This year CHIC will be hosted in one of the most rapidly developing areas in the Caribbean, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The event aims to be a relaxed convention with the primary goal of allowing the media to meet the hoteliers. The event will be hosted at the BÌÁvaro Convention Center which is one of the largest convention centers in the Caribbean and Latin American area. Host hotels include the Paradisus Punta Cana, part of the Sol Melia group. Caribbean-Weekly spoke to Emanuel Schreibmaier, VP Sales & Marketing Sol MeliÌÁ Hotels & Resorts Americas Division about his company, the future of the Caribbean and Fishing!
CW. How long have you been present in the Caribbean?
ES. We’ve been in that market for 12 years.
CW. Are you primarily an all-inclusive company? In the UK Sandals have the strong hold on advertising, how do you intend to gain a larger percentage of the UK market?
ES. We have a mixed operation: business, leisure hotels and all-inclusive resorts.
CW. How many properties do you have in the Caribbean, and which is the most successful in terms of booking figures?
ES. There are eight in total with The Meliá Caribe Tropical, Punta Cana being our strongest.
CW. For Caribbean-Weekly’s readers who are unfamiliar with your company could you please explain a little?
ES. Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts is one of the world’s most successful hotel companies with its four brands - Meliá Hotels, Tryp Hotels, Sol Hotels and Paradisus Resorts, with more than 350 hotels in more than 30 countries worldwide. Sol Meliá‘s 2003/2004 expansion plans include new properties in Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and throughout Asia Pacific and Europe
Do you believe that the upsurge in online booking is aiding your company’s bookings figures? Are you in favour of further development in this area or do you prefer customers to have the assistance of a travel agent?
ES. Yes, we agree. But we continue to fully support travel agents, who represent 70% of all of our bookings.
CW. What booking system does your company utilise?
ES. We have our own, SolRes and we are also connected to all 5 GDS.
CW. Have you noticed any trend towards last minute booking patterns?
ES. Yes, every year the rate has become more intense.
How have the recent tourism crisis’s (War in Iraq, SAR’s), affected your companies performance in the Caribbean region?
ES. Very little. All of our properties are right on budget.
CW. Sol Melià
Sol Melia, in a recent press release, stated that: ‘Sol Meliá aims to be a highly responsible company, understanding that the social and economic development of local communities is ultimately beneficial for the business. Community involvement must not be seen as a new obligation, but rather as a medium term investment and opportunity that will, in due course, create greater value for company shareholders.’ During a recent CMEx conference in Jamaica, (Caribbean Media Exchange), the subject of sustainable tourism was addressed. Do you feel that this company notion will assist with sustaining tourism in the regions where your company is established?
ES. Yes, absolutely. We have shown in the past that we are very involved with the local communities and that we protect the environment. We’ve received several awards such as “The Green Hotel” (CHA) in addition to other recognition by several organisations such as the Smithsonian, Audubon Society etc.
CW. Do you feel that community involvement is beneficial to both parties, or more so for the company from a marketing perspective?
ES. Absolutely. Sol Meliá has been one of the founding members of the CHACT.
CW. What actions will Sol Melia be taking in order to ensure that the company continues to compete in increasingly difficult times?
ES. We will continue to strive for the best service - value price relation, and to retain existing customers and adapt our current hotel operations to new customer needs and trends. (Food, amenities, entertainment programs, décor etc.)
CW. What are you views on Ralph Taylor’s advertising campaign ‘Life Needs The Caribbean’, an idea of marketing the Caribbean as one unity rather then individual regions? Do you believe that this is the best way forward for the region?
ES. Yes. As I stated Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts has been one of the founding members of that Trust Fund and strongly believes that the Caribbean has tremendous growth opportunities when marketing jointly and maximising its great variety of destinations, cultures and natural wonders.
CW. What kinds of meeting facilities do you have?
ES. Sol Meliá is the leading provider of conference facilities, and the only all-inclusive operator, which offers convention and small meeting facilities in all of our resorts. The facilities in Paradisus Punta Cana, for instance are for up to 800 people. The Gran Meliá Cancun can hold up to 1,700.
CW. What developments do you have in the pipeline? Do any of your resorts have spa facilities?
We plan to open the 490-room Paradisus Puerto Rico in December 2003. Spas are available in: Gran Meliá Cancun, Paradisus Riviera Cancun, Paradisus Punta Cana, Meliá Cancun Turquesa and the Paradisus Puerto Rico, with 12,000 sq. feet of space, located in a two-story building with state of the art spa facilities, a gym Jacuzzi etc.
CW. Are you optimistic about the future of the hospitality industry in the Caribbean?
Finally, where are the best places to fish in the Caribbean!
ES. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cancun and Cozumel.