|Havana, Cuba // Photo by Joe Pike|
Island Destinations (ID) recently hosted its 2016 Luxury Travel Forum at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel, unveiling its 2016 Travelers Collection brochure along with a new travel agent loyalty program titled 2016 ULTIMATE Reward Program and exciting new travel experiences through ID’s new ULTIMATE Itineraries – Cuba.
The gala evening is just the first of a 13-city tour for agents and professionals presented by ID Travel Group throughout key cities in the U.S. and Canada including stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Boston.
The company welcomed 15 new properties to the luxury brochure, including the Gansevoort Dominican Republic Playa Imbert, Albany Bahamas, Baoase Luxury Resort in Curacao and Port Ferdinand Luxury Resort & Residences in Barbados to name a few. The brochure comprises more than 100 resorts, hotels and villas, with the following destinations represented: Asia, Middle East, Maldives, Seychelles, Hawaii, Fiji, French Polynesia, Central America, Mexico, Bermuda, The Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations, including the new addition of Cuba.
Announced at the event was the addition of Cuba to the ID ULTIMATE Itineraries division. ID Travel Group has invested substantially in designing full-time people-to-people exchanges for travelers to experience the addictive charm of Cubans and their proud culture. The program features exclusively planned visits to private homes and businesses in Havana and Trinidad de Cuba for a unique and rich experience on the unspoiled island.
“I’m very proud to present the luxury of travel to Cuba in 2016. I choose my words very carefully. The luxury of travel to Cuba,” said Maurice Bonham-Carter, president and CEO, in a written release. “At Island Destinations, we have thought long and hard about this and we believe that today Cuba represents an exciting destination which we believe as travel professionals we have a duty to present this fabulous new destination which has opened up to us due to the changing political situation.”
Bonham-Carter also alluded to the chatter in the travel community of what this means for industry professionals and other hotels in the Caribbean.
“We hear endless discussion. Is Cuba a competitor to those of us in this room? Quite frankly, I don’t think it is," said Bonham-Carter. "I view it as a very good adjunct to our business. I think Cuba is a competitor to Europe because the travelers which we will be sending there won’t be going there to sit on the beach. If you want culture, if you want a new experience – an ultimate experience – and you want to visit something in which people can talk about around the table at home, that is Cuba.”
Island Destinations COO Laurie Palumbo also introduced a new rewards program in addition to the longstanding Celebrating You program. The 2016 ULTIMATE Reward Program will launch next year, but any trips booked in 2015 will count towards the program. Tiered into four levels, luxury travel professionals have the opportunity to earn rewards ranging from complimentary FAM trips, extra two percent commission during agents’ birthday month, up to $2,500 gift cards, air credits and more.
Palumbo also introduced and hosted the annual awards ceremony honoring the company’s selection of top properties and travel professionals.