Published On: Mon, Jul 31st, 2017

These Destinations and Brands Have Made Great Strides

 PHOTO: Negril, Jamaica is among locales that have made great strides. (photo via Flickr/M_Hartman Photography)

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” That old advertising slogan can also be applied to many destinations, resorts, hotels and other tourism businesses that might have stumbled on the way to their current successes. 

TravelPulse asked travel agents to tell us about the travel entities that they think have made great strides in the industry. 


Since 1992, Tom Carr of Preferred Vacations in Georgetown, Kentucky, has been traveling to Jamaica and he remembers when it was once dubbed “the murder capital of the world.” It also had other major issues. 

“The island’s infrastructure needed major investment,” said Carr. “Back in the 1990s, if you went to Negril, the road was horrendous. It was so bad that Air Jamaica Express operated several daily flights over to Negril, in addition to the smaller companies, such as Tim Air and Jamaica AirLink, which were flourishing as a result.”

He noted that the road to Ocho Rios was narrow and took forever and that the Sangster International Airport was in shambles. 

Today, it’s quite obvious that the situation is much improved and Jamaica has become a very popular tourist spot. 

“Through increased police patrols and anti-gang efforts, the country has stemmed the violence, and I no longer hear the objections from customers when Jamaica is mentioned as a possible destination for their vacations,” said Carr. 

Carr said that new highways connecting Negril, Kingston and Ocho Rios have made a big difference in the destination. 

“Jamaica privatized the airport leading to massive improvement,” Carr added.

Carr was always told that Jamaica needed to fear the opening of Cuba to U.S. citizens. 

“Around 2001, a hotelier told me that Jamaica didn’t have the hotel inventory and quality to compete and that nothing was being done to prepare for it,” he said. “Then came the ‘Spanish Invasion.’” 

Carr noted that Jamaica’s hotel product needed a refresh or an influx of new blood. With the entry of major Spanish chains like RIU, Iberostar and Palladium, Jamaica became a hot destination. 

“That drove American and Mexican chains to acquire properties and land for new builds. The investment has put thousands of new rooms into the island’s inventory and more are coming,” he said.

Playa Hotels & Resorts

To Tom Karnes, president of LovinAway, thinks that Playa Hotels & Resorts has been a standout over the years. 

“Playa Resorts has really shaken things up in the resort/hotel industry,” said Karnes. “Taking their company public and getting an infusion of $500 million in capital will allow them to grow their all-inclusive brands of Hyatt Ziva and Zilara and their new brand of Panama Jack Resorts. It will be fun to watch what they accomplish.” 
Margie Lenau of Wonderland Family Vacations in Grand Rapids, Michigan thinks that, in general, cruise lines have come a long way, especially when it comes to family travel. 

“From Dreamworks on Royal Caribbean to Disney Cruise Line’s Marvel Day at Sea or Star Wars Day at Sea, there is a shift that I can see,” said Lenau. “Cruises used to be thought of as adults having drinks on deck and relaxing, but now the shows and activities have transformed cruising to a new level.”

Sandals Resorts International

Terese M Ternullo is a Certified Sandals Specialist and admires the growth and success that the company has had. 

“Sandals and Beaches Resorts began in 1981 with one rundown resort in Montego Bay,” said Ternullo. “[Gordon (Butch) Stewart] had a vision to create a resort for couples only and to be all-inclusive. Everyone thought he was crazy. Today, Sandals Resorts International consists of 15 (soon to be 17) Sandals Resorts (for couples only), three Beaches Resorts (for everyone), Grand Pineapple Negril (budget all-inclusive), the private Bahamian Island of Fowl Cay (with five villas), and Unique Villas of Jamaica (three villas).”

READ MORE: Award-Winning Travel Agent Has Stood the Test of Time

Ternullo has always admired and respected Stewart’s passion, tenacity and drive. 

“He and his friend Sir Richard Branson, have been my inspiration in the travel industry,” she said. “I can only aspire to be a fraction as successful as him. For one man, one Caribbean family, to have such a huge impact on Caribbean tourism, is incredible. Thousands of islanders are employed by Sandals, are helped by the philanthropic arm, created by Stewart’s son, Adam, and are educated because of the love [he] has for the Caribbean.”

River Barging

Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways, said that the surging interest in experiential travel is driving the growth of many sectors of the travel industry. 

“But it is proving especially relevant to hotel barging, where vacations are all about becoming immersed in the local history, culture and culinary traditions of the destination,” he said. 

“European Waterways’ own history mirrors the growth of hotel barging,” Banks added. 
We started life as a small, self-drive boat rental business alongside a canal in Burgundy, France and grew to be one of Europe’s most iconic success stories and an integral part of its culture.”
Since their founding, they have a fleet of 17 vessels cruising in 9 countries. “People from all over the world want something more than a view from the portal of a ship or the window of a bus, whether traveling on their own or as a family or small group,” said Banks. 

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