Playa reports that D.R. comeback is in full swing

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The Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic.
The Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic.

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- Playa Hotels & Resorts chief marketing officer Kevin Froemming is confident that Dominican Republic tourism is on the upswing after a difficult 2019.

Froemming spoke at Playa’s fourth annual Spotlight Awards on Friday at the new Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Cap Cana all-inclusive resorts. 

“A lot of questions have come up about where the D.R. is today, is it coming back, and I can tell you that just in the last three days, we booked over a million dollars in revenue at this property,” Froemming said, addressing a group of roughly 100 top-performing U.S. and Canadian travel advisors.

Located within the private gated community of Cap Cana, the adults-only Hyatt Zilara and family-friendly Hyatt Ziva opened in December.

After a spate of tourist deaths in the first half of 2019, the Dominican Republic was hit by an onslaught of negative press, which sent visitor numbers plummeting. There had been speculation that the deaths were linked, caused by poisoning from tainted alcohol. However, FBI testing uncovered no tainted alcohol.

Froemming told Travel Weekly that the destination’s comeback was “definitely in motion.” He credited recent efforts by travel agency partners and the trade to “dispel a lot of the myths about the situation.”

As a result, Playa is bullish on its outlook for the 750-room Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Cap Cana complex, which collectively houses a total of 12 restaurants, 17 bars and lounges, a 14,000-square-foot fitness center and 45,000 square feet of meeting and event space, among other amenities.

The sprawling development sits just next door to another Playa-owned and -operated all-inclusive, the 174-room Sanctuary Cap Cana, an adults-only resort. 

A guestroom at the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana.
A guestroom at the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana.

“We’re looking at potentially getting a water taxi to shuttle people back and forth so that people staying at Sanctuary can come over here during the day, and vice versa,” added Froemming. “We think that’s going to be spectacular.”

During the Spotlight Awards, attendees expressed optimism about their ability to sell latest Hyatt all-inclusive products. Hyatt already had Ziva and Zilara resorts in Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Jamaica.

According to Debbie Boyd, founder of Travel Happy Agency in Cincinnati, her recent photo and video uploads of the property were gaining sizable traction on social media.

“A lot of my business comes from either social media or referrals, and just based on what I’ve posted so far, people seem very interested,” Boyd said, adding that she’s seen especially strong interest among clients who are World of Hyatt loyalty program members.

The morning after Friday’s award ceremony, Froemming presented an update on the company’s broader expansion plans, telling attendees that the company is currently eyeing opportunities in St. Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica and Aruba.

“Next to the Hilton Rose Hall, we’ve got a huge parcel of land we’ll be building on over the next year,” said Froemming. “It will basically give us two and half miles of property, from the extension of the Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Rose Hall to the Hilton, with maybe one or two properties in between.”

Looking beyond its Caribbean stronghold, Froemming said that Playa also sees potential for the Ziva and Zilara brands in Bora Bora, Bali and Phuket. 

Meanwhile, Froemming emphasized that upside for both Hyatt and Hilton all-inclusives remains massive, citing data gleaned from a market research survey of approximately 130 million Hilton and Hyatt loyalty program members.

“We found less than 10% had even a moderate understanding of all-inclusive, and less than 6% had actually been to an all-inclusive,” he said. “So when you think about that, that’s 120 million customers that we’re now going to be bringing into the [all-inclusive] environment. Anyone can go out and steal market share, but to grow the business, it’s about getting new customers into our destinations.”

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