Earlier in the year, Travel Agent profiled successful Caribbean specialist Rose Marie Spatafore, owner of E-Z Travel and Tours in Connecticut, and asked her how the economy would influence travel. She told us people will not sacrifice quality, but will instead sacrifice time. Clients will still stay at five-star resorts, but just a day or two less than they normally would had the U.S. economy not taken a massive hit this year. Well, apparently Caribbean hotels and destinations feel the same way and, in turn, are now lowering their minimum required stayed for the Christmas season as well as offering other discounts during the winter season— perhaps the best evidence thus far that the resorts and destinations are going to do everything in their power to make sure the tourism dollars keep rolling in.
One example is Wimco Villas in St. Barts, which is lowering its 14-night minimum stay and also announced that villas are still available during the Christmas season, something considered pretty rare for that time of year. Other big players, such as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and popular Caribbean getaway destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also offering discounts for the Christmas holiday and more are expected to follow suit. The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, in fact, just released a “10 Point Plan” to combat the struggling tourism market. According to a release sent out last week, “The 45-day stimulus plan will build upon the initiatives already outlined in the Department’s 2009 Annual Marketing Plan, and represents a significant additional commitment by the Department of Tourism to proactively and aggressively respond to changes in the Territory’s primary market for tourism.”
Among the efforts, are a revamped advertising campaign, enhanced winter promotions and, perhaps the one you should care about the most, travel agent incentives. According to the release, “To seed additional interest in the Winter Escape offer among the travel agent community, the Department of Tourism is offering a booking bonus of $50 for each five-night booking to travel agents who book the offer for their clients.”
Ritz-Carlton is offering rates of $465 with a $120 credit at The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica; rates of $659 with a $130 credit for stays at The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica; and rates of $475 with a $110 credit for stays at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino. All of these deals are for this winter. While this is one of arguably the toughest times to ever sell travel, it appears as though destinations and resorts are going to do everything possible to make your job as easy as it can during these struggling times.