CheapCaribbean.com, the online beach-vacation resource company, has added 51 properties since last year to its inventory, ending the year with a total of 512 properties.
Thus far in 2016, CheapCaribbean has added 19 new properties spread across Aruba, the Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos for a total of 531 hotels in 50 destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico (Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos).
"We've got more properties in the pipeline in Antigua, Barbados, the Riviera Maya and Costa Rica," said Steve Dumaine, the company president and CEO.
"Our goal is to offer the best properties that our customers are interested in and want to visit," he said.
Propertywise, all-inclusive resorts account for 70% of the product inventory and between 70% and 80% of all bookings, according to Dumaine.
Haiti, which traditionally has not been a large market for the CheapCaribbean, has been trending up this year, especially the country's beach areas, Dumaine said.
"Haiti has much natural beauty, and there are many opportunities to grow the economy through tourism," he said. "We see this as a new opportunity for us and are now getting into the market."
CheapCaribbean.com offers packages to the Marriott in Port-au-Prince; the beachfront Moulin Sur Mer hotel, an hour northwest of Port-au-Prince; the Karibe Hotel in the Juvenat neighborhood of the capital city; and the all-inclusive Royal Decameron Indigo Beach in western Haiti.
"There's strong interest in the beach properties, especially from families with young children," Dumaine said. "The Marriott draws a mix of leisure and business travelers."
CheapCaribbean launched its first people-to-people programs to Cuba in November, and Dumaine made his first visit to the island in January.
"Cuba is ripe for exploration," Dumaine said. "We're just getting our toes in the ground in this market and there is tremendous interest, although the price point on Cuba tours is typically higher than other destination packages, due to the roundtrip charter flight from Havana and the scarcity of good hotel rooms."
The seven-night Cuba Seascape Discovery, priced from $5,500 per person, offers monthly departures through October and features four days in Havana and three in Varadero with activities that include meetings with artists, musicians, dancers and farmers.
Other destinations that are sparking increased interest among CheapCaribbean's customers include Belize, where the company has doubled its inventory within a year to 10 properties in a range of prices.
"The goal for any of our destinations is that we offer variety and depth," Dumaine said.
Despite the government-funding issues confronting Puerto Rico, there's growth in the destination and demand for it from travelers, according to Dumaine.
"A year ago, our leisure bookings to Puerto Rico were not that strong, but we've seen a resurgence, especially for the three-night packages out of Florida when people want a quick getaway," he said.
The Dominican Republic remains as strong as ever, according to Dumaine.
"It's our top destination in terms of volume, and we see that trend continuing this year," he said. "We have packages that blanket the key areas from Puerto Plata in the north to Santo Domingo in the south. For the past two years, occupancy has been at all-time highs."
Neither the downturn earlier this year in the stock market nor the crisis surrounding the Zika virus have impacted CheapCaribbean.com's bookings to date.
"We value our bottom line, and our customers who might be seeing dips in their stock portfolios are not reacting negatively to our prices or product," Dumaine said.
Regarding Zika, the company reacted swiftly by posting its change-and-cancellation policy online, saying that CheapCaribbean.com is honoring airline and hotel policies for pregnant women and their companions traveling to affected destinations.
"We're waiving the per-person cancellation/change fees on bookings," Dumaine said, "and we're also directing customers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site for information on symptoms and prevention."
The company recently launched its Noble Beach Prize highlighting partner properties in the Caribbean and Mexico. Properties were given the opportunity to nominate themselves in a series of 11 quirky "Beachin" categories, including the Pool That Rules, Best Beach Bliss and the View-Priceless, among others.
A panel of outside judges selected the winners. Winners also received marketing support from CheapCaribbean.com in the form of email blasts, social media posts, blogs and resort photo and description on the company's home page. The company hopes to make the awards an annual affair.