Exclusive Interview: Claudio A. Silvestri. President and CEO, Casa de Campo

Casa de Campo markets itself as the Most Complete Resort in the Caribbean. What it offers the consumer certainly puts it in that category, from worldclass golf to champion shooting - Caribbean Weekly had the pleasure of catching up with the President of the luxurious resort, Mr Claudio A. Silvestri, to discuss business and what the future holds for Casa de Campo. With a new Spa in the pipeline the Caribbeans Most Complete Resort looks set to become even better…
CW: Recent times have caused great distress in the travel sector. Some speculate that the higher end of the market has not witnessed as much of a downturn, would you agree? 

CS: Yes I would agree.
CW: How has business at Casa de Campo been in recent months?

CS: In the first quarter of this year, business was strong, as it always is in the winter for Casa de Campo. The second quarter has been a bit more of a challenge as the booking pace appeared to slow a little. We responded by instituting a 25% discount plus NEW Thursday through Sunday programming - incorporating many family activities, our successful children`s programs, plus new features for the adults such as cooking classes with our professional chefs and art & fashion classes taught by the professional instructors of the Altos de Chavon School of Design here at Casa de Campo. All of this, plus the opening of our new Pete Dye-designed golf course with special inaugural rates,  along with the opening of a new restaurant, helped business pick up pace.

CW: Certain members of the Caribbean tourism industry believe that the cruise industry is not giving enough back to land based tourism and is in effect damaging the sector. As Casa has its own port what are your views on the cruise industry and do they give enough back to the local population?

CS: The cruise industry has been an incredible asset to Casa de Campo and the town of La Romana. The programming put in place has successfully provided a great experience for the cruising passengers while at the same time, no impact is felt whatsoever by resort guests. If the cruising passengers land excursion is programmed properly, it should be a win-win-win situation for the cruise line, passengers and land-based tourism.


CW: The Golf Travel Market is to be hosted in the Dominican Republic this year. Golf is one of, if not the biggest market for Casa. How has the new Pete Dye course been for business?

CS:The third Pete Dye resort masterpiece at Casa de Campo, “Dye Fore,” opened April of this year to an eager golf audience! With 360 degree, breathtaking views thoughout 18-holes of play, Dye Fore is going to give our “Teeth of the Dog,” course some serious competition.

CW: How successful has the new Shooting Centre been?

CS: The Shooting Centre was built in 1986 and is one of the foremost facilities in the Caribbean, with over 300 stations spread over 250-acres. Here shooters can learn new skills or polish exiting ones through target practice with trap, skeet and sporting clays. Afterwards they can sit back and relax with a cool drink in the
beautiful, African-style motif, of the Shooting Centre Clubhouse.

CW: Could you tell Caribbean Weekly readers a little about the centre and its newly appointed Director, who we understand to be British?

CS: Shaun Snell is indeed British, and has spent the last 11 years as the Director/Manager of the shooting facility at the home of the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House, which is just outside of London. He has been an avid shooter for over 30 years with a very strong teaching, design and management background in the sport. We are very excited to have him as one of our Sports Professionals at Casa de Campo.

CW: Are there any developments in the pipeline for the resort?

CS: In addition to a new Spa, Casa de Campo will continue to take advantage of its many assets by expanding upon the Vacation + Education program and launch an annual series of festivals beginning in the summer of 2004. These festivals will be cultural immersion programs throughout the week, culminating in spectacular events at the amphitheatre. These festivals have been in production for over a year and will be fabulous adventures for Families next summer. The season will launch with a Jazz Festival in June, followed by an Italian festival featuring an Opera Under the Stars at the amphitheater of Altos de Cavón and much more. Stay tuned.

CW: When will your new Spa open and what facilities will it comprise of? The Spa industry is one of the most rapidly growing industry`s, Casa de Campo visitors must be crying out for such a facility? Who will be running the new project?

CS: Construction of the spa will begin in 3-4 months, and the facility will be ready before the end of 2004. It will be a tropical spa operated by Mandara.

CW: How has the Internet revolution affected bookings at Casa?

CS: The Internet has been an enormous marketing tool for Casa de Campo as a vehicle to keep travel agents as well as former and future guests around the world apprised of all that`s new and coming to this resort.

CW: Which booking engine do you employ?

CS: Book - A - Rez

CW: How excited are you about the eminent relaunch of Casa de Campos website?

CS: Very excited. Our team has been working hard not only to update the look and feel of the site, but to incorporate all that`s new at the resort plus add more flash and interactive features. www.casadecampo.cc will not only be more informative, but fun!

CW: How positive will the relaunch be for the resort?

CS: The new site will mimic our management philosophy at Casa de Campo… ever growing, ever evolving, but steadfast in the high quality and service deserved of our guests.

CW: How influential do you feel the Internet is for business growth?

CS: In the world we live in today, the influence of the Internet cannot be underestimated for it is an incredibly powerful communications vehicle. As more and more people throughout the world gain Internet access, more and more people will learn about your services, both positive and negative from a variety of different sources. So yes, the Internet can most definitely influence a businesses` growth.

CW: Are there any plans to have wireless `hotspots` around Casa?

CS: Yes, we have plans for that.CW: Finally, where do you see Casa in five years? What would you like to see at the resort?

CS: Through the years, Casa de Campo has earned world-class recognition and a privileged ranking in the Caribbean through its many outstanding facilities: its beautiful championship golf courses, tennis courts, equestrian and shooting centers, the La Romana-Casa de Campo International Airport, the Casa de Campo International Tourist Port, the cruise operations at Catalina Island, the new Marina, and Altos de Chavón,
the breathtaking 16th century Mediterranean village, home to an artist community, amphitheater, museum, art gallery and quaint shops, as well as The School of Design, affiliated with Parson`s of New York. In the coming years, we expect that the rigorous training for new hiring’s and continuous re-training of our existing staff, both of which are being implemented at the new Casa de Campo Preparatory Institute by Johnson & Wales University, will also give us the distinction as the property that provides the best of high-quality, consistent service to the most discerning of guests. In addition, we are finalising an exciting program of festivals, fashion shows, special concerts and events, aimed to establish Casa de Campo and Altos de Chavón as the entertainment, cultural and fashion capital of the Caribbean. Take a virtual tour of the Dominican Republic at: www.virtually-dominicanrepublic.comRelated Story On Caribbean Weekly: Interview With Casa de Campos Massimo Caretta