A good brand goes a long way – over 22 years, to be exact. Bahia Principe, which offers holiday packages in the Caribbean, Canary Islands and Majorca, has firmly established itself as one of the leaders in the all-inclusive market. We chat with Lluisa Salord, SVP Global Sales, Contracting and Distribution, who tells us about the brand’s new agent loyalty program, how it’s grown over two decades, and how 2017 is shaping up.
1. Bahia Principe recently launched its new agent loyalty program, Bahia Principe Rewards. After two decades in the industry, why launch the program now?
We felt it was the perfect time to launch the program in Canada. We wanted to provide a platform that gives users an easy way to navigate rich content and information. The agent response has been massive. We know that our brand is very strong in Canada but our expectations have been exceeded by far.
Once, one of our partners said that Bahia Principe takes slow but sure and firm steps, which I love because I think it perfectly describes us. We don’t like to take steps back.
2. How has the brand evolved from your first hotel opening nearly 22 years ago?
Our first hotel, Bahia Principe San Juan in the Dominican Republic was a huge success and greatly supported by the Canadian market. This allowed us to grow in other destinations. In only a few years, we grew to have additional properties in Riviera Maya, Punta Cana and Tenerife, and have been growing every year since then. The biggest growth came 10 years ago when we acquired four properties in Samana, and we built our first property in Jamaica.
Now we own 27 hotels in the most popular Caribbean and Spanish destinations. The Canadian market has been key in this growth. Looking at the short- to mid-term, we’d like to add a new destination to our portfolio and of course one that’s key for the Canadian market.
3. What would you tell travel agents about the brand so that they can better sell it to their clients?
One of the most valuable assets of Bahia Principe is our product portfolio. We have a wide range of products, each one focused on a specific audience. We have different brands (Grand and Luxury Don Pablo Collection), family-focused and adults-only products, big resorts and small properties. This allows us to cater to all niches.
What our customers value the most about Bahia Principe are gastronomy, cleanliness and service. We are working to include new gastronomic specialties for next season, while at the same time we are also working on a global entertainment project with a specialized company. Improving the customer experience is our goal.
Also, it’s important to mention that we continually garner awards from tour operators, travel agents as well as customers. Our most recent recognition comes from TripAdvisor, which announced that clients awarded our flagship Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado as the 11th Most Romantic Hotel in the Caribbean, and 21st Best Hotel in the Caribbean. Also, Grand Bahia Principe Turquesa was awarded for the first time as the 21st Best Hotel for Families.
4. What are your thoughts on the increasing popularity of shared accommodations, particularly in the Caribbean?
In my opinion, healthy competition is always positive. But it has to be healthy and we have to all play under the same rules.
In Spain, where shared accommodation had a major boom two years ago, there needs to be legislation to regulate this as well as government resources to control it in order to make it work and prevent it from having a negative impact on the destination. Security is also key. In Spain, we suffered from a lack of regulation and resources, which is risky. If these rules are not taken into account, the situation can get out of control and can damage the general image of the destination and the hotel chains.
In the last two years, there’ve been a lot of new hotel openings in the Caribbean. In some destinations, there is an excess of beds with flat demand, so obviously every traveller who opts for shared accommodation will affect us. But we’re not going to change our plan. Continued improvement is part of our philosophy so we’re not worried about the competition.
5. What’s the forecast for 2017? Are you anticipating a strong year in bookings?
It’s been a strange year. The beginning of the year was a bit tough and we were concerned. We need to take into account that we grew by 8% in bed inventory during 2017. Sales for the winter came later this year, so January was not as good as previous years. Fortunately, sales started at a strong pace in mid-January and we had a great February. From March onwards, including the summer season, we are pacing higher than the same time as last year. It’s too early to think about how we’ll end the year, but if we can maintain this trend for one more year, we’ll end the year with an increase in bookings and revenue.