After many years of serving as the executive vice president of the South America division at LATOUR, Arthur Berman has joined Central Holidays as vice president of the company’s newly created Latin America and Cuba division. In addition to hiring Berman, Central Holidays has also announced its five new Cuba programs, as well as a Cruise Around Cuba package. In an interview with Recommend, Berman revealed what’s in store for Central Holidays and its new Latin America and Cuba division.
Melissa Bryant (MB): Tell me a little bit about Central Holidays’ new Latin America and Cuba Division.
Arthur Berman (AB): Central Holidays has been toying with Cuba and South America for the past few years. With the introduction of a separate division solely responsible for Cuba and Latin America, we feel that we can now make great strides into the market by separating the Cuba and Latin America destinations from Europe and having it stand on its own. This opens up many new doors for us, such as having our own Cuba and Latin America website, our own brochures, webinars, e-mail blasts, while allowing us to advertise Cuba and Latin America as a separate entity. This, combined with the great name that Central Holidays has in the agency community, will allow us to grow in an exponential manner.
MB: Why did Central Holidays feel there was a need to create a Latin America and Cuba Division?
AB: This can be answered with one word: “diversification.” It’s imperative that one diversifies their product, and especially in today’s volatile world, not to have all of your eggs in one basket. A primary example of this happening was when Central Holidays was selling Egypt, which for quite a while, was one of our biggest destinations. Then overnight it all came crashing down when they had the coup in Egypt. That’s why diversification is not only important but imperative in today’s world.
MB: What does your position as vice president of Latin America and Cuba Division entail?
AB: I personally have been involved in the South America market since the early ’80s when my company, Vacation Travel Concepts (VTC), paved the way for mass tourism to Rio de Janeiro, as well as cruising in South America. My background brings to the Cuba and Latin America division years of experience, as well as the knowledge needed to launch this division. I am involved in all aspects of the sale from planning and purchasing to marketing the product and selling to our travel agency partners.
MB: How will agents and their clients benefit from Central Holidays’ new Latin America and Cuba Division?
AB: We are fast becoming a “one stop shop” covering almost 75 percent of the world’s destinations—with our destination specialists we can ensure the travel agent that all it takes is one call and our experts can help them close the sale.
MB: Can you describe to me Central Holidays’ future 2015-2016 line-up of escorted Latin America and Cuba programs?
AB: We have six programs to Cuba, from the normal long weekend in Havana (Taste of Havana), to an 8-night program in Havana and Cienfuegos. But what makes our Cuba product stand out are the two niche programs we have—one is an 8-night Jewish Heritage program called L’Chaim Cuba, which is a personal view of Jewish life in Cuba and includes meetings with leaders of the Jewish communities, visiting various synagogues and the highlight would be the Friday night Sabbath services followed by dinner with members of the community. The other niche program is a 9-night Afro-Cubanismo cultural program, which delves into the vibrant history of the Cuban and African cultures as it pertains to life in Cuba. We also have a weekly Cruise Around Cuba where we are partnering with Celestyal Cruises aboard their 1,200-passenger ship, Celestyal Crystal.
MB: How is Central Holidays differentiating its Latin America and Cuba itineraries from the new cropping of similar tours?
AB: Besides the regular sightseeing that everyone expects, our services to Latin America are very highly focused on each individual’s needs, expectations and budgets. Every program in our 148-page brochure can be molded to the client’s wishes. Our brochure is just an example of what we are capable of offering and there are really no limitations on what Central Holidays can deliver.
MB: Who is the target audience for Central Holidays’ Latin America and Cuba programs?
AB: Our client base runs the gamut from young professionals eager to discover the world to elderly retired persons who have just about seen it all and are looking to fulfill their individual bucket list.
MB: Why do you believe that Cuba is on an upward trend?
AB: Ever since President Obama’s speech last December, it seems that everyone wants to go to Cuba. Unfortunately, the press has made it seem that all you need to do is call your travel agent and book a beach vacation in Cuba just like the rest of the Caribbean. But that’s not the case and you still must travel with a group and participate in a People-to-People exchange program. The good thing is that there is interest and phones keep ringing off the hook for Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. While hotel space is close to impossible to obtain in Cuba, I’m happy to report that Central Holidays has confirmed hotel space on all of their programs through December 2018.
For more information, call (800) 539-7098 or visit latinamerica-vacations.com.