March 10, 2022
Interview with Patricia Affonso CEO of Ocean Hotels Barbados
Patricia Affonso-Dass is the CEO and Group General Manager of Ocean Hotels Group in Barba-dos. After a multi-million renovation, their 5-star all-inclusive hotel, the O2 Beach Club & Spa, is now open and welcoming guests. Over the past 14 years Patricia has sat on the board of the Bar-bados Hotel and Tourism Association in various capacities including Second and 1st VP and President and the 3rd VP of Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. As evidence to her commitment to service excellence and human resource development, O2 Beach Club & Spa is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top boutique All-Inclusive’s on the island of Barbados and no doubt the Eastern Caribbean.
When launching O2 Beach Club you said, “There is something new and exciting for the luxu-ry market in Barbados… and it happens to be on the South Coast. We are confident that O2 Beach Club & Spa will take centre stage in Barbados’ luxury resort offerings, combining au-thentic personalized service with upscale accommodations and world-class dining to create unforgettable experiences.” What is luxury at O2 Beach Club?
When we started thinking about this project and thinking about what luxury means in the context of O2, we wanted to ensure that not only were we providing a quality product in terms of the physical aspects of the product but that our finishes, our furnishings, our decor, our design all also have a feel that is associated with luxury.
But more than anything, it’s luxury from the perspective of space, luxury from the perspective of personal choice and the belief that your holiday should reflect you and the things that you enjoy and luxury from the perspective of really being able to get to know the destination through the people that you encounter when you’re here, not just other guests, but through our staff.
We wanted our staff to be proud of the environment in which they work at the same time as being true ambassadors for the island and our brand. And for that reason, they’re integral to our luxury experience at the hotel. We want the customer to come away feeling not only that they’ve stayed in a beautiful place, but that they’re had a meaningful experience that is better than they expected.
The west coast is where traditionally you find five-star hotels. O2 Beach Club & Spa is on the south coast. Do you want your guests to take away from that?
If you look at today’s travellers, many of them are younger and more active. While the west coast is lovely and the water is calm, many people want to enjoy more active types of water sports. They also like the concept of a large white beach like we have here.
I don’t think that we should be bound by the location, but rather by the service, the product and the quality that’s all around us on this island. As we move forward as a destination, we need to be looking at our customers and how they’re changing. Many of the island’s repeat clientele’s children and grandchildren are coming now, and we need to ask ourselves if they want the same thing that their parents and grandparents wanted. They may not look like the traditional luxury traveller, but they want a fabulous experience and to choose where they have it.
Ocean Hotels offers a fantastic luxurious experience on the part of the island that they may not have previously thought about.
Have you seen a shift in what luxury means to people?
Luxury today means something very different than it used to mean. I saw an article talking about luxury from the perspective of space, the perspective of choice, the perspective of experiences, the perspective of connection, the perspective of being able to feel you’ve contributed to the place you visited; those are not necessarily the words you would have heard describing luxury 10 or 15 years ago. For us as a brand is essential to constantly listen to our customers and adapt our product, service and experience to ensure that when they leave here, they’ve had the most meaningful expe-rience that they possibly can.
Can you tell us about your brand name O2?
O2 is a derivative of oxygen; it’s essential to life. The whole idea of O2 Beach Club & Spa is that after a vacation with us you feel revitalized. For this reason, many of our spaces are outdoors and designed to take full advantage of the environment around us and highlighting the 4 essential ele-ments air, water, fire and earth. There is a stunning beach and beautiful turquoise water. Our fire pit lights up at night representing the essential element of fire, the open-air terrace at Brisa (Span-ish for breeze) represents the essential element of air. And at Oro, which is our beautiful ninth-floor fine-dining restaurant, you’re above it all, looking down on a spectacular view of the island but at the same time connected to the earth through a menu that celebrates the best in local cuisine.
Or spa, Acqua, is located on the eighth floor and is the highest spa on the island. The concept at Acqua is wellness through water; all treatments are based on seaweed and seaweed products. It’s all clean, organic, environmentally friendly and bathed in light.
What is luxury for you personally?
Luxury for me is all about making a real connection to the place I travel to. But the ability to do that and choose what I want to do and how I want to do is luxurious to me. I’m a real foodie in the sense that not only do I like eating in nice places, but I love cooking for people too; I like experi-encing a place through food.
So, for me, the perfect luxury experience would be to stay in a place that’s beautifully situated, comfortable, but not overdone, and I am able to connect with people who have something to offer. And where I can cook. I love going to local markets where I’ll pick some stuff up. I’ll then have a nice lunch out, but then I may end up going home and preparing a meal for dinner. So, for me, true luxury is being