Now that we've entered July, the heat of summer seems to be upon us. Happy Canada Day or Independence Day, depending on which celebratory date you may feel an affinity for, if either. Perhaps I should just say Happy July!
Does the heat of July remind you of anything? If you said "Cuba," we're on the same wavelength! My mind has been full of Cuba more than usual of late because I've been talking to some Sunwing executives about Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, which is serviced solely by Sunwing via the Manzanillo de Cuba airport (MZO). As you may know, both the resort and airport have not been opened since early 2020, at the onset of the COVID pandemic.
A few months ago, a long-time repeat guest of Marea del Portillo spurred me to launch a petition pushing Sunwing (and others) to open this resort. We received a reasonable number of signatures but I didn't feel that was enough. So, when I had the opportunity, I tracked down a few people in person.
As a travel agent, I was the recipient of a mass invitation to an event in late May called "Sunwing Loves Cuba." I jumped on it. And, it was worth the drive to Toronto. I wantonly introduced myself to a woman I'd had an email chat with a couple of years ago about my novel Cuban Kisses, which is set in a fictionalized version of Marea del Portillo. She'd been intrigued and was quite pleased to receive a signed copy of the book, as well as a copy of my petition.
Okay, she may not have been pleased about receiving the petition but I think it's safe to say she wasn't displeased because, later in the evening, she introduced me to an executive from the Cuban Tourist Board. This woman also received a copy of the petition and my "elevator pitch" about the importance of opening the resort. That led to an unexpected turn of events!
|I'm somewhere in that illustrious crowd! (Two points for anyone who can find me.)
We subsequently exchanged a small volley of emails and he called me a second time but, in the end, I was graciously redirected to a couple of other Sunwingers. The upshot is this: Sunwing is committed to flying to MZO this winter BUT there must be enough bookings to make it viable. In other words, if people don't take the requisite leap of faith and book trips to Marea del Portillo, it won't open.
The first Sunwing guy quite candidly told me that, when this destination was made available after travel to Cuba was re-opened, only about six people booked. Yikes! That's plenty for some Cessnas but nowhere near what you'd need to make it feasible for a Boeing 737 to land at MZO. I get it. People are apprehensive, so they don't want to book until the resort is open but, if there aren't enough bookings, the resort will NOT open. It's sort of a Catch-22 situation.
During my conversations with the Sunwing executives, we discussed ways to encourage bookings and promote the resort more effectively, including the need to change some photos on their website. That should happen soon – perhaps by the time you're reading this! To check, click here – https://www.sunwing.ca/en/destinations/cuba/manzanillo-de-cuba/#hotels. (They have already removed the link to a video promoting Manzanillo de Mexico!)
|Sunwing executives Eric, Deana and Dave at the May 24 event in Toronto.
FYI – anyone can take an NJT suitcase! Although humanitarian suitcases are no longer free on Sunwing, when you book a flight/hotel package, you are entitled to a free checked bag. Therefore, I would suggest that, if you book "double accommodation," you and your roommate can pack together, sharing one free suitcase; then, the second free checked bag you two are entitled to could be the NJT suitcase. Keep that in mind as you think about booking!
I'm thinking about booking, so I've been working on getting a group quote. It should have happened by the end of the past week but it seems that my request got caught in the crush leading up to the July holiday weekend. I received some of the prices but not all of them. I'm waiting impatiently for the rest. When I have them all, I'll announce my rates for a group going to Marea del Portillo on Dec. 6 for one or two weeks, departing from Toronto. (It may also be possible to fly out of Montreal, or stay longer than two weeks.)
Meanwhile, if you prefer, you can put your own group together! You can do that by calling the Sunwing groups department or contacting your favorite travel agent. (Don't worry, I won't be upset if it's not me.) In reviewing my conversations with my new friends at Sunwing, it would seem that promoting group bookings may be part of the solution. To get a group rate, you need to have a minimum of 10 people booked. If we have 10 groups of 10, I think we'll be flying! Why not plan a family reunion or a getaway with your pals?
I'm targeting Dec. 6 because, once the resort opens, it will remain open in the new year – hopefully, into April. Sunwing is committed to flying there this winter; let's show them we're committed to going there!
Please note: I fully understand that some people are committed to Marea del Portillo but are simply not be able to book a trip at this time. Don't stress about it! Just do what you can to promote the resort and encourage others. There is power in positive thinking and optimism. The MZO runway is being resurfaced and the road to the resort is next. Let's go home!