Every captain needs a first mate. And at Virgin Voyages, the adults-only cruise line set to debut in 2020, its second-in-command will be none other than travel agents.
TORONTO — RIU Hotels & Resorts’ new Riu Dunamar is set to open this Saturday in Playa Mujeres, Mexico, and Sunwing – the largest producer for RIU in the world – can’t wait to show off the property to agents.
Sunwing even has a fam trip going down to Riu Dunamar next week, for 40 agents including 20 from Toronto and 20 from Montreal. “RIU has such a great reputation to opening their resorts when they say they will. When RIU says they’re going to open, they open,” said Deana Murphy, Sunwing’s Vice President Retail Sales, at yesterday’s holiday lunch at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto, hosted by RIU and the Sunwing Travel Group.
The event “reinforces the relationship that Sunwing and RIU have. And we wouldn’t have that relationship without the support of the agents,” added Murphy.
The annual lunch, now in its fifth year, has become a favourite on the holiday season calendar for agents looking for updates from Sunwing and RIU Hotels & Resorts, and the companies always deliver.
Last year’s announcement that RIU was getting rid of restaurant reservations at its properties in the Americas got a big round of applause. This year’s announcement – that free weddings will be truly free at RIU resorts in 2018, save for the minister’s fee – got a similarly enthusiastic reaction from agents. “Everybody offers free weddings,” said RIU’s Director of Business Development & Partner Marketing, USA & Canada, Hugo Aguilera. “We wanted something different. We decided that for 2018 we’re going to offer that package complimentary, while keeping the same inclusions. It took a lot of research but we got it down to a zero balance. There’s no minimum stay, or minimum number of people, or minimum room categories. You want a free wedding package, you get a free wedding package.”
Aguilera added that 2017 “was a very exciting year, and also a very challenging year”, what with the hurricanes and the Mexico travel warning from the U.S. State Department. He told agents: “We couldn’t have done it without your support.”
Here’s a look at the latest RIU news:
The new Riu Dunamar is set to open this Saturday, Dec. 2 in Playa Mujeres, Mexico. The 24-hour all-inclusive hotel has free WiFi throughout, 700+ rooms, a RiuLand Kids’ Club, five pools, a fitness centre, water sports and a number of à la carte dining options. It’s located a short transfer away from Cancun International Airport and is nestled on an idyllic stretch of Playa Mujeres Beach. Riu Dunamar will also boast RIU’s first water park in Mexico. This new Splash Water World will also be oceanfront. Already Riu Dunamar is seeing great projected occupancy levels “with a lot of bookings coming in,” says Aguilera.
Just opened last year and already benefitting from upgrades and renovations, the adults-only Riu Republica in Punta Cana is one of Sunwing’s top sellers out of Canada, and in the months leading up to its June 2016 opening, gave Sunwing its best ever pre-sales for a new resort. Exclusively offered through Sunwing’s Signature Vacations Collection, Riu Republica has added a number of new enhancements for this coming season. The five-star all-inclusive adults-only resort will now feature a water park, the second Splash Water World to open in Punta Cana. Along with the new water park, there are also additional pools, with eight now to choose from including three with swim-up bars, and four new restaurants, for a total of 10. The resort has also added hundreds of new rooms, for a total of 1,382 rooms including eight suites.
This Bahamas property, part of the RIU chain since 2005, recently made the switch to adults-only. Aguilera says that while RIU doesn’t foresee switching any more existing properties to adults-only in the near future, there are still opportunities for more adults-only resorts with RIU’s new-builds. Another property offered exclusively through the Signature Vacations Collection by Sunwing, the five-star all-inclusive benefits from one of the best beaches in Nassau, an extensive range of entertainment programs, and a modernized look with new features such as an à la carte Indian restaurant on-site. Guestrooms have also been fully renovated and now feature new walk-in showers. New amenities include a gym and new pool with swim-up bar. “It looks like a brand new property,” says Aguilera of Riu Palace Paradise Island.
The most family-oriented hotel in RIU’s chain of Punta Cana properties, and initially opened in 1999, Hotel Riu Bambu was refurbished in 2004 and again in 2010, but only performed a complete overhaul earlier this year. The five-star, all-inclusive hotel reopened in July 2017 and now boasts new furniture and décor in all rooms, plus refurbished bathrooms, two new pools (in addition to three existing pools) with two new swim-up bars, and a new gymnasium next to the beach. The Riu4U club for young guests is another new item resulting from the refurbishment. Culinary options have also seen some changes. The hotel has seven restaurants including the new Spanish restaurant Olé and the gourmet eatery Kulinarium. Guests will continue to have the main restaurant available to them with international cuisine, as well as the Asian Hibachi, the Italian San Angelo, the Palm Beach steakhouse and the Mexican Mama Juana.
In 2018 RIU expects to open the Riu Palace Baja California and also renovate one of its classic hotels, the Riu Sante Fe. On the other side of the country, in Riviera Maya, the company also plans to renovate Riu Tequila. Also next year RIU plans to update Riu Palace Punta Cana in the D.R. and Riu Palace Tropical Bay in Jamaica.
RIU has three new social packages for Group clients: the 2018 Honeymoon & Anniversary package for two people; the 2018 Birthday Bash package, for up to 20 guests; and the 2018 #BachParty package, also for up to 20 guests. “Make sure to keep us in mind for your large groups and party clients,” said Aguilera.