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Thursday,  June 13, 2024 12:00 AM 

RIU discusses expanded sales team, exit from Cuba

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  •   04-20-2015  11:14 am

RIU discusses expanded sales team, exit from Cuba

Following yet another record performance in the Canadian market this past winter, RIU Hotels & Resorts is not resting on its laurels, now with an expanded sales team across the country in an effort to grow its market share even further.

In an interview with PAX, Senior Vice President Oliver Kluth said that new dedicated representation in Western Canada complements the brand's existing presence in Ontario & Quebec, which is expected to translate into greater sales.

Christy King, formerly of Transat, is based in Vancouver, having just joined the team of Valerie Ward, business development manager based in Ontario and Sandra Mallette in Quebec, who is also responsible for the Maritimes.

Their efforts are supported by Sunwing, which is the exclusive tour operator partner of RIU in Canada. As Eric Rodriguez, vice-president of product development at Sunwing explained, when RIU opens a property in a new destination as it recently did in Panama, Sunwing was able to add more access to the destination with five flights weekly (three from Montreal and two from Toronto), which is part and parcel to its success throughout the most recent high season. Kluth also pointed to the quick recovery of Cabos following Hurricane Odile last September, in addition to "the best winter in history" as it relates to Jamaica arrivals.

Over the past three years, the brand has been rolling-out an updated look and feel, which the SVP said guests have responded to positively, not to mention its constant adaptation to customer demands in an effort to remain competitive as the all-inclusive landscape in Mexico and the Caribbean evolves.

"We think it's good that product is developing and we try to be part of that - always changing and improving," Kluth said. "The pressure doesn't come from the competition, the pressure comes from the customer because they are getting more sophisticated and knowledgeable...so they're asking for more and it's their right to do so. It's up to us to deliver, always keeping to our own standards, which keeps us recognizable to the customer and the agent."

RIU is especially known for consistency in style, service and amenities across all properties, he added, noting that many arrivals are often past guests of other properties. However, the brand recently concluded that its two properties in Cuba did not quite make the grade and hence decided to exit the destination. They dropped RIU Playa Turquesa last November, now Memories Holguin, and as of April 1, also closed RIU Varadero, which is now Grand Memories Varadero.

"The reality for a company like RIU that is family-run and that owns all of its hotels on this side of the Atlantic is that you have to adapt to Cuba, and I think the biggest challenge for RIU is that it has developed such a brand and consistency in its product, that the properties in Cuba didn't fit the mold," Rodriguez said.

"You never know what's going to happen," Kluth surmised, referring to the U.S.-Cuba relations that could change the situation in the country, noting that the recent exit doesn't necessarily mean the business is closing its doors on the destination forever.

RIU's expansion and development continues, with full renovations and new decor coming for the RIU Palace Aruba (reopening July 20), RIU Negril (closed August-November), RIU Playacar (closed April 27 - Oct. 10), plus a new build scheduled to open in Punta Cana in May 2016.

RIU's expanded sales team is on a mission to gain support of the RIU Specialist program for travel trade partners, which launched three months ago as an interactive way to connect with agents. The online training platform is available in both French and English.

PHOTO: Oliver Kluth, senior vice president, RIU; Eric Rodriguez, vice-president of product development, Sunwing; Christy King, BDM - Western Canada, RIU; Valerie Ward, BDM - Ontario, RIU; Sandra Mallette, BDM - Quebec/Maritimes, RIU.

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