As part of our "Five Questions With..." series, we chatted with Demetrius Canton, Expedia’s director of market management for the Caribbean, about the evolving relationship between OTAs and travel agents, as well as the hottest trends in Caribbean travel.
1. The relationship between OTAs and travel agents has been a tricky one over the years. How has that relationship evolved? Is it safe to say OTAs are now trying to partner with travel agents as opposed to compete with them?
Initially distribution is how we evolved as a company through our marketplace. But today, we’re putting our technology expertise and test-and-learn culture to work to identify and nurture new strategic initiatives that meet our partners’ and customers’ needs.
We are dedicated to the travel agency community and offer a partnership program, Expedia Travel Agent Affiliate Program, known as TAAP, which is the largest global travel agency affiliation program dedicated to providing service to travel agents around the world. Currently, TAAP is available to both United States and Caribbean travel agencies, through Expedia.com/TAAP. We launched this service in the U.S. and the Caribbean in 2010 and since 2011 have seen rapid growth in GBV (growth base volume), number of agencies and number of TAAP agents.
The program offers agents an intuitive platform to research, plan and book end-to-end trips for clients, while earning commission. The program gives agents access to Expedia's global inventory of over 350,000 properties and more than 500 airlines, letting them earn competitive commissions on hotels, dynamic packages, cars, and activities.
We are currently launching a first of its kind program in the Caribbean with registered U.S. TAAP travel agents who book an Expedia TAAP hotel in Barbados between April 19 and July 31. Agents will be entered to win the grand prize to Barbados, which will include an eight-night trip to the destination including roundtrip airfare, hotel and transfers for two. The campaign, in conjunction with the Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (BTMI) will also include two webinars and periodic e-mail blasts to promote Barbados to approximately 45,000 current U.S. and Caribbean TAAP agents. As I mentioned, we are a test-and-learn company constantly evolving our business and transforming the way we work with our partners. We’re about helping our partners reach incremental customers through our technology advancements.
2. What Caribbean destinations have been selling the most in 2017? What are some emerging island destinations in 2017?
Unfortunately, we cannot comment on 2017 travel demand until Q1 earnings are announced in late April. What I can say is that during 2016 some of our top destinations were Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Aruba; Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Barbados.
Additionally, destinations which showed significant growth in 2016, compared with the previous year, were St. Barthelemy, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Martinique, Bermuda and Bonaire. And from a traveler perspective, our top international markets coming to the Caribbean last year included the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Brazil.
3. What tends to be more popular - EPs or All-inclusives?
Both European Plans and All-Inclusives are popular among our customers for a variety of reasons, both for the luxury and bargain travelers. Our focus is on providing the best rates, availability and service for our customers, no matter what their preference is.
4. What are some other hot trends you are seeing as far as Caribbean travel goes? What are booking patterns looking like in 2017?
We’ve seen significant increases in mobile bookings, over 50 percent year-over-year in 2016 compared with 2015, and top destinations for mobile demand are Punta Cana; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santo Domingo; Aruba and Montego Bay, with Punta Cana and San Juan accounting for nearly 35 percent of demand.
We’ve also seen that 45 percent of mobile consumers stay at a four-star property, followed by over 40 percent at a three-star property. Another trend we’ve seen is luxury travel, which accounted for over 50 percent of travel demand in 2016. Top Caribbean growth markets for luxury travel last year were Turks and Caicos (nearly 40 percent year-over-year), followed by Bermuda (over 50 percent), Antigua and Barbuda (nearly 35 percent), St. Maarten (nearly 35 percent), and Anguilla (over 110 percent).
5. Where is your favorite place to travel and why?
First, let me say that anywhere but home is my favorite place to travel because I truly believe you cannot grow without putting yourself in unfamiliar places. In 2013, I was able to participate in a round-the-world “Global Scavenger Hunt,” which introduced me to Asia for the first time. I saw five Asian countries on that trip and have been hooked ever since. Over the past four years, I’ve visited four additional Asian destinations. For me, Asia represents an unbelievable combination of history, people, culture, food and visually stunning landscapes at a great value.
Want more “Five Questions with…” stories? Check out a recent feature we did on Rosa Harris, the Cayman Islands' director of tourism, by clicking here.