All-inclusive resorts make their pitch to agents at CruiseWorld

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CruiseWorld's panel on all-inclusives.
CruiseWorld's panel on all-inclusives. Photo Credit: Eric Moya

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A CruiseWorld panel on all-inclusive resorts tackled pricing parity and why agents should specialize in selling all-inclusives.

Ash Tembe of AIC Hotel Group, operator of Hard Rock Hotels, said that "if you're doing it right," specializing in all-inclusives can be highly lucrative.

"Working with a tour operator partner -- maybe companies have bonus commission programs -- you could make 21% commission on a transaction," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of focusing on selling just a few products, whether it's all-inclusives or other travel products. "A lot of people sell too many brands," he said. "You have to look at what value do you give the consumer if you sell 500 products, and know nothing about 500 products, vs. knowing a lot about 30."

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"If you don't sell all-inclusives, you just leave a lot of money on the table," said Howard Tanenbaum of Playa Hotels and Resorts.

Jermaine Brown of Sandals Resorts International talked about his company's efforts in agent support and education.

"No matter what city and state you're in, we do offer resort certification close by," he said. "Our support knows no bounds."

That commitment to agents extends to pricing, he said. "Your clients can't go online and find a better rate," Brown said. "When your clients book through you, they are getting the best rate, because what you'll do is shop around for insurance, you shop around for the best airfare, and if the rate goes down before the final payment date, they're entitled to that lower rate."

"People say, 'We support travel agents,' but we show you the money," added Carlos Gonzalez of AMResorts.

Talk of pricing turned to the subject of parity among agent, OTA and direct channels. Tembe and Annabelle Romero of Palace Resorts both said their companies strive to offer the same rates regardless of booking channel.

But in terms of agent-friendly initiatives, "You actually have an advantage depending on how you sell yourself, with the relationships you have with the resorts," Romero said. "I know we offer discounted rates for groups through our Pro Agents program, an advantage you would have over any OTA."

That echoed a sentiment from moderator Geoff Millar of Ultimate All-Inclusive Travel, who earlier said that what agents sell isn't travel per se: "What you sell is your knowledge, your experience and your service."

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