Caribbean hotelier says get online or get left behind

Bevan Springer | 7/25/2019, 11:27 a.m.

ST. LUCIA—Leading Caribbean hotelier, Sanovnik Destang, executive director of Bay Gardens Resorts in St. Lucia, is encouraging fellow tourism industry professionals to fully embrace the use of technology if they want to drive business to their hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Destang opined that continued investment in the benefits of technology is critically important if regional businesses are to survive in today’s highly competitive environment.

The former president of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, Destang, who addressed a session on “Maximizing Booking Conversions: Keeping in Step with Big Game Changers” at the recent Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum in Miami, said keeping apace with technology has become a “full-time activity” for professionals in the industry.

“The technology is constantly evolving, and we need to invest our time, resources and energy into ensuring that we learn what’s available and how we can best leverage the internet to increase our share of direct bookings from customers,” Destang said after the session.

The award-winning hotelier declared more and more consumers are making purchasing decisions on smartphones, so optimizing content on mobile platforms is important, as well as staying apace with search engine optimization imperatives so that businesses can easily be found through online searches. “The brick and mortar approach of doing business is now passé so we must ensure that we are speaking the language of today’s global travel community,” advised Destang.

To increase visibility, drive web traffic and increase direct bookings, Destang suggested to implement a dynamic approach to social media marketing; build a strong audio-visual team; develop a targeted approach to email marketing; and launch a rewards program.

During the CHIEF session, experts from Expedia and TravelClick discussed how Google Travel assists with booking decisions and whether it should be described as an industry disruptor. “Some key takeaways from our panelists were that direct bookings aren’t necessarily as cheap as they used to be but provide certain strategic advantages, such as direct customer access,” said Destang, who felt Google Travel would not become an online travel agent in the near term.

Investing in relationships, customer service, personalization and the use of artificial intelligence to predict future consumer choices were additional highlights of the session, Destang reported, while crediting CHTA for assembling global experts to help Caribbean hoteliers understand how best to reach customers. “I’m glad we were able to bring some insights to our members in the Caribbean for those who are not as aware of how dominant it [Google Travel] has become and to be aware of how they can take advantage of it.”