As part of our Five Questions With…series, we chat with longtime Turks and Caicos hotelier Karen Whitt about what’s hot on the island, as well as her new position with the Hartling Group, which owns and manages three resorts in the destination.
1. What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in Turks and Caicos this year?
The Shore Club Turks and Caicos opened mid-December and has already graced several magazine covers and has been accepted into the Virtuoso Luxury Travel Network. The first resort on Long Bay Beach, The Shore Club, a project by Hartling Group, is setting new standards in luxury and guest experiences focusing on a healthy, active and pampered lifestyle.
Grace Bay Resorts recently announced the launch of their next project, The Rock House, and we look forward to hearing more about what will no doubt be another gem in Turks and Caicos.
We are also very optimistic about the commitment and efforts already implemented of the newly elected government. I recently attended a business forum where the Premier, the Honorable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, talked about new opportunities for national growth and development, and highlighted the government’s commitment to education, business development and other areas that will have a positive and direct impact on tourism and by extension the economy.
2. What’s trending? What is the consumer asking for? A lot of people have said Turks' only knock is that there is no nightlife. Do you see this improving?
One of the biggest trends we see in Turks and Caicos is that luxury has become an expectation and what guests are most desiring are experiential holidays that are simple, quaint and charming, but provide the luxury lifestyle, accommodations and amenities that have become expected from a destination such as Turks and Caicos.
Turks and Caicos has never been a destination known for nightlife, but that being said, there are numerous opportunities for entertainment, which provide value well beyond a night out at the club. Every Thursday evening, the [Turks and Caicos] Tourist Board produces an energy-packed island fish fry, which features local cuisine in a festival atmosphere where guests can enjoy arts and crafts, island music and junkanoo.
We are also highly regarded as a foodie destination, and feature some of the best cuisine in the Caribbean, rivaling other parts of the world. Many of our restaurants also feature nightly entertainment, and you find this entertainment every night of the week. We also do have traditional hotspots, The Sandbar and Danny Buoy’s, which are cool, vibesy nightlife, and the casino also features regular entertainment.
3. What is the most challenging issue of being in the travel space right now?
Tourism is a highly taxed industry, and we are working to develop creative solutions to stabilize this challenge.
With global standardization through travel channels and cyber communications, often times the same products are available throughout the globe. It has become increasingly difficult to differentiate your brand and service through electronic means, and we are also exploring different opportunities to showcase our unique offerings to the consumer.
4. Where is your favorite place to travel and why?
My favorite place to travel would always be my hometown, Dallas, TX. My grandmother is there, and in addition to Dallas being such a dynamic city and an exciting place to be, nana’s TLC reigns supreme. I have been extremely fortunate to travel all over the world, and I love all the exotic destinations I’ve explored, such as South Africa, Asia, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the U.K., France and many others. But at the end of the day, there’s no place like home.
5. Where are you off to next? Any personal info or news you’d like to share?
On Monday, I am off to Vancouver to attend the Virtuoso Symposium. Virtuoso is a network of the best travel agencies and travelers worldwide, and the opportunity for Hartling Group and our resorts to engage among these top professionals is immeasurable. Vancouver is also a beautiful city.
After 16 years as a general manager, I was promoted to vice president of sales, marketing and brand development for Hartling Group, who owns and manages three resorts in Turks and Caicos - The Sands at Grace Bay, The Palms Turks and Caicos and the Shore Club Turks and Caicos.
While the transition was favorable, it was also challenging at first because I spent so many years in operations, managing employee relations and guest experiences. I have now settled into the new role and truly enjoy the enhanced engagement with travel professionals, journalists and working more closely with the marketing, design and branding of all our resorts. And the bonus – no more daily early morning operations briefings!
Visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your Caribbean travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260.
Want more “Five Questions with…” stories? Check out a recent feature we did on Demetrius Canton, Expedia’s director of market management for the Caribbean, by clicking here.