TORONTO — Hosting its first in-person gathering in over two years, Sunwing Travel Group announced yesterday at its Sunwing Loves Cuba event, through its hotel management company Blue Diamond Resorts, that it will be taking over the island of Cayo Largo and the 11 properties on this island, with a total of 1,348 rooms.
“Cuba is a very important destination for us and we’ve grown phenomenally over the years,” says Eric Rodriguez, Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Sunwing Travel Group. “This, in addition to the growth of Blue Diamond Resorts, has given us a privileged position with the government in allowing us to take over Cayo Largo completely with hotels on the island.”
Blue Diamond Resorts is Sunwing’s hotel management company and the second largest hotel chain in number of rooms in Cuba following Meliá and ahead of Iberostar.
Mohamad Fawzi, Managing Director, Cuba, for Blue Diamond Resorts spoke to current occupancy levels and forecasts for the future, telling Travelweek, “right now we are around 50% in all of our properties, and for winter we are looking at very good occupancy of 90%.”
In discussing Sunwing Group’s plans, Rodriguez spoke of the destination takeover as new territory. “We haven’t had a destination that’s run by one hotel company ever in Cuba. This is a first. We also have obtained an import license to control what goods are coming in, so now it will allow us to control the quality within the hotels.”
This import license, exclusive to Sunwing Travel Group, allows them to control what’s coming into the destination. In the example Rodriguez gave, things such as peanut butter, Nutella and ketchup will be available at the resorts, which hasn’t always been the case.
“There are a lot of synergies you can take advantage of. Instead of having 10 different butchers, you can have one centralized, and you can have a lot of common products that are centralized as opposed to everybody doing it for themselves. It’s economies of scale, it’s the right to import, and being able to control the quality is a great thing.”
Over the past two years adapting and improving have been among the key themes that Sunwing and the Cuban government have focused on to improve the destination as a whole. One key factor has been working towards the removal of the scratch cards for Internet use, and recognizing the importance of WiFi.
With no remaining COVID protocols on the island and Cayo Largo having its own international airport (CYO), flights from Canada will be easy for Canadian travellers. This coming November there will be three nonstop flights from Canada: Toronto (three hours and five minutes), Montréal (three hours and minutes) and Québec (four hours and five minutes).
This close proximity to Canada and exceptional value for money are what makes Rodriguez confident that travel to the destination will continue to be a success.
Not only this, but the transfer time from the airport to some of the resorts in Cayo Largo ranges from four to 11 minutes.
Also in attendance at yesterday’s event, held at The Arlington Estate in Vaughan, ON, was Ruben Gutierrez Urena, President of NexusTours, Sunwing’s Destination Services Team.
NexusTours will continue to operate Sunwing’s excursions in Cayo Largo. Gutierrez Urena shared some of the incredible and unique experiences that can be had in Cuba such as a jeep safari, learning about the legacy of the sugar, rum, and cigar industry, unwinding on a sun cruise, and exploring Havana. And with the white-sand beaches, crystal waters and so much to do, Cayo Largo truly is a paradise, he said.
The 11 Cayo Largo properties are as follows:
- Grand Memories Cayo Largo – All-inclusive, 306 rooms, family-friendly
- Sanctuary at Grand Memories Cayo Largo – All-inclusive, adults only, 45 bungalows
- Memories Cayo Largo – All-inclusive, 296 rooms, close to Cayo Largo’s marina
- Starfish Cayo Largo – All-inclusive, 307 rooms
- Villa Caprice – All-inclusive, adults only, 100 two-storey bungalows
- Villa Natura – All-inclusive, adults only, LGBTQ+ friendly, 76 rooms
- Villa Marina – 23 rooms
- Villa Linda Mar – 53 rooms
- Villa Coral – 59 rooms
- Villa Serena – 59 rooms
- Villa Soledad – 24 rooms
Four of these properties – Grand Memories Cayo Largo, Sanctuary at Grand Memories Cayo Largo, Starfish Cayo Largo and Memories Cayo Largo – will be open to guests starting the first week of November 2022, and they will be available for bookings starting July 11, 2022.
For more information on Sunwing’s Cayo Largo packages, check out https://www.sunwing.ca/en/destinations/cuba/cayo-largo.