To escape the appalling British weather my better half and I headed to the sunny climes of the Caribbean to the small relatively undeveloped island of Grenada. When visiting somewhere for a couple of weeks I always like to sample a few different hotels to soak up various atmospheres and to experience different hospitality. As a hospitality consultant I just can’t help but analyse hotels, even on holiday! Following are my reviews of places I stayed with my consultancy take on each of them.
First stop was Maca Bana, sited on a hill, above a lovely beach about a 10 minute drive from the main tourist beach, Grand Anse, and close to the airport (but the planes are so infrequent they are not a problem). Location makes this a wonderful little boutique hotel retreat as it is away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag.
Stay here if you’re looking for peace & quiet, rest & relaxation in highly comfortable surrounds. Each room is a suite with a decked terrace that offers breathtaking views of the beach, fully fitted kitchen (Miele appliances), all mod cons, picture windows and a hot tub on the terrace. So big tick on the rooms then!
There is also a great restaurant, Aquarium, on the beach that is a popular spot for more than guests of the hotel and is on most foodie’s list if they’re visiting Grenada. It was actually very handy to have a kitchen in the suite as we were able to make lovely breakfasts to enjoy on the decking terrace and sandwiches for lunch which saved a considerable expense. We were then able to explore the island’s best restaurants for dinner. Maca Bana also provided a wonderful food hamper on arrival with all the basics you need.
A boutique hotel, for me, is all about the hospitality, the way the hotel makes you feel, the vibe of the place. And here is where Maca Bana clean up. They have managed to create an ambiance and level of comfort that far exceeds most hotels that claim to be boutique. It is relaxed and informal with rustic luxury and unobtrusive service.
How did they do this and how can a hotel achieve this? High quality at every touch point, spotlessly clean, anticipation of needs and great design that doesn’t need to try too hard. Privacy and intimacy play a large role too. Attention to every detail.
If I was consulting for Maca Bana I would suggest that their current website and brand does not quite support the true level of quality that they deliver. The brand communications don’t represent the true positioning. The website is a little old fashioned with poor SEO techniques and not enough gorgeous imagery. And where’s the online booking engine? Nowhere to be seen! Hotel websites convert much more readily with a live online booking engine. I would also recommend clearer signage at the entrance and beach level – sometimes the simplest communications can deliver customers.
On another plus side, the manager, Nickson, was very responsive to my initial enquiry and replied to my email within minutes. Every hotel should try and achieve this, it’s the best way to convert enquiries into bookings. He’s a great guy and did everything possible to ensure he exceeded our expectations.
So Maca Bana comes highly recommended by a passionate aficionado of luxury boutique hotels. Word of warning for anyone with mobility difficulties or small kids: this hotel is on a very steep hill and the climb up from the beach & restaurant can be quite a struggle.
For the final few days on Grenada we opted for utter luxury with one of the most high-end hotels on the island. In contrast to Maca Bana, Spice Island is located on the island’s liveliest and most stunning beach, Grand Anse. As such it’s very convenient for many restaurants and access to the capital, St. George.
Spice Island is a very slick, high-end luxury all suite hotel. Gorgeous design, beautiful rooms set around an excellent restaurant on the best bit of the best beach. Every luxury is provided, from a well-equipped gym, decadent spa and lovely pool to plunge pools in many of the rooms’ private gardens.
The operation here is very impressive and highly sophisticated. On arrival, everyone greets you by name, quite uncanny how everyone knows who you are. Wendy on reception is brilliant, able to help with any request.
This is a very professional hotel operation, in fact from a consultant’s perspective I found it almost faultless. The marketing was slick with an attractive website design though still lacked a live booking engine using a submit form instead. I’ve never understood why so many hotels, especially in the Caribbean, don’t have excellent booking engines. The conversion rate is significantly better and it isn’t difficult to implement.
If you can stretch the budget, even for a few days, you can’t really beat Spice Island.
We didn’t actually stay here but this other luxury boutique hotel is located a short stroll down the beach from Spice Island so we had a look around and ate at the restaurant. It also has a great little bar & grill on the beach which serves the best fish burgers I’ve ever tasted. I think we came here for lunch about four times and my wife even visited for breakfast too.
The main restaurant, Savvy’s, is excellent, one of our best dining experiences in Grenada. They totally undersell this little gem to non-residents and don’t even have a stand-alone website for it. But trust me, the food is excellent, the service standards high, especially by Grenadian standards, with a romantic ambiance and great views from the terrace. I had blackened mahi-mahi that was absolutely divine.
The interior design, ambiance, location, gardens and rooms are all fabulous. It’s a large property with most of the rooms up a hill offering spectacular views of the beach and Caribbean Sea. I’m sure this would be a lovely place to stay.
So why didn’t we stay her I hear you ask? Well I’m glad you did, as there’s a story behind that! We tried, but failed, to be able to book. Can you believe it? A gorgeous design hotel with a reasonable website would not let me book online, the booking engine just didn’t work. So I tried the phone number for UK calls which appeared to be managed by a 3rd-party agent, and got an answer-machine, left a message and didn’t receive a reply. So they missed out on my room business, probably a few thousand pounds worth due to a poor reservations system. Goodness knows how much other business has been lost this way, most likely very significant amounts.
It just so happened that whilst I was there for lunch one day, the owner, a lovely guy called Peter de Savary, was paying a visit and I had the opportunity to explain what happened during our booking process. Impressively, he took the time to listen carefully to my feedback and was none too pleased by my story. Checking back at the website recently I noticed that there isn’t any online booking facility on the website now, which I find quite surprising, but the phone number is now directly to the hotel, so they’re taking bookings themselves now by phone rather than using an agent. Moral of the story is don’t out-source something as critical as your booking process!
Online Booking Conversion Optimisation is the number one tool in a hotel’s marketing arsenal. By combining a good online booking engine with A/B Split Testing of website pages a hotel can continuously improve their website conversion rate. Many very nice hotels around the world don’t follow this process and should. I’ll be posting more about this topic soon.