TORONTO — Back in June 2022, when Sunwing Travel Group unveiled its Cayo Largo project, there was a real sense of excitement in the air – just when the industry needed it the most.
Travel’s recovery was finally underway and the momentum that Sunwing brought with its announcement that Blue Diamond Resorts, its hotel management company, would be expanding its Cayo Largo presence to all 11 of the island’s properties – for a total of 1,348 rooms – was palpable.
Finally, the world was all-in on travel again, and here was Sunwing Travel Group announcing that Blue Diamond Resorts was all-in with Cayo Largo. It was a shot in the arm for travel, and a big plan for one of Cuba’s top destinations.
Many of the resorts are being rebuilt or renovated to open as early as next month. The 11 resorts will be rebranded as Grand Memories Resorts & Spa, Memories Resorts & Spa, Starfish Resorts and Villa properties. Bookings opened in July for fall and winter 2022/2023 vacations starting from Nov. 1, 2022 onward.
With that start date inching ever closer, we went to Sunwing’s Chief Marketing Officer, Samantha Taylor, to find out the latest on the Cayo Largo project, from resort readiness, to reaction from Sunwing’s travel advisor partners, to the potential for takeovers like this to be expanded to other destinations.
Travelweek: What is Sunwing’s thinking behind the Cayo Largo project?
Taylor: “Cuba has long been a favourite vacation destination among Canadians and one of our bestsellers year after year, so expanding our presence in Cayo Largo fits within our long-term strategy to provide Canadians with more vacation packages to popular sun destinations, including Cuba, at affordable price points.
“What’s great about Cayo Largo – and among the reasons we are thrilled to offer this destination to customers – is that it offers 25km of pristine beaches in an intimate and relaxing setting, and it’s located along the southern coast of Cuba, known for warmer temperatures year-round, which you won’t find in other parts of the country. Canadians looking to escape the long, dreary winter season will enjoy the weather in Cayo Largo any month of the year, even in January and February. Plus, with an international food import license, Canadians can enjoy some of the comforts of home when dining at any of the resorts on the island. It is also a sustainable, eco-friendly destination so will appeal to the most eco-conscious of travellers.
“It’s the amalgamation of all these details that make for an unforgettable vacation experience in Cayo Largo and, as the leading tour operator in Canada, we are delighted to offer all inclusive packages to the sunshine coast of Cayo Largo this winter.”
Travelweek: Can you provide a status update on the rebrandings and renovations?
Taylor: “We’re very excited about that! The rebrandings and renovations are well underway, and the teams in destination are hard at work getting the properties ready for the debuts for the fall and winter. Sunwing customers can book their all-inclusive vacations to Cayo Largo for stays at some resorts such as Memories Cayo Largo from November onwards.
“We’re currently offering five weekly direct flights for the fall and winter – from Toronto and Montréal on Fridays starting Nov. 4, from Ottawa and Québec City on Saturdays starting Dec. 17, and from Halifax on Tuesdays starting Jan. 10.
“We are already seeing a surge in demand for travel to Cayo Largo for the winter, and we hope to add more flights for the winter to reflect evolving customer demand. With the huge demand for winter travel, we encourage agents to book clients’ dream getaways to Cayo Largo now so they don’t miss out on the tropical experience of a lifetime this winter.”
Travelweek: Can you offer a quick overview of each of the resort brands?
Taylor: “There really is something for everyone in Cayo Largo. There are a range of family-friendly resorts, including Memories Cayo Largo, Grand Memories Cayo Largo, Starfish Cayo Largo, Villa Coral, Villa Linda Mar, Villa Marina, Villa Serena and Villa Soledad. Of course, for those looking for a couples escape or getaway with friends, the adults only Sanctuary at Grand Memories Cayo Largo will fit the bill, and adults seeking an au naturel experience will enjoy vacationing at Villa Caprice. Plus, customers seeking a 2SLGBTQ+ vacation experience will enjoy staying at the adults only, inclusive beachfront resort of Villa Natura.”
Travelweek: Are there any advantages for travellers, for example, dine around opportunities, stay at one and play at more, that sort of thing?
Taylor: “Yes, customers will enjoy extra features that are available at certain resorts, from dine around programs to stay at one, play at more options. Guests at the adults only Sanctuary at Grand Memories Cayo Largo will have full access to facilities, amenities and services at neighbouring Grand Memories Cayo Largo, including the outdoor pool, fitness centre, restaurants and bars. Guests at both of those properties may also upgrade to Diamond Club for preferred room categories, premium amenities and inclusions throughout their stay.
“Meanwhile, Villa Soledad guests will have access to the restaurants and bars of nearby Villa Lindamar and Villa Caprice. Plus, a number of family-friendly resorts offer special pricing for children when travelling with two or more adults. What’s more, all resorts offer direct service from the hotels into town where they can take in local sights and attractions, including Paraíso Beach and Sirena Beach, the Cayo Largo Activity Centre and a sea turtle rescue centre, or they can rent ATVs to explore on their own.”
Travelweek: What’s been the reaction from agents?
Taylor: “We’ve had very positive feedback from the agent community. They know how popular Cuba is for our mutual customers, and they are excited to be able to offer this idyllic beachfront location to customers, which we are confident will become a must-visit destination Canadians will look forward to returning to time and again.”
Travelweek: Could there be more projects like this for Sunwing in other destinations in the years to come?
Taylor: “Never say never! We are always looking for ways to innovate and continue bringing amazing vacation experiences to our valued customers at competitive prices. We’ll be sure to share more updates as new destinations and upcoming projects come to fruition.”
To read this story in the Oct. 20, 2022 digital edition of Travelweek, click here.
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