Caribbean hotels and resorts continue to work closely with government officials to relaunch critical tourism activity following the pandemic travel shutdown. Employing a comprehensive entry protocols system, the Turks & Caicos has emerged as a popular option for travelers returning to the region.
The archipelago’s luxury resorts and strong air links to east coast cities have proven a strong draw for vacation-starved visitors. Among the properties reporting rebounding visitor numbers are The Hartling Group properties, highlighted by The Palms Turks and Caicos and The Shore Club resorts on Providenciales’ Grace Bay Beach.
We spoke about the resorts and the territory’s reopening strategies with Karen S. Whitt, vice president of sales and marketing for The Hartling Group, parent firm of The Palms Turks & Caicos and The Shore Club. Whitt is also an executive member of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and served as president of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association from 2008 to 2013.
TravelPulse (TP): What new features will guests who are familiar with previous Palms and Shore Club resorts find today?
Karen S. Whitt (KW): Guests will see new safety protocols and health sanitization throughout both The Palms and The Shore Club. We’ve implemented a “Health Concierge” at each property to be a go-to for guests needing assistance with booking their complimentary COVID tests, or if they have questions in regards to the TCI Assured travel forms.
Additionally, we’re re-thinking privacy and taking it to the next level [with] private transfers to and from the airport, private stand-alone cabanas poolside, private chef or butler at your disposal and underground tunnel transportation to and from the villa properties at The Shore Club. New immunity beverage menus and personal care kits are available in room to encourage wellness in a unique and healthy way.
TP: How has tourism to the Turks and Caicos progressed this year following the pandemic, and how has the resort been able to cultivate group business in this environment?
KW: Tourism to Turks and Caicos improved significantly following the distribution of [vaccines]. We immediately saw an uptick of new and returning travelers seeking a very much-needed vacation post pandemic, [including] families, couples, solo travelers, and groups, especially those making up for missed milestones or delayed get-togethers.
TP: How will the resumption of events impact visitor arrivals to the Turks and Caicos?
KW: We hope the resumption of events on the island will continue to encourage travelers to pack their bags and join us. The reopening of the island was exciting, while the rebuilding of the destination requires a joint approach. We as an island community, including our hotels, restaurants, and venues, are putting a huge emphasis on safe and healthy travel.
We need travelers to also do their part by following guidelines provided by the CDC to keep the island and its employees healthy so we can bring these events to life most efficiently. With planning for the TCI International Film Festival underway, we’re excited and hopeful this will be the first public event post COVID we can provide an exciting and aspirational experience to learn about our culture[and] history.
TP: The Caribbean as a region and the Turks & Caicos as a destination both seem to have managed the COVID-19 outbreak relatively well. What measures do you think have helped the territory successfully address the pandemic to date?
KW: The Caribbean, specifically TCI, took huge steps to regulate border travel in order to significantly decrease the number of rising cases. Once we reopened the border, we knew we had to implement an important and effective system to maintain our low numbers — which became our TCI Assured program.
TCI Assured is an online portal where all international travelers will be required to obtain certification before traveling to the Turks and Caicos. TCI Assured is also the name for the mandatory quality assurance scheme for hotels, villas, restaurants, and transportation vehicles. All businesses must be TCI Assured and display the certification sticker.
TP: How did the Hartling Group protect tourism workers while maintaining visitor arrivals following the reopening to travel in 2020?
KW: Following the border reopening to travelers, The Hartling Group established several steps and initiatives to protect our team and help others along the way. We launched the “Staples Mission,” where we worked in conjunction with other partners on the island to provide food and basic essentials to staff impacted by the current suspension of hospitality services.
We were able to provide care packages including 20 to 30 essential items to help with basic needs and provide comfort in the time of despair and simply keep food on the table to feed families in need. As we continued to diligently stay informed and educated on the evolution of the pandemic, we worked to encourage everyone to adhere to the guidance of health professionals and remained dedicated to supporting the team.