Interview: Armin Kaestner, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing at Barcelo.

Business in the Dominican Republic is booming, the Caribbean Island is alive with tourists. Offering some of the cheapest prices in the region yet still managing to deliver a very high quality product, the land of mass tourism is soaring. One man who knows how good business is, is Barceloå‘s Armin Kaestner, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for the Dominican Republic. Caribbean Weekly caught up with Mr. Kaestner to talk shop and see where the Dominican Republic is heading next.
CW: What sets the Dominican Republic aside from other regions in the Caribbean?
AK: The difference between the Dominican Republic and the rest of the region is that we attract clients from across the globe, the greater part of the rest of the Caribbean services a predominantly US market. We have a large market share from Europe and the UK. We also offer the best beaches, the most complete resorts and the best prices in the Caribbean. There is a friendliness in the Dominican Republic that cannot be taught as it is in other hospitality sectors of the Caribbean. It is nature’s way for the Dominican people to be as friendly as they are.

CW: Why do you feel you attract such a varied clientele?
AK: As I mentioned the sheer friendliness of the people is one of the big attractions as are our pristine beaches. Also, people come here and have great spending power, especially the Europeans with the Euro being as strong as it is at present. We attract Canadians and Americans because of proximity.

CW: What are your feelings on the marketing campaign, ‘Life Needs The Caribbean?’
AK: ‘Life Needs The Caribbean’ is very positive for the Caribbean, it markets the region under one ideal, the dream of paradise in the consumers mind. It conjures up images of white beaches, blue skies and palm tress. It is a good idea, I believe, for the Caribbean to be consolidated and marketed in this way.

CW: What percentage of arrival do you receive from the UK?
AK: That depends vastly on the region. For instance if you look at the Barcelo Talanquera, in Jaun Dolio, that can have UK occupancy of 40%. I believe that total market share in the Caribbean is in the region of 15%.

CW: The concept of the all-inclusive resort works very well in the Dominican Republic, why do you think this is?
AK: In the Dominican Republic the Salary’s are low so it is possibly to operate larger resorts. Here the all-inclusive is becoming more and more popular. The rest of the Caribbean is expensive in comparison. For example you pay 100 US dollars per night to stay in a bed and breakfast on other Islands, whereas here you could pay 100 dollars for all inclusive in a high end resort.


CW: You have a good set up at Barcelo Beach Resort where it is possible to navigate around various hotels on the same complex, thus giving the consumer more choice. Where does this concept originate from?
AK: The formula was invented in the Dominican Republic. It began in Punta Cana with, as you mentioned, different hotels on one resort. It quickly gained popularity and began to spread to other Caribbean destinations such as Mexico. The idea was to ‘Stay at one, but play at three!’

CW: You lack a Spa, market research proves that Spas are the quickest growing sector in the travel and leisure industry; do you plan to invest in one in the near future?
AK: Here at Barcelo we understand the importance of the Spa industry. Therefore, yes we do have plans for a Spa, and our plans are big! The Spa will be high end and state of the art. As for dates I cannot confirm at this time.

CW: What are you views on the cruise industry? Certain Caribbean nations feel that this sector is becoming too greedy in its tax safe haven, would you agree?
AK: We have a relatively new port for cruise ships located in La Romana. We are expecting arrivals to increase and this is a good thing. The cruise ships bring in more business for the Island and therefore assist the local economy. I feel there needs to be more marketing to increase the number of ships in our ports - we could become a huge cruise destination. Many Europeans cruise for one week and then stay on land for the second, so to me the cruise industry is not damaging land based tourism, it is assisting it.

CW: What problems does the Dominican Republic have in relation to tourism?
AK: The only real problem that we have is the fact that we cannot get enough people in as there are not enough direct or scheduled flights. Nearly all the flights are chartered. Considering we have such a good network of airports this needs to change. We also need better marketing strategies especially online. Our current Minister of Tourism is working very positively towards this.

CW: What are you views on the Internet and its effect on bookings?
AK: The Internet has had a very positive impact, and this is growing ever more important year by year. The Internet is bringing all the elements together making bookings easier, however things still need to be improved, and I am sure over time that this will occur.

CW: Finally, what sets Barcelo apart from other resorts on the Island?
AK: Barcelo is No1. We have close to 4,500 beds in the Dominican. Barcelo offers our clients the best product available with the quality of service to match. We are the biggest and best in the Dominican Republic.