As the largest tropical paradise in the Caribbean and home to fascinating history and people, Cuba is a destination like no other. From Havana’s old-school charm to Varadero’s idyllic beaches, Cuba’s unique and magical scenery can be found at every corner and enchants all travelers that set foot on the island. Once the economic crisis of the 1990s began, also known as the Special Period, Cuba embarked on a major program to bolster the tourism industry. Due to the continued popularity from international travelers, particularly European and South Americans, Cuba’s tourism industry continued to expand. Following President Obama’s ease on the U.S. - Cuba travel ban, American travel interest to the island nation increased. Additionally, it propelled an important shift for Cuba’s tourism industry because of its close proximity to the U.S. and its allure due to its “closed doors” policy in the past half a century.
In May 2017, Expedia Group, one of world's largest travel platforms, with an extensive brand portfolio that includes some of the world’s most trusted online travel brands, announced that it would allow travelers to book hotels through its online travel brands in the island destination all in compliance with Cuba travel regulations. While knocking down barriers to travel, enabling travelers to book Cuban hotels through Expedia Group’s online travel brands began to open new possibilities for Caribbean travel and continues to do so. Beyond enabling travel, Expedia Group works closely with lodging partners throughout the Caribbean and the world to ensure that they thrive using tailored strategies, insightful data and powerful technology tools. Enabling travelers to book Cuban hotels through Expedia Group’s online travel brands was an obvious choice as the destination has been experiencing traveler growth - in 2017 alone, Cuba received 4.7 million visitors and is the second most visited destination in the Caribbean following the Dominican Republic, per Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism.
The Caribbean’s fastest growing hotel chain, Blue Diamond Resorts, boasts a portfolio of 18 hotels in Cuba alone spread among five locations: Havana, Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco and Holguin. The brand’s biggest differentiator is that they tailor their offering per each market in which they operate. Their approach in Cuba? Adapt each resort to each culture-rich destination and provide unique vacation experiences. Expedia Group and Blue Diamond Resorts have a long-standing collaboration and Blue Diamond rooms were one of the first to become bookable on Expedia Group’s online travel brands after Expedia Group enabled bookings for Cuban hotels. As travel policies to Cuba have varied through the years, Blue Diamond and Expedia Group work closely together to accomplish mutual goals in a very distinctive market landscape.
During their first year of the collaboration, Blue Diamond worked with Expedia Group on several strategies that have shown great results. Moreover, the hotel chain has taken full advantage of Expedia Group’s expertise and technology solutions to get the most out of the collaboration. This includes a wide variety of promotional activities such as Member’s Only, Daily and Mobile Deals, which are available only through Expedia Group’s online travel brands. Through proactively embracing these strategies the rooms booked through Expedia Group’s online travel brands, are a notable percentage of Blue Diamond’s daily sales in Cuba. Another initiative Blue Diamond has rolled out with Expedia Group’s assistance is value-added promotions, or additional incentives to those travelers who booked via Expedia Group’s online travel brands, such as complimentary breakfast and wi-fi. Through initiatives like these, Blue Diamond has been able to stand out and convert travel interest into hotel bookings for their Cuban properties.
“Working and succeeding in a complex market like Cuba requires constant communication, creativity and flexibility due to the challenges faced,” said Verónica Cassano, Area Manager for Expedia Group in the Caribbean. “We recognize that our collaboration with Blue Diamond and their team has been one of mutual learning with an openness to continue to do so that has been what has brought growth success in Cuba for both parties,” added Veronica.
Results have been consistently positive for Blue Diamond, particularly in 2018. Their success has been so significant that Blue Diamond now applies similar strategies to other properties in various destinations.
“The benefits have been amazing, nowadays our hotels have more visibility around the word, and due to this exposure, our sales have increased for all our properties. The Expedia Group is really proactive and has provided us with the tools to maximize our efforts in a destination that certainly needs it,” said Jose Angel Zarate, Online Sales Cuba, Blue Diamond Resorts.
As a leading global travel platform, Expedia Group is expert in connecting hotels with demand from around the world. While establishing trustworthy and mutually beneficial relationships, and driving value for Expedia Group’s lodging partners, Expedia Group broadens the exposure that its lodging partners receive and helps them do better business.