Is high-end tourism in Martinique promising? The Article is written by VEILLE TOURISME ANTILLES, Special thanks to Madly SCHENIN-KING for her decisive contribution to our understanding of Martinique tourism and its areas of progress. About forty people gathered on Thursday, July 4, 2019 at the Hotel Simon in Fort-de-France to attend the round-table discussion entitled « Is high-end tourism promising in Martinique? ». The event was organized by the company MAJORINE, which publishes Veille Tourisme Antilles.
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The evening started a little after 6pm with a presentation of the hotel by its director Tidiane Camara.
After a few minutes, the participants went upstairs in small groups to enjoy a tour of the facility by the facility staff.
They were able to discover the restaurant area, the meeting rooms and the apartment located on the 7th floor.
High-end is not luxury
From the beginning, the tone was set with the question: « Is there a difference between high-end and luxury? If so, what is it? ».
On this subject, the three speakers present – Frédérique Dispagne, former director of the Coq Hôtel**** in Paris; Gilles Duplan, manager of La Suite Villa***** in Les Trois-Ilets and Douglas Rapier, manager of Douglas Yacht Services in Le Marin – were unanimous: although they share common characteristics, high-end and luxury are not synonymous.
The terms refer to products and services designed for a clientele with high purchasing power.
Both require a high quality of service, a keen sense of attention and detail, and a certain adaptability on the part of professionals in order to satisfy travelers.
However, while luxury is exceptional, the high-end remains more accessible. A night at La Suite Villa costs about 400€ compared to several thousand euros in the most luxurious hotels in Saint Barths for example.
So Martinique has an upscale but not luxurious tourist offer, but is there a clientele for these products?
Few metrics exist. To our knowledge, there is no specific study on this segment in Martinique.
It is known that travelers visiting the island have an average monthly income per household between 2100 and 6000€.
However, these figures could hide disparities since Douglas Rapier’s company maintains boats with a value ranging from 150,000 to several million euros.
Attracting and retaining affluent customers: thinking about the entire tourism value chain
The speakers at this roundtable on high-end tourism stressed the need for Martinique to strengthen its reputation and image internationally.
Travellers choose a vacation destination before deciding on a hotel, no matter how well ranked it may be. «
The attractiveness of Martinique is the first filter, » said Frédérique Dispagne. « A broker explained to me that his client, a yacht owner, wanted to be parked in Martinique, » explained Douglas Rapier, « but the client did not know where the island was ».
The role of the bodies in charge of promoting the destination is therefore fundamental.
Once captured, it is also necessary to work on the entire value chain.
More simply: make sure that each service is at the same level as the previous one and that all the conditions are met so that the tourist is satisfied and spends.
This is why, when designing the program for this conference, we felt it was appropriate to invite representatives from different sectors: accommodation, concierge services*, and ancillary services.
Others could also have been included: transportation, recreation or catering. « None of the links in the tourism chain should fail, » emphasized Gilles Duplan, « at the hotel, we make a special effort to welcome guests.
Douglas Rapier’s experience also proved interesting since a large majority of his clients come to Martinique to refuel but do not stay more than a few hours on site (when they disembark!).
According to the yacht specialist, the reason for this is the local nightlife, which is not very lively, and the absence of an emblematic place where the local culture would be highlighted.
Result: the crews would be bored. « They want to see how dominoes are played, eat typical products and party in the evening.
These are all missing steps in the journey of the traveler. One of the participants, Océane Provost, suggested that the professionals should form an association in order to better mark out the tourist’s stay and communicate about the top-of-the-range offer.
Martinique also has an asset according to Douglas Rapier: it is considered safer than other Caribbean islands by travelers.
Human resources management is a challenge
In the tourism development of the destination, training and talent retention are key.
Students tend to leave to pursue more prestigious careers outside local borders.
Professionals are forced to look for resources elsewhere and these sometimes have difficulty adapting. As a result, tourism stakeholders are constantly on the alert.
« The problem is not unique to Martinique, » said Frédérique Dispagne, « the hotel and restaurant industry, in particular, offers harsh working conditions and low wages.
Gilles Duplan of La Suite Villa, hammered that it was necessary to encourage the teams « although we can never do enough », he added teasingly.
When asked by a participant, the director admitted that he regretted not having enough Martinican staff.
However, the picture is not all black and white since, according to Douglas Rapier, boss of Douglas Yacht Services, the island’s skills in boat maintenance and repair are appreciated and recognized by yacht owners, their crews and professionals in the nautical industry. In fact, he is convinced that there are jobs to be created in this field.
The top of the range: a market where you have to make your mark
So, is the top end of the market promising in Martinique? Difficult to answer in an hour and a half, but « we have real potential », answered the speakers.
It’s up to us to be convinced. But it takes work, consistency, the ability to adapt to the demands and of course, a marketing effort. « We have to win the trust of our customers, » smiled Douglas Rapier.
Projects must be encouraged in order to renew the offer, but investors would be cautious. « I personally know several projects that have been abandoned due to administrative delays, » regretted Gilles Duplan.
He himself indicated that seven years went by between the idea of creating La Suite Villa and the reception of the first clients. The evening ended with a moment of networking around a cocktail.
Thanks to all the participants and see you soon!
*Jean-Pascal Pronzola of Ivory Concierge had an unforeseen event and apologized.