TORONTO — These are busy days for Karisma Hotels & Resorts.
The company just wrapped its 15th annual GIVC Awards with a gala celebration honouring travel advisors from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Latin America, presented across multiple resorts including Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya, El Dorado Royale Spa Resort and El Dorado Maroma. Agents taking part in the four-day event heard about the latest company announcements, new product launches, and plans to engage further with the travel agent community.
Among those announcements was news of two new resorts on the way for early 2023: Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Maya, and Margaritaville Beach Resorts Ambergris Caye, Belize. Additionally, renovations have been planned for Azul Beach Resorts Negril, Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Punta Cana, El Dorado Casitas Royale, and El Dorado Seaside Suites.
There are also new enhancements coming for Karisma’s travel agent portal. And the company is boosting its presence in North America, with particular emphasis on the Canadian market, with not one but two additional Canada-based BDMs coming in 2023 to help agents sell the many resorts and brands under the Karisma umbrella.
Karisma is also gearing up to launch its biggest sale of the year, offering up to 50% off and up to US$1,000 in resort credits at top destinations in Mexico, Jamaica, Belize, and the D.R. The Black Friday Cyber Sale kicks off next week and will run until Dec. 6.
Even with so much going on, Frank Maduro, President of Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ worldwide sales and marketing representative, Premier Worldwide Marketing, found time to speak to Travelweek about the company’s growth strategy, travel advisor outreach and more.
Travelweek: Karisma Hotels & Resorts owns and manages an impressive portfolio of properties in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe, including Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma; El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma; Azul Beach Resorts by Karisma; Generations Resorts by Karisma; Hidden Beach Resort by Karisma; Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts; and Margaritaville St. Somewhere by Karisma. What’s the growth strategy?
Maduro: “You know, we’re fortunate. We’re a company that’s been around for over 25 years and we’ve successfully grown during that time. Our sweet spot has always been all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean.
“We made a decision a few years back to really expand the portfolio of brands that we offer. El Dorado is our legacy brand. It’s well-known, well-positioned, it’s the workhorse of our portfolio.
“We also decided that we needed other brands that appeal to a different client in different destinations. So we introduced the first ever Nickelodeon all-inclusive hotel in the D.R., and it was a huge success, with overwhelming demand. We opened another one in Riviera Maya and got the same great results. Nickelodeon with its characters and its themes has such a huge brand appeal worldwide. It’s a marketer’s dream.
“And from there it was a natural progression to go into Margaritaville. That’s a brand that’s very well-known in North America, it’s not as well known in the rest of the world, but then the primary traveller to Mexico in the Caribbean, comes from North America. Margaritaville has made a huge splash, a huge impact. It’s a lifestyle brand that’s all about the beach and really enjoying yourself in a relaxed manner.
“We’ve done very well. Our strategy is, continue to grow these brands in familiar vacation destinations that have good lift from primary markets. And we’re going to continue that in that line. We have a couple of other projects that we officially can’t announce yet, but you’ll see at least two to four more hotels in the next two to three years.
Travelweek: Will those new resorts be with new brands, or existing brands?
Maduro: “Existing brands. We want to concentrate on our core product, what’s made us successful. We know how to deliver a good experience and these are the brands that we we’ve mastered.”
Travelweek: What can you tell us about the two new properties coming in early 2023?
Maduro: “Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Maya will really elevate the experience. It’s a five-star product and it’s an all-inclusive. This one also happens to be adults-only. It’s the first exclusive adults-only Margaritaville in the world. So that’s going to be a big differentiator. It’s going to have big spaces, which is great for corporate meetings, and also for weddings. It’s a 350-room hotel, so not particularly large or small. And it’s going to have the first brewery dedicated to a hotel in Mexico, the Land Shark Brewery.
“And then at the same time, we have a smaller property coming, Margaritaville Beach Resort Belize. It won’t be all-inclusive but it’s a diver’s paradise. Part of the experience is the journey to get there, it’s an explorer’s dream, with the flight from Belize City to Ambergris Caye on a plane that’s flying low over the blue waters. Once you land, a boat will take you to the resort. So it’s really an experience to be had. If you’re a watersports enthusiast, it’s a perfect place to go. It has the Blue Hole, it has whale watching. Our location is secluded, private, with a beautiful beach.”
Travelweek: Travel advisors know better, but some travellers may think that ‘all-inclusives are all the same’. What are the biggest differentiators for the resort experience at your properties?
Maduro: “First, of course, there’s Gourmet Inclusive, that’s a trademark we’ve developed and built our reputation on. That means that our food and beverage experience is elevated and it’s different than other all-inclusives. Gourmet Inclusive has been a huge differentiator for us.
“Another differentiator is our Nickelodeon brand. The experiences, the characters, you can’t find those anywhere else, they’re proprietary. And the Margaritaville brand is a big differentiator for us too, from the Five o’Clock Somewhere Bar, to the Cheeseburger in Paradise outlets. Those are very unique to those brands. So we absolutely have many differentiators depending on the brand that you choose. In all fairness to the competition, we’re all in beautiful locations, all the hotels have great rooms, great restaurants, beautiful pools. But these are some of the things that set us apart from the rest.”
Travelweek: What percentage of your bookings come through travel advisors?
Maduro: “Over 60% of our bookings come from travel advisors. So it’s a very big number. We’ve worked with travel advisors since the inception of the company, and we’ve created quite a partnership with them. We’re expanding our sales force for 2023 in North America, because we need more presence, we need to engage the agents. We’re also going out on the road and conducting about 100 seminars next year, to talk about all the different products in the portfolio. We have a huge commitment with travel agents and travel professionals.
“Our GIVC (Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultant) program is a specialist program that enables advisors to earn bonus commission and points that they can use for redemption for future stays. It’s a very comprehensive program, not only educational but also engaging. Agents are a key part of our distribution channel and we’re going to continue to invest heavily in them because they’re important and they reciprocate. They do love their product. And we’ve got to stay top of mind with them.”
Travelweek: One last question. How is the Canadian recovery coming along?
Maduro: “It’s been amazing. Every week that we look, the Canadian market seems to be leading the pack as far as forward bookings go, so the trend is fantastic. As a result of what we’ve seen, we’ve committed additional salespeople to Canada, we’re going to start off with an additional person in early 2023, and then another one as the year goes on. So soon we’ll have a total of three Canadian BDMS, and we might add more. And we’re going to be making investments to support travel agents through advertising and awareness campaigns. So Canada is a big part of our business mix. It was very slow coming back, but now it’s come back with a vengeance. We’re happy to see that return.”
For more information on Karisma Hotels & Resorts and its agent programs, visit https://www.karismatravelagents.com/en_US/agentprograms.