Here's what we learned.
Core Islands Remain Hot
While all the focus on new, hot Caribbean Islands has mostly been given to Cuba, Hu tells us that interest hasn’t necessarily equated into dollars.
“For many new emerging islands, we see a disconnect between interest and actual demand,” Hu tells Travel Agent. “Take Cuba for example, we see a lot of people researching the destination, but actual volume has not materialized. That can be said for many of the other possible islands."
In fact, Hu says Cuba may be getting most of the attention, but it's the core Caribbean Islands that are getting the business for Classic.
“We’re actually seeing more inquiries about the core islands that we sell in the Caribbean, such as Anguilla, Aruba, etc,” says Hu. “As the Zika scare tapers, we hopefully will start seeing some of that volume materialize.”
Zika Scare Over?
Hu says the Zika scare that kept many romance-focused clients from visiting couples resorts in the Caribbean has since subsided, and the lack of media coverage has a little something to do with it.
“The Zika impact tended to be greater for properties catering to the honeymoon and romance market, more-so than being destination specific,” says Hu. “A few islands with a larger share of the high-end romance market paced behind the Caribbean overall.”
But after the Rio Olympics concluded, Hu says the media coverage dropped off. And now with all of the political headlines floating around, Zika is barely even mentioned.
“However, since the end of the Rio Olympics, Zika has been fairly quiet on the media front, and the continuing onslaught of political headlines has helped Zika fade into the background,” says Hu. “We see this reflected in our 2017 booking trends, with solid year-over-year growth in our primary honeymoon markets like St. Lucia, and Anguilla.”
The Strongest Islands in 2016 and 2017
And so far this year?
Classic’s Plans for Cuba
Classic Vacations, like most operator who specialize in the Caribbean, has been exploring the idea of selling the once forbidden destination. But since President Trump’s announcement on May 30 declaring he would reverse many of former President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba, many operators are now taking an even longer wait-and-see approach.
“Cuba has been the hot destination for some time now, and we are sure [the recent] announcement will come as a huge disappointment to the many Americans that were excited to finally experience the beautiful island-nation,” says Hu. “We have been monitoring Cuba closely for a while, taking a careful and conservative approach to ensure that we can guarantee the same excellence in service levels in Cuba that we provide to all destinations in our global portfolio. While Trump’s reversal on Cuba will undoubtedly dampen our Caribbean expansions plans, we will continue to focus our efforts to support our partners in existing Caribbean destinations until we hear anything different on the political front.”
The Hottest Island for Luxury
When it comes to luxury getaways, Hu says Turks and Caicos tops the list and recommends COMO Parrot Cay and Amanyara for couples while the Grace Bay Club and the newly-opened The Shore Club Turks and Caicos are both excellent options for families looking to be pampered.
“Turks and Caicos, with its combination of world-class beaches and excellent five star properties, is one of our strongest destinations,” says Hu. “With direct flights from a wide range of U.S. gateways, and luxury properties that cater to practically any type of traveler, it’s truly a wonderfully multi-faceted island.”
Wellness is Smoking Hot
The Caribbean has no shortage of hot niche markets from girl’s and guy’s getaways to romance to action and adventure, but the one that is all the rage currently is wellness, says Hue.
“Wellness has been a trending theme in the luxury segment, and properties built around wellness, such as The BodyHoliday have thrived this year,” he says. “We have seen more and more properties move in that direction, like Blue Water’s Antigua, with their Living Retreats program designed to refresh the mind and body, incorporating specialized testing, along with meals, and activities to realign and rebalance guests physically and mentally.”