Are you looking for a plus size travel destination? James King, along with his wife, have made national headlines, beginning with their body positive travel destination The Resort on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
King designed everything at The Resort to accommodate plus size guests, but people of every size are welcome.
“We are a resort for everybody. No matter your body style or weight or anything else.”
King plans to open two new resorts in the U.S.
They’ll both be called The Resort.
A 100-acre site in Texas, about an hour from Dallas, is now in the final permitting stages. It will have a club and spa and will be a great place for vacations, weddings and vow renewals, he said.
He’s also working on a similar project within an hour of Orlando, Fla.
“One of the things we want to have is the land around it, so there is privacy for guests,” he said.
He also hopes to have the funding in place soon to buy a couple of regular hotels in major metro areas that would be plus-size friendly.
“We know we’ll dominate the market because nobody else accommodates people of size.”
The Resort, like every other hospitality business, had to close during the Covid crisis. King tried to re-open just before Thanksgiving. But the chef and all their cooks got sick and he decided “it is just not worth it.”
“I decided to wait until the new year. In the new year, Covid was still rampant in the Caribbean.”
Travel issues abounded, with flight cancellations meaning guests couldn’t get home, but The Resort would have a place to put the guests.
So he decided to do something else.
A Little Back Story
“It all started about 18 years ago. I was taking over as the managing director of a large resort in Granada. On my first day on the property, I saw this young gal, on her honeymoon, sit on a plastic chair and literally go right through it.”
The woman was humiliated, but the next day the situation worsened, as the hotel charged her for destruction of the plastic chair.
“So that’s where the idea of a plus-size property came from.”
He tried to talk that employer into making some changes to accommodate plus-sized people, but they weren’t interested.
However, the idea had caught his imagination.
“We had this property in the Bahamas. It was barely breaking even if I’m honest about it.”
“We wanted a property that looked like any other Caribbean property. But everything there has been designed to accommodate anybody of any size, whether you’re skinny or plus-sized.”
He and his wife poured their life savings into the project.
“We had nothing to copy. Nobody else was doing it. So we gradually put it all together.”
Chairs and all other infrastructure are built with the plus-size body in mind. Their beds handle 2,800 pounds and won’t squeak or move.
Although he got the idea of a plus-size resort 18 years ago, he couldn’t get a bank loan.
“Everybody thought it was a joke.”
But, King notes, “Everybody has somebody who is plus-size in their family somewhere … over 50 percent of the world’s population is plus-size to obese. That’s not a niche market. But you talk to anybody in the hospitality industry, and they’ll tell you that’s a niche market. Because they just don’t understand.”
Neither King nor his wife were plus-sized when he decided to open The Resort. He had weighed the same his entire adult life, but he consulted with plus-size people to help him plan the business.
Ironically, however, a medical issue gave King more insight into plus-size people.
Soon after turning 60, he was prescribed multiple medications, which caused him to add 50 pounds almost overnight.
“I was eating less than I used to eat, and there was nothing I could do about it,” King said. He said he asked his doctor how he could lose the extra weight.
According to King, his doctor said, “That’s easy. You can stop taking your medication. You can be one of the skinniest ones in the cemetery if you want.”
Then his doctor encouraged him to accept himself as he was.
More People Are Plus-Size Now
King notes that world-wide, the number of people who are plus-size continues to increase.
People are more conscious of their health, and yet they’re still putting weight on.
“I sure don’t have an answer. I just know it’s a thing. And so my goal is to create something to accommodate. I wanted to create something that is a safe haven for everybody.”
Despite all the naysayers, The Resort in the Bahamas made waves immediately, even though King hadn’t yet made a website for promotion.
“Before covid, I was booked solid two years out. I did not have a single opening for two years.”
The media were all over him, including TLC, BBC, Discovery Plus, Oprah and more. “The media has been absolutely amazingly supportive.”
“The bottom line was, we now had three documentaries done about myself and the concept, shown all over the world. That took the property to fully booked every day.”
‘Phenomenally Good Food’
“When we open here in the U.S., it’s going to be the same as it was in the Caribbean. You don’t go on a vacation to go on a diet. We create phenomenally good food. It is what it is. It’s not for me to pass judgment on what you should be eating. Every day it’s different, and the people just loved it.”
Beyond The Resort
He hopes the rest of the industry will realize it doesn’t cost that much more to do it right, and will emulate what he’s doing. That’s the goal for his new non-profit organizations.
“The goal is to work with companies like Starbucks or Hertz Rental Car and the eateries, to make them plus-size friendly. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing it for 18 years.”
The No. 1 reason people of size don’t go out into the community or take vacations, he said, is fear of not finding a safe and suitable place to sit.
King doesn’t understand why businesses have not capitalized on such needs.
“This is not rocket science,” he said, and he’s not aware of anybody else working on this.
Some of the adaptations he recommends also benefit people who are not plus-size, such as well-designed hand-holds in showers or near toilets.
“A lot of people put them in wrong because they don’t necessarily know the optimum design for where to put these handles. It would make a hell of a difference. They’ve often put them into the wrong spot because they just don’t know.”
It’s a message most of the hospitality industry doesn’t get.
King said he had lunch with the CEO of one of the largest hospitality groups in the world. He was looking to get additional funding or to talk them into increasing their accessibility.
“The last thing we want is a whole bunch of fat people at our properties,” the CEO said, according to King
His answer to that was, “You already have them. You just don’t do anything to accommodate them.”