Five properties in one. Yes, you read right. In Punta Cana, RIU does not play around. Its RIU Punta Cana Complex is made up of five separate properties that come together to offer what Armin Kaestner, v.p. of sales and contracting in Caribbean & Mexico for RIU Hotels & Resorts, calls “a very complete product. You see this in the different hotels we have, starting with the lower-end properties, such as RIU Naiboa, to our high-end products [such as RIU Palace Bavaro]. We offer something for every budget, no matter what hotel, and guests will experience excellent service, which is important for travel agents because the last thing they want is a client coming home and complaining.”
it’s a high-five for riu
RIU’s five properties that make up the complex (totaling over 2,500 rooms) are nestled side-by-side on an immaculate 1.2-mile stretch of palm tree-lined coast named Playa Arena Gorda (“fat sand beach” in Spanish), and not one RIU hotel on the complex is the same.
The properties, offering 24-hour, all-inclusive services, themed restaurants, multiple swimming pools, spa services…and, well, everything that is best about taking an all-inclusive escape to the Caribbean, exude their own unique design, style and ambiance. The properties are: RIU Palace Punta Cana, RIU Palace Macao, RIU Palace Bavaro, ClubHotel RIU Bambu and the aforementioned RIU Naiboa.
Before booking, your clients should know that access to the properties is limited depending on where they stay, although all guests can walk about the entire complex. We were at the RIU Palace Bavaro, which opened last year in December and is the newest addition to the complex, and that granted us access to bars and restaurants at all RIU properties excluding RIU Palace Macao.
RIU Palace Bavaro is ultra-modern and chic. The lobby and room accommodations burst with colors of vibrant yellow, lush pink and deep purple. Amenities include four swimming pools, a spa, gym, a kids’ pool and club, four specialty restaurants, and of course, 24-hour, all-inclusive service. Guests can either stay in the main building or choose a villa suite closer to the beach. Only a few amenities differ from the villas to the main building such as complimentary WiFi and bathrobes. The Villa Jacuzzi Suite is definitely for the client that wants oceanview accommodations, a separate and spacious living room, flat-screen TV, and a jacuzzi on a large balcony big enough to accommodate at least a dozen people.
Our posh Villa Junior Suite included a comfortable king-size bed, liquor dispenser, stacked mini bar, bathroom with double sinks, shower and hydro-massage bathtub. The lack of wall dividers left plenty of open space between the bedroom and bathroom area, so traveling with a friend might be difficult if your client is hoping for a bit of privacy.
Dining at the RIU Palace Bavaro is a real treat. The property delivers on its all-inclusive product with attentive service and staff—it was always nice to hear “buenos dias” (good morning) on our way to breakfast. At Monticristo, the resort’s buffet-style restaurant, we looked forward to the fresh tropical fruit smoothies made every morning and recommend the cucumber and parsley smoothie, a genuine picker-upper. RIU Palace Bavaro’s a la carte restaurants offer a vast selection of cuisine: Geisha, serving Japanese; Taino, a classic steakhouse; and La Bambola, Italian dishes. Krystal restaurant, serving cutting-edge fusion cuisine, is only located at RIU Palace properties on the complex.
It was at Krystal where we feasted on a banquet of delights during a 7-course menu selection of diverse and savory bites, from the bluefin tuna and eggplant with honey and soy reduction sauce to the cream of pumpkin soup with ginger shrimp tempura and chocolate prepared three ways (our favorite “way” was the white chocolate soup with panko-crusted bananas).
For clients without kids or planning a kids-free getaway, suggest the RIU Palace Macao. The property shifted to adults-only last August and is the brand’s first adults-only all-inclusive in the Americas. It recently underwent a $14 million dollar renovation modernizing all 364 rooms with more white space, eclectic designs and fabrics, as well as new restaurants and services.
We were quite impressed by the European charm emanating from the RIU Palace Punta Cana. Popular with European guests, the lobby boasts Victorian-style furnishings and chandeliers along with accents of dark wood sprinkled here and there. The suites mimicked the feel with dark wood headboards, muted beige and deep reds. RIU’s Bambu and Naiboa properties are big sellers with the U.S. market and offered at lower price points with more buffet-style dining options, but consistent with RIU’s 24-hour, all-inclusive service. Although there is no spa at RIU’s Bambu or Naiboa properties, your clients have access to Eternal Spa at the RIU Palace Punta Cana for any spa or beauty treatments.
“RIU’s resorts are consistent across the board and are a nice fit for clients on a tight budget,” says Beck Veith, affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc. “No matter where you travel in the Caribbean, they offer the same product. This is reassuring to many of my clients because there are no surprises.”
According to Kaestner, 48 percent of RIU’s Punta Cana clientele are repeat customers; 25 percent are from the U.S. market and 15 percent from Canada.
“Punta Cana is an easy flight from the U.S., so we see a lot of repeat business there,” says Tim Mullen, co-president of Apple Vacations. “At RIU resorts, vacationers can experience different types of vacations, and then return to try another. For example, parents who traveled with the family to RIU Bambu might return for a quick getaway to the adults-only RIU Palace Macao.”
Like any Caribbean destination, the high season kick-starts in December until April, although Kaestner says business does pick up in July and August. All-inclusive prices and packaging varies depending on the season, but if your clients want to take advantage of low rates (even if it is during the sultry months of May and June) starting rates for RIU Palace Bavaro are $116 pp dbl; $101 pp dbl at RIU Palace Macao and RIU Palace Punta Cana; $73 pp dbl at RIU Bambu; and $59 pp dbl for RIU Naiboa.
agent & client incentives
Advise your clients to look into the brand’s RIU Class (riuclass.com) program, which identifies those preferred customers by awarding them with points they can use in exchange for free stays; additional hotel expenses; items in the RIU Shop, or discounts with partner services.
But don’t fret, agents. RIU understands the power that tour operators and travel agents bring to the brand. As a member of the RIU Partner Club, agents are provided with training to get to know the product first-hand—the program currently has more than 92,000 members across the globe.
“RIU has tremendous brand loyalty among our vacationers and our travel agent partners,” adds Apple Vacation’s Mullen. “Travel agents know that RIU prides itself on a consistent and affordable vacation experience, packed with tons of value. It’s an easy sell. RIU always over delivers, and the high marks from Apple Vacationers shows that our clients appreciate that consistent value.”
The complex is only a 20-minute drive from Punta Cana International Airport, which services U.S. and Canadian gateways via Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines and Westjet.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/supplement-archive):
Delta Air Lines’ 2013 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide