Now that almost a month has passed since Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean, tour operators and wholesalers are promoting the islands that are open for business.
Travel Agent rounds up the latest campaigns being launched by the industry to promote business to the unaffected islands, relief for the ones that were destroyed and education on the current conditions of the entire region.
Exclusive: Island Destinations Set to Offer Air Credit on Caribbean Bookings
Travel Agent got the scoop on a new campaign set to be officially launched next week by Island Destinations (ID).
Dubbed “The ULTIMATE Comeback, Fly on ID!,” this campaign is designed to stimulate bookings from October 25 through December 20, while also giving advisors the tools to encourage their clients to travel to the Caribbean and Mexico with air credit offerings.
Clients receive $250 Instant Air Credit when booking five nights and $500 credit when booking seven nights. The booking date is now through Dec. 20 for travel from January 1 to April 15.
Also, ID’s nonprofit organization, “ID Travel Group Foundation for Better Living,” has raised more than $100,000 with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to relief efforts for island nations affected by the recent hurricane tragedies.
An ID spokesperson told Travel Agent on Thursday that the company donated roughly 45 generators, water filters, and non-perishable food items to date.
Additionally, ID’s field directors in Anguilla are feeding and supporting a local primary school that has been affected. Travel Agent was told ID is looking to do the same for a Turks and Caicos school affected, and still without power.
“That said, our first goal was to focus on our on-the-ground efforts to alleviate devastation and to work towards getting our colleagues and industry friends, back towards normal life,” Jessie Tropeano, director of marketing for the ID Travel Group, told Travel Agent. “As we are still raising funds, since there is still much more to be done, our second focus is to stimulate tourism to these areas, as this will also be a pivotal focus in getting our beloved islands back to normalcy.”
Travel Leaders, CTO Team Up
During a conference call with Travel Agent and other travel media, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Travel Leaders Group jointly announced a new travel agent and consumer-awareness campaign to promote Caribbean destinations that are open for business for fall and winter travel.
The “One Caribbean Family Ambassador” campaign will include resources and up-to-the-minute information for Travel Leaders Group’s more than 40,000 travel agents about availability and conditions, as well as social media tools and consumer education and awareness materials.
“While we recognize that the hurricane season has been devastating for many Caribbean islands, if travelers avoid these unaffected destinations, the economic impact within the entire region will be compounded and there will be even more of an impact both economically and personally,” says Ninan Chacko, CEO of the Travel Leaders Group.
Chacko cited Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and St. Lucia as island that are ready now. The CTO, however, has also cited scores of other islands that weren’t majorly affected, including Turks and Caicos, Martinique, Antigua, Grenada and the Dominican Republic.
“At this point, it might be easier to say the islands that were affected as opposed to the ones that weren’t because so many more weren’t,” says Johnson Johnrose, the CTO’s press director.
The destinations that were affected the most, according to the CTO, were St. Maarten/St. Martin, Puerto Rico, St. Barts, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Dominica and Anguilla.
Travel Leaders Group’s annual Fall Travel Trends survey, based on actual booking data through September 11, shows a 15.6 percent increase in bookings by American travelers for cruises to the Caribbean islands, moving Caribbean cruises into the top spot among international destinations from second place last year.
Travel Leaders Group is also raising money to assist travel industry members and affected communities impacted by the hurricane through its Family Bonds Foundation. To date, Family Bonds has raised more than $45,000 for hurricane relief assistance.
“Travel agencies play a key role in the economic life of a community. We are encouraging our agents to nominate agencies in need of assistance to rebuild their businesses,” said Chacko.
Exclusive: Apple Teams With Veteran Reporter to Promote Caribbean
Apple Vacations has teamed up with journalist and award-winning television news reporter Julie Ruditzky Loffredi to promote travel to the Caribbean region.
In an effort to reassure travelers that the vast majority of the Caribbean region is safe and fully functional, Apple Vacations executives were backstage as Loffredi filmed television segments at Path 1 Studios in Manhattan to lend their expertise as the award-winning reporter discussed the current state of Caribbean travel. The segments were customized to air in multiple markets, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and St. Louis.
“The Caribbean is very popular for Apple Vacations and the travel agents who book our product,” said Tim Mullen, president of Apple Vacations, in a written release. “We stand by our partners in the region to help clarify some of the confusion in the marketplace about which islands are open for business and which have sustained damage. Our ultimate goal is to drive tourism to the islands of the Caribbean whose economies are linked to hospitality.”
In addition to educating consumers and promoting travel to the region, Loffredi encouraged viewers to support the region’s recovery by donating to Tourism Cares or Hispanic Federation.
“The outpouring of support the Caribbean has received from the industry has been a lifeline for the region," said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO. “We're calling on all the agents and operators who have made the Caribbean an integral part of their businesses to follow the example set by Apple Vacations and keep offering their clients the superb vacation experience they expect and deserve.”
Travel Impressions' "Caribbean Strong: Fully Functional and Fully Fabulous" Campaign
Scott Wiseman, president of Travel Impressions, told Travel Agent that although bookings to the Caribbean have understandably dipped following the back-to-back hurricanes of Irma and Maria, he expects the region's tourism industry to rebound by early 2018.
“Bookings to the Caribbean in the aftermath of the hurricanes are understandably soft, but the region is resilient and we anticipate a recovery by early 2018,” Wiseman told Travel Agent. “While new bookings for the remainder of 2017 may have slowed, it’s worth noting that occupancy levels in unaffected destinations will remain at projected levels due to reservations already in place before the hurricane season. Cancellations were minimal and were largely offset by re-bookings.”
And Travel Impressions is doing its part to make sure that prediction comes to fruition.
“The regional tourism industry, championed by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is actively working with travel agents and tour operators educate consumers and develop targeted promotions that will help drive arrivals,” Wiseman told Travel Agent. “We are doing our best to support that as much as possible, as we have with our 'Caribbean Strong: Fully Functional and Fully Fabulous' campaign.”
Travel Agent was told that the Caribbean Strong campaign’s main focus will be driving business to islands that are currently fully operational and welcoming tourists. Those islands include Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Travel Impressions will participate in the hurricane relief funds set up by the Caribbean’s public and private-sector tourism and hospitality development agencies and is encouraging travel agents and industry partners to do the same.
Classic Vacations Launches New “CaribbeanStrong” Campaign
Classic Vacations has announced its "CaribbeanStrong" campaign, encouraging travel partners to support communities in Caribbean areas affected by the recent hurricanes, Maria and Irma.
For every Caribbean booking of five nights or more with Classic’s Change and Cancellation Waiver, made before November 10 and for travel Jan. 1 through Dec. 15, 2018, Classic will donate $50 to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund.
“The objective of this campaign is twofold,” said Robert Sasaki, product development manager at Classic Vacations, in a written statement. “We want to help recovery efforts in the Caribbean Islands affected by the recent storms, but we also want to raise awareness of the surrounding islands and the opportunity to visit these beautiful destinations.
More than 70 percent of the Caribbean was unaffected by the recent storms, and destinations, such as Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic were minimally affected and continue to welcome guests every day, said Karolin Troubetzkoy, president of the CHTA.
“Additionally, and more importantly, we want to continue to help the affected islands recover and rebuild, by donating $50 for every qualifying booking traveling to the Caribbean,” said Troubetzkoy. “Since many of the significantly affected islands are unable to rebuild through tourism, which is the backbone of their economy, we want to ease their burden by donating to CHTA’s Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund.”
More information, as well as sales flyers and full terms and conditions, can be found on Classic Assist and at www.classicvacations.com. Comprehensive information on the Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund can be found at www.tourismcares.org/caribbean/.
Pleasant Holidays’”Book Now, Save BIG Sale”
Designed specifically with the goal of driving business to unaffected islands, Pleasant Holidays (PH) is launching a new "Book Now, Save BIG Sale,” which includes $100 off per booking for three-night vacations at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico (for travel through June 30) and the Caribbean (for travel through Dec. 15); and reduced rates and added values up to 47 percent off at Central America hotels (for travel through May 31).
In addition, PH has travel alerts posted on both of its PH and Journese websites, detailing the current status of each country in our Caribbean portfolio, starting with the long list of those ready to welcome travelers now.
Visit www.pleasantholidays.com and www.onecaribbean.org. 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.