Caribbean: Stronger together

Agents gathered in London this week at our dedicated Connect: Caribbean event and get an update on the region following the devastation caused by Hurricane Beryl.

Suppliers, including Abercrombie & Kent, Marriott Bonvoy®, Bahamas Tourist Office, Clear Marketing International, Discover Puerto Rico, Palladium Hotel Group, Major Travel, The Nassau & Paradise Island Promotional Board, St. Kitts Tourism Authority and Travelpack, provided an update on new product across the Caribbean and offered messages of support for the islands of the Grenadines and the south coast of Jamaica, which were most affected by the category 5 storm last week.

Melissa Butler, Regional Manager at the Bahamas Tourist Office, said: “While the Bahamas may have escaped this storm, we are no stranger to the devastation caused by a hurricane. As a region we stand together and when one suffers we all suffer. However, we are resilient, we lean on each other and we always come back stronger.”

Speaking of selling the Bahamas, Butler added:” The Bahamas has over 700 islands and cays, as well as 16 unique island destinations. The island nation also boasts world-class fishing, diving, boating and thousands of miles of the most spectacular beaches for families, couples, and adventurers to explore. This exploration is closer than you think with 10 weekly flights from London Heathrow with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic; making it perfect for a holiday year-round.”

Debbie Cleary, Director at Clear Marketing, which has properties across the Caribbean and Mexico, said: “For the most part the Caribbean has bounced back quickly and is well equipped to deal with hurricanes. We find it doesn’t put clients off visiting. We even had a booking to Saint Lucia for July the day after Hurricane Beryl hit!

“Our new property The Liming in Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, will be closed until October as it sustained some roof damage on the restaurant, but aside from that most of our properties escaped any structural damage. Its sister property, Bequia Plantation in the Grenadines is welcoming guests with a floating bar and a buzzing energy.”

Speaking of booking patterns to the region, Cleary admitted that the post pandemic splurge of 2022 has slowed down and people are either booking last minute or a year in advance.

Key unique selling points

Jenny Liu from Travelpack was keen to tell agents about the lesser-known islands that the operator sells, saying: “As well as the big islands we also offer tailor-made packages to the smaller, lesser known countries like St. Kitts and Aruba as well as cruises and milti-centre trips. We are also promoting our out of date range which secures the price up to three years in advance.”

One such lesser-known island in attendance was St. Kitts, represented by Alice Chen, who offered this Key USP about the island: “Visitors can become experts in rummaking thanks to the Kittitian RumMaster programme, led by born-and-bred Kittitians who are reclaiming the cherished tradition. From blends made with native spices to walking tours through the Caribbean’s oldest surviving distillery, aspiring RumMasters are taught everything about the spirit of St. Kitts.”

Meanwhile, Discover Puerto Rico is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Pina Colada this year, which was invented on the island. Victoria Morrison, representing the archipelago, recommended clients visit as part of a road trip and venture beyond San Juan.

Palladium Hotel Group, which has five-star family-friendly and adult-only properties across the Caribbean, updated agents on its great agent rates which start from $75 per person per night with agents able to book up to seven nights on that rate.

Offering further high end properties was Abercrombie & Kent. Craig Liddle, Agency Sales Manager for A&K, said: “Abercrombie & Kent is excited to enhance your Caribbean offerings with our collection of luxury villas, new flight booking service, and unparalleled expertise in crafting tailor-made holidays.” Liddle continued: “We know your clients expect the best, and our partnerships with the region’s finest hotels ensure unforgettable experiences. With A&K’s renowned attention to detail and personalised service, you can confidently deliver exceptional journeys that exceed expectations and keep your clients coming back for more.”

Lucy Bailey who was representing Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, spoke of the islands’ luxury offering which includes two championship golf courses, several celebrity restaurants dotted across the island and four-and-five star restaurants in hotels. Bailey also recommended the destination for any upcoming weddings and honeymoons that agents may be booking. 

Major Travel prides itself on being tailor made for the trade. Speaking of the operator’s USPs, Candy Homes, L&D Manager, said: “We offer a Whatsapp service so you can message us directly with any enquiries as well as a live chat. Our state-of-the-art agent booking platform, MajorGo, is designed to allow agents to build multi-centre itineraries.”

Prizes galore

Agents that attended had the chance to win a number of prizes including a 3-night stay at Spice Island Resort Grenada courtesy of Clear Marketing, a five-night stay with Family Selection at Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort and Spa which was won by Debbie Carmichael at Luxury Holidays and Honeymoons and a fam trip to St. Kitts which was won by Miranda Seymour, Travel Counsellors.