Destination Hotels & Resorts has a portfolio of 40 independent, luxury and upscale hotels, resorts and golf clubs in the U.S., which combined offers travelers a total of 9,300 guestrooms, 18 golf courses and 16 full-service spas to choose from. Our associate editor, Deserae del Campo, had a conversation with Jamie Sabatier, president and COO of Destination Hotels & Resorts, to discuss his overall plan for the company, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Deserae del Campo (DC): What’s your plan of action and strategy for Destination Hotels & Resorts now that the company has reached its 40th year, and what can today’s travel agents bring to the table to help the management company achieve these goals?
Jamie Sabatier (JS): We are acknowledging our successes of the last 40 years based on creating a culture of successfully owning, managing and operating independent hotels and are now focused on the next 40! We have outlined the following goals:
• Continued growth in our portfolio with acquisition and management of urban and resort assets
• Innovation, driving operational excellence and efficiencies and honoring our guest promise: to provide genuine, engaging and individualized guest experiences and continue building loyalty to our portfolio. Destination has strong customer retention (repeat ratio is 25 percent).
Travel agents can help us achieve our goals by selling our product! We want them to help us elevate awareness of the Destination Hotels & Resorts distinctive portfolio and encourage them to help us cross-sell the Destination hotels and resorts, which ultimately generates more revenue and profitability.
DC: I was looking over the website and came across your page for travel professionals. It’s great that travel agents can receive e-mails with news on new hotels, incentives and offerings. Is there anything new or innovative that you’ll be offering travel agents in 2014?
JS: Thanks, we agree that it’s imperative to have this targeted communication with travel professionals. This year we created a brand promise for travel agents: every rate we have loaded in the GDS is commissionable—rate and package. We also promise to pay commission within 30 days of a guest’s stay. Finally, we offer travel agent discounts at all of our hotels and resorts and encourage agents to visit our properties to both enjoy them and to build their knowledge and expertise in promoting them.
Our goal is to enhance this promise in 2014. There will be a travel agent incentive program introduced. Historically we have not done this in the past. Stay tuned for that news in upcoming months.
DC: How would you describe Destination Hotels & Resorts? What makes this management company unique from your competitors?
JS: Destination Hotels & Resorts is the country’s fourth largest hospitality management company with a portfolio of extraordinary resorts and hotels that span the nation, from exhilarating alpine adventures to stunning beachfronts to vibrant urban destinations. We manage 40 independent, luxury and upscale hotels, resorts and golf clubs, each offering authentic, enriching experiences for the discerning traveler.
We believe in delivering guest experiences that are not only memorable, but enriching. Therefore, our property associates are local experts and true ambassadors to their properties and their destinations.
DC: Does Destination Hotels & Resorts only manage properties in the U.S.? Are there plans to look at properties abroad, or plans to acquire new properties in 2014? Is so, where?
JS: For now—yes, our collection is domestic only. We are focused on aggressive portfolio expansion and new business opportunities including acquisition, third-party management and development in the U.S., as well as in the Caribbean and Mexico.
DC: What kinds of properties does Destination Hotels & Resorts manage? Are there requirements or standards that these properties need to meet? What’s the mix—more luxury than moderate?
JS: Our collection contains a combination of luxury, upper upscale, upscale and branded assets. We measure success through extensive customer feedback, including use of the Unifocus customer survey and a comprehensive report that communicates online reviews and benchmarks our properties within their competitive set. We have established goals for the portfolio to ensure that we are delivering on our brand promise. Approximately 20 percent of the portfolio is luxury with 70 percent upper upscale and the balance is managed assets (Doubletree, Embassy Suites). The luxury units include L’Auberge Del Mar, Royal Palms Resort And Spa, Stowe Mountain Lodge, some of Terranea Resort, Wailea Beach Villas.
DC: Your target clientele must vary with each property, but what is the one common denominator in terms of guests? Is the focus multi-gen?
JS: Our customer is a discerning leisure traveler who is looking for the enriching experiences provided by our unique, independent collection. Destination also boasts a large collection of distinctive homes, villas and full-service condominiums. We also see a lot of multi-generational guests on the leisure side. The Destination Mountain Collection, Spa Collection and Golf Collection are ideal for family vacations, golfers and guests who are seeking that ideal trip. We also host many weddings and honeymoons across the portfolio and have an award-winning Destination Wedding Collection.
DC: How does Destination Hotels & Resorts market all of these properties?
JS: Each property has a strategic market position and develops unique packages, promotions, events, and attractions to market to their customers and travel agents. Destination supports these efforts with other signature packages and promotions, including the Destination Dream (bucket list packages) and the Destination Discovery learning vacation packages. In addition, Destination provides other “umbrella” programs that each property can customize, including The Study Of, our culinary promotion that showcases the talents of our culinary team through videos, recipes and specialty items that our restaurants can feature. As always, the travel industry community is a valued partner in our sales and marketing culture.
For more on Destination Hotels & Resorts, visit destinationhotels.com.