by Brian Major
Last updated: 8:00 AM ET, Tue August 13, 2019
Top executives from Playa Hotels & Resorts met in New York this past week with key officials from high-profile travel agency groups for a roundtable discussion focused on strategies to reverse negative consumer impressions of Dominican Republic vacationing following the deaths this summer of American travelers staying at resorts in the country.
The gathering brought together Top Playa officials, led by Kevin Froemming, chief commercial officer, Howard Tannenbaum, senior vice president of sales and Andrea Wright, senior director of sales, with key travel agency partners including Mitch Toren of TripGuy Travel, Sarah Kline of Time to Travel, Tom Varghese of Travel Tom, Susan Peavey of Susan Peavey Travel, Inc., Jennifer Doncsecz and Bob Deobil of VIP Vacations, Grace Bonaguro of Landmark Destination Weddings, Jennifer Byrne of Tropic Travelers, Kim Goldstein of Journeys, Inc., Paul and Sally Jane Smith of TravelSmiths and Tammy Dascoli of Glorious Getaways Travel.
Mark Murphy, travAllianceMedia's CEO, who moderated the roundtable discussion, said the aim of the gathering was "to discuss ways Playa officials, travel agents and travAllianceMedia can support the Dominican Republic from the perspective of correcting disinformation and activating tools travel advisors can use to share good stories about travel to the country.
"We know we can't rely on the media to focus on good news," said Murphy. "But with Playa bringing hundreds of agents to the Dominican Republic in the next few weeks and months, travel agents can leverage Instagram stories and Facebook Live posts to show the destination is safe and enjoyable. It's about activating the tools they have to create positive impressions."
"I think the mainstream media has really poisoned the views of travelers to the Dominican Republic," said Jennifer Doncsecz of VIP Vacations. "So this roundtable was about discussing how travel advisors can offer facts about the Dominican Republic and use social media strategies and change the narrative to provide facts when talking to consumers."
Added Doncsecz, "I also think that Playa Resorts is taking a really big step in hearing what travel advisors suggest to attract business and brainstorm ideas to generate interest in their Dominican resorts."
Froemming said last week's event, held at New York's Nasdaq MarketSite, also highlighted Playa's commitment to the Dominican Republic. Playa will open the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana resorts in Punta Cana in November and will also re-launch the Hilton La Romana family resort in December.
"The level of excitement during our recent Nasdaq event was off-the-chart as we previewed our offering in the Dominican Republic," Froemming said. "Our travel trade partners understand the advantage of legendary brands, such as Hilton or Hyatt, when recommending a Playa Resort.
He added, "Across Mexico and Jamaica, our trusted brand formula has proven very successful and our Dominican Republic properties represent some of our very best."
None of the reported incidents occurred at Playa properties. A company official said that Playa plans to host similar travel agent gatherings over the next few months "to drive business into the Dominican Republic."
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