24 JAN 2013: Source markets – you might not be familiar with the term but RIU Hotels and Resorts is into them. The luxe hotel brand headquartered in sunny Mallorca, Spain, has been expanding in the most surprising spots as of late, and that’s partially thanks to source markets and working with partners like Signature Vacations and Sunwing.

Ever since RIU’s foray into the Caribbean in 1991 with the opening of RIU Taino (now demolished) in Punta Cana, the resort company has set its sights on building all-inclusive vacation spots in popular beachfront destinations such as Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica and of course the Dominican Republic, to name a few.

But the most recent splash has been Latin America. Jet setting vacationers whose economies have been faring better (places like Brazil, Chile and Argentina) don’t mind travelling to new RIU properties in nearby Panama or Costa Rica.

Closer to home, RIU’s exclusive tour operator the Signature brand has made life easy breezy for clients who fly on Sunwing and get to experience the airline’s high-frills-at-a-low-cost mantra. There’s free champagne, headsets, hot meals, and entertainment.

Last week I sat down with Eric Rodriguez, vice-president of product development for the Sunwing Travel Group (parent company for tour operators Sunwing Vacations and Signature Vacations) and Oliver Kluth, senior vice-president of sales and business development overseeing RIU’s territories in the Caribbean, Mexico, Costa Rica and Florida.

RIU’s four take-aways are (in no special order):

Booze – it’s replenished daily in-room and comes with fancy labels depending on the resort category.

Wi-fi – as of November 1, 2012 all properties – yes that’s all properties (don’t even start to think about the infrastructure challenges in remote places like nature reserves in Costa Rica, because yes, RIU’s executed that too. I can attest to this as a recent visitor, so watch for my upcoming stories on which ones I sussed out in future Today issues).

Food – new micro-cuisine means refining buffets to look like fancy canapés in hors d’oeuvre portions which is not only good for the waistline but amazing for the environment. Plus undoubtedly, this portion control saves the company millions.

⋅ The RIU Partner Club (RPC)– while it’s been around for decades RIU Hotels & Resorts company senior vice president Oliver Kluth says RIU’s putting a greater emphasis on agent and company contact.

“By having dedicated RIU sales reps one in Ontario and another in Quebec, these two reps are visiting agencies and also pushing the benefits of the RPC.”

RIU’s Vision

Oliver relayed how in the beginning RIU adopted a “let’s stick to what we really know” philosophy focusing on beach resorts but later adopted a “let’s give it a try” approach looking more closely at source markets.

“The US and Germany are big source markets for us. So we bring these people to our resorts but then we think we could use our good brand in those markets in order to sell hotels in those places,” he said during a brief Toronto visit.

The result: Expect to see future properties in Berlin and New York City.

Agents can consult a new online sales manual and register for RPC at www.riupartnerclub.com

A strong partnership

Eric said RIU has been a great partner that has helped the Sunwing Group grow its business since the winter of 2011-2012 when the partnerships started. Before the RIU partnership, Eric admits, lift into Jamaica wasn't very strong.

“But with RIU it has allowed us to expand our Jamaica products. Today out of Canada we have the largest amount of lift into Jamaica - all in the span of two years.”

Before RIU the Costa Rica programme was also thin.

“We were there but not in any great big shape or form. But now with the Guanacaste and the Palace Costa Rica, it’s allowed us to add more flights. Right now we’re at five a week. We maintain these routes during the summer for the client/consumer who benefits from year-round service and frequency.”

Watch for a new RIU property coming to:

RIU Palace Jamaica opening December 2013

RIU Plaza Berlin opening December 2013

RIU Plaza New York Times Square opening 2015

Panama – new resort in Playa Blanca opening in summer 2014

Who knows with source markets being the new trend don’t be surprised if you hear of RIU openings in Brazil or Argentina with new Sunwing routes of course.

Above banner: Oliver Kluth, RIU and Eric Rodriguez, Sunwing

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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