Caribbean islands able to market effectively during tough times have reaped rewards and the South American market is ripe for the picking.
That’s the view of Expedia’s Demetrius Canton, the director of lodging supply for the Caribbean.
“When I look across the region, the islands that have fared well are Dominican Republic. Obviously, the all-inclusive is very hot right now as the customer is looking at price point. The airlift is also a significant factor and that island has continued to add lift from international markets and the United States,” he said.
“Granted, they are sitting on 70,000 hotel rooms; but they are also not as dependent on US travellers as many other islands are. Around 40 per cent of their arrivals are of American origin, so they are a bit more diversified. It’s one of the more expensive lifts but the demand is there.” Puerto Rico has also continued its strong growth, particularly with Expedia, Mr. Canton said. The destination is ‘on the verge’ of hitting the luxury market, he said.
“Price points from a hotel-only point are quite aggressive,” he said. “They also market their destination very heavily and that has led to a lot of their growth, particularly in Expedia channels. Barbados has seen 20 per cent growth and again is not as dependent on US travellers. Curacao was voted one of the top 10 destinations last year and has been getting good press and good connectivity through Miami and Turks and Caicos has been surprisingly strong for us.”
That destination has parallels with the Cayman Islands in terms of its target demographic, he said.
Length of stay is longer when people book through sites such as Expedia, Mr. Canton said.
“This I think is due to two things – you can see all of our media advertising and core messaging about dynamic packaging, which tends to sell and also the fact that we have sites in 100 different countries,” he said.
“Whilst other operators may sell to the US alone, Expedia is opening up more points of sale in places like Brazil. As soon as we open up a point of sale that creates a new funnel of demand for the hotels that we work with. For the Caribbean there are definitely opportunities to focus on the Latin American market,” he told the Compass.
The potential market for the Cayman Islands is enormous, Mr. Canton said.
“We have had a point of sale in Brazil for four years through hotels.com and Expedia opened two months ago; it is a market that is growing at close to 200 per cent and this has happened within the last 18 months.
“Another key factor is the growth of the network of Copa Airlines. They launched to Nassau this summer and are launching to Montego Bay. This allows Brazilians to connect through Panama and bypass the whole need to go through the United States. They also stay longer and pay more. A lot of destinations are looking to Latin America as a destination to diversify.”
For Cayman, this could be a growth market, reiterated the travel professional.
“The Brazilians have many holiday days, are used to paying high hotel prices – I look at the product in Cayman with great brands, the comfort – there is definitely an opportunity to target one of the airlines and bring some of these guys up.”
In terms of marketing, the Cayman Islands are doing well in context with other Caribbean islands, Mr. Canton said.
“Cayman has a fairly sound destination campaign in Caymankind and from what I have heard and seen it seems to be doing quite well. But there is more that the destination can do in leveraging the great restaurants and gourmet scene. There are many ways in which that element can be pushed as it is definitely one of the attractions of the destination,” he said.
“When you are trying to attract new lift from non-US points of sale, waiving landing and parking fees may attract airlines; it’s a tactical thing, maybe a government thing, that Cayman maybe can look at.”