Ben Kilbey CHA Marketplace showed positive signs of recovery for 2004. Optimism bounced around the event like a wayward rubber ball. By all signs this is to be the year of the Caribbean. Whilst in Puerto Rico Caribbean Travel News caught up with Hotelier Jose Campo, General Manager Caribe Hilton. A man with much experience of the industry and fully aware of the rough times that the sector has encountered in the last few years. He too is optimistic of a rapid recovery and speaks openly to us about what 2004 holds for both the region and the Hilton.
How is business at the Caribe Hilton?
The year 2003 has been an outstanding year for the Caribe Hilton with an average occupancy of 82.7 %. Most importantly we have experienced an excellent growth in room revenues, catering, and beverage.
The cruise sector gets much abuse in hoteliers circles, do you feel that the cruise industry is getting more than its fair share of Caribbean income? Should new taxations be implemented?
I think they do get their fair share of the Caribbean wealth, and should contribute to the well being of the communities that they ultimately use.
At a time when world security is at an all time high owing to the increased threat of terrorist attack - how safe do you personally perceive the Caribbean to be?
I believe that the Caribbean is a very safe place to come, and the growing flow of visitors seems to validate this opinion.
What does the Caribe Hilton offer above and beyond other resorts?
We have a privileged location just between Condado and Old San Juan. The property is located on 17 acres of land with a secluded beach only for use by the Hotel Guests and Club Members We also offer a 12,000 square feet Spa, 8 Restaurants and Bars, Tennis courts, tropical garden, practically all rooms have an ocean view, great meeting facilities, and lots of space to relax.
Do you feel that ‘Life Needs The Caribbean’ is a successful marketing campaign for the region - do you feel it is fair to market the region as a single destination?
Personally I like the campaign. I do not know if it has or can be measured. In addition to the promotional efforts of each Island, I think the regional campaign reinforces and benefits all.
Where do you feel the best beaches are on your island?
Ours of course is one of the best beaches because of its location, it is very private, but Puerto Rico has a great number of beautiful beaches like Dorado, Luquillo, Isla Verde, Ocean Park, Rincon, and many others.
Tell us a little about yourself and what drove you to become a hotelier?
Previous to this position at the Caribe Hilton I was GM at the 810 rooms Omni Shoreham in Washington DC for four years. Before that, GM at the 912 rooms Boston Park Plaza in Boston, GM Boston Waltham Vista, GM Hilton Edmonton Canada, and so forth. My father was a Chef, I interned two summers in the hotel where he worked, and I liked it immediately. I belong to numerous professional Board Associations.
What is around the corner, what is the next step for Hilton? At a time when competition is fierce what will the Hilton Group do to keep the customer coming back?
We are adding now 164 Keys to be ready by November 2004, followed by 96 more in 2005, for a total of 910 by 2006. We are also planning a Casino to be ready by the end of 2004-2005. We look at this market place very optimistically.
What were visitor arrivals like for 2003 and what do you expect/predict for 2004?
2003 was much stronger than 2002 for us. WE expect a strong 2004 with occupancy in the 80’s, but will not see the growth experienced from 2002 to 2003.
Recently the CMEx series has run in Barbados (www.caribbeanmediaexchange.com)
, do you feel that events such as this are essential to teach the media what is really required of them, or what practices they could better implement?
I have not attended or read about this, but I am in favour of anything that can promote or create awareness of the region.
What marketing strategies do you employ in the UK?
WE do not have direct flights from UK, and consequently business from the UK for us is insignificant. Hilton International presence in the UK is very strong, and the best Brand name.
Finally, Does the Caribbean have what it needs to continue to be a market leader?
The Caribbean has some of the best elements to attract visitors, which are the weather, beautiful beaches, nature, security and great facilities. The region needs to work on providing great service and great hospitality. We all serve somebody and should be proud of it.