Colourful buildings, endless palm trees, the Caribbean Sea, and a sumptuous resort.
This was the idyllic setting, in Curaçao, where 10 travel advisors from Ontario and Quebec met, from June 19 to 22, to explore Sandals Royal Curaçao – an adults-only, all-inclusive resort that opened in June of last year – with Air Canada Vacations (ACV).
PAX was invited exclusively to cover the FAM, where participants won a “VIP seat” as part of ACV's “Summer Fun in the Sun” incentive.
For each reservation made from March 25 to April 30, agents accumulated points, which them earned them a spot on the luxurious trip.
“It's a natural collaboration and we wanted to share that with the agents,” said Marco Lot, ACV’s area sales manager for Southwestern Ontario, describing how the FAM came together.
“We are proud of our strong partnership with Sandals Resorts, which has lasted for many years. This alliance allows us to provide the best travel opportunities, and we look forward to continuing to support advisors.”
Redefining luxury & hospitality
From Curaçao International Airport (CUR) in Willemstad, it takes less than an hour by car to reach Sandals Royal Curaçao, which represents the company’s first venture into the Dutch Caribbean island that sits between Aruba and Bonaire.
All the advisors participating in the educational tour were discovering the magnificent hotel – which has 351 spacious rooms and suites, divided into 24 categories – for the very first time.
The property, situation within Santa Barbara private estate – a 3,000-acre protected preserve, with a golf course – is stretched across 44 lush acres, and flanked by views of a natural lagoon and bay.
As PAX reported last year, the grounds have been completely “Sandalized” – a word used to describe the process of transforming a property into the “luxury-included” experience Sandals is known for.
Here, Sandals 2.0 is expressed through newly-constructed swim-up suites and a “pool first” – the two-level Dos Awa Infinity pool.
There are two new signature suite categories: the Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows and Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows, complete with Tranquility Soaking Tubs, private pools, butler service, and stylish convertible MINI Coopers for driving around the island.
There’s also the Coconut Grove lounge area and beach, which offers a secluded escape from all the action. Signature events, like sunset toasts, are also held here.
Sandals Royal Curaçao also has the largest convention space on the island – a total of 38,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Live the experience
“Isn’t this the best time to refresh your knowledge of Sandals products?” said Richard Todd to participants, during a short training session.
The senior sales consultant at Sandals Resorts said that in order to be successful in the travel industry, it is crucial to know the products you are offering.
When advisors live the experience for themselves, it is so much easier for them to promote a destination, he said.
"By becoming familiar with the details and particularities of Sandals, you will be able to offer personalized advice to your clients and guide them to the vacation of their dreams," said Mr. Todd. “Especially now, as pent-up demand for travel continues to drive the industry’s recovery.”
The advisors on the trip all agreed that the property offers an impressive selection of upscale accommodations, from stylish rooms to lavish ocean-view suites.
With spacious, well-kept gardens, the property offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, conducive to relaxation and tranquility, participants said.
It’s also very easy to navigate the well-planned resort. You can even get around by bicycles, which are available to guests (and serve as a nod to Dutch cycling culture).
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the staff – employees were attentive to each guests’ needs, and ready to exceed their expectations.
Everyone was blown away by their warm welcome and professionalism.
Find your niche
Jaclyn Decle, a travel consultant at Flight Center Upper Canada, spoke to PAX about the importance of selling not just a hotel, but an experience.
“For me, it is essential to know the preferences and expectations of each client in order to offer them this type of hotel in a targeted manner,” she said. “By identifying travellers who fully appreciate this unique experience, I am able to offer a tailor-made service to my customers and maximize their satisfaction.”
In the same spirit, Todd stressed the importance of adopting a niche.
“Find your niche!” he said. “The travel market offers an endless variety of unique products. By exploring niche products, such as golf resorts or scuba diving activities, you can offer special experiences to your golf-loving and non-golfing customers and set yourself apart from the competition.”
Heather Wensley, a travel consultant with The Travel Agent Next Door, admitted that for her clients, some of whom are budget constrained, Sandals Royal Curaçao, at a higher price point, may not be their first choice.
Other clients may not be up for the long flight to Curaçao from Canada, which is longer than four hours (not to mention any connections that may be involved).
However: "This hotel is perfect for anyone who is celebrating their honeymoon or a special event,” she said.
Marco Lot reiterated ACV’s support for the trade – especially when it comes to selling Sandals.
“Our team is here to support you every step of the way when you offer Sandals products,” he said. “We provide resources and comprehensive support to ensure you provide exceptional vacations for your customers.”