Rafael Blanco

Rafael Blanco

Executive Vice-President, Viva Wyndham Resorts
Thomas Simonnet

Thomas Simonnet

General Manager, Accor, Dominican Republic

What are your key target groups?

RAFAEL BLANCO Our firm primarily targets middle-class families. We have a very strong family product in all of our resorts. Viva Wyndham has kids clubs in all of our resorts. Also, the company has very strong animation and sports. This provides the possibility for young couples to come with their children and enjoy their vacations. Guests have the freedom to spend time apart from their children and know that their young ones are being taken care of. That is a very important aspect of our product.

THOMAS SIMONNET Currently, our primary target group is business travelers, meaning we must be close to the center of the city. Business hotels not only focus on business and leisure, but also on individuals. We are not doing all-inclusive hotels; it is not our core business. If in the future we have that opportunity, we will develop this market. But for now, we are not targeting that specific consumer group. We are really targeting the business segment. As a company, we believe in cities, and most of our hotels are downtown. The hotels can be in the city center, or elsewhere in the city, but we are not usually developing in the middle of the countryside or near beaches. Although our primary focus is business customers, the company believes that business travelers desire leisure too. And today the business traveler market in the city of Santo Domingo is as important as ever.

How have you developed your brand in the Dominican Republic?

RB Our firm applied for the Green Globe program and for Crystal in order to maintain quality controls over sanitation and other environmental standards. The company applied for Blue Flag accreditation in order to make sure that we are protecting the beach, which is our main resource, as well as our destination. We participate in the local hotel and tourist associations in all of the destinations that we are present at. We support not only green initiatives, but also local communities. The company has also worked with Indiana University in order to preserve underwater and coral reef life. Two ships have already been sunk in the Dominicus area in order to generate coral reefs. Also, we have created an underwater museum with many artifacts recovered from Spanish galleons that sank in the area 500 years ago.

TS Since 2000 we have been represented by the Mercure brand, which has more than 700 hotels around the world and is very well known. A few years ago, we reorganized our brands. In the process of developing and classifying our different brands, whether four-star or five-star, we realized that we had a certain number of hotels that were truly exceptional. These hotels were difficult to classify in comparison to our other brands. We created the MGallery label for them, and there are about 40 hotels in this collection around the world. We hope to have 50 by the end of 2013.

How has Accor contributed to the development of Santo Domingo's historic Colonial Zone?

TS We have brought in new standards as well as international hotel brands. The Colonial Zone is quite a special place. Another way we contribute is as a member of the Association de Ovando, which is a non-profit group that exclusively promotes the development and the interests of the Colonial Zone. Convinced by the high potential of the destination, we are simply trying to help the city develop. We want to demonstrate that it is possible for a large company like us to run an economic activity on a long-term basis.

What kind of private sector involvement do you envision?

RB The private sector should be involved in the planning process for tourism promotion. We do not want to participate in contracting services; that is an issue for the government. In order to bring a larger number of tourists to the Dominican Republic, we will need to build between 50,000 and 70,000 new hotel rooms. That means that the Dominican Republic needs to attract approximately $1 billion in new investment. This is not an easy task. In order to do this, we have to make the investment profitable compared to what potential investors could earn in Colombia, Panama, or Mexico. A competitive fiscal package is very important in order to obtain this objective.

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