Travel Weekly reports on CheapCaribbean.com's quick customer service when Dominican Republic resort suddenly closes
Travel Weekly - September 23, 2009 - The 480-room Sun Village Resort and Bungalows in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, was closed without warning by court order on Sept. 19.
More than 550 guests at the all-inclusive resort were stranded, and more guests were scheduled to arrive on prepaid vacation packages.
The U.S. District Court in Miami ordered the resort closed while "financial and management issues are settled," according to a Sept. 18 letter to travel agents and tour operators written in Spanish by Joaquin Duenas, the resort's general manager.
An English version of the letter was not sent until Sept. 20. The resort owners called the delay a "transmission glitch."
Jim Hobbs, CEO of online wholesaler CheapCaribbean.com, had more than 250 clients at the resort at the time it closed.
"I got wind of the closing on Saturday in an email from Turintur, my ground operator in Puerto Plata. He said he'd heard rumblings in town and saw some guests being driven away from the resort in golf carts," he said.
Hobbs took the first flight to Puerto Plata on Sunday, having worked throughout Saturday to secure alternative accommodations for his clients next door at Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort and Spa.
"I picked up some of my arrivals at the airport when I got in. We had not been able to reach all of our clients before they left home," Hobbs said.
When Hobbs arrived at Lifestyle Tropical, more than 200 of his clients had been transferred from Sun Village.
"Not all of them were happy. Their vacations had been interrupted without warning and they had received very little information about what was going on," Hobbs said. "I told them all that I was there to make it right."
He got his clients upgraded to the VIP category at Lifestyle Tropical, which hosted a large party for all guests on Sunday night.
Hobbs told his clients that if they were not happy with the accommodations come Monday, he would move them to the Riu Merengue, the Grand Oasis Marien (formerly the Marien Coral Resort) or the Iberostar Costa Dorada.
CheapCaribbean customers will receive a full credit for the land portion of their Sun Village package, which they can use at any resort they want between April 15 and Dec. 15, 2010.
"I transferred about 100 of my clients by bus to the Oasis on Monday. They'd indicated they wanted to be moved from Lifestyle, and I picked up 27 more arrivals at the airport that day, as well," he said. "When I passed Sun Village, some people were securing the hotel perimeter with yellow police tape."
Spirits among Hobbs' clients were picking up by then. He said a large group of them was planning a reunion party next year at this time.
"I heard some horror stories, however, from guests who were frustrated in having to fend for themselves with little information to go on," Hobbs said.
CheapCaribbean contacted 10 of its travel partners, informing them of the hotel closing and asking them to delete his Sun Village packages from their sites. Partners include Travelzoo, TripAdvisor, ShermansTravel.com, Booking Buddy, Hotwire, Dunhill Vacations, Cheapflights.com, DealBase.com, Kayak and Travelscream.
"They were very appreciative. None of them knew about the hotel closing," Hobbs said.
Source: Gay Nagle Myers, Travel Weekly
CheapCaribbean.com is the leading online resource for travelers interested in vacation deals to the Caribbean and Mexico. Its mission is to be the premier e-commerce beach company by inspiring and fulfilling the dreams of its stakeholders. The CheapCaribbean.com website provides in-depth content on hotel properties and destinations, including authenticated user reviews, exclusive insider tips, as well as beautiful destination photos. The online travel site has grown dramatically since its inception 13 years ago. The site attracts more than 50 million unique visitors a year, resulting in over 1.5 million customers serviced.