Travel Agent recently chatted with Island Destinations' Maurice Bonham-Carter, CEO and president, and Laurie Palumbo, chief operating officer, to find out the latest trends and hot topics coming out of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Here's what we found.
Advisories Have Little Impact on Mexico Business
Cancun may have suffered a number of security incidents over the past few months, including a shooting on a tourist beach that prompted the destination to tighten security, but Island Destinations' business to Cancun and the rest of Mexico for that matter has gone unscathed, says Palumbo.
And she attributes that to the savvy clientele Island Destinations usually attracts with its four- and five-star resorts.
“With a news story like that comes a lot of concern,” says Palumbo. “But Americans are much more resilient these days. They continue to travel. And for 2019, Mexico is looking even stronger.”
In fact, a new report by travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance shows that Cancun continues to be the top destination for summer travel despite recent concerns in the consumer media regarding violence and a level 2 State Department travel advisory. Allianz Global Assistance analyzed U.S. travelers' impending summer travel plans by examining the number of travelers that went through the online booking process of airfare and package paths for partners offering its products.
“It’s scary at first when someone see these advisories and of course it will frighten people who are going alone to relax, to decompress,” says Palumbo. “But we tell them that you don’t have to worry. We never get a phone call from someone who feels uncomfortable once they get there. They always have a fabulous time and it's human nature to get a warning to exercise caution.”
Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun as well as other tourist areas Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya, remains rated by the State Department as Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, due to the risk of violent crime like homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. A Level 2 ranking means that travelers should be “aware of heightened risks to safety and security” within the destination. That puts it in the same overall ranking as other popular tourist destinations for travelers from the United States, including the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
“I think we are very fortunate with the clients that we work with in the four- and five-star market and the agents we work with that are very pro-Mexico,“ says Palumbo. “We are getting a lot of questions still and we try to be very reassuring and very honest.”
Trending in Mexico
As far as destinations goes, Palumbo says Tulum in the country's Riviera Maya is beginning to gain buzz for its off-the-beaten path beaches and views of ancient Mayan ruins. However, the destination is still a few years away from completely catching on with the mainstream traveling public simply because it doesn't have enough hotel product recognizable to the U.S. consumer, says Palumbo.
“Tulum is definitely emerging for those people who are looking for authentic Mexico,” says Palumbo. “I would say it’s good for everyone from families to singles to couples.”
As far as niche products go, both Palumbo and Bonham-Carter say the luxury boom in Los Cabos isn't expected to die down anytime soon.
Montage Los Cabos opened this spring in The Twin Dolphin community in Santa Maria Bay (in Los Cabos’ Golden Corridor). Guests can expect a signature Spa Montage, multiple dining venues (with a focus on the region’s seafood), two pools, a children’s program and more. Guests also have access to the nearby Fred Couples Signature Golf Course. There are 122 earth-toned rooms, suites and casas – all of which are at least 895 square feet and offer at least partial ocean views.
Also, Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort is expected to open this June. Each of the 128 guest rooms has contemporary decor and a control panel, allowing guests to make dining or spa reservations. Also, Artisans (butlers) are available to book excursions.
Also, Aman recently announced a brand new resort—its very first in Mexico. Slated to open in 2020, Amanvari—which takes its name from the Sanskrit-derived words for “peace” and “water”—will be situated on the East Cape of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
“Cabo is such a big story in the overall context of Mexico because it is becoming that next really strong destination in Mexico," says Bonham-Carter. "There is so much luxury product there. And it's so different because it is not a tropical destination. It is more desert. And that appeals to people because it’s something different in Mexico.”
Trending in the Caribbean
With the anticipated opening of the Silversands hotel, Palumbo says all eyes will be on the island of Grenada this year.
Opening in March on Grand Anse Beach, Silversands will have 43 suites and nine residential villas for purchase dotted along the beach and amid the hillside above. It lays claim to the longest swimming pool in the Caribbean, fit for swimming laps or simply bathing and looking on at its infinity edges.
Guests and villa owners will have access to the Silversands Spa, offering locally-inspired treatments, a beach club with a resident DJ delivering swanky tunes and two restaurants serving globally-inspired cuisine. Silversands is also now a part of the Leading Hotels of the World.
As far niche products go, both Palumbo and Bonham-Carter say the villa scene has taken over Turks and Caicos. Bonham-Carter points to The Shore Club on Long Bay Beach's recently-completed villas as well as new villas by Amanyara, The Residences at The Grace Bay Club and Gansevoort Turks + Caicos.
In fact, the Gansevoort Turks + Caicos has announced that the new Gansevoort Villas are now available to book for travel beginning this June. The six new four- and five-bedroom luxury oceanfront villas are a solid fit for both families or groups heading to the Caribbean. Located on an elevated hillside overlooking the bay at Turtle Tail, a short drive from the resort, each villa sits on roughly half an acre of elevated hillside.
“The villas that are hot in particular are the ones that are linked to a hotel or a hotel group,” says Bonham-Carter. “With very few expectations, people don’t want privately owned villas because the level of service may not be the same with the exception of St. Barts, which is home to many reputable villa companies.”
Perhaps the hottest trend that Bonham-Carter expects for both the remainder of 2018 and 2019 is a wave of value offerings from the islands that were hit the hardest by last year's hurricane season.
“This is going to be an interesting year because so many luxury properties were hit by either Irma and Maria,” says Bonham-Carter, “and looking at islands like St. Barts, Anguilla, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I think we are going to have some very exiting new offerings. The hurricanes have created an opportunity. I spoke to one general manager who said, ‘Our place was tired before the hurricanes and now we are about to create something extraordinary.'"
The New All-Inclusives
With Unico Hotel Riviera Maya - 20ºN 87ºW, located in the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, featured on the cover of Island Destination's recently launched brochure, we asked both Palumbo and Bonham-Carter about the changing nature of the all-inclusives, specifically the need for such resorts to continue to up their games and offerings. For example, Unico is one of the only all-inclusives in Mexico to offer golf and spa treatments in its room rate.
"The biggest thing we are seeing with the all-inclusives is the fragmentation of the market that these properties are attempting to appeal to,” says Bonham-Carter. “Hard Rock appeals to that party crowd, others appeal to families and Unico is adults-only. So, to me, that is the big story with all-inclusives.”
New Brochure Launches
On May 9, Island Destinations held an event at Andaz 5th Avenue in New York City to officially launch its “2018 ID Ultimate Exclusives & 2018-2019 IDx Collection.”
“Our fall event is usually our big event of the year and the spring event was always the smaller, more laid back one, but its beginning to gain more and more buzz and every year its gets even more exciting,” says Palumbo. “It’s really an event where we can unveil extraordinary value for agents who need an edge going up against online [travel agencies]. We only sell to travel professionals and we are always looking to give the agent something the consumer can’t find online.”
Visit www.islanddestinations.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.