Rising Above the Competition: One on One With Carolina Voullieme
Already among the most popular Caribbean destination with North American travelers, Aruba is making a slow but steady climb to the top. Aruba hosted 1.22 million overnight visitors in 2015, a 14.3 percent increase over the country’s record 1.07 million visitors in 2014 and the sixth-highest total among destinations tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Visitors are drawn not only by the island’s numerous natural and man-made attractions but also a wide selection of premium, full-service hotels and resorts designed to serve a broad guest audience. The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has emerged as a standout in this supremely competitive environment.
Under the leadership of Carolina Voullieme, director of sales and marketing, the resort has achieved an average year-round occupancy of 90 percent and leads all Aruba hotels in its category in terms of market share, according to company officials. The resort was recently named eCommerce & Marketing Leader for 2015 in Marriott’s Caribbean and Latin American division.
We spoke with Carolina recently to hear how her property has gained a top spot in ultra-competitive Aruba.
TravelPulse: An average 90 percent occupancy rate is almost unheard of in the hospitality business. How has the Aruba Marriott been able to achieve such strong results in what is a very competitive vacation marketplace in Aruba?
Carolina Voullieme: The key factors that play a role in the success of the Aruba Marriott is, first of all, the strong Marriott brand that is known worldwide for its consistent service, which has been essential to our high guest return rate. Also the Aruba Marriott has excellent sales distribution channels that are very effective for reaching our key audience and plus we are continuously improving our hotel to make sure that our product is in great condition.
TP: Oranjestad has a number of hotel properties that appear to be in the same general category as the Aruba Marriott: large, family friendly resorts. What do you believe most differentiates the Aruba Marriott from other similar properties?
CV: The Aruba Marriott is located oceanfront on the famous Palm Beach, which is a premium location on the island. Additionally our guest rooms are the largest one in the market and all of our guest rooms have balconies. We also offer an adult exclusive floor on the highest floor of our hotel called The Tradewinds Club, where guests can enjoy complimentary F&B servings throughout the day, private check-in, reserved beach area, reserved parking and many more exclusive perks.
TP: How old is the property and what has been done over the years to maintain its appeal among guests?
CV: The property is 20 years old and has undergone a lot of enhancements over the years including recent ones such as renovations of our restaurants, building an outside dining patio for La Vista, added the H2Oasis adults only pool and renovated the lobby with a new modern look and feel and with enhanced technology capabilities.
TP: What type of traveler enjoys an Aruba vacation and how have you tailored the property’s amenities, facilities and services to meet their expectations?
CV: We have different types of traveler depending on the time of the year; couples, families, incentive groups. To meet their expectations our resort offers different activities, dining options, facilities to cater to each of them.
TP: Does the hotel enjoy a high percentage of repeat guests? If so, how have you been able to achieve this?
CV: Our hotel enjoys 46 percent of repeat guests, which we’re able to achieve by providing our guests with consistent service and continuously improving our hotel to make sure that our product is in great condition.
TP: The Aruba Tourism Authority has implemented a number of programs to support travel to the destination. Are Aruba Marriott officials seeing results from these efforts? Can you attribute some of the hotel’s success to effective marketing of the destination?
CV: ATA has been doing a great job bringing tourists to the island, showing an increase year over year. We are continuously working with them to enhance the exposure through partnered press trips and promotions.
TP: What new features should guests expect to see in the coming weeks and months?
CV: We’ve recently made upgrades to the guest rooms which include an enhanced thermostat that works more efficiently and saves energy and new windows and doors that are sun proof and soundproof. Also we just rebranded two of its restaurants with the help of its young Peruvian executive chef Teddy Bouroncle.
As for our upcoming projects, we are working on new additions to food and beverage and are very excited about these, but we keep it as a surprise for our guests visiting the property soon.
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