Back in the mid-20th century, the Rockefeller family dynasty helped spawn the conservation movement through the development of over 20 national parks. The most avid environmental protectionist in the clan was Laurance Rockefeller, who founded the RockResorts brand in 1954 based on the concept of low-impact luxury lodging that segues delicately with ultra-pristine natural settings.
Over 50 years later the idea seems to be catching on, with eco-luxury now one of the fastest growing trends in the market. Today, the RockResorts brand is owned by other interests but the founders’ legacy is still very much intact throughout properties located in the United States and Caribbean.
“Sustainability is expected now, it’s become the norm,” says Paul Toner, senior vp/COO. “But our environmental stewardship is still a differentiating factor because we offer a comprehensive program involving every touchpoint from start to finish.”
Toner explains that groups booking RockResorts tend to want to be active participants in all of the hotels’ earth-friendly programs. They’re asking for in-room recycling, composting, paperless meetings and refillable water offered in-room, throughout the hotel and during all offsite programs, etc. They want to go with the chefs to the local markets and help pick out their own fresh ingredients for the group’s dinner that evening. Most of all, they want to feel like they’re not harming the destination.
“With us, groups are booking destination meeting venues located in some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the world, from the Colorado Rockies to the Piton Mountains in St. Lucia,” says Toner. “That’s the reward. And when you’re standing on top of a mountain and taking in the beautiful natural surroundings, you want to protect that.”
Within the next couple years, RockResorts is rapidly expanding their portfolio. By the end of the year, the 86-villa Balcones del Atlántico is scheduled to open in the mountainous Samana Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, the most postcard-perfect spot in the country. Targeting the upscale incentive market, the 2- and 3-bedroom oceanfront villas with private butlers feature Viking appliances and Balinese accents, just a few barefoot steps from the spa cabanas, two pools and fine-dining restaurant. This is also the best spot for whale watching and whale diving programs during the winter in the Caribbean.
In a surprising departure from the rest of the brand, the 56-room Tempo Miami opens next month as the brand’s first city property, across the street from Lebron James and the American Airlines Arena overlooking Biscayne Bay. The suites range up to 1,000 sf, some of which can be used as hospitality suites.
This fall, One Ski Hill Place opens in Breckenridge (see pg 46). And more RockResorts are on their way for 2011/12 in Stowe, VT; Rum Cay in The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos.
“We’re trying to enable groups to experience the great outdoors,” sums up Toner, “but then bring them back to a level of luxury that balances with their values and lifestyle.”