Booking a trip that requires deciding on accommodations is never as easy as they make it look on television. Just click and go is make-believe. As a traveller you need to make decisions on where to go, how long to stay, and how to get there. It’s never just push a button and you’re there, travellers always have to plan. I know because I’m a traveller sometimes too and I’m also the guy that booked a hotel 3000km away from my intended destination!! So believe me when I say it is never as easy as you think it will be.
I I do my best to keep this in mind when I deal with people making reservations online at the Playa Paraiso en Magante…
That names a mouthful to write so from this point forward I will simply refer to it as The Playa, it means beach in Spanish, just in case you haven’t figured that out yet. The Playa best describes the place, it is literal. Referring to it as Paraiso would be subjective, since paradise is in the eye of the beholder. Calling it PPEM is just stupid because I hate acronyms! So from now on the place will be called The Playa by yours truly. Now back to our regularly scheduled rant.
… “I’ve been on their end.” is what I tell myself. I’ve seen a good flight, and tried to build an entire trip around it. I’ve done the same when I’ve seen a good price on accommodations. It’s how I ended up at The Playa in the first place.
When it comes to trying to sell a Caribbean beach vacation in summer it can be a bit of a challenge. Summer has hit the northern hemisphere and most traveller’s are thinking local beach not far away island beach. So from my point of view until summer starts to wane my market has shrunk considerably. If I want to generate some traffic to The Playa now, it will have to be people from the island. I’m looking for the city dwellers that just want a quick break-away from the crowds and the oppressive summer heat. There’s more than 2 million of them! I only have 3 suites!! This shouldn’t be hard, right?
The problem of increasing occupancy in the low season is the competition. There are more than 400 different resorts, hotels, motels and brothels littered throughout the country. At least half of them have some kind of beach access and amenities that we don’t offer. ‘Cool ocean breezes’ doesn’t have the selling appeal of ‘air-conditioning’ when the temperature is hovering near 40C. The competition for the few traveller’s that are out there is fierce and even filling three cabanas becomes difficult.
The solution to this marketing dilemma is to slash prices. Everybody is doing it. On sale now!! Everything must go!!! So to remain competitive I have the price at The Playa drastically reduced to try to entice some more local bookings during low-season. My internet partners (their term not mine) Booking.com, Expedia group and Air BnB, are excited by the new pricing and have bumped The Playa’s internet visibility in pop-up ads substantially. This has increased the number of views that my listing has received and ultimately reservations I’ve taken online. Overall this is a good thing since last year at this time we had zero occupancy.
The downside to the booking sites is that they blanket advertise around the world and have a ‘book now cancel later’ approach to selling. They encourage travelers to make a reservation with us even if they haven’t made all the arrangements to get to The Playa. “Free cancellation… Cancel at anytime… Not sure of your plans? No problem. You can cancel at no extra charge!” That works fine for the resort that has 600 rooms to sell but when you only have 3 it becomes a bit of a nightmare sometimes, especially if the Booker is not on the island.
The other day I had a woman from New York make three different reservations for three different dates each a week in duration. I happened to be online at the time and I responded to each reservation immediately, confirming each date. I knew she was doing the ‘book now’ thing but until I see what her choice is I have to change all the other calendars (5 in total, takes 20 minutes) to reflect her reservations. Sometimes things aren’t always as they appear so better to be safe just in case and it frequently takes a few days for travellers to get their ducks in a row. But in this case over the next few hours the woman changed the dates once, then cancelled all three reservations. She wasn’t able to find a cheap enough flight!!! Aaaargh!!! I made 15 calendar changes!! A lot of wasted effort for no results is frustrating.
Ginger, The Earl and even Wendy think there should be a charge for cancellations and the option is available but I am opposed to doing that. Traveller’s will think twice about booking if they know they will be charged if they should change their minds. With the amount of both large and small competitors out there the internet searching traveller’s just one click away from finding something else. It would stop us from receiving last-minute reservations also which have proved to be almost 30% of the reservations I get. These are very lucrative.
I received a last-minute reservation late one afternoon and by the time I was able to notify Wendy and change the calendars the guest was pulling into the parking lot. They had made the reservation online as they were driving up the coast, The Playa popped up first when they searched the area on the booking site because of the special “Cool Waves” pricing (I had to call the special something). The next morning Wendy contacted me and informed me that our last-second guests wished to stay another night and they had reserved two cabanas for the following Saturday, planning to return with friends. I think somebody just found a jewel! The Playa also received a ten score on the booking site from the guest. We would not have been included in the guest’s last-minute search without a ‘free cancellation’ policy so being accessible at ‘no risk’ can pay off.
The increase in advertising being done by The Playa’s booking partners has also brought our name up to people that are trying to plan for future travels. Even if they are thinking beyond the ‘Cool Waves’ special they are taking a look at us. This is leading to some late fall bookings that are at the start of the high season, something I also had zero of at this time last year. These reservations are being generated by the airlines that are offering up some very appealing pricing for flights to the Dominican Republic in early winter from some European cities.
All this aggressive advertising being done by airlines and internet booking sites can cause a lot of confusion for the traveller. Especially those that are trying to put together their vacation in pieces on their own without the use of professional (travel agent) assistance. Point, Click and Done doesn’t always work so well for these people. Sometimes traveller’s put together the wrong combination of travel and accommodations.
We had a reservation earlier in the year that was cancelled when the traveller realized they were travelling to Dominica not the Dominican Republic. They were quite apologetic about their error and even lamented how devastated they were that they wouldn’t be staying at The Playa. No… devastated would have been landing on the small island of Dominica without a place to stay! It is the worst thing that can happen after a long day of travel! Not Dominica but no accommodations and they were travelling with a toddler!! These travellers were fortunate that they caught their error it doesn’t always happen, trust me I know.
Disaster for the self-booking traveller is always just one ‘book-now and save’ click away. As the person on the receiving end of people’s travel decisions I must be ever vigilant about looking for any warning signs that something is amiss. The ‘book now, cancel later’ traveller is easy to spot but the bad-decision traveller is much trickier.
My job in the Canadian branch of The Playa is to take the reservation, confirm it and then relay the information to Wendy. I do this in numerous languages using google translate. I also answer any questions or requests that are made during the booking. Then send out reminder’s to all concerned a week prior to arrival. I also watch for red flags.
I received a reservation for two weeks at the beginning of November just outside the ‘Cool Waves’ expiry. The woman was from the Scandinavian region of Europe and with her reservation also came with a request. The following is a conversation that took place over two weeks between her and I. Keep in mind that this is all being done through a translator so it may get hard to decipher the intended meaning. Read it twice, it’s what I have to do.
Original booking request:
(traveller) Want transportation from and to the airport.
I don’t smoke.
(“I don’t smoke” Huge red flag!! This is the Dominican Republic the last legal haven for smokers!!)
(Me) Buenos dias,
This is confirmation of your reservation for Nov 2-15 (13 nights) 1 cabana, 1 guest.
Your airport pick-up will be arranged once we receive your flight information. The rates vary dependant on your point of entry. You can view them on our website paraisoenmagante.com. The cost can be added to your room cost or paid directly to the driver, which ever you prefer.
Due to the length of your reservation the cost for the cabana will be reduced to $845 for the length of your stay.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you that all our cabanas have all permitted smoking at one time or another, usually guests smoke on the cabana deck . The rooms are aired out and fresh towels and linens are supplied but we do not have a unit that has been smoke free. I tell you this because I know some people are very sensitive to even the smallest amount of smoke odour and I would not want you to feel deceived and be unhappy with your choice to stay with us. We have not received any complaints about it to date but I wished to be forthcoming.
Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us or visit are website.
Thank you again for your reservation and we look forward to your visit.
(Yes, I know part of the job is to encourage people to stay at The Playa but honestly this had disaster written all over it. It’s one thing to tick the box that says “smoking or non-smoking” on the reservation form but another to state it in a message. I waited two weeks for the reservation to be cancelled.)
(traveller) Dear Shane.
I fly with Air France from Paris to Aeropuerto Punta Cana Terminal B. The flight arrives…
I would like to pay the trip to the hotel.
I look forward to.
Should I contact you a few days before I arrive to be sure of our agreement?
(okay obviously being smoke free is not an issue but does this person have any idea what the problem is between her flight and reservation at The Playa! You can’t pick an airport any further away from where we are without being on a different island!! This person needs a solid push in the right direction!!)
(Me) Buenos dias,
Thank you for the information. I am currently looking into making the arrangements. Punta Cana is a 4 hour drive from our location so I need to find out what our driver, Berto, will charge for the round trip. Once I find out I will contact you with the additional costs.
(traveler) Dear Shane.
I did not realize it was so far, so when I do, I will delete the booking. I’m sorry to have been in trouble. Sincerely
(Yay!! An inevitable crisis averted. An eight hour flight plus airport wait time, followed by a four hour drive in darkness does not make for a happy traveller. A unhappy guest is worse than a no-show the way I see it. Guests leave reviews that other potential guests read and I don’t care how laid back a guest might be about travelling they will find fault in The Playa just because they made a stupid mistake. The island is called Espanol because there are two countries on the land mass. It’s the second largest island in the Caribbean! Not everything is just down the street!! Don’t blame us because you didn’t check Google maps!! But they will.)
(Me) Buenos noches,
I understand completely. It is a long drive after a long flight to get to us. The closest airport to us is Puerto Plata, about an hour away. Being on a secluded beach has its downside.
There are many nice resorts in Punta Cana and Bavaro that are right in the area. If you do not wish to stay at a resort you could check out Home Away to find a condo to rent in Bavaro. It is a very pretty area.
I hope you can find something to your satisfaction.
If there is anything I can do to help please feel free to contact me.
(That my loyal reader is Grade ‘A’, numero uno, customer service! I felt my response was professional yet personal. I think I showed the right amount of regret at the cancellation and concern for the travellers well-being by offering assistance. I did the right thing because asking her why she hadn’t looked on a map in the first place would have been rude.)
Thank you for your incredibly sweet way to be on.
I think your place looks amazing. but I have purchased the flight ticket so it’s too late to change it.
I have now found another place to live while visiting your country.
(A little good karma never hurts. You never know where this will go.)
From: The Playa Paraiso en Magante
Re: Cancellation confirmation
Your booking Cabana Gri Gri for: November 2, 2018 – November 14, 2018
has been cancelled.
We are sorry that you will not be paying us a visit on your trip. We
hope you will consider us again in the future.
It is never just point… click… done.