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Sandals Resorts in Saint Lucia have sought to amplify the island’s marketing footprint ahead of the 2017-2018 winter season with the hosting of the 2017 Chairman’s Royal Club travel agents’ retreat.
The event which concluded recently, saw almost 40 of the United States’ top vacation sellers gather for one week to sample and understand the latest in hospitality developments.
The events were spread across all three Sandals Resorts and per Tourism Minister Hon. Dominic Fedee, the exposure for the island goes beyond a price tag.
The Minister credited the agents for the change in Saint Lucia’s main market from agriculture to tourism and encouraged that they too now adapt the mantra that Saint Lucia has much more to offer than sand, sea and sun.
“We owe a great debt to all of you in this room and the marketing genius of Sandals. As Saint Lucians, we are proud to see our island featured at prime time on CNN and BBC and MBC,” the Minister said.
Sandals Resorts in Saint Lucia and its related companies contribute some 9% of the island’s total GDP and is responsible for some 40% of total arrivals to Saint Lucia.
“I tell all the other hoteliers on island that Sandals brings the planes and we all just come along for the ride,” Fedee said.
He admitted that the weight of the Sandals brand and its three properties on the island is often the biggest bargaining chip when negotiating new airlift opportunities for the island and even when in discussions with potential investors.
He said Sandals’ faith and investment in the island is often the fuel needed to ignite conversations on further development and growth.
“We use sandals to improve our negotiating positions with airlines and other investors. When you have an investor like sandals it does tremendous things,” he said.
Fedee said his ministry is looking at “rebranding Saint Lucia” and is moving away from traditional marketing approaches and will instead be moving towards the promotion of the island as a brand.
“We are also looking closely at our airlift situation to include new direct flights from places like Texas and other parts of the west coast of the USA. And even another flight from Miami to create more options for travelers. San Juan is another option to increase attractiveness and ease of access,” the Minister said, adding that the relationship with Sandals and its strength as a brand is already aiding in this process.
Managing Director for Sandals in Saint Lucia, Mr. Winston Anderson underlined the amazing new plans for the development of the Sandals brand in Saint Lucia, including the introduction of a fourth Sandals Resort which, according to him, will be lightyears ahead of its time.
He said, “We do not just simply market Sandals Resorts, we market the entire destination,” confirming also that not everyone who sees a Sandals commercial in major markets would necessarily be Sandals guests.
“Someone might fall in love with the beauty of Saint Lucia but would prefer to stay at an Air BnB or a small boutique hotel. For us, the pleasure is in being able to market this amazing destination to millions around the world every day,” Anderson said.
A Sandals Resorts commercial is aired every 40 seconds on any major US and European network.
Anderson thanked the travel agents for their continued efforts in promoting destination Saint Lucia and reminded that every vacation sold goes towards the security of jobs and livelihoods of most individuals on the island.
“Your role is tremendous to the development of our country,” Anderson said.
Also, present at Monday’s Chairman’s Royal Club meeting were senior representatives from Unique Vacations – the marketing arm of Sandals Resorts and other senior officials from Sandals Resorts International.