Meliá Buenavista

Gina Mallamo – Cuba Division, Melia Hotels International

Meliá Cayo Coco

Meliá Cayo Coco. Photo courtesy of meliacuba.com

Melia Hotels International – Cuba is a force to be reckoned with, comprising 26 resorts under four brands plus upscale resort-within-a-resort concepts like Royal Service and The Level. For this Friday Five, Melia’s Gina Mallamo, based in Quebec, talks about her own favourite Melia properties and runs down the list of the latest consumer and agent incentives.

1. So many great resorts are part of the Melia Cuba Hotels & Resorts group. What brands are under the Melia Cuba umbrella and do you have a personal favourite?

 Mallamo: Founded in 1956 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Meliá Hotels International is one of the largest hotel companies in the world and the largest hotel chain in Spain in both resort and city hotels. The company currently operates more than 350 hotels in 35 countries and four continents under its different brands: Meliá, Gran Meliá, ME by Meliá, Paradisus, Innside by Meliá, TRYP by Wyndham, Sol Hotels and Club Meliá.

Melia Hotels International commercializes four of its corporate brands in Cuba, therefore addressing different needs and budgets in its 26 resorts: Sol (original brand: affordable all inclusive; family market) / Melia (upscale; family or adults only) / Tryp (4-star; family market) / Paradisus (5-star; luxurious ultra all-inclusive; family or adults only).

Five years ago we introduced the Royal Service section: boutique hotels within our Paradisus Resorts with top of the line accommodation, restaurants, bars and butler service at all times.

I have many favourites, each one for different reasons or type of vacation! I love Holguin’s Paradisus Rio de Oro as a couple’s resort, for its tranquility, beautiful surroundings with a great beach and amazing spa (for romantics there’s the intimate Royal Service and a wedding gazebo on stilts over the water!). I also like Sol Rio de Luna y Mares as a family resort with their famous beach parties. The beach in Cayo Guillermo for me is the most impressive in Cuba (different shades of blues and shallow waters).

My all-time favourite is Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa as a family resort where all the facilities are easily accessible, the beach is visible from almost everywhere at the resort and offering close proximity to Havana. I especially enjoy the Royal Service gourmet restaurant as well as their mother-daughter spa packages and my kids love the Japanese tepanyaki style restaurant.

The Melia Marina Varadero is also a great property for its modern facilities and maritime ambiance; Melia Las Dunas remains a favourite for the Canadian market; Melia Cayo Coco with its rooms on stilts is an experience in itself; Sol Sirenas Coral for its beautiful beach, one of the nicest in Varadero, as well as its new and amazing Cosmonautas section. And I can go on and on!

2. What are Melia’s newest resorts in Cuba?

Meliá Buenavista

Meliá Buenavista. Photo courtesy of meliacuba.com

meliacuba.com

Mallamo: Melia Buenavista opened in December 2012. It is a boutique hotel with 104 suites, à la carte dining and all Royal Service, a first in Cuba. The seclusion of the property and dedication of the staff make this a resort like no other for anyone looking to unwind completely.

In May 2013 we opened the new Royal Service section of the Paradisus Princesa del Mar with swim-up suites, the best in accommodation at this time in Cuba.

Last August we also opened the beautiful Melia Marina Varadero. Located in the Marina Gaviota, it’s a hotel but also offers apartments which are great for families of up to eight people, or for long-stays. The restaurants and decor are not only trendy but also offer beautiful views of the marina. The spa that just opened is amazing as well as the promenade by the marina, just steps away from the hotel allowing an open concept view to the sea. A new convention centre complete with WiFi was also inaugurated in August 2013.

We are also expecting the opening of Melia Jardines del Rey, a new property in Cayo Coco, in November 2014. Its 1,176 modern rooms will be distributed over 25 three-storey bungalows. Its luxurious rooms will offer beautiful views of the pool, the gardens or the turquoise ocean and will be divided into two sections, one for families and one for adults-only.

Meliá’s luxury concept, The Level, the equivalent of Royal Service in Paradisus Resorts and found in selected Melia hotels, will also be available at this property, a place where every single aspect has been thoughtfully and precisely created to deliver an unparalleled experience for all the senses.

New The Level rooms will also soon be available on the fifth floor of the Melia Varadero as of December 2014. In 2015, the Family concierge section of the Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa will open and seal the deal as the best upscale family resort in Varadero.

 3. Cuba has a special place in the hearts of Canadian travellers. What makes the destination so attractive?

Mallamo: Friendliness is probably the main characteristic of the Cubans but proximity of the island, beautiful beaches and a safe environment are the main comments we hear from our clients.

Crystal clear waters and stretches of beach where you can be totally alone are still possible in Cuba!

Historical cities such as Habana, Trinidad or Santiago de Cuba are among the most fascinating in the Caribbean. There is nothing more impressive than visiting Habana with a vintage car!

Cubans are well-educated and speak many languages which also helps create that bond between our employees and clients. Personalized service is one of the main criteria clients look for on a holiday. That is why we are focusing and expanding our Royal Service and The Level properties in Cuba.

Music and dancing are strong cultural assets in Cuba. More and more clients want to learn to dance like only the Cubans know how. Many festivals happen all year and one of the most sought-after is definitely Salsa week in Havana, hosted in part by Melia Habana, and the jazz festival.

4. What are the latest consumer promotions and agent incentives with Melia Cuba?

Mallamo: For agents, our Wedding Club incentive allows agents to earn free nights in any of our 27 properties in Cuba for each wedding group booked.

Mas Amigos is our corporate loyalty program for agents, where points can be exchanged for nights at any of our properties around the world or for gift certificates. We also offer great travel agent rates (from 35cuc) and personalized fam trips.

For clients, we offer our Mas Rewards loyalty program. We also have added-value promotions (all year) including: unlimited golf at Melia Las Americas (with possibility to pre-book tee-times); unlimited diving at Paradisus Resorts in Cuba as well as free WiFi in Royal Service; and ‘day around’ visiting privileges from 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in our hotels of the same category between Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo.  On new bookings until Sept. 30, 2014 for stays before Oct. 31, 2014, guests who book a Paradisus Resort in Cuba will receive up to US$1,000 in resort credit.

For wedding clients, we offer free wedding packages available all year at our resorts, with different packages/conditions, according to the brand. At Paradisus properties, clients can get a free wedding with 12 people or more at the same hotel with a minimum one-week stay – the most complete free wedding package in the Caribbean. At Melia properties, it’s a free wedding with 17 people or more at the same hotel, minimum one week. And at Sol properties, it’s a free wedding with 25 people or more at the same hotel, minimum one week.

We also have a summer promotion where kids stay free (and no single supplement) at select hotels.

5. What sort of marketing and sales support does Melia Cuba offer to Canadian travel agents?

  • Canadian office: Bilingual sales executives in Toronto and Montreal; wedding specialist based in our Canadian office to assist travel agents in the planning of their clients’ wedding in any of our 27 resorts in Cuba
  • Melia Cuba Wedding specialist Certification Course (certificate, emblem to use for literature/emails, contact info on our website, and much more)
  • Melia Cuba Royal Service specialist Certification Course (certificate, emblem to use for literature/emails, contact info on our website, and much more)
  • Webinars
  • Brochures (corporate, weddings, Paradisus & Royal Service, etc.)
  • Our different websites (meliacuba.com / travelagentscuba.com where agents can download high-resolution photos of all our hotels, videos, spec sheets of all our hotels, logos, maps of the hotels, etc. It’s a great tool for agents. Also ca.weddingcubachannel.com for wedding planning).
  • DVD of our hotels
  • DVD for incentive and meeting groups
  • Newsletter with regular updates
  • PowerPoint presentation on each individual hotel
  • Door/wall decoration for agencies
  • Co-op advertising as well as wedding show participation