|Discover TCI promotes tourism with local advice|
|Friday, 21 May 2010 06:52|
Some say free advice is worth what you pay for it, but one local company is turning its free advice into valuable business opportunities for local partners.
For those planning a vacation, good advice can mean the difference between a memorable and an unenjoyable family holiday. Discover TCI has made it their business to ensure that travelers interested in coming to the Turks and Caicos Islands get sound advice that will lead to a positive vacation experience. Ultimately, those vacationers are likely to return or recommend the TCI to family and friends.
Since January 2009, Discover TCI has been operating a multi-faceted reservation and booking service that includes live personal advice from staff actually based in the Grace Bay area where the majority of holiday guests stay.
In today’s world, potential travelers are bombarded with options both online and off throughout their fact-finding mission before booking vacation travel.
“We are one of many Web sites and travel services, but the one key way we differentiate ourselves is through the local knowledge and service level our customers receive,” says Mike Sottak, president of Wired Island, who started the Discover TCI service.
Discover TCI offers customers full-service travel planning through a Web site, live chat and a reservations call center. “We thought the Web would be the most popular channel for reservations,” Sottak explained, “but we found we closed more sales via human interaction.
“People still tend to shop online but buy off line, especially in a destination they are not familiar with. We help them comfortable with the destination first, then try to find the best options for them.”
Customers who call the Discover TCI telephone hotline are greeted by a friendly, well-informed representative who can answer all their questions about the destination, which airlines fly from which cities, all the way through to the best spot for a quiet beach picnic.
Agents are thoroughly informed on the properties they represent because they have stayed at them. That also goes for restaurants they recommend and tours they book. It is difficult to get this level of information about the destination from anyone who is not locally based, says Sottak, who also believes they are offering the type of personalized service which matches the expectations of tourists considering a luxury destination such as TCI.
With more than 30 hotels and 50 villas in its system, Discover TCI is able to offer customers everything from moderately priced options like Grace Bay Suites and Caribbean Paradise Inn to ultra luxury at Parrot Cay or Amanyara — and everything in between.
Discover TCI not only provides hotel reservations but also gives advice on tours and restaurants. “Our service is benefiting the whole destination,” Sottak explained.
Sottak and partner Val Kalliecharan are also using their vast marketing and hospitality experience to help promote the TCI as a destination along with its local partners.
Kalliecharan, who has a seasoned background in hospitality marketing and managing centralized reservation operations, says they are able to layer their experience over the information given to help create marketing promotions for the resorts and local tour operators that help to bring interest to the destination.
“We speak to hundreds of interested tourists each week,” which Kalliecharan says allows them to collect a great deal of useful feedback they can pass on to their resort clients. “We see immediate reaction to marketing and PR campaigns, which is very valuable for local resorts who do not have big marketing budgets like many of the larger chains they are competing with in other Caribbean destinations.”
Discover TCI also greatly promotes the destination and their services through advertising, e-mail marketing, search engine optimisation and contests that they run on their own site.
“In many case we have to sell the destination first,” Kalliecharan said. “We know we are up against much larger competitors in the region, so we need to be more creative in the current market to get people’s attention.”
The service, which covers most of Providenciales as well as North Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay, has started its own Travel Rewards Program, giving away extras based on the amount a customer spends on their vacation through their services, helping to inspire vacationers as well as promoting local businesses.
“It is a competitive space, and you are vying for people’s hard earned vacation dollars,” he said.
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