Couples Sans Souci – “The Jewel of Jamaica”

written by BVC March 16, 2021
Couples San Souci Jamaica, a woman and man embracing each other looking out over the beach view in the background.

Couples Sans Souci

“The Jewel of Jamaica”

 

Business View Caribbean interviews Pierre Battaglia, General Manager of Couples Resorts Sans Souci Jamaica, for our focus on Best Practices in Tourism

Nestled on a verdant hillside with the most spectacular seaside views, Couples Sans Souci offers all-inclusive luxury above and beyond the desires of the most discerning guests. The resort is a perfect melding of old world glamour with contemporary style and accoutrements, and boasts its own mineral grotto, mineral pool, and intimate Piano Bar. Affectionately known as the “Jewel of Jamaica,” Couples Sans Souci encourages carefree abandon in an atmosphere of pure romance from the moment you arrive on the island’s beautiful north coast. From gourmet farm-to-table cuisine and thirst-quenching cocktails to unlimited recreation and romantic island adventures, this resort is all about relaxation and a worry-free vacation.

Couples Sans Souci General Manager, Pierre Battaglia, recounts, “The location was already being used in the early 19th century by some English businesspeople who came to Jamaica and started to develop the entire bluff of Sans Souci as a sort of spa. Why? Because this entire area is situated above a mineral spring. In the 1950s, the property was bought by several other persons who built 32 luxury apartments – some of the most upscale in Jamaica, at the time – for wealthy locals and also tourists who had started coming to the island. In the 1960s, two of the owners decided to buy out the others and turned the apartments into a fabulous hotel.”

Couples San Souci Jamaica, a woman and man in wedding attire playing in the beach surf.

Over time, the hotel grew from 32 to 64 beautiful apartments overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the now-famous Charlies Spa was created surrounding the mineral spring. Today, it features 12 gazebos right on the cliff, mineral water springs, several grottos, and other fabulous amenities that make this spa a treasured Couples Sans Souci experience. The resort is now fully owned and managed by Couples Resorts Jamaica (since 2005) and has gone from its original 12 acres to a magnificent 35-acre property sitting on three exclusive bays: the Charlies Spa, the  Main Beach, and the Sunset Beach. The hotel features 150 luxurious suites and is a favorite of celebrities because it is renowned as a private hideaway.

To satisfy every appetite, the resort boasts three lovely gourmet restaurants, as well as two beach grills, and Charlies Veggie Bar – offering healthy choices of drinks and food at the spa area. The hotel also features a scenic pond with a jogging/walking/cycling track that goes around and across the water – a perfect setting for enjoying tropical birds, and fishes and turtles in their natural habitat.

“We have an incredible environmental program here,” says Battaglia. “We recycle our wastewater and we use the water of our pond to irrigate our lawns and flowers. The gardens here are so lush. Also the resort is producing its own water. The White River passes through the resort, and we have a permit to pump water from the river into our reverse osmosis plant to produce our own drinking water. The quality is superb. We are certified Earthcheck members and we are very proud of the awards we receive for environmental stewardship.”

When COVID-19 came on the scene in early 2020, Couples Sans Souci was impacted along with the rest of the world. The hotel was closed off and on for almost six months and re-opened December 1st with brand-new protocols. Battaglia explains, “We had to be certified through our Ministry of Health and attain different certifications before we opened and we started with about 30 percent of capacity, just under 100 guests, who joined us for the month of December. We had to rethink the way we operated the resort, meaning we had to eliminate all the special events such as our Grand Gala, our Jamaican Party, our Repeat Guests Dinner – things that were part of the guest ‘experience’.”

All the restaurants have reopened as a la carte with no more buffets. To ensure the distances between tables are respected, the restaurant seating had to be redesigned. The entire staff had to go through specific training for new ways of delivering services, and protection screens were installed on the major areas where guests will arrive, including the Guest Services Desk, Tour Desk, Front Desk and other areas of the hotel where guests and staff would have conversations. And, of course, guests are asked to observe the social distance policy, as well.  Battaglia notes, “After opening on Dec. 1st, we had about 30 percent of capacity – just under 100 guests, who joined us that month. January went down to about 20 percent of capacity and February a little better with about 25 percent occupancy. So it’s been very difficult; normally we operate with about 320 staff, now we are around 140 staff.” While a full $10 million renovation that was scheduled to start in April 2020 has unfortunately been put on hold, a few beautification projects were tackled during the six months the resort was closed.

To keep the staff upbeat, so they can smile and be welcoming to the guests, hotel management offers a great deal of encouragement and support. “The team work on a rotation basis of three days, four days, five days, so everyone gets some of the hours,” says Battaglia, “but the take-home pay is much less than what they’re used to, especially at this time of the year when it’s usually the highest occupancy and the staff are getting paid a higher salary and get good gratuities. So motivation was necessary – and we had to motivate ourselves because even though you’re management, you are in the same boat.”

Couples San Souci Jamaica, a vibrant white and blue bedroom interior with a beach view visible in the corner beyond the patio.

The Couples Resorts group has a very strong marketing team who are working very hard to promote the resort and Jamaica. According to Battaglia, “We do a lot of regular promotion on our website and the momentum seems to have picked up lately. We are getting more bookings than cancellations, so that’s a good sign. People are really looking to vacation and we predict March to be about 35 percent and April should be better. The winter is always the best season for us; it’s the time of year when we’re making the money for the hotel. But this year, we just wait and hope for the best, hope that things will get better soon. With all the protocols in place at our resort, and in Jamaica, itself, all our guests are saying that they feel safer here with us than where they’re coming from.”

As a company, Couples Resorts likes to keep the local businesses alive and they continue to support area farmers by purchasing produce, etc. to supply the hotel restaurants at all four of their resort properties in Jamaica. “The owners of Couples want to see their hotels grow with the local markets,” says Battaglia. “Abe Issa, based in Florida, is leading our sales and marketing efforts and working very hard to promote the resorts. The U.S. is our biggest market and as more persons get the vaccine, the more will be able to travel and that’s a very good thing. The Jamaica Tourist Board is pushing the government very hard to get the vaccine to the Island, so we can all get vaccinated and then we can welcome everybody and feel protected.”

Since the resort opened Dec 1st, all the guests who have visited have been very positive and thankful to the staff and the owners of Couples Resorts for opening the hotel. Many have mentioned that they feel extremely safe and are very impressed with the staff attitude, doing the utmost to have guests enjoy their stay. Battaglia shares, “People know the restrictions we’re working with and they really appreciate the fact that we do everything possible to be here for them. Definitely that’s a positive sign. We’ve had the most wonderful winter season here, the weather has been impeccable – beautiful days, cool nights. Just perfect – so I know persons are really missing something special. Every day, I receive email from repeat guests asking us how we’re doing and saying they’re looking forward to coming back to Couples Sans Souci, as soon as possible. We can’t wait to greet them!”

AT A GLANCE

Couples Sans Souci

What: Exclusive five-star, all-inclusive resort

Where: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Website: www.couples.com/resorts/sans-souci

PREFERRED VENDORS

Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience (owned by The Campari Group) – www.AppletonEstate.com 

In 2020, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, a global leader in premium rums, introduced newly designed packaging, including a re-imagined bottle and label, accompanied by the release of a new premium blend: The 8-Year-Old Reserve. The relaunch is a celebration of Jamaican Excellence, most importantly the brand’s commitment to the highest international standards of rum production.

A sleek, contemporary version of the iconic bottle shape is accompanied by a sophisticated new cork closure. Beneath the closure, the neck label illustrates Appleton Estate located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, followed by an embossed “1749” stamp in the glass, marking the date of the Estate’s establishment.

The centrepiece of this new label is the Appleton Estate Jamaica Insignia, where five iconic Jamaican design emblems unite to tell the story drawn from one inspiring source – Jamaica itself. Master Blender Joy Spence’s signature indicates a badge of credibility.

“With this relaunch, Appleton Estate proudly celebrates our Jamaican heritage in a thoroughly modern way. I’m also excited to introduce the newest member of the range; the 8 Year Old Reserve,” says Spence.

The 8 Year Old Reserve is the most versatile expression of aged rum, revealing aromas of spicy fruit and oak, followed by hints of honey, vanilla, and our signature orange peel note.

In 2020, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, a global leader in premium rums, introduced newly designed packaging, including a re-imagined bottle and label, accompanied by the release of a new premium blend: The 8-Year-Old Reserve. The relaunch is a celebration of Jamaican Excellence, most importantly the brand’s commitment to the highest international standards of rum production.

A sleek, contemporary version of the iconic bottle shape is accompanied by a sophisticated new cork closure. Beneath the closure, the neck label illustrates Appleton Estate located in Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, followed by an embossed “1749” stamp in the glass, marking the date of the Estate’s establishment.

The centrepiece of this new label is the Appleton Estate Jamaica Insignia, where five iconic Jamaican design emblems unite to tell the story drawn from one inspiring source – Jamaica itself. Master Blender Joy Spence’s signature indicates a badge of credibility.

“With this relaunch, Appleton Estate proudly celebrates our Jamaican heritage in a thoroughly modern way. I’m also excited to introduce the newest member of the range; the 8 Year Old Reserve,” says Spence.

The 8 Year Old Reserve is the most versatile expression of aged rum, revealing aromas of spicy fruit and oak, followed by hints of honey, vanilla, and our signature orange peel note.

March 2021 Issue of Business View Caribbean
March 2021 Issue

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