Pleasant Expands Caribbean Line

Just-launched program will include Dominican Republic properties in early 2003

By: Kevin Brass

Fresh from launching its first Caribbean offerings in November, Pleasant Holidays is already looking to expand.

The Westlake Village, Calif.-based wholesaler expects to add the Dominican Republic in the first quarter of 2003, according to Bob Froio, vice president of product development.

In November, Pleasant started selling trips to 70 properties in six destinations Jamaica, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Grand Cayman, St. Lucia and the Bahamas in its inaugural Caribbean season.

After shying away from the market, Pleasant is now going in with all its muscle.

“We had investigated going into the Caribbean several years ago,” Froio said. “So we had already done our homework.”

Pleasant’s air partners include Air Jamaica, Delta, United, US Airways and the recently added American, which will offer flights from gateways west of Chicago.

On the ground, Pleasant is representing a broad mix of properties, ranging from luxury resorts to mid-priced hotels.

For example, on Grand Cayman, the offerings include the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort & Villas and the Westin Casuarino Resort & Spa, as well as Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn properties. The offerings are also diverse on St. Lucia, where the list includes the Royal St. Lucian, the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort and the Treasure Island Resort.

Pleasant is working with 31 hotels and resorts on Jamaica, featuring Sandals and Beaches all-inclusive properties.

In Puerto Rico, Pleasant is booking such facilities as The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino, the Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino, Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club, the Embassy Suites Dorado and the Park Plaza Normandie Hotel.

“They’re not just going upscale,” said Yolanda Figueroa, West Coast regional director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Like the other destinations included in the effort, Puerto Rico will be cooperating with Pleasant on advertising and marketing support, Figueroa said.

In fact, many Caribbean destinations are looking to establish a stronger West Coast presence.

“They [Pleasant] are a perfect partner,’ said Marcial F. Ibarra, director of North America for the Aruba Tourism Authority. Pleasant Holidays is working with 10 properties in Aruba, including the Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino and the all-inclusive Divi Aruba Beach Resort.

“If they can do for the Caribbean half of what they did for Hawaii, we’d be very happy,” Ibarra said.

So far, Jamaica and the Bahamas have generated the most interest, but St. Lucia has been a “pleasant surprise,” Froio said. Buzz over the new Sandals Grande St. Lucian, which Sandals acquired from Hyatt and reopened earlier this year, is helping drive interest in St. Lucia, Froio added.