PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. -Here's a new twist on marketing to the Caribbean's luxury travel niche: Invite top luxury properties to participate in a venture that will not cost them anything but will guarantee them high exposure and visibility through specially produced TV travel shows, a 400-page annual publication and a Web site with a booking engine linked to specific hotel partners.

Glenn Harris, founder of the new Caribbean Escapes Cooperative Marketing (CECM) initiative and a former Caribbean marketing manager with American Express, officially launched the program at World Travel Market in London last week.

He admitted that the venture had more than several hoteliers scratching their heads, somewhat skeptical about a deal that guaranteed them so much, asked so little of them in return and carried no hard dollar requirement.

Here are the "bones" of the program, as Harris described it:

St. James's Club, Antigua, targets upscale clientele - as do other members of CECM, the luxury-based marketing cooperative that will feature 100 resorts on 25 islands. • By invitation only, the collection will feature 100 upscale resorts on 25 islands, plus top restaurants, golf courses, spas and boutique shops.

The number of hotels and destinations "is not written in stone, but that's the approximate figure," Harris said.

"The hotels will not have to pay anything to be in the collection," Harris said. "Naturally, they will be the top-of-the-line properties, chosen on the basis of industry rewards received, reputation, recommendations and past history."

Harris is deliberately selecting "smaller upscale properties that do not have a lot of marketing and promotion dollars to spread around."

"Typically, if these hotels have some extra money, they would rather put it into infrastructure improvements than advertising and marketing."

He said the program "is indeed a cooperative, in that it enables two sides to bring something valuable to the table and work and benefit together."

The only obligation that the venture places on the properties that are invited to join -- and accept -- the program is that each hotel guarantees four five-night stays per year that can be used as giveaways and promotions on radio shows.

• Property descriptions and photos will appear in CECM's annual publication, a glossy, 400-page book entitled "Extraordinary Caribbean Escapes," set to debut next July.

Harris described the book as "the cornerstone of our program. The revenue generated by advertising sold will enable us to operate the program and its components, such as the radio shows, Web site and sales support staff."

The publication, which will contain editorial on select properties, restaurants and retailers and reviews of spas and golf courses, will be marketed through CECM's Web site and radio promotions, and sold at bookstores and through subscriptions.

Harris said that the book will be placed in the guest rooms of each resort featured. "The estimated initial [readership] is more than 2 million affluent Caribbean travelers," he said.

• A 30-minute TV show on two cable networks will be aired four times a week beginning in April, showcasing destinations, selected hotels, top restaurants, spas and golf courses featured in the program.

"The programs will reach 225 target markets, aimed at the upscale traveler," Harris said.

He described that traveler as being between 45 and 65 years old, with an annual income of at least $250,000, and vacationing "at least three times a year for five to seven days each time."

• A Web site, to be operational by March, will have links to the properties and the destinations in the program. The site will provide extensive information on each participating resort, including room categories, rates, restaurants and available services.

Virtual tours of hotels and island highlights also will be available. The site, at www.caribbeanescapes.com, will be capable of handling online bookings by both agents and consumers.

"We are only involved in land arrangements at this point," Harris said. "We hope to offer air and land programs" at a later date.

Also, destination guides -- sort of like miniguidebooks -- will be available for downloading from the Web site.

• A separate CECM brochure will promote special offers at the participating resorts and destinations and will be distributed at key U.S. gateways, within Florida at tourist attractions and upscale shopping malls, and through various golf shops and U.S. golf courses.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

Get More!
For more details on this article, see:
Properties join new marketing cooperative
What's in it for agents?

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI