How AMResorts Is Faring Amid the Pandemic
By Joe Pike, Special Contributor
Caribbean Journal Invest (CJI) was on hand Thursday for the official reopening of Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana, where we sat down with Luis Nunez, regional commercial director of the Dominican Republic for AMResorts, to learn how the company is faring during the pandemic.
The luxury market has given the popular all-inclusive company a major advantage in the Dominican Republic, despite ongoing obstacles.
Here’s what we learned about AMResorts’ ongoing efforts to attract American clients while making sure every protocol is in place to ensure consumer confidence.
“Pre-pandemic, we had an interesting mix, where for the Punta Cana airport we had about 60 percent North America, being a combination of the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “Canada is more seasonal and U.S. is year-round. The rest of the mix was a good combination of the U.K. and European business and [some business] from Latin America.”
But coronavirus-related border closures saw those numbers take a drastic plunge.
“Having said that, of course, as you know, the pandemic hit us all, but the reactions have been very different, as per country, where we have seen, for example, a U.S.A. that is trying to power through and trying not to be completely confined,” said Nunez.
“We have other places that have shut down their borders,” he said. “I think at some point pretty much everyone did it, but some of them are keeping those borders shut [longer than others], or even up to now, or some of them are going back to lockdown, so that gives us a completely different scenario for what we can do from a commercial perspective.”
The company’s client base also took a major hit for the same reason.
“With Europe and the U.K, right now, we know they are applying border closures, complete border closures, until the beginning or mid-December,” he said, “so we need to be watching that space.”
Nunez told CJ that AMResorts is capping its occupancies for its resorts at 60 percent. He said if a hotel reaches about 40 percent, it will close its cheapest rooms and, in some cases, raise rates since the expenses for maintaining the hotels will remain the same while the inventory will decrease.
“It’s hard to keep the hotel running, having our staff-to-guests ratio at the point that we want, that our brand implies,” he said, noting AMResorts staff-to-guest ratio is roughly 1.5 to two employees per occupied room.
And that’s why Nunez said the American luxury market remains a popular target for the all-inclusive company and the destination itself.
“With the U.S., It’s a little different because we know it’s been a little more flexible,” he said. “So, we are, I have to say, putting most of our eggs in that basket, and considering the purchasing power, and the fact that Americans – and I guess this is worldwide – are fed up being at home, fed up being restricted and really want to going back out, going out with their family, going abroad with their family, and so on.”
The Luxury Advantage
As mentioned, AMResorts is positioned well to draw the affluent American looking to pay top dollar to be able to travel during COVID-19 as safe as possible.
“It’s a good advantage,” said Nunez of being a luxury company. “Let me put it this way, from the properties we opened in July and so on, when all the closures were eased in the D.R, the ones that were charging the highest ADRs, or ‘average daily price,’ the highest price, are doing the best.
“Of course, it’s also a timing issue because the ones who opened later, they didn’t build a base, they haven’t built attraction from the consumer and the trade,” he continued. “‘Trade’ being the travel agents and tour operators, a travel agent that knows that your hotel is open and starts to [trust in this hotel], starts to feel more confident to send their clients.”
COVID Testing for Returning Canadians?
Nunez said Calgary plans to experiment with a five-day, self-quarantine, instead of the 14-day requirement in place for both Canada and the U.S.
Because of this, the D.R. is looking to provide testing to vacationers before they re-enter the Canadian border with proof of a recent negative test, giving the country the confidence to allow its citizens to fulfill a shorter quarantine.
“We know Calgary is doing this pilot project where they are reducing the quarantine to five days [instead] of the 14 days [that is required] across the country,” he said. “And even the minister [of tourism for the Dominican Republic] has offered the Canadian government to supply Canadians going back home with a test.”
Since the U.S. has yet to announce plans to look into reducing the mandatory quarantine period, Calgary is on track to being the first North American destination to offer such a service. Nunez, however, said the service will hopefully be offered all throughout Canada.
Currently, Americans are tested only as they enter the Dominican Republic, but not before they leave it, Nunez said.
The tests were by breathalyzer equipment made in Israel, Nunez said. Arriving travelers blow into a small, plastic tube and receive their results in less than 15 minutes. If they test positive, they are immediately sent to one of three Dominican Republic hospitals and kept in isolation.
Nunez said the fact that every AMResorts guest is tested gives clients even more assurance that they will be safe. He said guests have still been practicing safety measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks, but have felt more at ease knowing the people they are eating and dancing with have been tested before check-in.
“Not that we were relaxed completely [when AMResorts hotels began opening back up in July],” he said. “Everyone is wearing masks and so on, but it’s just a different feeling and is precisely what we are trying to accomplish with all these protocols.”