25 NOV 2014: If the Farmer’s Almanac is correct then we’re in for another winter blast. But that’s not discouraging one senior executive from the popular all-inclusive RIU Hotels and Resorts which is sold exclusively to Canadians through Signature Vacations.

In fact, Oliver Kluth, RIU Hotels & Resorts senior vice-president of sales and business development sees growth in single and a lot of double digit numbers in his forecast and doesn’t predict any hiccups in the burgeoning sun destination business.

“We’re looking good. We think this year we’ll be doing ten to fifteen percent more compared to last year in turnovers,” he says adding while the company’s financial year end closes on Dec. 31 the overall turnover in 2013 he expects to be just under US $2-billion.

With properties in the Caribbean and Mexico, not to mention newer destinations such as Central America where the five-star 24-hours all-inclusive RIU Playa Blanca in Panama opened earlier this year, sun seeking clients know they will receive the quality service and high standards from the RIU properties, says Kluth.

He was in Toronto recently where he met with Travel Industry Today.

Q: What’s new this year on the property front?

A: We first opened the Hotel RIU Playa Blanca in Panama, our first beach resort with this destination in April. In October we opened the Hotel RIU Palace Antillas our second property in Aruba. It’s a five star Palace all-inclusive open 24 hours but it is also an adults-only that is next to our existing Palace. Although it’s early days our first indications have been that’s what the markets have been looking for (are more adults-only).

Q: Are you finding a trend for more adults-only properties?

A: It’s not just people looking for this type of product but also we have guests that say they travel with their kids once a year and then want to go away as a couple. We like to cater to all those desires and needs.

Q: What about new destinations?

A: We opened our new Hotel RIU Palace in St. Martin located on the French side Anse Marcel, it’s our first for this destination. We refurbished an existing building (the old Radisson Blue) bringing it up to the RIU standard of service with à la carte restaurants and other new facilities. Although it’s a small palace, only 252 rooms we have the whole bay to ourselves so it’s almost like a private beach.

Q: How has the Hotel RIU Playa Blanca in Panama been doing?

A: It’s a success story. We had no idea. This winter for example I have heard from our partner Sunwing they are completely sold out for weeks in January and February with four full flights a week. That’s a lot of guests. In fact, RIU Playa Blanca it appears is the fourth best sold hotel with Sunwing this winter. Being the first winter it’s quite amazing.

Q: Why the appeal?
A: I think people want to discover new destinations. I think that’s part of why we are so successful with Sunwing. We like to open new destinations and we have a certain consistency in product delivery and customers trust us in that. So we have loyal customers. Today they come with us to Mexico and in this case they want to try something new in Playa Blanca. It’s a perfect fit and it’s a good example on how well a partnership could work.

Q: Wi-Fi is a big deal. How’s RIU tackling this?

A: Our Palace hotels have free Wi-Fi throughout the hotels but next year we will start to roll-out free Wi-Fi in all the common areas across all RIU properties so the lobby, restaurants, bars, pool areas will have 24 hour access.

Q: How’s the refurbishment programme going with your existing properties in the Caribbean and in Mexico?

A: Among our beach resorts next year the Hotel RIU Palace Aruba, the Hotel RIU Palace Las Americas in Cancun, and in Jamaica, the Hotel RIU Negril -- all will be totally refurbished.

Q: The hurricane Odile in Los Cabos two months ago was horrific. What’s the status on redevelopments?

A: Cabos is back. Our two properties are accepting guests, and in fact, the Hotel RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas was the first resort to reopen there after three weeks. Also Sunwing has resumed flights in early November. It’s important to help the local families get back to work because tourism is all they have. It’s the main industry.

Q: Any new builds?

A: Yes, we have a new project in Cancun next to the Club Med in Nizuc. It’ll be a 700-room five-star all-inclusive ready to open in early summer 2016. Another new build will be in Punta Cana. This property yet unnamed will be a five-star all-inclusive in the classic category. The 950-room hotel sitting on an excellent beach will be located outside our cluster of three palaces (Palace Macao, Palace Bavaro and Palace Punta Cana) next to the Hard Rock.

Q: How is RIU working with travel agents?

A: In Canada we’re about to launch this month the RIU Specialist Programme in both French and English. It’s an extension to the loyalty programme, the RIU Partner Club. Agents can access this through the https://www.riupartnerclub.com/en/rpc/index.jsp website to find a link to the new RIU Specialist programme. Because it can be done remotely agents can stop when necessary and resume their work and complete the programme at their convenience.

The benefit is the agent who takes this training available in six chapters will learn about the company everything from the history, the geography, the production delivery, the all-inclusive concept everything the travel agent needs to know about us to help make their life easier when they are selling RIU properties. Travel agents also receive a certificate, extra points for free nights we offer when they sell RIU and they also get some for completing the course.


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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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