Caribbean Travel Advisor

The Best Travel Agent Incentives in the Caribbean Right Now 

By: Joe Pike

In an effort to motivate its advisor partners, many top-notch Caribbean hotels are offering special perks for travel specialists who show initiative through bookings.

“Incentives are not only great to earn, but once you use them, it helps in business growth,” said Dilworth Daley, a Caribbean travel specialist and owner of Daley Destinations, “which is such a win-win for us as travel advisors.” 

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Anguilla Courts Travel Agents in South America 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Anguilla is making a major push to court travel agents in South America. 

The Anguilla Tourist Board recently completed a five-day sales trip to Brazil, Argentina and Bogota, led by chief marketing officer Kimberly King and Sharon Lowe, marketing officer. 

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Jamaica: Travel Advisors “Critical” to Tourism Growth 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Travel advisors are critical to advancing the growth of tourism in Jamaica, Tourism Minster Edmund Bartlett said this week. 

Bartlett, who was addressing a group of top travel advisors in New York, said agents and advisors had an essential role in the country’s tourism performance. 

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Antigua and Barbuda Has New Programs for Travel Advisors

By: Joe Pike

Travel advisors have a lot to look forward to about selling Antigua from new luxury resorts aimed at wealthy travelers to new programs designed to make travel agents more money.

In a question-and-answer session with Dean Fenton, the U.S. director of tourism for Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Caribbean Travel Advisor was able to get the details.

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Island Routes Has a New Travel Advisor Loyalty Program 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Island Routes has a new loyalty program for travel advisors, Caribbean Travel Advisor has learned. 

The company has launched Island Route Rewards, which offers benefits like free experiences, preferred rates and priority access for clients, among other inclusions. 

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This Saint Lucia All-Inclusive Has a New “Double Bonus” for Travel Agents

By: Dana Niland

Serenity at Coconut Bay, the Saint Lucia resort known for its relaxed luxury and romantic couples resort experience, has unveiled a limited-time Double Bonus Offer for travel agents. 

This promotion offers agents the opportunity to earn up to $300 for direct bookings, in addition to receiving 15 percent commission.

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What to Know About St Martin’s Grand Case Beach Club Resort

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

It’s the most beloved hotel in St Martin, with a passionate, devoted following of year-after-year guests: the Grand Case Beach Club, the 73-room beachfront gem in the heart of the beach town of Grand Case, a place that’s also the culinary capital of the Caribbean.

So what should travel advisors know about the resort when considering booking for clients?

To learn more, we talked to Nancy Monz, wholesale representative at the Grand Case Beach Club about how the resort works with agents and some essential facts about the property.

best caribbean islands 2021
The Grand Case Beach Club in St Martin.

Which incentives do you offer for agents?

If agents want to visit the property we normally offer 20% discount in high season and 30% in low season but depending on time of year and occupancy we can offer complimentary

What about larger groups? Do you do buyouts?

The property can do groups of 40 rooms or less. We do not do buyouts.

st maarten travel
One of two beaches at the resort.

What about fam trips?

Yes! We do work with agents doing FAM trips.

What would you like agents to know about the property?

All units are apartment style set ups with fully equipped kitchens. We are walking distance to Grand Case which offers some of the best dining on the island and also features nightlife.

Is the property affected by Sargassum like others in the Caribbean?

No, the property is on the Caribbean Sea so we do not get sargassum.

Why should agents book GCBC?

This property is truly special. We could be sold out and you would never know it. The property has many places besides the beach to relax in. We have fabulous views of the ocean and also the beautiful sunsets. We would want Travel Agents to know that if they have a special client, or one that is celebrating something special that they should contact the hotel directly and we can offer a special amenity or possible upgrade (depending on availability) along with a note from the agent.

For more, contact Reservations@gcbc.com.

This Saint Lucia Beach Resort Has Big Travel Agent Incentives

By: Joe Pike

The Landings Resort & Spa, St. Lucia offers a slew of perks for advisors who book the five-star resort.

Here are the best.

The Landings provides its travel industry partners with its Travel Industry Rate, which is bookable through website with promo code INDU.

The rate represents more than a 30 percent discount from the hotel’s publicly available daily rates and is based on two nights length of stay.

Travel Industry ID is required. This rate is fully yieldable and is restricted to travel during high demand periods such as Festive and Winter seasons.

The Landings has its own incentive program, “Agent Rewards”. This program is available throughout the year.

Strategically and throughout the year, The Landings will offer tailor-made incentive program to luxury travel advisors and luxury tour operators.

The incentives vary, yet are usually based on points towards winning a seven-night stay on an all-Inclusive meal plan with a flight credit. The highest producing advisor, meeting travel criteria uniquely designed by The Landings team wins.

Throughout the year, The Landings deploys various promotions for its repeat clientele. The promotions are set as “limited time offer”, which includes various add-on services, such as butler service, or resort credit, booking credit or spa credit.

The Landings has more than 150 villas and is located on Rodney Bay. The villas overlook either the resort’s luxury yacht marina or the Caribbean Sea.

Antigua to Host Travel Advisor Conference 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Antigua will be playing host to a travel advisor-focused conference in January. 

The Travel Tribe Collective will be hosting what it’s billing as an “immersive travel industry conference” at The Verandah resort in Antigua from Jan. 22-26, 2024. 

The event, which will be in its second year, will put The Verandah in the spotlight, a resort that is reopening in November as an adults-only property

The Verandah is part of the Elite Island Resorts portfolio. Elite Island Resorts’ Hammock Cove and Galley Bay resorts in Antigua will also be showcased during the conference. 

“Elite Island resorts has the best Advisor Loyalty Program around, which we will dive into more during the event,” said Amanda Bisack, founder of the conference. “They are going above and beyond to keep advisors happy and most importantly, making money. They set up a wonderful program for us last year and we know this one will be even better.”

The FAM trip will be focused on improving social media marketing, according to Bisack.

“ Our goal is to share the charm and flavor of the destination in a way that inspires you to explore, discover and most importantly, relax. We pride ourselves on offering a fun, informative and authentic experience in Antigua,” she said.  

travel tribe

This Nassau Resort Is Offering Incentives for Group Bookings

By: Joe Pike

Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau in the Bahamas is offering some interesting incentives for advisors who book a substantially sized group.

Advisors who book between 25 to 49 rooms will be able to pick two benefits from the resort’s benefits list. Advisors who book between 50 to 75 room get three benefits and specialists who book between 75 to 100 rooms get to pick four benefits.

Here is the benefit list: Margaritaville Tequila open bar cocktail hour; one hour of free ICON bowling; one free outdoor movie showing in the Wading Pool; one free indoor movie with popcorn and sodas; team building beach or water park activities; fire pit experience with smores on the Serenity Beach and breakfast for two at Vacation Café for each attendee.

The group must confirm with a signed contract and deposit received by 12/31/23. There is a minimum of a three-night stay. The deal is available from Sunday to Thursday only.

Inspired by the music and lifestyle of singer, songwriter and best-selling author Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau is located on an impressive stretch of beach in downtown Nassau.

Interested advisors should reach out to Paula Carlson, senior sales manager, at Paula.Carlson@MargaritavilleResortNassau.com

This Saint Lucia Resort Has Big Incentives for Travel Agents

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

The Fond Doux Eco Resort, St. Lucia is offering special incentives for advisors and their clients heading to the Caribbean.

For agents, the resort is offering 50 percent room rates for travel agents who stay at the resort.

Agents also receive 25 percent off all rooms even during the winter season. The winter deal is available from December 22 to March 31, 2024. A minimum three-night stay is required.

Saint Lucia Caribbean Hotel Eco
A pool cottage at the resort.

For their clients, the resort is 40 percent off of rooms for travel from now until December 21. It must be booked by September 30.

A minimum two-night stay is required. Other perks include a free breakfast and a free Taste of Fond Doux Tour.

Located within the UNESCO World Heritage site of Soufriere Saint Lucia on a historic 19th-century working cocoa estate, Fond Doux Eco Resort offers 135 acres of rainforest landscape, cocoa fields, tropical gardens and minutes away from the island’s main attractions.

This rustic resort is home to 17 cottages equipped with modern amenities like free Wi-Fi, private en-suite bathrooms and mini-bars.

For more, visit Fond Doux.

Travel Agent Incentives: The Landings Resort and Spa, Saint Lucia 

By: Joe Pike

The Landings Resort & Spa, St. Lucia offers a slew of perks for advisors who book the five-star resort.

Here are the best.

The Landings provides its travel industry partners with its Travel Industry Rate, which is bookable through its website with promo code INDU.

The rate represents more than a 30 percent discount from the hotel’s publicly available daily rates and is based on two nights length of stay.

Travel Industry ID is required. This rate is fully yieldable and is restricted to travel during high demand periods such as Festive and Winter seasons.

The Landings has its own incentive program, “Agent Rewards”. This program is available throughout the year.

Strategically and throughout the year, The Landings will offer tailor-made incentive program to luxury travel advisors and luxury tour operators.

The incentives vary, yet are usually based on points towards winning a seven-night stay on an all-Inclusive meal plan with a flight credit. The highest producing advisor, meeting travel criteria uniquely designed by The Landings team wins.

Throughout the year, The Landings deploys various promotions for its repeat clientele. The promotions are set as “limited time offer”, which includes various add-on services, such as butler service, or resort credit, booking credit or spa credit.

The Landings has more than 150 villas and is located on Rodney Bay. The villas overlook either the resort’s luxury yacht marina or the Caribbean Sea.

Advisors interested in taking advantage of these perks should visit www.landingsstluciarewards.com or e-mail rewards@landingsstlucia.com

Antigua and Barbuda’s New Training and Incentive Program for Travel Advisors 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Antigua and Barbuda has launched a new landmark program specifically for travel advisors, Caribbean Travel Advisor has learned. 

The destination has created a new online specialist training program, along with a new rewards and incentives program for agents. 

The new course includes both benefits and rewards for both advisors and clients. 

Graduates will see an increase in their bookings, and be eligible to participate in reward opportunities with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. 

Princess Diana Beach Caribbean Photo
Princess Diana Beach on the island of Barbuda.

The specialist program has what officials call a “comprehensive” curriculum, aiming to give advisors a “deep understanding” of the destination. It includes perks like a bonus commission, gift cards and FAM trips, among others. 

“Antigua and Barbuda has seen incredible growth in the past few years as travel has rebounded from airlift, to restaurants to excursions and activities to shopping. There is truly something for everyone at every price point for our visitors and offer them an unforgettable travel experience. Our new Specialist and Rewards Programs help us showcase the many activities and special features that our destination has to offer. By becoming a Specialist, advisors can offer their clients their dream trip while being eligible for special rewards from the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. It’s a win for the advisors and their business,” said ABTA CEO, Colin C. James.  

For more, visit Antigua and Barbuda Travel Agents

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Is Launching a Travel Advisor Program

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Vanessa Ledesma, acting CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), said the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Travel Advisor Program is expected to be launched this summer.

“The program, currently being finalized, will include educational sessions supported by destinations and CHTA member hotels and resorts, showcasing the unique and diverse offerings of the region,” said Ledesma.

Incentives will be provided to encourage business collaboration with the Caribbean, and ongoing lines of communication between advisors and the region will be strengthened.

“CHTA executed a successful pilot program in the Bahamas prior to the pandemic,” said Ledesma, “which received positive feedback from the 12 luxury travel advisors who participated.”

Despite pandemic-related delays, CHTA engaged with the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), aiding in the region’s recovery by providing updated information on opening statuses and travel requirements.

“The upcoming Caribbean travel advisor program will bolster the database of advisors interested in the Caribbean and provide opportunities for participation at Caribbean Travel Marketplace and other CHTA events,” she said.

And why is that so vital to Caribbean tourism?

“Travel advisors play a critical role in driving tourism growth in the Caribbean,” said Ledesma. “With their extensive expertise and dedication to personalized service, they establish important connections between travelers and our destinations, helping to advance the region’s sustainable development goals and positively impacting the quality of life for Caribbean residents.”

And it will ultimately lead to a significant amount of advisors being invited to next year’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace event, she said,  

Although Ledesma didn’t say the exact number of advisors who will be invited to next year’s event at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Jamaica, she said it will be the first time this many advisors will be invited to the event.

The Biggest Obstacles for Travel Agents in the Caribbean Right Now 

By: Joe Pike

In short, the biggest challenge travel advisors are dealing with in 2023 is the ongoing impact of the pandemic on booking travel.

But what about all the subsequent issues the pandemic has created?

Specifically, here are the most burning issues agents are dealing with this year and what they are saying about them.

Availability and Pricing

“Availability has been the largest obstacle,” said Sally Jane Smith , co-owner of The TravelSmiths. “Pricing has increased tremendously since pre-pandemic levels. Airfare availability has been pretty brutal throughout the course of the last couple months. It’s mostly because of everyone traveling.”

Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel, agreed.

“High flight prices and limited routes make it challenging to find the right island for each travelers’ budget and flight preferences,” said Friedman. “Travelers can be quite discouraged by Caribbean flight prices upwards of $1,000 per ticket, especially when they envision a quick, easy getaway to the beach.” 

So, what’s the solution?

“First, when planning Caribbean travel, start with flights, not hotels,” said Friedman. “We encourage travelers to consider connecting flights rather than direct-only flights to get to the right Caribbean destination, and destinations with good flights they might not have considered before.

“Once you’ve found an affordable flight path, think outside the box when it comes to hotels,” she continued. “Travelers can have amazing Caribbean experiences at some smaller, family-owned and boutique properties that aren’t priced as high as the more well-known resorts.”

Supply and Demand

“There is a lot of demand for travel and not enough hours in the day to handle it all, and not that many people to hire to help you manage it,” said Andrey Zakharenko, founder of My World to Travel / Always Travel and co-founder and owner of Russian Connections. “The fear that you are not doing a good job is lurking in the back of your mind. There are less agents and more people looking to use agents.”

Michelle Gordon of Jetset World Travel has a solution.

“We saw a high demand for international travel in 2022 and it has not slowed down,” she said. “I am realistic with clients and often suggest pivoting to an alternative destination to help with value and availability or suggesting alternating travel dates. Many hotels have extended their seasonality to accommodate this demand as well.”

Work/Life Balance

“Balancing work and life is becoming a lot harder,” said Zakharenko. “We got into travel to enjoy life and travel. Now, it seems we work all the time and work when we travel and a true vacation/getaway is not something that most of us do.”

While there’s no one solution to anyone’s work/life balance, Lena Brown of Largay Travel said it does serve as another reminder of the importance of charging fees.

“I look at how many hours I will be spending with proposals and assisting [clients] during their travel, and I charge accordingly,” said Brown. “My clients know how much time I invest in making their vacations, fabulous memories for a lifetime. They are willing to pay for the value I bring and the peace of mind knowing I am there with them every step of the way.” Travel Agents’ Biggest Obstacles in the Caribbean Right Now 

Statia Makes New Push for Travel Agents 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

The island of Statia has been seeing new buzz of late, buoyed by a new luxury resort and new discoveries about Alexander Hamilton’s life on the island

Now, Statia is making a new push to court travel agent business, including a recent initiative that brought town six travel advisors to they sland. 

The agents immersed themselves in the island’s cultural and natural heritage, including sites like the White Wall, the Golden Rock Resort and the island’s historic downtown. 

The group was led by Narissa Page from the Saint Martin tourist office and local tour guide Althea Merkman. 

“We are pleased to have had the opportunity to host the travel agents and help them discover the hidden gems of our island,” said Charles Lindo, Statia’s Director of Tourism. “They are now able to share their newfound knowledge with potential visitors.”

For more, visit Statia

Tulum Is the Hottest Destination in Mexico 

By: Joe Pike

While Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico have been the hot spots clients looking for mainstream destinations have been flocking to for years, several top notch travel specialists said advisors should be adding Tulum to that list.

Advisors have said Tulum is equipped with many of the amenities today’s travelers is looking for from yoga retreats for the health and wellness niche to preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan port city for experiential travelers.

But most importantly, it has some hot hotels and a new airport on the way.

“Tulum is the new kid on the block,” said Sally Smith, co-owner of The TravelSmiths. “Even though it has been there for centuries, it is the new shiny penny. Travelers have done Cancun, Riviera Maya and Cabo.”

And with a new airport on the way, the destination can expect to get an influx of travelers of all kinds.

the rooftop at the motto tulum.
The rooftop at the new Motto in Tulum.

The new Tulum airport, Felipe Carrillo Puerto Airport, will serve four million passengers annually and will have a military base. The Tulum airport will begin operations in May of next year.

“We continue to get more and more interest both in the Tulum area with the airport about to open next May,” said Mitch Toren, a Mexico specialist with TripGuy Travel. “More and more people are looking to explore outside of the hotel zone of Cancun, both north and south, to experience more of the area.”

Smith said the appeal can be found in the fact that Tulum is a mere 73 miles away from the Cancun airport, which is about a 90-minute drive.

“It offers historical sites, white sand Beaches, sky blue waters, natural cenotes and a cool hip vibe,” said Smith. “It has great boutique hotels and restaurants. The beach is great too and there is a lot ecotourism offerings here.”

kimpton tulum
The new Kimpton resort in Tulum.

Danielle Stephens, an advisor with Unique Romance and Adventure, said Tulum offers “Instagram worthy spots which has made the destination trending on social media.”

“The combination of its natural beauty, cultural heritage, laid-back vibe, and sustainable tourism initiatives has contributed to Tulum’s popularity as a sought-after destination,” said Stephens.

She said Tulum’s visually appealing aesthetics, including vibrant street art, chic boutique hotels, and boho-chic beach clubs, have made it a magnet for social media enthusiasts seeking Instagram-worthy photo opportunities.

Secrets Tulum Resort & Beach Club is slated to open at the end of this year in Tulum, Mexico and offers an adults-only retreat nestled in a lush green mangrove with an exclusive beach club nearby and 301 all-suite luxury resort with both jungle and beach accommodations.

But Amanda Bisack, advisor and founder of Travelista Travels, highly recommends La Valise.

“La valise, a boutique of oasis is situated between the pristine beaches of Tulum and the mystic Mayan jungle,” Amanda Bisack, advisor and founder of Travelista Travels, highly recommends La Valise. “The La Valise is wonderful holiday destination that just pamper you with in the magical contrast of two worlds.”

And it’s that mix of nature and beach that make Tulum such an easy sell.

“The hotels are also unique and resemble those of something in further away regions like Bali,” said Stephens, “which means people can get a similar unique experience, but stay much closer to home and it’s more affordable.”

For Travel Agents, Dealing With Last-Minute Problems Is An Art Form

By: Joe Pike

One of the biggest reasons people use a travel advisor over an Online Travel Agency is so they have an actual person to talk to when obstacles arise during a vacation.

So, how does an agent deal with those last-minute problems?

Several top-notch travel specialists recently weighed in on the topic.

Here’s what they had to say

Aurelio Giordano of Ace World Travel

I actually just gave a talk on a panel in [Las] Vegas about the importance of using local [Destination Management Companies]. You know that 99 percent of our power is based on the relationships and trust we have cultivated with our operating partners around the world.

In the fall, I had a 40th anniversary couple traveling from the south of France over into Italy all the way down to the Amalfi coast. They started in Nice and on the third day was supposed to take a day trip to Monaco.

The day before they get notified that the tour got canceled because their driver contracted COVID and it was too short notice to find another driver. The operator was nice enough to refund everyone back their money but the couple was intent on going to Monaco anyway that day because it was the actual date of their anniversary.

The issue was that they had somehow convinced themselves that the operator was still obliged to pay for their transportation to get there. Obviously, we know that’s not the case because it was their own decision and discretion to still go there. But it was the beginning of their over two-week trip and I didn’t want them to start off with a sour taste in their mouth, especially not on the day of their anniversary.

So, my operator out there had priced out the cost of a round trip taxi fare and we decided to split the cost and offer it to them.

Everybody was happy and whatever it cost me was nothing compared to the good memories I left them with for their anniversary and all the people they’re going to tell about it and the future trips they, their family or friends might book with me.

These are some of the things we have to do sometimes to make the client happy and think about the longevity of that client relationship. I have lots of stories like this, but the point is none of that would have been possible if I didn’t have an existing trusting relationship and partnership with my ground operators all over the world.

Penny Sheldon of Peggy Sheldon Travel

I had a family of 11 going to Turks [and Caicos] when the first leg of their flight turned around and went back to the airport. No other flight was available from their departure city. I asked if they were willing to drive to another airport and was told, ‘definitely.’

I researched every airport within a three-hour drive until I could get all 11 of them on the same flight. After a two-hour drive, I later had arranged a park and fly hotel for a stay upon their return. The first leg was a forced overnight where I got them hotel rooms and then they took two flights to get there the next day.

At the same time, I worked with the property to extend their stay so they had their full seven nights and changed the flights home.

How did I accomplish all of this? 

Gave up Saturday plans, worked six straight hours and didn’t take the word ‘no’ for an answer. If someone dared to suggest it couldn’t/wouldn’t happen I asked to speak to a supervisor and even a supervisor’s supervisor. 

And some still ask why you need a travel agent.

Nikki Miller, founder of Travel With Nikki

This spring break I had an issue with a client and their Villa. The family/friend group had a seven-bedroom villa outside Playa del Carmen. When they arrived there was no air conditioning in the villa. The AC had been out for at least a week, if not more, and the villa management company didn’t inform the TO (Villas of Distinction) or the guests.

We were able to get the client moved after two nights to an amazing Villa in Tulum. It wasn’t the smoothest of processes, but we did get it done.

Communication is key. I check in with all clients after arrival to see how everything is going. During this check in the guest let me know about the AC issue.”

I was able to prompt her with guidance in asking for portable AC units and asking about the timeline for fixing the units to get a good idea of what our options could be.

We determined quickly that the AC wouldn’t be fixed until well into their stay, if at all during their stay. I had all of our text messages that the client had with me, as well as the client had with the house manager saved and ready to send off to Villas of Distinction.

With all of the details assembled quickly and efficiently, I was able to share everything we had already tried, and the options we had discussed.

This allowed Villas of Distinction to move quickly to get the travelers relocated to a second villa that had AC and still all of the amenities the travelers wanted.

When fixing an issue, an advisor needs to be prepared in advance. Before the trip begins is when you need to start making connections. You need connections with [tour operators] staff, and resort staff in advance of when you have issues. This way you’ve gotten to know your connections in a neutral environment.

You also need to have as many details as possible gathered before you start asking for help and resolutions. If you can show your partners that you’ve done a lot of footwork, but haven’t gotten anywhere, they are more likely to assist you.

Having a documentation process for the issue and how you’ve worked on resolving it is key. This will make it easy to copy and paste into an email to send off the contact information you have.

Emily Bertsch, an advisor with VIP Vacations.

The biggest issue that sticks out in my mind is with Frontier Airlines. I’ve had a client that I’ve been rescheduling since 2020. They are set to travel this June, so fingers crossed.

Frontier had major schedule changes and was unwilling to just refund the client’s money. They were insisting that we just move the funds to a new trip. When I went to use the funds, they gave me an expiration date.

When someone gives you an expiration date, you assume that means it expires at 11:59PM on that date, right? Well when I went to use it, Frontier told me it had expired at 2:12 a.m. on the expiration date.

This also began the time where Frontier got rid of all of their phone lines, so you had to submit a form online.

After fighting with six different people on this, I finally got someone to extend the expiration date.

So the lesson learned here: aside from not booking Frontier again, be persistent, especially when you know you have a case to fight.

Delta Vacations? Classic? Travel Agents Share Their Favorite Tour Operators for the Caribbean

By: Joe Pike

Three Caribbean travel specialists recently shared their top tour operators right now, as far as assistance with destinations and excursions go.

Here’s who they chose as their top picks and why.

Nikki Miller, founder of Travel With Nikki

I am loving Delta Vacations. It helps that I’m located in the midwest between two large Delta Hubs, Minneapolis and Detroit.

They have had great call center pick-up time and I can’t remember the last time I waited more than 10 minutes for an agent to pick up the phone.

I was bummed they removed their 24-hour option, but their hours are still long enough to be reached when I need them.

What is even better about DV is their “chat” feature. I can text them for so many issues. I’m able to text from my computer using iMessage and it makes it easy for workflow.

I’ve used the chat to extend holds, change room categories, add insurance, remove insurance, and add promotions to name a few.

Delta has its main call center in Minot, North Dakota and they have expanded to allow some agents in the call center to work from home.

I do like the fact that I’m always able to get someone who is well-informed on the Delta Vacations destinations and is located in the U.S. Unlike other call centers, I’ve never had to explain to a Delta reservations agent how to do their job. They all seem to have been well-trained.

The last thing we, as advisors, want to do is spend our time teaching someone else how to do their job because the employer skimped out on their education.

Peggy Sheldon of Peggy Sheldon Travel

I work with two main tour operators, Unique Vacations, Inc. (Sandals Resorts International) and Travel Impressions. I am specifically connected with special teams or elite phone lines.

It makes all the difference in the world in reference to quick service and knowledge with those who know how to take care of their top agents. A far cry from being on hold for two hours in the past.

Amanda Bisack, founder of Travelista Travels

My two favorites are Classic Vacations and Delta Vacations. 

Classic Vacations has a massive team that are all very supportive, responsive and helpful. You can tell the entire company really cares about their relationships with their advisors and that makes us want to keep booking with them. 

As far as Delta Vacations goes, we have the absolute best [Business Development Manager] there ever was, Waldo.

Not only do I personally love Delta Vacation’s agent portal and all its functionality, but I know the support we get from our BDM all the way up to the corporate level is amazing. 

Both of these tour operators have helped myself and my team of 17 advisors massively over the last several years and we are happy to continuing to grow our business with them. 

Antigua, Aruba Top Caribbean Islands for Millennials Right Now

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

Before successful Caribbean advisor Amanda Bisack, owner of Travelista Travels,  entered the travel industry, she worked as a hip-hop dancer, commercial print model and actress.

Bisack has had spreads in Women’s Health Magazine, People’s, Forbes, Model Airplane, White House Black Market and TIME. And she has shot commercials for a variety of brands such as Party City, Ricola, Walgreens, Toys ‘R Us and others. Throughout her time working in TV and print she developed a strong passion for marketing, videography and photographer.

And it was during a hip-hop dance tour in Europe that she became infatuated with seeing the world.

And then Bora Bora happened.

“After I took an epic honeymoon to Bora Bora, I knew I wanted to share all of my travel experiences with others, so that they too could have amazing and memorable getaways,” she said.

all-inclusive hotels
Ladera in Saint Lucia.

In 2013, she combined her love of travel, marketing and writing and created the Travel Blog “The Chica Travelista”. The Chica Travelista is a down-to-earth, informative blog created to entertain her audience with her adventurous travels while sharing her tales and tips on destinations from exotic to next door.

In January of 2022, her agency decided to spread its wings and become an independent agency. Fast forward to today, Travelista Travels are now a team of 17 travel advisors from all over the country.

“Our plan is to create a team of the world’s best advisors of all backgrounds and expertise,” said Bisack. “We have agents who are just starting out and agents who have been in the industry for 30+ years and needed a new home.”

As The Chica Travelista, Bisack has worked with tourism boards, hotels, resorts, tour companies and restaurants all over the world to create content and market some of the worlds most amazing destinations.

“Our agency covers a wide range of clientele and age demographic, however, I personally have a large majority of my clients who are millennials,” said Bisack. “My millennial clients are literally going everywhere and I’m super jealous of their trips. They’re going to islands like St. Lucia, Aruba, Antigua and also to more long haul destinations like Australia, Bora Bora, South Africa and Bali.

all-inclusive caribbean summer vacation
The Pineapple Beach Club in Antigua.

So, why are St. Lucia, Aruba and Antigua the popular Caribbean hot spots for millennials?

“St. Lucia, I’ve had lots of honeymooners go here,” said Bisack. “It gives you a Hawaii vibe without the long flight. Antigua, it’s still somewhat under the radar and just really being discovered. My clients love its beaches and the whole vibe of the island. Aruba, this island is always an easy sell, everyone just loves it and wants to go back.”

Some of her top clients have been Elite Island Resorts, Nevis Tourism, Viva Belize, Auberge Resorts and Blue Sky Cabo Tours.

“We work with a large range of millennials, some prefer the chic and low key vibe of a destination like Tulum and resorts like La Valise or a resort like Hammock Cove in Antigua, where they can really focus on relaxation and spending time with the person they are with,” said Bisack.

“Many of my millennial clients work in the hustle and bustle of NYC,” she said, “and they really want a hotel where they can unwind and decompress.”

So, what’s the best way to get new millennial clients?

“I focus heavily on promoting travel through my social media as it has always been a massive lead generator for me,” said Bisack. “As you can imagine it’s very exciting when my concept works, which it usually does.”

And she shared an example of how a click can lead to money.

“For example, last October I visited Portugal for the first time ever, literally the week I got home I booked five clients to Portugal for 2023,” she said. Last August, I worked with a hotel in Tulum and promoted the destination, following that trip I booked a Tulum destination wedding and honeymoon.”

These Destinations in Mexico Should Be on Your Radar

By: Joe Pike

For those clients who are no strangers to visiting Mexico, travel advisors offer some info on Mexican hot spots that are still considered off-the-radar.

Sayulita

Sayulita, just 22 miles form Puerto Vallarta, is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit.

And Sally Smith, co-owner of The Travelsmiths, said it is also a very well-kept secret by surfers.

“Sayulita is a bohemian surf town with a relaxed and laid-back vibe,” she said. “It offers beautiful beaches, great surfing conditions, and a lively town center with boutique shops, restaurants, and bars. Just a great spot
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Merida

The capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mérida is a vibrant city with a rich Mayan heritage and colonial architecture. It may been known among frequent Mexico travelers, but still remains out of the main stream.

“It is known for its lively markets, delicious cuisine, and cultural events,” said Smith. “Visitors can explore historic sites like the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza, indulge in local delicacies, and experience traditional music and dance.

“We have been sending clients there for the past few years,” continued Smith. “What an amazing experience. It is so much better than taking a 3.5 hour ride from Cancun on a hot day, getting up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise over Chichen Itza.”

So, what’s a good place to stay in Merida?

“It is a magical experience when you have a private entrance from the Mayaland [Hotel & Bungalows],” said Smith. “The Lodge at Uxmal is an outstanding old world Mexican hotel also run by the Barbachano family, who makes the best private tequila I have ever tasted. Food is outstanding, also truly a true Mexican experience.”

mexico holbox
The St Somewhere resort in Holbox.

Holbox

Holbox Island is a cool Mexico spot just off the Yucatan Peninsula. Margaritaville just put in a new resort there in the form of the Margaritaville St. Somewhere By Karisma Punta Coco.

“Holbox is a charming and unique destination that offers a range of attractions and experiences that make it worth visiting,” said Danielle Stephens, an advisor with Unique Romance & Adventure Travel.

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The Coco B Isla hotel in Mexico.

Isla Mujeres

A short boat ride from Cancun will get you to Isla Mujeres. This is a place for Cancun visitors looking to take a day trip away from the larger crowds.

“I would say a definite new trend is Isla Mujeres itself,” said Ian Petrulli, vice president of Holiday Travel International & Complete Travel Service. “With the new Secrets Isla Mujeres, there is definitely a buzz among our clients. One of our agents just visited Secrets Isla Mujeres, and was in love.

“Although the beach may not be the best,” continued Petrulli, “our clients are craving the small island experience that Isla Mujeres has to offer.”

Antigua, Turks and Caicos Top Hottest Luxury Destinations 

By: Joe Pike

While emerging Caribbean islands are great for growth, several travel experts are reporting that three particular islands are especially hot for luxury travelers not looking to go off-the-beaten path.

Antigua  “Antigua is wonderful, so easy to get around the island with so many cool boutique resorts, 365 separate beaches, beautiful white sand sky blue water,” she said.

all-inclusive resorts caribbean best
Hammock Cove in Antigua.

And there’s another big reason to visit: “Great cuisine,” said Sally Smith of The TravelSmiths. Indeed, Antigua and Barbuda just held its first-ever Restaurant Week to widespread acclaim.

turks and caicos villa
A villa at the Shore Club Turks and Caicios.

Turks and Caicos Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel, said it’s especially ideal for families with young children.

“Turks and Caicos is [hot for families],” she said. “Families with young children cannot get enough of Turks and Caicos right now.

And Friedman also you can’t ignore that Turks has arguably the best beach in the entire Caribbean region.

“Plus, it’s hard not to love Grace Bay Beach,” said Friedman. “Beaches will forever be a popular option among families seeking the complete, all-inclusive experience, but we love sending families to smaller, more intimate resorts.”

So, where is she sending them instead?

“We’ve been sending lots of families with kids under age five to the Sands at Grace Bay, which has spacious suites at a more affordable price point than many other Turks and Caicos hotels, plus a fantastic pool and restaurant for little kids,” she said.

“We’ve also encouraged several families to split their stay and combine a resort experience with a very unique stay for two to three nights in the more untouched ‘Middle Caicos,’ at a tiny hotel called Dragon Cay Resort, which may have one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.” 

karibuni
The Karibuni boutique resort in St Martin.

St Maarten/St. Martin “Although airfare to [Saint Maarten/St. Martin] recently has been brutal, there’s some great properties for our clients to see. The beaches are spectacular, the culinary experiences are wonderful. It is easy to get around the island with a vehicle,” said  Sally Smith of The TravelSmiths. “

“St. Martin also has two sides of the island,” she continued, “one of French dissent, the other of Dutch descent, which makes for an interesting dichotomy, when it comes to your choice of restaurants and cuisines.”

Anguilla “Anguilla is awesome. In addition to some killer beaches, there’s a wildly good live music scene,” said Zach Stovall, travel expert, content strategist, photographer, videographer, and writer. “Great options for food. Elvis’ Beach Bar, Dune Preserve, and Gwen’s Reggae Grill are beach bars you stumble in and never want to leave. Cap Juluca, Four Seasons, Aurora Anguilla are all great options to stay.”

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Are OTAs Still a Threat to Travel Agents?

By: Joe Pike

Online Travel Agencies (OTA) haven’t posed much of a threat to the business of travel advisors as they did in the past, but should an agent put OTAs in the rearview mirror for good or should they still be watching their backs?

Travel advisors recently shared their opinion on whether or not OTAs are still a thorn in their sides.

Here’s what they had to say

Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel

OTAs will always be a threat to agents, but I think they also serve a valuable purpose for travelers looking for budget accommodations in particular.

But more and more travelers, at least in the family travel space, want someone to take decisions and details off their plates, which will always make a travel advisor a stronger choice.

Rene Fifik of On Your Way with Rene’ Travel

OTA’s can never compare to a travel agent who provides concierge services. Those who go to OTAs are not the clients a travel professional wants to work with.

We are more than a click here, a click there. What we do is make a connection with our clients. An online booking engine is not capable of doing that. The connection we make with our clients, getting to know them is what sets us apart. That connection is where invites to weddings, baby showers and even funerals come in.

It’s all about creating a connection and a relationship with your clients. Have I thought of closing up shop and going to work for one of them? I sure have. It would be so much easier for me to just login somewhere everyday and be an order taker. It would be nice to have a guaranteed income for just showing up.

Andrey Zakharenko, founder of My World to Travel

Costco Travel is the only OTA that is very much relevant. They openly admit to selling travel at a loss and using coupons as rewards to entice their member’s to book with them. 

Just in the last couple of months, a Four Seasons client booked with Costco and a Hawaii boys golf trip decided to take the Costco deal. The price was impossible to beat.

Other OTA’s are still there, and they have their clients, but with most four- and five-star hotels guaranteeing the best price and trying to drive direct bookings, they are not a big threat for me.

OTA’s are still a volume play and not a high touch service. Be it OTA or AI, a human experience can’t be replicated, with all its good and bad.”

Nikki Miller, founder of Travel With Nikki

I don’t consider OTAs a threat to travel advisors. If we flip our mindset that our travelers don’t always want the lowest cost, but the best value there is no way an OTA can beat me on that.

An OTA won’t know that you hate window seats, an OTA won’t know that you like to be closest to the elevator at your hotel, and an OTA won’t know that your kids don’t like any vegetables and only like chicken nuggets and won’t give out a list of restaurants that will keep your kids happy.

I can understand and sympathize with advisors who have different, non-service structured, businesses would be nervous about OTAs. If your travel business operates on a quantity model, then it can be very hard to beat OTAs on pricing.

No matter how many great qualified advisors are working for OTAs if someone is only focused on price, it doesn’t matter the quality of the advisor, they will gravitate toward the option that saves them the most money.

Emily Bertsch of VIP Vacations, Inc.

I still don’t believe that OTA’s are a threat. During the pandemic, clients learned that they needed travel agents to help. We can offer service, opinions, and facts, while OTA’s only offer what is listed on their website.

I still have some clients try to price match my rates with OTA’s, but even just a few weeks ago, I had a client send me a price that I couldn’t beat and she said she still wanted to book with me. That, in itself, says it all.

From Jamaica to Cancun, All-Inclusive Resorts Are Hotter Than Ever

By: Joe Pike

For decades, all-inclusive resorts were a bit of a polarizing proposition: some travelers adored the comfort and convenience, preferring to spend their vacations in all-inclusive sanctuary at the resort. Others felt like they wanted to explore the destination more, to get out of the hotel and see the island.

Of course, travelers have changed — and so have all-inclusive resorts; the last two years have shifted everyone’s priorities, and travelers of all vacation preferences are finding all-inclusives more more appealing than ever.  

“With all the stresses of life, news, having a stress-free vacation has never been more important and all-inclusive vacation provides a little escape from the daily stresses of life,” said Andrey Zakharenko, founder of My World to Travel / Always Travel.

Following the lifting of nearly all travel restrictions that had been significant obstacles in 2021, good hotel performances were recorded in 2022, globally, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

punta cana resorts playa
The Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana.

“For a few of my clients, all-inclusive has been the only way to go for many years,” said Zakharenko. “After the pandemic, more are giving it a try. They select it because it’s easy, less stress for them. They pay once and then everyone gets to enjoy their vacation. No surprises at the end, no need to itemize the bill and figure out who owes what.”

“All- inclusive resorts are a top request for families, especially if you are on a budget,” said Jennifer Carr, an advisor with The Tropical Travelers. “They can pay one price and have all of their meals, beverages and entertainment included all up front.  The amenities that are requested by families are a great pool area, waterparks, variety of restaurants, kids’ clubs and nightly entertainment.”

So, what Caribbean destination is thriving the most in the all-inclusive department?

“Jamaica remains the go-to destination for an all-inclusive resort, and we’ve seen a lot of demand among families for the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall,” said Lee Friedman, founder and advisor of Mango Tree Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel.

Friedman also noted that Mexico shouldn’t be ignored as a top all-inclusive spot as well.

“The Finest Playa Mujeres in Mexico has an enormous following among families seeking an affordable all-inclusive stay,” said Friedman, “booking out months and months in advance, because it has family rooms that gives parents separation from their kids for a good night sleep.”

Carr also has her favorites in Mexico.

“Some hot all-inclusive resorts for families right now are the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Dreams Macao Beach, both in the Dominican Republic, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun in Mexico,” she said.

And the numbers prove that travelers aren’t just flooding to all-inclusive resorts, but are looking at all accommodations.

Global occupancy rates in 2022 increased from 43 percent in January to 57 percent in December, with rates topping 65 percent from June to October, according to STR. In fact, the Caribbean hotel sector demonstrated full recovery through positive results in the hotel indicators, according to the CTO.

“The ease of the all-inclusive will always be appealing to family travelers,” said Friedman. “Above all else, families want spacious rooms, childcare options, and lots of good food choices for kids.”

Travel Agents: Small-Ship Cruises on the Rise in the Caribbean 

By: Joe Pike

The Caribbean Tourism Organization recently reported that the large cruise companies are starting to recover a lot of lost revenue from the last two years.

And now several travel advisors are reporting that the smaller cruise lines and expedition ships are also becoming heavily requested this year.

“Small cruise ships are back, baby,” proclaimed Pattie Kisilewich, travel, wedding and event  planner for Dreamaker Vacations. “The pause, a.k.a. COVID, has changed how people like to travel and especially cruise.”

How such?

“More emphasis is being placed on smaller group and solo travel,” said Kisilewich. “My clients are looking for the more authentic and immersive experiences and large ships do not offer that. Look, a port is a port is a port, but the ship life is what can make or break that trip.”

While Danielle Stephens, an advisor with Unique Romance and Adventure Travel, said Windstar Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Ponant are all impressive recommendations, she admitted SeaDream takes the cake as the current “fan favorite” among small cruises.

“SeaDream is a fan favorite,” said Stephens. “So far, they are popular for clients 60 and over. Boat charters are more popular right now with families and clients in the 30-50s.

“People are going on them for their unique itineraries and for a more yacht-like experience,” she continued.

Stephens said she especially loves that SeaDream offers a variety of itineraries in the Caribbean, including visits to popular destinations and “hidden gems.”

“You can explore picturesque islands, pristine beaches, and vibrant local cultures,” she said.  

The itineraries often include ports that larger ships cannot access, allowing for a more authentic and less crowded experience, said Stephens.

SeaDream yachts are equipped with a marina platform, allowing clients to engage in a range of water sports and activities right from the ship.

windstar
A Windstar ship.

Daniela Harrison, an advisor with Avenues of the World Travel, also shared her favorite small cruise lines to recommend to clients.

“My top small ship cruise lines for Caribbean are SeaDream, Seabourn [Cruise Line], Windstar, Silversea Cruises, Regent [Seven Seas Cruises],” she said. “Mid-size ships are Virgin [Voyages], Celebrity [Cruises] and Oceania.”

Aside from the amenities that smaller ships offer, Lena Brown of Largay Travel, said they also have a major advantage over the mega cruise ships.

“You can book big ships that entertain all age groups and small ships that get into unique ports,” Lena Brown of Largay Travel. “Yacht style cruising is a huge request especially for those that don’t want to be with lots of people.”

“Many travelers are looking for that off-the-beaten path experience,” said Brown. “Those clients that love nature and have been on many cruises are looking for more ways to explore. Galapagos cruises and seeing the whales in Mexico have been a big request.”

Kisilewich did admit smaller ships, by nature, offer far less amenities than the larger cruise line.

“Small ships offer less amenities, that is true – four dining options instead of 17, three bars instead of seven, but they also offer more intimate experiences and top-notch service,” she said.

In fact, Kisilewich said the larger ships are starting to get smaller themselves in a way.   

“While cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian [Cruise Line] and Carnival [Cruises] are still planning to bring out new, large ships  – the concept of large ships has changed,” said Kisilewich.

“Cruise lines are realizing passengers want more personal space on these large ships,” she continued, “so while the size is still up there, capacity is reduced and rooms are redesigned to use space more efficiently.”