Behind the scenes of AMResorts' first all-inclusive resort in Puerto Rico

(Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana)

In a little more than two years, AMResorts will open a new Dreams resort in Puerto Rico. When it launches in October 2018, Dreams Puerto Rico Resort & Spa will be Apple Leisure Group’s first property in Puerto Rico and the 57th resort managed by AMResorts.

The 250-room, new-build resort will be located in the coastal town of Guánica, 73 miles southwest of San Juan and 21 miles west of the city of Ponce. Guánica is home to Guánica Dry Forest, the largest dry coastal forest region in the world. 

Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya feels that this property will be the only true all-inclusive on the island. “Puerto Rico has faced challenges when it comes to the all-inclusive concept,” Zozaya said. “Today, there are no true all-inclusive resorts on the island—there are only resorts that offer packages that can include meals, drinks and select activities, for an additional cost for guests.” As such, this new property will be unique in Puerto Rico, and could open a new door for a new kind of hospitality there. 

Operating in Puerto Rico is more expensive than working in other Caribbean destinations, Zozaya said, mainly due to the higher cost of payroll. As such, the island has to position itself as a destination where visitors are willing to pay more in return for a higher value. Average length of guest stay—“one of the shortest in the Caribbean,” Zozaya said—could be a result of these high costs. A luxury all-inclusive resort, he added, may give visitors a reason to stay longer.

“There is a lot of room to grow when it comes to product in Puerto Rico,” Zozaya said. “There is not enough variety in brand choices, levels of luxury or price points within the destination. These are all things that have helped grow and maintain neighboring destinations, especially when it comes to consistently attracting U.S. travelers.”

While Puerto Rico’s economy has been struggling in recent years, Zozaya said that the island’s tourism industry is still thriving, and is promoting economic recovery. “According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, arrivals were up more than 6 percent in 2015, while a November 2015** report showed that ADR was up 5.2 percent and RevPAR was up 4.9 percent,” he said.

“Puerto Rico continues to be a top tourist destination in the Caribbean, especially among U.S. travelers given the no passport requirement and strong airlift with 26 airlines servicing the island. Also, hotel development is continuing at a healthy pace in several districts on the island, from Condado to Dorado.” 

Looking Ahead
Apple’s primary focus remains on Mexico and the Caribbean, Zozaya said. “We have grown our presence significantly in Jamaica, for example, in recent years. Over the next two years, we will also open a Zoëtry Montego Bay Jamaica and Breathless Montego Bay.”

Dreams Riviera Cancun
Dreams Riviera Cancun

Just as the Puerto Rico resort opens in 2018, Apple will also open its first resort in Aruba— “another island where the all-inclusive model is not prevalent,” Zozaya said. The Zoëtry Isla di Oro Aruba will include overwater cabins, “a building model not seen often in the Caribbean.”

Apple is also keeping an eye on emerging destinations. “Panama continues to gain popularity among U.S. travelers, and we opened Secrets Playa Bonita Panama there earlier this year.” Cartagena, Colombia; Belize; St. Lucia; the Bahamas; and Barbados are all on Apple’s “radar screen,” and as soon as the changes in the U.S. laws allow us to do so, the company expects to open in Cuba as well.

Photos of Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana and Dreams Riviera Cancun courtesy del Sol Photography.