LUX Xmas 2018

90 Oct18503 Experience Authentic St. Lucian Hospitality at Fond Doux Plantation & Resort Fond Doux Plantation & Resort is a 19th century eco-friendly colonial resort nestled in the heart of St. Lucia, best known for its romantic, intimate, and private cottages. In the years since they opened, Fond Doux has forged a reputation for peerless hospitality paired with stunning archetypal St Lucian vistas. Eager to find out more, we spoke with Fond Doux’s co-owner and Manager, Eroline Lamontagne, who offered a behind-the-scenes look at this must-visit resort. The Caribbean has always held an allure for those wanting to experience one of the most beautiful regions in the world. It has become synonymous with luxury; a collage of golden beaches, vermillion peaks and sapphire waters: a haven for those who want to enjoy and unwind from the stresses of everyday life. One of the jewels in the eye of Saint Lucia is the Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, an unspoilt paradise on the western edge of the island, it celebrates a reputation defined by ‘easy relaxation’ – a welcoming place for weary travellers and jet-setters alike. To start the interview, Eroline takes a moment to offer some insight into Fond Doux’s appeal. “The resort is situated amidst a 250-year-old working plantation and is a scenic 45-minute drive from the island’s international airport. Fond Doux is also conveniently located just minutes away from St Lucia’s main attractions, including The Pitons, The Sulphur Springs – ‘The Caribbean’s only drive in volcano’ – and the best diving sites on the island, all within a prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site.” Ultimately, Fond Doux offers an authentic Caribbean experience, with all-natural surroundings, ideal for those that want to reconnect with nature. Indeed, according to Eroline, “a mere glance out the cottage door will evoke tranquillity. We offer an opportunity for guests to experience the islands’ rich culture and heritage and the opportunity to experience the real St Lucia.” At the crux of the resort’s success is their approach to guest service, which has often been described as faultless by those that visit. Putting the guest at the centre of their operations, Fond Doux has edged ahead of competitors and peers alike – no small feat for an island that celebrates dozens of world-leading establishments. Eroline takes a moment to reinforce the strength of the resort’s guest-centricity: “The main focus has always been on the ‘human touches’ and ensuring that we offer guests an authentic St. Lucian experience. We believe that the physical welcome and personal attention that a guest receives during their stay can positively impact their entire experience at the resort. Equally, small touches such as keeping in touch with guests via social media, offering cooking classes to sample a larger range of the local cuisine, and ensuring that there is a 24-hour management presence to maintain maximum guest comfort and security.” “Moreover, the resorts team meets with each guest for orientation and to find out how their stay is progressing. Fond Doux also has a Guest Liaison Officer who meets with each guest to plan the activities that the guest will partake in during their stay. This officer is also responsible for finding out whether any of our guests are celebrating any special occasions -for example a birthday or anniversary - so we can help make the day more special for them.” All of this, Eroline emphasises, is down to the strength of the team and staff at Fond Doux, who encapsulate the resort’s goal to provide authenticity at every turn: all sixty staff members are natives of St Lucia, born and bred. “We have fortnightly staff meetings to review the resort’s short and long-term goals, alongside providing appropriate learning and development opportunities. We make sure we recognise and reward top providers.” The discussion soon turns to specific industry trends and challenges that have been affecting the luxury hospitality industry over the last couple of years. Chief among them has been the residual impact of the Zika virus on the region and its businesses. “On the back of the Zika virus, the Caribbean has experienced extremely low occupancy in the summer and autumn months due to fears of contracting the virus. Now it is no longer an issue, according to the World Health Organisation, we have to convince visitors from the US and UK to travel to the Caribbean once again. As a result, for the time being, we have had to target more Caricom nationals and the St. Lucian community.” Regarding trends specifically, Eroline continues: “In the past, people would begin planning their vacation, weddings, honeymoons and vow renewals more than a year in advance. Lately, we have realised that the booking time frame has been shortened and more and more people are booking and planning last minute. Therefore, we try our best to ensure that the inventories on all booking platforms are accurate and