Tour Talk

Island Destinations

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2011

In tourism, when the going gets tough, the tough add value. That’s the philosophy that’s led Island Destinations, an operator focused on high-end experiences in islands from the Caribbean to the Maldives, to its best year yet in 2010. While the economic recovery isn’t complete, says Laurie Palumbo, COO, travelers are warming up once again. “I think people are ready. Vacations are important to them,” she says. “They’re watching their budgets, but they’re still traveling.”

To entice them further, Island Destinations’ 2011 Travelers Collection is stocked with value-added products—including, for the first time, charter air service. Its combination of price-consciousness and luxury experiences can mean big savings for upscale clients—and big rewards for agents.

new products Luxury travelers want to have it all: privacy, exceptional amenities, loads of space and personalized service. That’s why, Palumbo says, Island Destinations’ new additions to its portfolio are heavy on resorts that offer villa-style accommodations. “A hotel gives clients all the amenities of a resort: babysitting services, restaurants, spas.” Then, at the end of the day, she continues, clients can retire to a true home away from home. “That always sells really well.” Palumbo points to the Viceroy Anguilla, which graces the cover of the 2011 Travelers Collection brochure. With its modern, 2-story spa and seaside gourmet restaurants, it’s a dream destination for any upscale traveler. Plus, “the villas are spectacular,” Palumbo says.

In fact, of the 15 new hotels in this year’s collection, most are located in the Caribbean, Palumbo says. That might be because of that region’s talent for offering upscale services without the EP price tag. “All-inclusives have become very much in demand, especially with the economy,” Palumbo says. And that makes resorts like Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic particularly attractive to clients and agents alike. Its Endless Privileges program expands upon traditional all-inclusive offerings with horseback riding, room service, laundry service and one spa treatment per stay included in the nightly rate. Guests can relax on the beach knowing they won’t have to spend any more than they intended for superior services, and agents collect commission on a price that includes food and drink as well as accommodations.

But the biggest new addition to Island Destinations’ Travelers Collection this year isn’t a resort at all. It’s Tradewind Aviation, providing premier-class air service to St. Barths. “It’s scheduled service four times a day from San Juan,” Palumbo explains. “Sometimes people are not comfortable going through St. Maarten, so that’s been very popular. We started offering that to give people an option. It’s more expensive than commercial service, but less expensive than private service. But it’s like scheduled private service, on a beautiful plane with leather seating.” The service ties in nicely with Island Destinations’ St. Barths’ product, including Christopher, a 42-room resort also new to the collection this year.

Of course, there’s more to this year’s Travelers Collection than Caribbean islands. Island Destinations’ new products span the globe, from The Address Downtown Dubai, featuring 196 rooms and 626 residences inside what, at press time, was the world’s largest tower; to Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa in the Maldives, capitalizing on its pristine beachfront location and boutique ambiance with its serene and private villas and a diverse suite of signature massages at its spa. Taj Exotica, another new addition in the Maldives, takes a similar approach, with 62 secluded, palm-thatched villas offering both serenity and amenities like sun decks and plunge pools. Finally, Fiji’s Laucala Island features 25 open-air villas with rustic yet modern design, all scattered across a private island along beaches or cliffs—all including private pools, indoor and outdoor showers, and oversized bathtubs.

The new product is exciting on its own, but paired with Island Destinations’ high standards of service, it’s in a class all its own. “Our typical guest is the affluent traveler, someone who’s really well traveled,” Palumbo explains. “They’re looking for services. So we’re almost like a concierge to the travel agent. We vet out the product, we know it inside and out. There’s a full-time concierge on staff here who does all the clients’ babysitting, spa appointments, tee times, dinner reservations, etc.”

Island Destinations also protects its clients and agents from mishaps with a suite of insurance options. “Included in every package is post-departure insurance,” Palumbo says. “That’s whether you purchase additional insurance or not. It’s nice to have when it’s complimentary. Should you have your baggage delayed or you’re ill and need to be flown out, you’re covered.” Island Destinations’ SPF 24-7 insurance goes one step further, offering full refunds for trips that are canceled prior to departure. Plus, Palumbo notes, “travel agent commission is also protected.”