April 25, 2003 - 13,000+ subscribers and growing!
  • Educating to sell the DR
  • Elyse Elkins on the DR
  • AA on the way out?
  • Jetblue on the way in?
Educating to sell the DR
Magda de la Torre, North American director for the Ministry of Tourism, says that 2,065 US- and Canada-based travel agents successfully completed the first Dominican Republic Travel Experts seminars-in-print program. The program to certify travel agents on selling the Dominican Republic was carried in publications in Recommend, Travel Agent and Travel Weekly magazines. The participants received educational credits from the Institute of Certified Travel Agents after completing the eight-month course. 
Of the participating travel specialists, 25 won all-inclusive “Here, I Feel Free” vacations in the Dominican Republic to continue their training on-site. Ten seminars on selling Dominican holidays from May to December 2002 were held, at which each attendee received promotional print material on Dominican destinations and filled out questionnaires based on its content to receive their certification . 
For the Travel Weekly promotion, the country received the prestigious bronze award from the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) for trade advertising, a recognition of innovation in travel marketing. The award was presented at the 22nd annual Atlas Awards gala in New York City on 1 April 2003. 
The Ministry of Tourism invested US$500,000 in the programs to prepare the travel industry professionals and make the new promotional material available. As part of its program to further US travel agents’ knowledge of the Dominican Republic, De la Torre said that the next step is to coordinate more familiarization trips so the agents can continue their education.
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Elyse Elkins on the DR
Elyse Elkins has been a friend of the Dominican Republic since the early 80s, when she assisted current Tourism Minister Rafael Suberví in his first term as head of the Dominican tourism department. Despite making inroads and receiving many promotions at Travel Impressions tour company, with its 24,000 travel agencies, Elkins has kept in close touch with the DR since then, of her own volition. In a quick interview during her stay for the DATE conference in Punta Cana-Bavaro, Elkins, as the current director of Caribbean product development for Travel Impressions, feels that even better days are ahead for the island. 
When asked specifically about how Punta Cana is evolving, she explained that the area got its start by attracting the tour operators with substantially lower rates. Next came the charter flights, followed by the arrival of the scheduled airlines. Elkins says that now is the time to reach out and diversify the tourism product, by offering options outside of the all-inclusive vacations. Elkins highlighted that the DR is ripe to develop the room-only hotel plans, where tourists have a greater selection of where they will dine and spend their time. “We need more sectors,” she says, pointing out that many US vacationers prefer non-all-inclusive properties and that they would be willing to pay more for a wider range of services. 
Elkins is optimistic that the advent of major US chains (Superclubs, Hilton, and then Westin and Starwood in the future) will further enhance the Dominican tourism product. Soon, she says, the DR will begin receiving thousands of patrons of the Superclubs in Jamaica. She expects exuberant word-of-mouth of the Dominican Superclubs to spread when their first guests return home from their Dominican vacations. 
When asked about where services could be improved, she said the language training of the staff should be stepped up. She also feels that the Punta Cana area could improve its shopping facilities.
AA on the way out?
American Airlines reports dated 24 April show a first-quarter net loss of US$1.04 billion. This compares with a net loss of US$1.56 billion in the same period of 2002. The most recent quarterly results follow a $3.5 billion loss in 2002 for AA, which lies teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Describing the first-quarter results as dreadful, Chief Executive Don Carty is very bleak about the airline’s future. "We are beset on all sides by a struggling economy, the continued uncertainties regarding hostilities in the Middle East, concerns regarding the SARS outbreak, fuel prices that are significantly higher than they were a year ago, and fare levels that are at 30-year lows. All told, it's a perilous climate and our success is far from assured," he says in an official statement.
American Airlines is the dominant airline in the Caribbean and for the Dominican Republic.
Jetblue on the way in?
On a positive note, airline industry reports are focusing on the continued success of the US‘s newest low-fare airline, JetBlue. The discount airline earned US$15.2 million in its first quarter, compared to earnings of US$11.1 million in the same quarter period one year ago. These gains are despite having had to absorb increased fuel and expansion costs. Airline news sources indicate that JetBlue is going ahead with its plans to add two new Airbuses to its 50-plane fleet by the end of the year. 
Factors leading to the success of the airline are its technological innovations as the first US airline to introduce “paperless cockpit” flight technology and the only one to have 100% of ticket sales transacted electronically, with a virtual reservations center model that has yielded improved service and increased profit margins. JetBlue was founded by David Neeleman, formerly of Southwest Airlines. Neeleman launched JetBlue in February 2000 and it remains the first and only US start-up airline to launch with more than US$100 million in capital. This enabled the company to offer travelers such comforts as plush leather seats and free 24-channel satellite television at every seat right from the start. Today, after three years in operation, the airline offers in-flight yoga sessions and proudly boasts that it ranks first among US airlines in on-time arrivals. 
DR1 sources say that JetBlue executives are considering the Dominican Republic as a future destination. The airline already flies to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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