One of the premier luxury resorts in the Caribbean, Half Moon, has focused on infrastructure development and upgrading facilities over the past six years including construction of a new line of suites and a 68,000 square foot spa. Its new landmark luxury villa development, The Colony at Half Moon, promises to position the resort as one of the world’s leading timeshare developments. BTN caught up with Half Moon’s Managing Director, Richard Whitfield, to find out about the most recent developments.
BTN: At CHTA in Puerto Rico in January, you wanted to educate your travel partners about the continuing evolution of facilities at Half Moon. What are you hoping to achieve at ITB Berlin 2010?
RW: The mission of educating and informing our partners continues. This is an ongoing element of our marketing plan. At Half Moon there is a constant evolution of our product and the channels through which we can transact business. For example, we will launch a revamped website in May and will soon be accessible on Facebook and Twitter. It is our challenge to ensure our partners are aware of these changes.
BTN: Before the financial crisis of 2008, Half Moon was planning a major residential development, The Colony at Half Moon. Now that credit markets are opening up do you envisage breaking ground any time soon?
RW: The Colony at Half Moon is a keystone of our future planning since it will offer the ultimate in resort living to the purchasers and enable us to rationalize much of our back of house operations. All the plans and approvals are in near readiness and can be activated as soon as the market indications are favourable. We have maintained a small sales function related to the project but I do not see this development starting in 2010.
BTN: What will set The Colony at Half Moon apart from other resort residential properties in the Caribbean?
RW: The Colony at Half Moon is a residential project where the usual promises of resort facilities are already a reality. As the owners take possession of their homes they will immediately benefit from the 56-year plus development of the renowned Half Moon resort. They will have access to two miles of beachfront, two large swimming pools and a Olympic-size lap pool (in addition to the private pool at their villa), wonderful restaurants, Fern Tree – a unique spa facility, Robert Trent Jones championship golf course, 11 tennis courts, squash courts, fabulous fitness centre, children’s and teen facilities, equestrian centre, swim with the dolphins facility, shopping an on-site medical facility and more. Put this together with Jamaica’s unrivalled airlift and The Colony becomes an unmatched prospect for those looking to own property in the Caribbean.
BTN: How have your relationships with your travel partners such as travel agents and tour operators changed over time and what travel partner incentive programmes have your introduced?
RW: We have always been a travel agent and tour operator-friendly resort. We consider travel agents and tour operators to be an extension of our sales team and we honour our partnerships by paying commissions promptly, entering into joint promotions and not luring clients away from their travel professionals. We pay commissions to agents on booking made through our website. We offer product education through site visits, webinars and on-line training that helps agents become Half Moon specialists. Each year we recognize our top performing partners as Ambassadors at a spectacular three-day event at the resort. Furthermore, through our online concierge services, we are developing much closer personal relationships with our agents and their clients. We get to know the clients even before they arrive and it makes it easier for them to slip straight into holiday mode upon arrival.
BTN: How have you used your World Travel Award titles “Caribbean’s Leading Conference Hotel”, “Jamaica’s Leading Resort” and “Jamaica’s Leading Golf Resort” in your 2010 marketing strategies?
RW: There is no doubt that our success at the World Travel Awards has brought recognition to this venerable resort. Recognition from our peers and partners is highly valued and we have woven many a marketing campaign in print, on the web and through e-mail campaigns around these significant achievements.
BTN: With travellers taking shorter added value trips during the recession, have you seen an increase in multi-destination trips to the Caribbean?
RW: We have not seen evidence of a huge shift to multi-destination trips. One of the factors inhibiting multi-destination travel within the Caribbean is the poor air service between the islands. What we have seen is shorter trips booked at the last minute. In particular, long weekends seem to be more popular than ever. Given Jamaica’s proximity to the huge North American market and its extensive airlift from a wide variety of North American gateway cities we are in a very good position to be able to take advantage of this trend.