Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Aug 06, 2018

Iberostar raises the bar


(Photo above: The infinity pool at the soon-to-open Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard in Havana, Cuba.)

Fresh off a €500 million renovation primarily across its European properties, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts is now in the next phase
of its global expansion plan with another
€700 million in upgrades and new properties underway in the Americas.
“We are sure that the future of tourists is fantastic,” says Aurelio Vazquez, COO of the Iberostar Group, the parent company of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts. “It’s one
industry where the forecast is growing every year for the next 10, 20 years. Practi-cally double digits. And within this area, this area of the Caribbean, is one fantastic opportunity because we have several big [feeder] markets – USA, Canada and several Latino countries.”
As its product continues to evolve to mainly four- and five-star properties, one of the countries seeing a lot of the growth is Cuba. In a short time, the company has gone from 11 to 21 hotels with 7,100 rooms in the destination that’s a popular choice for Canadian travellers.
“For us, Cuba is one of the most important in terms of expansion,” says Luis Jiminez, commercial sales and marketing Cuba of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, noting the destination is showing an 8% growth in arrivals in the first five months of 2018 compared to the same period last year. “The Canadian market is the most important [for Cuba.]”
Several new resorts are set to open in Cuba including the Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard, a luxury hotel in Old Havana, and the Iberostar Holguin, both of which are scheduled to welcome clients in November.

Raising the bar
During a recent visit to Toronto, Vazquez said he anticipates the fact that Iberostar gained approval to import goods into Cuba, which he says will increase the gastronomy standards across its resorts, will also have a positive impact on the company’s growth in Cuba.
“We are now the only private company that has that licence in Cuba in order to allow us to import everything that we need,” he says. “We’ll be able to assure all of the customers in the future that the standard of the quality of the hotels of Iberostar in Cuba are the same as in any other location in the world. This is very important for the company. We’re very proud to communicate this notice to the travel agencies and to the customers because Cuba is an amazing destination.”
While it’ll start out importing goods for Iberostar properties, Jiminez says the company is open to supplying to other hotel chains once it’s established. He also praised Canadian operators for swiftly returning to the destination following Hurricane Irma.

The role of the trade
Although agents can already earn commission through Iberostar’s PRO portal, the company will soon expand its StarAgents reward program – currently available in Europe and the US – to Canada. Through the program, agents can earn points for stays at Iberostar Hotels & Resorts.
“Canada is a very important market for us,” says Vazquez. “We have now a huge business with the main tour operators of Canada, and we want to increase, to improve, the relationship for the next years.”
Alongside tour operators like Sunwing, Transat, Air Canada and WestJet, Vazquez says travel agents are a key distribution channel for the company, and they remain committed to the trade.
“We are planning specific campaigns for the next months, in order to communicate to the travel agencies,” he says. “We’re very comfortable with this channel of distribution.”
Iberostar’s properties are now divided into three colour-coded segments: city hotels, ocean resorts, and hotels with heritage, with its upscale Grand category applying across all three segments. Outside of Cuba, new hotels are on the way in Mexico and Aruba. Part of the growth also includes a focus on its city hotels, with a new hotel set for Lima, Peru.
“We’d like to find flagship hotels in the most important European
and American terminals,” adds Oscar Gonzalez, Marketing Manager EMEA of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts. “It’s not an expansive huge
growth, but we’d like to have probably [hotels in] New York, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona.”

Selling tips

Aurelio Vazquez, COO of the Iberostar Group, offers four key factors for travel agents to differentiate Iberostar Hotels & Resorts:

1) “The very best locations in the world. We are very well located as resorts and as hotels in the cities.”

2) “The strength of gastronomy – it is one of the historical strengths of the Iberostar, and we invest a lot of money and time in order to generate new ideas.”

3) “Service. This is one of the main bits that helped the historical development of the company.”

4) “And the fourth is the people, the 30,000 people that are working now in the company. The idea that we’re not the biggest company, but the most important company that is producing millions of happy moments with our customers.”