among other major features of the club, the cost of its members’ vacation stays is “frozen” at set rates for 30 years. What’s more, the credits can be sold, rented or inherited.
On the bottom line, the club’s innovative concept gives its members added flexibility in deciding when and where to go (and with how many people in their group), where to stay (and in what kind of room) and how long to stay there.
Royal stays in Mexico
Royal Holiday members enjoy particularly good deals at the club’s sister Park Royal (http://parkroyal.mx) hotels in Mexico – two in Cancun and one each on Cozumel Island and in Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Huatulco and Acapulco. Topping the line is the five-star Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe, with 344 rooms, suites and villas looking out at the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Features of the all-inclusive Grand Park Royal include four restaurants (along with complimentary 24-hour room service), a waffle house, two snack bars, four lounges, a deli cafe, two pools, a fitness center, a spa and yoga studio and a 7,653-sq.-ft. conference center.
Carlos Da Silva, the Grand Park Royal’s general manager, notes the property is located on one of Cancun’s best beaches, which his staff keeps in pristine condition. He stresses: “Attention to detail, whether on the beach or in our gardens, restaurants or rooms, helps produce a high volume of repeat visits by club members as well as from non-member vacationers.”
The nearby Park Royal property on the white sands of Cozumel Island is set to be upgraded to a five-star “Grand” designation later this year
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