Caribbean open for visitors, says Sunwing's COO

Caribbean open for visitors, says Sunwing's COO
Andrew Dawson, COO, Sunwing

Despite a record hurricane season, the Caribbean is open for business and eager for Canadian visitors, said Sunwing COO Andrew Dawson.

In an exclusive interview with PAX, Dawson outlined the current status of the tour operator’s resorts in Cuba as the sun season approaches; while some areas such as Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria were affected more than others by the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the majority of Sunwing’s Cuba hotels are fully operational.

“We want to reassure people that places like Holguin are operating at 100 per cent,” Dawson said. “We have passengers who have been to Holguin and Varadero and are reporting that everything is good; we’ve surveyed passengers on their way home and those scores are as good or better than pre-hurricane days.”

Currently, all properties in Holguin and Manzanilla are up and running and while properties are also open in Camaguey, flights to the latter destination restart during the first week of November. In addition, “95 per cent” of Sunwing’s Varadero properties are open for visitors, with six hotels temporarily closed for renovations.

Work continues on properties in Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria, Dawson said, where several properties will be coming back online in mid-October. Flights to these destinations will also resume in early November.

Acknowledging “a little uncertainty” amongst travellers regarding the state of the Cayos, Dawson said that agents are encouraged to send clients to Varadero or Holguin if they’re nervous.

Dawson also said that teams of agents from Montreal and Toronto will take part in a pair of FAMs to Cuba next week to see the state of the properties firsthand.

“It’s the best way to do it, he said. “Even though our destination team has been posting pictures on Facebook, there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself.”

While TV news and social media coverage of this year’s hurricane season was dominated with images of destruction from islands including St. Maarten, Barbuda and Dominica, Dawson said it’s important for agents to inform their clients that the majority of the Caribbean is welcoming guests. Similarly, Dawson said that bookings to Mexico dipped slightly following the recent earthquake near Mexico City, despite the fact that majority of the country’s resorts are located far from the quake’s epicentre.

“We need to get the message out to educate clients that the Caribbean hasn’t been destroyed,” he said. “Specific islands have been devastated but the majority of the Caribbean is sitting well and ready for business. It’s down to agents to help and guide their clients.”