Sunday,  May 31, 2020  1:22 pm

New hotels, new experiences: Hola Sun shines at 2019 agent appreciation night

New hotels, new experiences: Hola Sun shines at 2019 agent appreciation night
Juan Carlos Soto Garcia, president, Hola Sun Holidays.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

Despite some turbulence due to the grounding of Cubana flights last year, Hola Sun is back on track and having a “very good year,” said President Juan Carlos Soto Garcia at the tour operator’s recent agent appreciation evening.

Dozens of agents and suppliers met for a fun-filled evening last Friday (Sept. 13), featuring a mini trade show, destination updates and a performance of Cuban music and dance, celebrating the launch of Hola Sun’s 2019-20 brochure, featuring 185 resorts in 12 Cuban destinations. Hotel chains represented at the event included Barcelo, Valentin, MGM Muthu, Melia Cuba, Blue Diamond, Fiesta American, Iberostar and Be Live.

Garcia told PAX that while the temporary grounding of Cubana (following the crash of one of the airline’s planes in May 2018) caused some difficulties last year, Hola Sun has once again contracted flights from Air Transat for this season, maintaining lift for Canadians travelling with the company.

“We’re having a very good year,” he said. “Around this time last year we were coming out of a temporary crisis after Cubana shut down, but we’re back on track.”

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Lessner Gomez, the Cuba Tourist Board’s incoming director for Canada (left), will take on the role from Eloy Govea (right), who will depart from the office later this month.

New for 2020

With a nod toward a growing trend, Hola Sun’s 2019-20 brochure will feature the option of staying in private residences or casas particularles, which will be available in several destinations including Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Vinales. Centrally located, these accommodations feature standard rooms with either private or shared bathrooms, along with the option of daily breakfast and dinner for an extra charge.

The brochure will also include a number of new experiences, including yoga classes at Melia Las Dumas; a wilderness trekking experience in Topes de Collantes national park with two nights in either Cayo Santa Maria or Trinidad; and a clubbing experience including club admission and drinks at four of Varadero’s most popular hotspots.

Travellers can also choose from a selection of escorted bus tours from seven to 14 nights, geared toward points of interest ranging from history and culture to beaches and eco-tours.

And catering to a growing interest in exploring Cuba’s major urban centres, the brochure will also include Sun & City combination itineraries, where travellers begin their vacation with three nights in a city hotel and spend the remainder of their trip at a beach resort. Combinations include Havana and Varadero, along with Santiago de Cuba and Holguin.

Rick McCauley, senior sales & marketing director – Canada, Barcelo, was among the representatives at the mini-trade show which preceded the main presentation.

Hotel updates

Several of Hola Sun’s hotel partners also presented updates at the event. Some notable updates include:

  • The MGM Gran Muthu Rainbow, a five-star property geared toward the LGBT travel market, will open in Playa Playuelas in December;
  • The all-inclusive Be Live Collection Cayo Santa Maria opens this month, offering 846 rooms;
  • Melia Cuba’s Sol Varadero Beach opens in November and as of Nov. 1, the rooms at Paradisus Varadero will be completely renovated. Sol Cayo Santa Maria is also currently under renovation and will reopen under the tentative name Sol Beach Club.
  • The 546-room, adults-only Hotel Valentin Cayo Cruz is set to welcome its first guests this winter.

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