TORONTO — The Canadian market is booming for all-inclusive chain RIU, with a 12% increase year over year out of Ontario and a 50% increase out of new market Quebec.
Senior Vice President of Sales Oliver Kluth, in town yesterday to meet with executives at Sunwing, credits RIU’s exclusive Canadian partner with growing the brand – already a very popular one – over the past few years.
“We have had a very, very successful cooperation with Sunwing so far,” he said. “Quebec in particular has been growing exponentially. Our previous partners didn’t work much in that province but Sunwing now offers 11 flights out of Quebec. Sunwing is very dynamic and continues to grow year after year.”
RIU had a long and fruitful exclusive partnership with Sunquest and Holiday House until early 2010, when Signature and Sunwing merged and RIU, with its connections to First Choice Canada parent TUI, announced it would split its Canadian business. The Spain-based hotel chain later inked an exclusive partnership with Sunwing and Signature.
Kluth says Sunwing’s figures show RIU’s forward bookings for winter 2013 – 2014 are up between 10 and 15%. The company gets a lot of repeat business out of Canada – more than other markets – and complaints about the resorts are “negligible,” says Sunwing’s Senior Director, Product Development, Doug Donovan.
RIU has developed a solid reputation in Canada with a strong brand message and “good geographic diversity,” says Kluth. “Consumers know us and travel agents know us. Agents know that a client who wants a five-star in the D.R., maybe they’re familiar with us, maybe they’ve stayed at another RIU property. It makes it easy for agents to work with our product.”
A few years ago the chain embarked on an ambitious refurbishment campaign, with three to four properties getting the reno treatment every year leading up to 2015.
This year alone RIU will invest US$250 million in its properties worldwide, including $150 million in the Americas. The renovated RIU Yucatan was unveiled a few weeks ago, and later this fall and winter RIU will show off the ‘new’ RIU Jalisco, RIU Lupita and RIU Cancun.
There are also several new RIU properties in the works, including the RIU Palace Jamaica, part of the chain’s five-star-plus lineup, opening Dec. 6, 2013 as an adults-only property with 238 rooms. Also new, the RIU Playa Blanca (April 1, 2014) will offer a beachfront option in Panama, complementing the existing RIU Plaza Panama in Panama City with combo packages for city and beach stays.
In the U.S., RIU will open a new Times Square hotel in New York City, at 8th Ave. and 46th Street. Another new city hotel is expected in Berlin, downtown near the KaDeWe department store. Both hotels are expected to open in 2015.
RIU is also building a new beach resort in Sri Lanka, about 100 kilometres south of Colombo. Could Sunwing offer lift? “They’re not against it. They’re going to look at it,” is all Kluth would say.
While expansion is at the top of RIU’s agenda, Kluth says keeping up the maintenance of older properties is just as important. “All our guests and tour operators have told us that while it’s good to keep expanding, more importantly it’s good to keep existing properties up to date,” he said.
RIU works closely with agents and recently launched the RIU Specialist Program with e-learning modules and visits from RIU reps. RIU has also enhanced its RIU Partner Club agent loyalty program, now with agent sales manuals on the website and the ability to create client PDFs, for use as a sales tool. See riuagents.com.