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Island DealsJune 3, 2009 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Remember when a deal was something rare? Well, those days are long gone and until we get back in the black, they won’t be coming back any time soon.
The elegant Cohaba Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica
“A deal used to be something special,” says Warren Binder, executive vice president for the Paradise Island Tourism Development Association. “But in this economy, deals are critical, everyone is offering them. So much so that it has become a challenge to come up with a better offer than the next.”
So, what are the best offers?
Almost everyone in the industry will tell you the safe bet is add-on value deals—
offerings that give clients some sort of credit, whether it be resort credit, air credit, spa credit or an extra night.
Travel Agent spoke to Caribbean hotel and tour operators to find out how effective a deal can be and how an agent can zero in on the best ones.
Instant Credit Means Business
Doug Knapp, general manager of Future Vacations, says the best-producing promos for his company are typically the “Instant Credit” offers, which provide automatic savings on packages to select destinations. “The secret to the success of the Instant Credit promos is their simplicity,” Knapp says. “There are no forms to download, no bookings to track, no documents to submit, etc. Agents simply book qualifying packages and the savings are included automatically.”
Future Vacations is offering Instant Air Credits of $50 or $100 on select packages to a choice of 10 destinations throughout the Caribbean. Bookings must be made by June 15 for travel through December 31.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Caribbean & Mexico offer daily resort credits ranging from $100 per day per room that can be used for spa, food and beverage, shopping, golf, etc. The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman also partners with Cayman Airways and offers air credits.
“We’ve seen occupancy increase significantly as a result of deals and value-adds. Also, consumers are only seeking authentic value proposition,” says Ritz-Carlton spokesperson Verona Carter.
Discounts and Deadlines
Andrea Conway, director of sales and marketing for Couples Resorts, however, contends that the best deals are competitive pricing offers that are recurring or consistent year after year, season after season, and have a definitive booking window/end date.
“The end of the booking windows have consistently seen spikes of over 20 times our normal daily sales,” Conway says. “Making sure that a sale really ends is pertinent to consumer trust and reaction.”
The waterfront Bayside restaurant at the newly remodeled Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Sallie Rawlings, director of corporate communications for American Express Vacations & Travel Impressions, cited Beaches Resorts (www.beaches.com) as being able to create a niche market based solely on the success of a promotion.
“Beaches Resorts, typically identified with the family market, has reached out to women travelers with its BFF [Best Friends Forever] Girls Getaway with some clever, targeted, added-value features,” she says. “This deal has been a great success and has branded Beaches as more than a family-only resort, opening up an entirely new market.”