Cluster marketing may not work for all hotel brands or resort collections, but in the case of nine Marriott and Renaissance properties, it has proven to be the key ingredient in pumping up sales by offering substantial discounts, nailing down bookings and generating positive feedback from travel partners.
Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean & Mexico Resorts, or Marcam, is an integrated sales and marketing organization formed in 1997 to combine the sales and marketing efforts of select resort properties in the Caribbean and Mexico.
"This allows bigger resorts with similar sales needs in the Marriott and Renaissance portfolios to partner up under one umbrella and more effectively reach agents, operators, meetings planners and the leisure market with one message," said Michelle Bozoki, director of marketing communications for the Marcam group.
Marriott International currently owns and/or manages nine oceanfront properties in seven Caribbean and Mexico destinations.
The new Coco Beach property in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, scheduled to open in 2011, will join the cluster group next year as marketing plans roll out for the property's opening, according to Bozoki.
Not a part of the Paradise by Marriott group is the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, which "is a more business-oriented property, catering more to business transient travelers than leisure customers," Bozoki said.
The portfolio's official website, www.paradisebymarriott.com, offers tools such as applications that access virtual trip kits and ePostcards "to create an interactive online experience for each of the resorts," Bozoki said.
Plans to enhance the site include allowing agents access to brochures and tools to personalize their own e-blasts of up to 500 clients at a time.
"One site has to speak to all of our partner segments," Bozoki said. "We already get great feedback, but we want to add even more tools and resources. This is not a booking engine, since most agents book through wholesalers, but we have links for consumers to agent sources."
While 2009 has not been the best of years in terms of sales and bookings for much of the hospitality industry, Marcam is heavily focused on the current period through December and forward into 2010 with strong promotions and incentives.
Bookings made by the end of November for travel from Jan. 1 through April 30 offer 40% off leisure rates.
The 40% discount applies to room rates only and is not valid for groups of 10 rooms or more. Included in this promotion is the core cluster of the nine resorts as well as three properties not part of the cluster: Los Suenos in Costa Rica, San Juan Marriott in San Juan and the Renaissance Curacao.
Coming up in 2010 will be promotions with longer validity dates, narrower booking windows and VIP programs with perks and benefits for agents and clients. Fam rates also will be enhanced. A current promotion offers a rate of $89 per night with a four-night maximum for travel through Dec. 16.
If the economic climate continues to improve, Bozoki is confident that 2011 and 2012 will see a resurgence of the corporate and meetings markets.
Even now, there's been a spurt in some group bookings, especially in Grand Cayman and Curacao. "They book closer in, and the groups are certainly smaller in terms of participants and attendees, but the business is beginning to build again," she said.