Another strong winter vacation season, continued upgrades to properties and a new program for travel agents are among the developments in store for RIU Hotels in 2015, said Oliver Kluth, RIU’s senior vice-president of sales and business development.
PAX had the opportunity to speak with Kluth at Sunwing’s Toronto office this week, as he offered an update on the coming year for the company, which has partnered exclusively with Sunwing in Canada since 2011.
According to the VP bookings for RIU properties through Sunwing are currently up 20 per cent from last year’s figures, indicating a strong upcoming travel season.
“Sunwing and RIU have had a fantastic partnership for four years now,” he said, noting both companies’ drive for consistency among their products as a key similarity.
While Kluth admitted that Canadian travellers are drawn to RIU’s properties in the “magic triangle” of Cancun, Punta Cana and Jamaica, Panama (which features the Hotel RIU Plaza Blanca and Hotel RIU Plaza Panama) has quickly risen to fourth place on that list, with Sunwing’s four flights to Panama from Toronto and Montreal consistently full of passengers. RIU’s Aruba properties are also drawing many Canadian vacationers, he added.
RIU’s Los Cabos properties also reopened recently, as travellers make their way back to the destination following the devastation of Hurricane Odile in September. Kluth said the Palace Cabo San Lucas reopened in early October, followed by the reopening of the Santa Fe this month. Sunwing also recently resumed flights into Los Cabos, he noted.
“People depend on the tourism dollars,” Kluth said, “so it was really important to get those operations up and running as soon as possible...The destination is in really great shape again and is ready to receive guests.”
In the coming weeks, a RIU Specialist program for Canadian travel agents will be unveiled. Although the previously-announced program was delayed (due to a desire to simultaneously introduce both the English and French versions of the program in the Canadian market), agents will soon be able learn more about the company’s products and enjoy incentives for completing the program.
“That’s going to be a big help for agents,” Kluth said, noting that the program will be integrated with the RIU Partner Club program. “We launched in the U.S. in March and it’s been a big success; people tell us that it’s very well run and that they’ve learned a lot.”
For 2015, RIU will continue with its property refurbishment program in the Caribbean and Mexico, and will also open its first hotel in Mauritius. Construction is currently underway on a 700-room hotel in Cancun and a 950-room property in Punta Cana. Both hotels are expected to open by summer 2016.