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BRIGHT SPOTS As the travel industry dares to imagine a brighter tomorrow, we suggest destinations gearing up for 2021 how to sell...

Japan Canada Morocco


Saudi Arabia

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Discover why Seychelles

Photo: Torsten Dickmann

Beaches are Voted the World’s Finest.

Seychelles Tourist Office Ground Floor / 132 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SA t: + 44 (0) 207 730 0700 |

To become a Seychelles expert, visit

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Contents /

All around the world


inside this issue Trend-watching 08 Post-Covid travel trends: What will travel look like in 2021? 12 Four-sight: We check-in with our agent columnists MOROCCO




Globe-hopping 14 UK holidays: Why agents need to brush up on their home turf 17 Japan: Culture, cuisine and the highest standards of health and hygiene 22 Six of the best: Sustainable South Africa 24 My journey: AlUla, Saudi Arabia 26 How to sell: Poland



Be inspired 28 Philippines: What visitors can expect once borders reopen 31 How to sell: Villa holidays 32 Winter sun: Where's still hot this season 34 My journey: Morocco

Trade talk





36 The review: Industry update plus RT-LAMP test interview 38 LATA show review: A round-up of news from Latin America's London virtual trade show

Selling Canada Post Covid Trends




39-51 Canada Featuring...Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, Alberta, QuĂŠbec and more

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4 / Welcome


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Bev Fearis & Julie Baxter

JOURNALISTS Jessica Pook, & April Waterston

WRITERS Laura Gelder, Debbie Ward & Stuart Forster

PUBLISHING PUBLISHERS Steve Thompson Sally Parker




CEO Martin Steady

DESIGN & PRODUCTION DESIGNERS Caitlan Francis & Louisa Horton




Please note that Selling Travel, owned and published by BMI Publishing Ltd., is not connected in any way to Selling Travel e-magazine published by SMP Training Co. and based in British Columbia, Canada. The latter online publication focuses exclusively on sales skills and all aspects of professional selling within the travel and tourism sectors. To benefit from this travel industry sales training resource visit

November/ December

Agents need help


elcome back to us! We are delighted to bring you this print issue of Selling Travel. I would like to thank all those readers who got in touch to compliment us on our digital content over these past months, specifically our many newsletters and industry and destination video interviews (you can find these at I hope viewers found them both interesting and useful. However, first and foremost we are a premium, high-impact publication whose pages are written and designed with one aim in mind – to inspire and encourage travel agents Steve Hartridge EDITOR to sell more holidays. Of course, that once relatively simple interaction and transaction between an agent and their client has been anything but easy this year, as this unique health crisis and its economic ramifications has battered the travel industry. My warmest thoughts go out to all those travel agents who have not made it this far and to those struggling to keep their businesses alive - agents who until March had a thriving and healthy business model that they assumed would sustain their own livelihoods and the jobs of their employees. News in early November of a possible vaccine becoming available from as early as December was rightly hailed as a breakthrough moment, but sadly it will come too late to save many in our industry. Government has been much criticised by the travel trade's lobbying bodies and others, for a lack of financial support and inconsistent policies that have eroded consumer confidence, but travel agents would also have appreciated more understanding from many of their clients too. Sadly, there have been too many stories of even longstanding and loyal clients expecting agents to be more of a miracle worker than a booker of travel. They have demanded instant refunds, posted derogatory comments on social media and in some cases even threatened legal action against their agents - without any appreciation of, or willingness to contemplate, the crushing financial pressures agents themselves have been under. More empathy and respect from both the Government and the man/woman on the street is overdue. We were right and proud to clap and make a noise for NHS workers – travel agents deserve some support and understanding of their own perilous plight.

With this issue Your Guide to Tokyo It is one of the world's most populated cities but there are plenty of ways to see Tokyo while avoiding the crowds. This guide tells you how to sell Japan's capital in a post-Covid world – whatever the season.


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I AM YOUR BEACH I am Gran Canaria. #somuchtolivefor

Discover the full story

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Trend watching

6 / New beginnings

Saudi Arabia

Desert dreaming Saudi Arabia’s new heritage destination AlUla will welcome two new hotels by the end of the year. Located in this ancient sandstone valley will be Ashar Resort by Banyan Tree and Habitas AlUla. The former will have 82 villas, a spa and several gourmet restaurants, while experiential brand Habitas will offer 100 (50 by December) ecofriendly accommodations which blend into the landscape. Read more about AlUla on page 24/25.

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Trend watching New beginnings /



Small city charm Clients looking for smaller cities could be a new trend, which is good news for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, named the best small city in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards. Known for its colourful Colonial Spanish architecture, Allende is also a thriving centre for art. Chiang Mai in Thailand, Monte Carlo and the Maltese capital, Valletta, also made the small city shortlist.

South Africa

All aboard! Imagine spending a night on a train, in a national park, on an historical bridge with stunning river views. Kruger Shalati ­the Train on a Bridge opens in December - 13 historical train carriages turned luxury hotel permanently stationed on the Selati railway bridge at Kruger National Park’s Skukuza Camp. Holding up to 48 guests in 24 rooms, plus seven rooms on land, it affords them the chance to watch wild animals roam below as they sit in the overhanging pool.

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Trend watching

8 / Post-Covid travel trends

Green shoots of


As the travel sector faced up to a second lockdown in November, Debbie Ward took a look at how the pandemic has shaped forward bookings and what a post-Covid-19 world might look like for travel in 2021


t has been the toughest of years for the travel industry, with bookings thwarted by ever-changing quarantine requirements. Demand is returning but lead-in times are extreme, as Premier Holidays’ Director of Sales and Marketing Claire Goffin explains: “bookings are polarised into very late and an awfully long way off!”

Adaptability Flexibility has become all-important, with many operators offering generous

Over-water villas in Bora Bora

date changes to keep clients travelling. Kuoni has updated its own Flex policy to Flex+, enabling some cancellations up to 10 days before departure. It has also introduced video appointments: “These have been hugely popular, particularly for honeymoons when people want more than a voice at the end of the phone,” says Product Director, Claire Ross. Sunvil has made holiday durations more flexible and completed Greek passenger locator forms for clients. Touring specialist Exodus Travels has re-timed and re-routed itineraries to avoid crowded places. Several operators have adapted by offering staycations. Premier pushed its existing UK breaks, with the Isle of Man and Jersey doing well this summer. Abercrombie & Kent curated its British Isles product into a dedicated collection, with self-guided themed itineraries like Taste of Ireland and upgrades involving super cars and driver-guides. The Inspiring Travel Company has taken social distancing to new heights, offering helicopter transfers to UK hotels. Kuoni has seen a ‘steady flow’ of

bookings for staycations, added in partnership with McKinlay Kidd, and even rebooked a Maldives honeymoon as a Scotland road trip. The ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions have necessitated even domestic travel pivots, however. When the ‘rule of six’ was introduced, villa specialist Oliver’s Travels was among those discounting larger UK properties by up to 50%.

What’s been selling? Overseas bookings have, unsurprisingly, fluctuated along with UK quarantine requirements. Exodus’s top seller, the Amalfi coast, held favour in late summer, along with Austria, Greece and Turkey. Greece, Cyprus, Sweden and Sicily sold for Sunvil while travel corridors held, with some clients booking just a week ahead. It also welcomed winter and early spring bookings to Cyprus and Scandinavia. Venice without the crowds proved popular for Kuoni as the city break season kicked off. “There are people who will look at the Thursday quarantine list and call us on Friday and want to travel within days,”

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Trend watching


Post-Covid travel trends /

Milford Sound, New Zealand

says Ross. The operator is directing winter sun seekers to the Caribbean while the region is largely UK quarantine-exempt. It reports a ‘steady stream’ of Antigua and Saint Lucia bookings with ‘strong demand’ for Christmas. Premier Holidays is looking to the Indian Ocean. “Although there are possibilities of Asian destinations opening up, the focus for us is the Seychelles and we’re hopeful that we can secure some more business there,” says Goffin. The Seychelles got corridor status on October 1, though visitors require Covid tests in resort.

2021 and beyond Asia and the Indian Ocean are already booking for 2021 for Premier Holidays, with Thailand and Bali doing particularly well thanks to added-value experiences. “We have introduced lots of new and exciting products, which has certainly helped stimulate interest,” Goffin explains. “Getting 2021 on sale early was key for rebookings from this year as well as new business and we’re looking ahead to 2022 now as well.”

hiking in Jersey

Venice canals during lockdown

Hoi An, Vietnam

deserted beaches in the Seychelles

Sunvil is seeing 2021 holidays to Greece, The Azores and more ‘confirmed on a daily basis’, and has even sold Latin America for 2022. Having a strong repeat clientele has helped. “There is an understanding that our most popular and praised properties are going to be busy in 2021,” adds Rachel Jelley, Sales and Marketing Manager. Canada, the U.S. and Asia are trending for Titan Travel for 2021 while Exodus is noting much ‘information gathering’ for Vietnam, South Africa and Costa Rica for late summer and Autumn 2021. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand and we expect these enquiries to become bookings once there’s greater confidence within the travel industry,” says its UK Agency Sales Manager, Dan Jackson. There’s also evidence of clients making up for 2020 travel disappointments with bigger forward bookings. “Saving and upgrading is very much a thing across the board – people splashing out on a trip-toend-all-trips,” explains Kuoni’s Ross. The operator’s average spend per honeymoon has risen from £7,709 in 2019 to £8,247 in 2021, based on advance bookings so far.

“Kuoni has seen a ‘steady flow’ of bookings for staycations and even rebooked a Maldives honeymoon as a Scotland road trip”

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Trend watching

10 / Post-Covid travel trends

n co


Discover more travel trends at

Scottish highlands

Pico do Areeiro, Madeira

Who’s travelling and how? Those retired or able to work remotely are the keenest current travellers as they’re less affected by quarantine restrictions. Meanwhile, social distancing concerns are driving demand for exclusivity. Exodus sister brand Headwater, a UK and Europe specialist, has seen ‘great growth’ in self-guided trips. “We expect this to continue as Covid has shaped our travel landscape and more people want to travel within their own bubbles,” says Jackson. Sunvil’s Jelley notes: “We’ve seen an increase in clients choosing smaller, community resorts, hiring cars from the airport, opting for increased flexibility and staying for longer. Villas in particular are performing strongly for 2021.” Sunvil clients who previously booked a week are extending to a fortnight and

two weeks has become three. Kuoni has booked some very extended stays, like six months in Barbados, for remote workers, and Classic Collection has promoted large discounts on stays over 21 days, confirming 100 days in Madeira this winter for one lucky client. There’s further good news on spending habits from Premier Holidays: “Luxury is getting more interest, clients wanting villas and island escapes all accessible by one flight. We’ve seen lots of interest in secluded resorts on lesser-known islands and beaches,” says Goffin.

Reassuring customers When it comes to reassuring nervous clients, Kuoni advises agents to highlight in-resort assistance and generous



Adventurous itineraries to Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Bora Bora have drawn interest and the operator has quoted for Australia and New Zealand over next Christmas and New Year. Escorted touring enquiries are also returning for 2022 departures.

Zebra spotting in Botswana

W riter

cancellation terms. Premier has received good engagement for social media posts demonstrating extra safety considerations. Sharing positive client experiences also helps. “We’ve had some excellent feedback from customers who have been on late summer departures. They’ve all said they appreciated the extra measures that have been put in place,” says Exodus’s Jackson. Sunvil has created a Coronavirus Hub on its website and shares experiences peer-to-peer through blogs, newsletters and social media. “Be honest and show empathy, keep abreast of the latest news,” Jelley advises agents. One thing’s for sure, even agents with keen clients are going to have to be quick to adapt for some time, so working closely with suppliers is key. •

DEBBIE WARD Debbie has been a travel journalist for 20 years and has over 65 countries under her belt. Last year her highlight was a holiday in Namibia; this year she explored nearer home, hiking on the South Downs and taking a short break to Newcastle and Whitby. She’s looking forward to dusting off her passport in 2021.

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Trend watching Travel talk /


“We’ve definitely seen an increase in point-to-point bookings and less touring, which is unusual for us” Vishal Patel, Director, Travelpack Like a lot of our travel partners, we’ve struggled to keep up with the ever-changing Government advice. However, there’s an overwhelming feeling of disappointment that testing wasn’t implemented sooner and instead we’ve had to navigate around a dwindling and ever-changing travel corridor list and, as we entered November, another lockdown. I believe It would help our industry if the Government imposed mandatory testing upon return to the UK, which would enable travellers to forgo the 14 day quarantine. Before the latest lockdown our offers were

very much aligned with those destinations which were added to the quarantine-free list each week, with an immediate spike in bookings to places like The Canary Islands and the Maldives. But now we are looking deep into 2021 and 2022.

What’s selling? We’ve definitely seen an increase in pointto-point bookings and less touring, which is unusual for us. As specialists in tailormade holidays we are used to dealing with dynamic packaging, but are instead selling holidays to places like the Maldives and Caribbean islands. Strangely, Dubai is selling well too, which implies that people are happy to take the PCR test, which

will no doubt become the norm when countries start to open gradually. A main priority for clients is knowing that their holiday is protected. Our policy is to only sell where we have a Covid refund policy in place and we try and be as transparent and as flexible as possible. It’s really important to encourage clients to pay the full balance of their holiday as then the booking is subject to travel regulations and qualifies for a full refund if the FCO advice changes. If they don’t pay the full balance then booking conditions apply. We are now finally up to date with refunds after having a huge backlog. Our general policy is between six-eight weeks’ wait time.

“Our focus for 2021 is sustainable travel, millenials and luxury travel” Maria Elena Rossi, Marketing Director, Italian National Tourist Board Italy was put under the microscope in March as the world watched us suffer with some of the highest numbers of Covid-19. But thankfully we are now in our recovery stage, welcoming visitors back to a greener and cleaner country. Seeing our natural world heal has accelerated our sustainability initiatives to ensure a greener future. For example, Milan plans to plant three million trees in the next ten years and Rome is adding more cycling paths. We are also putting more emphasis on outdoor experiences beyond our cities.

As of now, tourism is still almost absent in Italy, which means those lucky enough to experience our cities will escape the usual crowds and have a truly unique experience.

Leading the way Italy had a record year in 2019, with over 430 million overnight stays and we hope to recover this figure by 2023. Although this year has been tough, back in June Italy was the first country in Europe to reopen to tourists so we have had time to adjust our Covid protocols to ensure the safety of our visitors. We also remain optimistic of a winter season, with some ski lifts planning

to operate from December 15. When it comes to trends, we’re hearing the term ‘revenge travel’ a lot, which is essentially applied to those planning a post-pandemic splurge because they have been deprived of travelling in 2020.. We have also shifted our focus from the golden age demographic to targeting millennials as we believe this group will be the first to start travelling again. Finally, we are excited to announce that we will be launching a training programme for agents at the beginning of next year, and are planning a series of fam trips.


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Trend watching

12 / Four-sight

Post-Covid trends Mid-point through the UK’s second lockdown, we asked our agent columnists if there are any discernible future booking trends that are shaping travel

P rotect clients' funds

Next year looking up for book ings

We were buoyed by 80% of clients moving trips to 2021 So far, Covid aside, 2020 has been a lifechanging year for us. In March, we lost my lovely Mum, Penny – proprietor of Southern Cross and my boss for over 10 years. Mum had quietly lived with a form of leukemia for over four years, but on her return from Australia in February she fell very ill and passed away on March 30. She was the linchpin of our family and SCT, and we miss her every day. Alongside Mum being ill, we were madly trying to get customers home from worldwide – all whilst I was heavily pregnant. A month to the day after Mum died, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, River, who is a shining light amidst the turmoil and keeps us smiling! Business-wise, despite closing our Rye office, Dad (Trevor), Liz and I are reopening our Wadhurst office. We haven’t yet made any new bookings as our time has been spent arranging refunds or rebookings, but we did have a few original bookings go ahead to Italy and Malta, which was reassuring. We were also buoyed by 80% of our clients moving holidays to 2021. Having a small baby in lockdown means travel has been limited but we enjoyed our belated Babymoon (with River!) in Cambridge and Southwold.


Anneka Desrosiers

Southern Cross Travel, East Sussex

As I write this during our second lockdown, I sense that we are nowhere near that blessed time that we will be able to call ‘Post-Covid’ and feel it is still rather premature to be predicting trends! Let’s deal in reality – bookings for any foreign holidays (or even just a domestic trip) are vanishing again as restrictions tighten. Our task now is to survive until such a time when people can travel freely and need agents to facilitate that demand. Many agents operate their businesses in such a way that there has been no entitlement to date for Government support. If agents can survive until travel recommences, the way in which we

Agents should seek out a consortia that protects client funds choose to book may have to change. Firstly, agents will look to work with operators that protect commission in the event of forced cancellation. Agents may seek out consortia that put client funds in protected trusts so that the monies are there to refund. And I know that I will certainly favour clients who appreciate what an agent does for them. I think we can expect these trends to continue until client reverts to booking on ‘price’ alone.


James Hill

Go Cruise, Cruise specialist, Worcestershire

Trend watching Four-sight /


"Look forward and encourage peop le to book" The trend going forward will be to book last-minute and flexibility There is such a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment but one thing I’m confident in saying is that people are desperate to get away and enjoy a holiday. We saw this at the end of October when restrictions were lifted for the Canary Islands and we noted a surge in bookings. I hope that a quicker, easier and cheaper Covid test is made available soon as this expense could delay people travelling. I think the trend going forward will be to book last-minute to ensure minimum disruption. Unfortunately, I think long-haul travel and cruising will be most affected. We are looking to work with tour operators that can give flexible booking terms to enable clients to change dates or destinations if they need to due to Covid. Also, we will remember those operators which coped well in the crisis, were easy to contact and issued refunds efficiently. Flexible Furlough has really helped our business and we have opened a ‘pop up Christmas shop’. We’ve also had to hastily build a new website www. to continue trading during the latest lockdown, and we’ve also given customers the choice to click and collect from the office .

Just when we thought we could encourage people to fly to the Canaries we get slapped with another lockdown. I believe that in order to survive we have to look forward, be positive and still encourage people to book, instead of fueling more frustration. We must be optimistic that this lockdown will not last for months. I read a study that flying presents a lower risk of Covid-19 than grocery shopping or dining out, with the use of face masks essential. I hope this is true as this will help to encourage customers to think positively about going on holiday and give them something to look forward to. I think holiday enquiries will be a bit different, villas will become popular as will places that don’t suffer from overtourism. I think more people will treat themselves to luxury experiences, in a five-star resort with a high standard of service. I am looking forward to going back to Crete next spring and staying at the five-star Esperides Crete Resort Hotel, Koutouloufari Hersonissos. Crete is a lovely big island with so many things to see and do. In the meantime, stay safe, never stop dreaming and never stop exploring!

Clients may spend more for that luxury experience as a special treat


Liz Beaty


Sandy Murray

The Travel Team Brampton, Cumbria

Sandy's Travel Escapes

V illa holidays are on the up

Christmas came early for The Travel Team

Next month: How has the job of a travel agent changed and what are you doing to stay connected to clients?

Globe hopping

14 / UK Holidays

There’s no place

like home Whether it’s a short-term stop-gap strategy or another string to your travel business bow, learning how to sell a wider range of UK holidays is a smart move for 2021, says Laura Gelder

isle of skyE

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Globe hopping UK Holidays /


t looks like a shark’s fin but also a bit like the sorting hat from Harry Potter. It’s supposed to look like a church but because it’s high tide most of the black rock is submerged. I’m spying Pembrokeshire’s iconic Church Rock from a supine position on Broadhaven South beach, a sweep of golden sand so vast that there’s no need to worry about social distancing. The water is crystal clear, the sky is blue and the sun is warm, with a fresh breeze ruffling the pages of my book. In moments like this you do wonder why anyone would go to the hassle of travelling to the Caribbean. I am in Wales, though, and the weather doesn’t stay this balmy the whole week. But a staycation isn’t about lying on a beach, it’s a time for exploring. My week is spent poking around bookshops and sampling local beers and ice creams in towns like Tenby and St David’s – the smallest city in the UK. I explore castles, gardens and a vineyard, and walk sections of the rugged Wales Coast Path, along winding cliff-top paths through russet ferns, yellow heather and tufts of sea pinks and past pebbly coves where grey seals lollop. It’s familiar and easy but also surprisingly unfamilar and refreshing. A beachside bacon roll comes with seaweed and in my local pub I enjoy fish and chips while the locals discuss the football in Welsh.

What to sell Many Brits who wouldn’t usually chose to holiday in the UK did just that this summer and had their eyes opened to their own island’s beauty and diversity. Domestic holidays might not be your bread and butter but times are a-changing and although a vaccine may prove a gamechanger for the beleaguered travel industry, and get bums back on plane seats, selling UK holidays look set to remain a nice earner. “For many agents, the challenge is that customers may not think of a staycation as an option, or think of using an agent to book one,” says Ben Ittensohn, Head of Sales at Explore. “Promoting domestic trips through their marketing channels is crucial and highlighting why now, more than ever, consumers need agents’ expertise.” Sheena Whittle, Head of The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, says that customers perceive a UK break as being easy to book themselves. “A good travel agent will save their customers time and money because they know where to search,” she says. “They should ensure they are telling their customers this.” It’s a good time to gain new clients, says Mark Allvey, co-founder and CEO of Untold Story Travel. “Many travellers who had the


confidence to ‘go it alone’ when travelling domestically no longer do,” he says. It’s also time to rethink the audience for domestic breaks because there are signs this has got a lot wider since the pandemic. Heather McKinlay, founder of McKinlay Kidd, a UK specialist operator which is partnering with Kuoni, has noted enquiries now coming from a younger demographic. And Lee Hamilton, General Sales Manager at Prestige Holidays, saw unprecedented demand this summer from small family groups wanting to stay in their bubble, self-cater and self-drive. He thinks niche markets, such as hobby groups like painters or cyclists, are a potential gold mine for agents. “Once onside they will book every year. Tap into the University of the Third Age - a UK-wide network which connects people with hobbies of all kinds in across the country.”

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Globe hopping

16 / UK Holidays

isles of scilly

Ben Thorburn, Head of Marketing at Wilderness Scotland, says: “Open travellers’ eyes to the potential for active and naturebased experiences blended with millenniaold history and culture. Couple that with an ever-increasing reputation for exceptional food and drink and the experience is as enriching as any tour abroad.” McKinlay observes that the mainstream media has been full of negative coverage for domestic tourism, with phrases like ‘settle for a staycation’. She thinks marketing should be positive and point out the diversity of the UK: “We’ll travel afar to somewhere like Petra but there’s architecture that’s older than the pyramids in the north of Scotland. There are places in the UK that represent a real escape from normal life, like Shetland, which has a culture more like Scandinavia.” Prestige Holidays’ Hamilton thinks images are key to getting across the ‘wow factor’ of a UK holiday. “There are some stunning photos you can use to market domestic holidays,” he says. “The Isles of Scilly have beaches that could be in the Indian Ocean.” Hamilton doesn’t think price is the thing that will sell the destination, but knowledge and expertise. “A lot of people who live in


n co


Discover more UK features at

brighton pier

this country don’t know what’s out there so offer pre-packaged ideas.”

Wild Welsh beaches: If clients have ‘done’ Devon and Cornwall, send them to Wales for more stunning beaches but less competition for accommodation. Top spots include the Gower Penninsula – the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956 – and Pembrokeshire. Smaller cities: UK city breaks don’t have to be in London. Consider the charms and countryside links of cities like York or Bath or smaller towns like Bakewell in the Peak District or Rye in East Sussex, which is near beaches and vineyards.

and a Snowdonia Walking Short Break. Osprey Holidays is working with Visit Scotland to increase its portfolio of hotels, itineraries and attractions. Experience-focused tour operator Untold Story Travel has a new series of staycations and European itineraries as part of its Adventures on Your Doorstep range. Arena Rail Holidays’ latest brochure offers UK train journeys for winter 2020/2021. Audley Travel introduced new trips to Scotland and Ireland this summer. Intrepid Retreats is a new tour range from the operator which lets small groups spend their holiday in one location, immersing themselves in the local community and supporting it. Many are UK based. Destinations: VisitGuernsey is to launch ‘The Islands of Guernsey Way’ next spring – a new signposted coastal walking trail across the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou.

What’s new

Where to book it

Top experiences Bonny Scottish roadtrips: Many operators reported accommodation as ‘sold out’ on Scotland’s North Coast 500, a 516-mile, self-drive route of dramatic coast including John O’ Groats.

Tour Operator:

Explore launched its new brochure for 2021 with an expanded range of UK tours in response to increasing demand from agents. New UK trips include Walk the Lake District , Cycle Hadrian’s Wall

Hoeseasons’ Sun Hill Lodges In the Yorkshire Dales, these are part of the brand’s Autograph Collection. Complete with hot tub and woodburner, a seven-night stay is priced from £935. •

“It’s time to rethink the audience for domestic breaks because there is evidence to show that it’s got a lot wider since the pandemic” Wales CoastAL Path

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Globe hopping Japan /


Green, clean &

pristine Whilst the UK grapples with face masks, hygiene and not hugging, Japan continues it practised norms of cleanliness and consideration, say Steve Hartridge & Laura Gelder

arashiyama bamboo grove, kyoto

deserted beaches of pale sand scattered with white coral and pink shells, drive past swathes of sugar cane fields and, in a cosy but sparsely populated restaurant, enjoy a taste of the region’s healthy cuisine – which is one of the reasons it’s home to some of the longest-living humans on earth.

The old normal Healthy habits are ingrained into the culture all over Japan and perhaps partly explain the country’s remarkably low death rate from COVID-19, despite having a large elderly population. After finding itself in the spotlight at the very start of the pandemic in late January when the Diamond Princess cruise ship was marooned in Yokohoma Bay with rising infections among its 500-plus passengers, the nation soon got on the top of the crisis and although the country is currently still closed to UK visitors it looks well prepared to welcome them next year. “A lot of what we call in the UK the ‘new normal’ is very much the ‘old normal’ in Japan,” says Matthew Joslin, Marketing



t’s midnight when I finally reach Hotel Hyakuna Garan and so quiet that all I can hear is the wind, the rain and the creaking footsteps of my companions as we walk along the openair corridors, softly lit by lamps placed at regular intervals on the wooden floor. Arriving in a new country at night is always discombobulating, but after two flights – London to Tokyo and then on to Naha in Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa – I feel as if I’ve stepped into an old Japanese ink drawing. We’re served hot hibiscus tea while we wait to be checked in and watch other guests having dinner in the next room, all identically dressed in black pyjama-style suits and eating with chopsticks out of elegant lacquer bowls. The next morning I awake to more rain hammering down on the traditional redtiled roofs of the hotel, but I have clear views of a sandy beach and rocky outcrops reaching into the Pacific. Naha is Okinawa’s largest and busiest island but space is abundant. I explore


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Globe hopping

18 / Japan

Covid-proof experiences trains are efficient and spotlessly clean, those who fear travelling with others or crowded spaces do have other options, including holidaying by RV. Car rental in general is a more than feasible option than travellers may imagine since Japan drives on the left side of road, GPS systems are widely available and road signs are usually in English.

Traditional temple

Take a walk: Japan is a great destination for hiking, from challenging summits to short jaunts. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage traverses deeply forested valleys past hidden temples, the Michinoku Coastal Trail runs the entire length of the Sanriku Fukko National Park and, just 90 minutes from Tokyo, Shizuoka’s Jogasaki Coast is famous for its beautiful cliffs and views and will host cyclists for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Bandai Numajiri Kogen Lodge in Aizu was set up by Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest, and is perfectly placed for hiking or skiing.

City escapes: Even in densely populated Tokyo you can escape the crowds and enjoy nature. The capital is home to many parks and gardens, including the grounds of major attractions like the Meiji Shinto shrine and Imperial Palace, and outlying areas

of the city like Okutama offer seemingly boundless forest, mountains and lakes with numerous hot springs.

Assorted accommodation: For those who want to stay away from hotels, there’s a wealth of unique, independent holiday lets in Japan, including ‘Machiya’, the traditional wooden town houses found throughout

Kumano Kodo pilgrimage

Japan but typified in Kyoto. There’s also nōka – traditional farmhouses, often with thatched roofs. A top spot for boutique stays is the castle town of Ozu on the west coast of Shikoku, where you can stay in historic houses or hire the only room in the castle (new for 2020).

Get marooned on an island: Head to the sub-tropical sandy beaches and rich reefs of the Okinawa archipelago, or the atmospheric moss-smothered cedar forests of Yakushima Island, rich in wildlife and the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s anime Princess Mononoke.

Art outside: If you have clients who are gallery lovers then point them to the art islands of the Seto Inland Sea, where they can wander amongst reams of quirky art installations in the fresh air or visit spacious cutting-edge museums.



Driving force: Though Japanese

and Communications Manager at the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). “Concepts of purification and cleanliness are a big part of Shintoism and Buddhism (Japan’s main religions), tidiness and good hygiene is ingrained in the Japanese national curriculum while wearing a face mask stretches back 100 years (to the Spanish Flu outbreak).” Joslin explains that Japan is a ritualistic country, where procedures are followed and rules adhered to. However, the country has still stepped up its game in terms of sanitation, combining traditional practises with new regulations across all industries. Examples include temperature checks on check-in at hotels and room seals to reassure guests that their room hasn’t been touched since cleaning. The ski resort of Gassen got ahead of the curve this summer, putting measures in place like the disinfection of gondolas between each ride. Thanks to Japan’s famously futuristic technology, visitors may soon be able to avoid human touch-points in hospitality. The government is considering rolling out more use of holographic screen technology and self-drive robots for cleaning. Less futuristic but definitely practical, Airline ANA trialled a hands-free toilet door at its lounge in Tokyo’s Haneda Airport recently, which allows people to unlock and open the door using their elbows. Joslin says the JNTO appreciates that people who have had Japan on their bucket list for some time may worry that their travel experience will be affected by COVID-19 measures, but he urges agents to reassure their clients that Japan is much more of an outdoor destination than they might think. “Japan is 69% forest (compared to 13% in UK) 73% mountains and has

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Discover more Japan features at

mount aso

more coastline than the U.S., New Zealand or Australia, plus it has more hot springs and ski resorts than any other country. It is this natural world that is the setting for iconic cultural experiences that don’t rely on regulated opening hours and aren’t necessarily Covid contingent,” he says.

What’s new? Training: JNTO launched its new agent training programme earlier this year and in September added an intermediate course which introduces a variety of outdoor activities, gardens, modern art and cultural experiences. Accommodation: Big-name openings include Ritz Carlton Niseko, in time for the 2020 ski season; Kanazawa Hyatt House and Hyatt Centric, next to the station and a 20-minute walk from Kanazawa’s historical centre with self-catering apartments; and the first W Hotel in Japan, in Oksaka. New eco-focused properties include Ugakei Circles, glamping cabins in a sustainabilityfocused nature park in Mie prefecture (opening in 2021), and Treeful Treehouse Eco resort, a treehouse hotel in Okinawa. Events: The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial traverses 200 villages across nearly 200,000 acres of mountainous terrain in Niigata, making it the largest art festival in the world. It is hoped it will take place in 2021, themed around humans and their relationship to nature and sustainability. Ski: In response to COVID-19 Hokkaido has launched the ‘New Hokkaido Style’ campaign, encouraging new habits. In the resort, protective screens at desks, sanitation of high-touch areas, floor stickers for social distancing, daily health checks for employees and temperature and travel history checks for guests are just

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“Japan is 69% forest, 73% mountains and has more coastline than the U.S., New Zealand or Australia. This natural world is the setting for iconic cultural experiences that aren’t Covid-19 contingent”


sakura - cherry blossom

some of the new protocols in place. Nozawa Onsen resort has a new gondola system which links the village - which is home to a micro-brewery and traditional town centre – with the three main ski areas covering 730 acres. It reduces travel time to the slopes by half (to eight minutes).

Where to book it Scenic; 0808 278 7469 The 16-day Tokyo to Osaka Japan in Focus tour is from £9, 845pp and includes time in the Kawaguchiko Area, cruising on Lake Ashinoko and enjoying the hot springs of the Owakudani geothermal region. •

Miyako, okinawa

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apan’s southernmost prefecture is a sub-tropical archipelago with a distinctive culture famous for its healthy lifestyle and natural beauty. Floating in the Pacific between Taiwan, China and the Japanese mainland, Okinawa consists of 160 subtropical islands with a year-round warm climate and white sandy beaches akin to Hawaii. Okinawa’s three international airports, Naha, Ishigaki and recently-

opened Shimojishima, are easily reached from Tokyo (in three hours) and other major cities in Japan, as well as Asian hubs like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei and Bangkok.

Force of nature

Okinawa is described as the ‘Galapagos of the East’ thanks to its bountiful flora and fauna and turquoise seas. There are three national parks, including Yambaru, which is home to Japan’s largest subtropical forest. Activities on terra firma include jungle trekking as well as cycling, horse-riding and stargazing. Renowned for diving, the sea holds many treasures among its reefs and sunken shipwrecks, including colourful corals, swooping manta-rays, hammerhead sharks and tropical fish. Above the waves, kayaking, surfing, whale watching, and parasailing are popular pastimes.

Kingdom come

Okinawa was known for 450 years as the Ryukyu Kingdom and its distinctive

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culture was influenced by its trade links with South East Asia, China and Japan ,at a time when Japan was sequestered from the rest of the world. Inland, waving sugarcane fields hug traditional villages of wooden houses with red-tiled roofs and clients can visit awamori distilleries to taste the potent local rice spirit. Okinawa is said to be the birthplace of karate and martial arts enthusiasts today are welcome in its many dojos (learning halls) to enhance their skills.

Get well soon

Okinawa is one of only five ‘blue zones’ or longevity hot-spots in the world where the population enjoys an unusually long life expectancy. This longevity is attributed to many facets of Okinawan life, including a healthy dose of vitamin D, maintaining an active lifestyle and relying on a strong social network, but none more so than the healthy diet of locally-grown vegetables and fresh seafood is available in abundance.

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Want to learn more?

steps to expert Register FREE with OTT at uk or simply log on to the website if you’re already a member. Launch the Okinawa course by clicking on Product Training/Destinations. Complete the three modules to be entered into the prize draw.

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You can become an expert on Okinawa by signing up to the Okinawa-dedicated training programme from Online Travel Training (OTT). What’s more, agents who complete the course by December 31, 2020 will be entered into a prize draw to win one of five bottles of Awamori, the prized spirit of Okinawa which is made to a recipe unchanged for 500 years. There are also 20 runner-up prizes.

Why sign up now?

With Japan’s popularity still on a high, but health and wellness taking on a new meaning to world travellers, Okinawa is a great sell. It has off-thebeaten-track credentials but it’s easy to get to and social distancing comes as standard on the smaller islands!

What’s involved?

The training programme has three modules and includes several videos which give a flavour for the islands’ culture and nature.

Module one

Welcome to Okinawa This essential introduction looks at the islands through the seasons, touches on the history of Okinawa and how it shaped the cuisine and culture as well as introducing the flora and fauna.

Module two

Okinawa Islands This island-by-island guide is essential for crafting an itinerary. Learn about the Main Island, which is home to 90% of the population and the bustling capital, as well as the lesserknown isles. Find out how to hop around the Yaeyama Islands, from gateway Ishigaki to Taketomi, where you can travel by water buffalo-drawn carriage.

Module three

Experience Okinawa Learn how to help your clients make the most of their time in Okinawa, from when and where to spot humpback whales and the best places for trekking or where to relax!; visitokinawa.

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22 / Six of the best...

Sustainable experiences in

South Africa

Holidays which ‘assist’ the environment or community are moving from a ‘nice to have’ into a ‘must do’. Here are six ways to enjoy South Africa’s wild places guilt-free Support women in the Kalahari

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, home to one-hird of the country’s remaining desert black rhino. It’s also home to the Tracker Academy, the only specialised academy of its kind and one focused on helping women from disadvantaged backgrounds gain tracker qualifications. It says 94% of its graduates have found employment in ecotourism and conservation.

Stay in a naturepowered lodge

On South Africa’s Wild Coast, Bulungula Lodge is owned and managed by the local Xhosa community and powered by the wind and the sun. The lodge is set above six kilometres of whitesand beach and accommodation is in 10 traditional rondavel huts, a permanent tent or clients can take their own tent. They can also spot dolphins and whales from the site and learn traditions from local women.

Take a solarpowered safari

Cheetah Plains opened in summer 2019 in the Sabi Sands, establishing itself as an off-grid lodge which employs solar power and water recycling. This year it introduced electric land cruisers, which use Tesla batteries for zero-emission game drives charged by the sun. The other up-side to this is enhanced game viewing of endangered species thanks to almost silent engines.

Turn your carbon into action

Lepogo Lodges’ Noka Camp is a notfor-profit safari lodge and works with charity organisations to offset its guests’ carbon footprint. The luxury lodge calculates the carbon emissions from each guest’s journey and converts it into a monetary value to donate to one of three conservation projects, including replanting indigenous forests or donating high efficiency stoves to local communities.

Visit a wildlife rehabilitation centre

Shamwari Private Game Reserve has reopened its wildlife rehabilitation centre which was introduced last year, enabling injured animals to be returned to the wild. Guests of the reserve, which is located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, can visit the centre as well as two big cat sanctuaries onsite. These are jointly funded with the Born Free Foundation and provide lifetime care to rescued cats.

Make your whole holiday count

The Royal Portfolio has launched a 10-day itinerary for travellers looking to make a difference. The hotel collection’s itinerary blends stays at its properties in Cape Town, Franschhoek, Hermanus and Kruger National Park, with community and conservation projects. Guests can get involved in the Lalela Project, which provides educational arts for at-risk youth, or spend time with those who protect endangered rhinos.

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24 / My journey

: e r tu u f e th to k c a B


Martin Steady travels to Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with big tourism ambitions and a world-class attraction that should be on every traveller's 'must see' list


t's late in the evening and as our small convoy of huge 4WDs glides

effortlessly into the Shaden Resort it feels like I am on a science-fiction film set. Mountainous rock formations tower all around us and the complex is illuminated by floodlights.

It is bitter cold in the desert but my group is offered the warmest of welcomes. I have arrived at AlUla, an area that covers a region the size of Belgium and is Saudi Arabia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. ‘AlUla’ is also an ancient village of the same name. With its otherworldly landscapes and ancient buildings, AlUla merges history and nature in an intoxicating way. It is also the undisputed star of the country’s emerging tourism industry. AlUla’s origins go back to the 6th century BC, when it was described as a fertile oasis village, situated along the ancient incense, spices and silk routes that linked Arabia, Egypt and India. It became the capital of the ancient North Arabian Lihyanites before they were subdued about 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans. These people, whose better-known capital Petra is a mere 400 miles north in Jordan, built Madain Saleh, or ‘Hegra’, which became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. These days the ruins of the ancient town and the old Lihyanite settlement lie within the boundaries of the modern AlUla. Now officially reopened

for visitors, The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) - established in July 2017 to protect and prepare for tourism as part of ‘Vision 2030’ - has unveiled the full range of experiences to be phased in over the coming months. Heritage sites, Hegra, Dadan and Jabal Ikmah are the first to accept bookings. The Hegra experience includes full immersion into the Nabataean ways of life at sites including the most iconic Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, plus Jabal Ithlib, The Diwan and Jabal Alhamar. At Hegra I feel as if I’m sleepwalking around the ancient burial sites, such is the ethereal quality of these exquisitely carved archaeological wonders. They are covered in symbols, portraying religious scenes or the hunting of animals like ibex, camels and horses. This is where important people were buried, in tombs carved out of the desert rocks and inscribed with the owners’ identities. A pavilion at Hegra will host interactive activities providing an entertaining appreciation for the Nabataean Kingdom and its ways of life, including handicraft, theatre, cooking and more. At the ancient city of Dadan, one of the most developed cities in the 1st millennia BCE, visitors can become an archaeologist for the day while a family-friendly ‘Archaeology for Everyone’ workshop will have kids digging for artefacts! Other experiences will include camel tours, night-time light shows and markets, AlUla Old Town visits, a bustling Suq, handicraft




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V ision 2 030 i hopes to rocket Saud


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pavilions, souvenirs as well as new dining uoptions. Stargazing, hiking, cycling, horseriding, and high-energy thrills also available, all offering stunning views of the desert and oasis.

Michelin-star dining Wearing strong walking shoes, we are transported deep into the desert, where we team up with other thrill-seekers for an extreme dune buggy experience. Think ‘Mad Max’, with extreme suspension on each wheel designed to keep us safe as we hurtle across the undulating dunes, clinging on for dear life and ever grateful for our helmets and seatbelts. Curiously, at the furthest, most remote point, our experienced guide leads us on foot, like a willing lost tribe, along trails carved between the rocks, showing us dramatic Instagram-worthy views whilst delivering a memorable history lesson. We follow instructions to sit down, and engage in silent meditation. It is a weirdly emotional experience. The surprises keep coming as our guide whisks us off to the first of the Michelinstar-standard pop-up restaurants that have been parachuted into the area. At the famous Annabels we are presented with a truly memorable taster menu that is as much an experience as it is a meal. Other dining extravaganzas we enjoy include the elegant La Cantine Restaurant and Saas, where all customers and staff enter via a maze of beautifully lit caves and rocks.

Ambitious plans Announced in July 2017 by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, ‘Vision 2030’ is a seismic undertaking that hopes to rocket Saudi into pole position as a major global tourism player. The greater part of the Vision 2030


development is earmarked for the north-west coast, in particular ‘The Red Sea Project’. Covering nearly 11,000 square miles of land, this unprecedented transformation will deliver a range of island getaways and coastal resorts, presenting the world’s upscale travellers with futuristic travel experiences, mountain and desert adventures and other luxury pursuits.

Change for the better As I leave Saudi I realise that my perceptions have been profoundly changed. The Kingdom's society is changing fast, especially concerning the relaxation of strict Islamic rules and the empowerment of women. This is impossible to miss – and impossible to overstate. Almost all of the professionals involved in our visit were women – tourism guides, expert off-road drivers, scuba instructor, free-diving expert – as is the head of the AlUla project development. There appears to be an obvious mood of optimism, progress and freedom, reflected in the friendly way people enthusiastically engage with each other and with visitors. Vision 2030 is monumental and is designed to open up Saudi Arabia to very large numbers of tourists - and the UK is at the top of the list as a country whose travellers are always open to new experiences. Hopefully, we will get to really know Saudi so much better through the biggest travel project in history. • Book it with... Wild Frontiers Wild Frontiers offers a range of itineraries with land-only-prices starting from £4,395 for 11 days. Optional Single Supplement £675.


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26 / How to sell...

Get to know

Poland Due to its vast size and mountainous landscapes, Poland doesn’t have to worry about overtourism, making it perfect for a socially distanced holiday, says Jessica Pook Why sell it Many of Poland’s cities, such as Warsaw, the capital, Gdansk on the Baltic coast and Poznan and Wroclaw in western Poland all remain relatively undiscovered by British tourists. Beyond its cities, empty beaches, forests and the wondrous snow-capped Tatra Mountains offer visitors the chance to enjoy a socially distances experience away from well-trodden tourist routes.

Who to sell to Poland’s more recent history has been significant and at times raw, which will strike a chord with anyone with an interest in European history. An insight into some of the tragic events of World War II can be seen at the Warsaw Rising Museum or at the modern Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk. Food-lovers can expect hearty dishes that vary from region to region. Fresh seafood is common along the Baltic coast while further inland dumplings, soups and meat, potato and cabbage dishes are menu staples. Polish beers and vodkas are popular worldwide for their quality and are very affordable in local bars and restaurants. Overall, Poland is an inexpensive destination.

What to sell City breaks are a great way to explore Poland. Visitors are drawn to popular

Gdańsk, Poland

Krakow and its atmospheric Main Square to watch the horse-drawn carriages circle. Although mostly rebuilt after 1945, Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town delighting visitors with its colourful tenement houses and Royal Castle. Gdańsk, on the Baltic coast, is rich in trade union history. Visitors can learn about Poland’s fight against the communist regime at Solidarity Square and Gdańsk Shipyard. Poland’s mountainous terrain makes it ideal for a ski holiday, with ski slopes

across the Tatra, a mountain range between Slovakia and Poland, a must for winter enthusiasts. In the warmer months outdoorsy types can walk the Masuria Lake District in the northeastern Poland, home to over 2,000 lakes.

When to sell Poland is a year-round destination but, in normal years, is renowned for its Christmas markets. In the autumn, cities have a cosy, warm feel about them, with September marking the start of ‘Golden Autumn’. The best time for visiting the Tatra is from April to September when the dry weather draws in hikers and bikers, while the coastal region is best visited from May to October. •

Book it with... Regent Holidays A seven-day Warsaw and Krakow tour is priced from £650pp. The twin centre trip explores the historical sights of Warsaw, before travelling by tatra mountains

town sqaure, krakow

train to Krakow.

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Agents at home with digital Roadshow Caught on camera Learn about U.S. destinations by watching these video interviews


Jennifer Wesselhoff, President & CEO, Sedona Chamber

of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, talks about the small Arizona town with big natural appeal.

Arkansas The Visit USA Roadshow Extravaganza took place over two days in early October, using an interactive live digital platform for the first time. The event, hosted by professional MC Jon Briggs, attracted more than 250 agents who engaged with 20 Visit USA members during two fast-moving one-hour sessions. On show was the diversity of the USA's tourism product with each (member) presentation ending with a live Q&A session. At the end of each evening, one agent won a £150 Amazon voucher but the star prize at the end of the Virtual Roadshow was a 10-day holiday in a RV, courtesy of Cruise America RV Rentals, plus return economy flights courtesy of Aer Lingus.

Research after the event, conducted among 92 of the agents who attended, found that 98% rated the Roadshow as 'Good' or 'Excellent' and many agents said they rated the format and content of the event to be amongst the best they had seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Visit USA Association said it is exploring the idea of holding a similar event in Spring 2021. "Next year we hope to bring an even greater diversity of destinations and experiences to life for the travel trade," said Tracey Spuyman, CEO at Visit USA (UK). Around 92% of agents who attended October's events said they were 'Very Likely' to attend the event again in the future.

Tourism Director Travis Napper tells us how the destination earns

its tag as 'the Natural State'


Michael Mangeot, Commissioner of Tourism, gives an overview of the

Bluegrass State's many attractions.

BLOG Crab cakes in Charleston, fish

tacos from a roadside stand in Los Felix, pizza in New York City, fried green tomatoes in the South, a food truck serving "the king of grilled cheese sandwiches" in Massachusetts and "hash browns, over easy eggs... Sara Lawrence shares her love of food Stateside More Blog content at Look out for our Visit USA (UK) online Travel Update for the pick of members' news

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28 / Philippines

Treasured islands

The diverse islands of the Philippines offer a perfect mix of relaxation, action and cultural attractions, says Charlotte Williams

kawasaN Falls, cEbu


hat lies beneath the waves is the world’s biggest fish, a shark that can reach 18 metres in length and feeds through its extra large mouth – so naturally I’m going swimming! The whale shark, or butanding as it’s known here, is a filter-feeding shark – so not a whale at all. These grey giants travel huge distances, drawing 1,585 gallons of water an hour through their gills. Although their mouths can stretch to four feet wide, their teeth are so tiny that they can only eat small shrimp and plankton. These sloths of the deep travel at a stately speed of three miles per hour, so I shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up! I’m in one of the world’s hottest spots for whale sharks – Donsol Bay in the Bicol region of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island, where an eco-tourism project

supported by the World Wildlife fund has flourished since the late 1990s and focuses on swimming with wild whale sharks with minimal disturbance. Each boat goes out with a butandingspotter at the bow and swimmers are given snorkelling equipment. I’ve not even had time to get my fins on when our guy shouts: “Butanding!” and points frantically to the port side but, in my excitement, I tumble into the water anyway. As I float, trying to tug the rubber fin over my foot, my eyes adjust to the murky scene and a huge mouth looms out of the gloom, heading straight for my foot. With cartoon-like timing the shoe finally glides on and I pull myself out of its path just in time, taking a breath from above before sinking down to swim alongside a fish so large I can’t see its tail, just its tiny little eye, and so close to mine it feels intimate.

Award-winning archipelago Though many flock to the Philippines for its beaches – from the white sands and lively nights of Borocay to the dramatic cliffbacked coves of Palawan – the wonders of the deep here are a big draw. This November the Philippines took home three World Travel Awards (Asia Edition), making it Asia‘s Leading Beach and leading Diving Destination. Scuba hotspots include Coron Bay in Palawan, famous for its World War Two shipwrecks, and Moalboal in Cebu, where divers can swim alongside and among thousands of sardines on their annual migration. Out of the sea, travellers can enjoy hiking across the islands, with notable destinations including the Chocolate Hills of Bohol where the world’s smallest primate – the tarsier – makes its home, or the cone-shaped Taal Volcano surrounded by a pristine lake.


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Boating around Palawan’s islets

El Nido, Palawan

Other sports out of the sea include whitewater rafting and exploring ancient caves. The Philippines offer a wide range of vibrant cultures that are evident in everything from its art to its architecture. Predominantly Catholic, the country is home to many impressive churches built by the Spanish, but the main form of transport is the jeepney – buses introduced by Americans but painted in vibrant colours and kitsch art which is unmistakably Asian. Even the cuisine represents the cultural diversity of the archipelago, from the crispy Spanish empanadas of Luzon to the spicy flavours of the Bicol Region whose inhabitants have Chinese, Arab and Spanish ancestry and make Bicol Express, a blend of pork and chillies cooked in coconut cream. And the world’s second-largest archipelago is looking forward to welcoming back its UK visitors, who make up its largest market in

swimming with whale sharks

jacob Oslob


sunset on balabac island

Europe. PH Tourism Director Gerry Panga, said: “Although most Brits are looking at staycations and traveling within Europe in the short term, we are buoyed by their aspirations and demand for long-haul destinations, particularly sun and beach holidays during this winter season. “We put a premium on our British travellers, who stay longer and explore nontraditional destinations in our country.”

Quadbiking around Bicol

This November the Philippines took home three World Travel Awards (Asia Edition) making it Asia‘s Leading Beach and leading Diving Destination

Top experiences Surf’s up: Siargao is best known as the Philippines’ top surfing spot and surfers from around the world flock visit the island’s famous break - Cloud Nine. But Siargao also features sparkling white sand islets, turquoise tide pools, and palm tree-laden lagoons. The shark salon: Malapascua Island is one of the world’s best places to see

the thresher shark. These stealthy silver predators with huge mercury eyes and long tails usually live in the darker depths but come closer to the surface here to be nibbled clean of parasites by striped cleaner wrasse fish. The island is also a haven for colourful mandarin fish and a good place to spot manta rays.

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Back in time: The cobblestone streets and shuttered houses of UNESCO-recognised Vigan seem stuck in a time warp from the days of Spanish rule, and horse-drawn carriages still trundle through. Further inland are the Banaue Rice Terraces, a stunning layered patchwork of rice paddies and a feat of rural engineering created some 2,000 years ago. Magical mystery tour: Siquijor Island is famous for its mountain-dwelling mangkukulam (or healers) who brew traditional ointments for modern ailments. The island also happens to have beautiful white-sand beaches, caves and waterfalls. Beauty Queen: Palawan is undoubtedly the Philippine’s crown. Closer to Borneo in flora and fauna – and no wonder since this long, thin island stretches towards it – Palawan’s emerald waters, crystalline lagoons and hidden coves are backed by limestone cliffs hiding underground rivers and caves.


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jacob Oslob

30 / Philippines

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What’s new? casino Peak

app is also a planning tool, with an itinerary maker which integrates with a catalogue of tourist attractions, local restaurants, and accommodations, and is a place for travellers to securely store digital copies of travel documents such as boarding passes, hotel reservations, and medical certificates. The app features six major tourist destinations at launch: Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Baguio, Ilocos Norte, and Metro Manila. Tours & packages: Bamboo Travel has added a new 13-night Natural Wonders of the Philippines trip which includes a visit to

the Subterranean River National Park, home to the blue-naped parrot and bear cat. The trip costs from £3875pp, which includes flights, all transportation and 13 nights’ B&B.

Where to book it G Adventures; 020 7313 6936 The 16-day Northern Philippines and Palawan Adventure from Manila to Puerto Princesa takes in highlights like Vigan, the Banaue Rice Terraces, the hanging coffins of Sagada and El Nido. Prices from £1,869pp. • jacob Tarsier

Covid-19 update: The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has given the Philippines Department of Tourism a Safe Travels Stamp in recognition of its adoption of ‘health and hygiene global standardised protocols’ and the islands are ready to welcome British visitors as soon as the UK government opens a travel corridor. The Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) has recently launched a new app, Travel Philippines. Designed to be a ‘go-to companion for travellers in the new normal’, it details local health and safety protocols and up-to-date information. The

“We put a premium on our British travellers who stay longer and explore non-traditional destinations in our country” Gerry Panga, Philippines Tourism Director

Tarsier Sanctuary, Bohol

Caramoan islands

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The return of the

Villa Holiday As clients look for holidays with lessened contact with others, villas are increasingly in demand. Laura Gelder looks at options for a home away from home Why sell it A desire to be self-contained on holiday has never been stronger. While hotels and resorts have scrambled to introduce new protocols which protects guests from the virus – disinfecting high touch-point areas regularly or implementing one-way systems or rules on mask-wearing – villa providers are already made for this ‘new normal’. Once you’re checked into a villa, if you play it really safe you need not come into contact with anyone but your travel companions.

Who to sell to With Covid-19 is still at large, it’s not just families who want their own personal space on holiday – couples and groups of friends are far more likely to be swayed by the idea of having their own pool, sunloungers and space to prepare their own meals. Even families who traditionally opt for the ease of a half-board or all-inclusive hotel may now be tempted to stay somewhere where no one can burst their bubble.

What to sell The Mediterranean and Florida offer the most choice for villas but are by no means the only options. James Villa Holidays has lots of choice in the Caribbean, as does CV Villas which also has a wide selection in Morocco. The Villa Collection has properties in Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, Indian Ocean islands like Mauritius and the Maldives,

Villa Casa Flora, Algarve

the Middle East – including Dubai – and New York. And Abercrombie & Kent’s more unusual villa destinations include Cape Town, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles.

How to sell Don’t forget USPs like exclusivity, privacy, space, freedom to set your own pace and potentially saving money by eating in. CV Villas Managing Director, Tristan Symondson, comments: “Features such as pools, gardens, games, home entertainment

and well-equipped kitchens mean that guests don’t even need to leave if they prefer not to. Our ABOVE collection offers fully-serviced properties boasting in-house chefs, chauffeurs, home cinemas and spas.” Gemma Lewis, Director of The Villa Collection, urges agents to pre-plan: “Book transfers in advance to ensure the safety of your clients and ask about pre-ordering groceries and meals.” The Far East and Indian Ocean are hotspots for offering villa accommodation within a resort, with notable brands including Anantara, Aman, Four Seasons and Banyan Tree.

What's new The Villa Collection has partnered with private aviation specialist Flitestar to launch trade bookable villa packages with private jet or plane and private airport transfers. • Book it with... James Villa Holidays Clients can escape to the Villa Rose Garden in the Herceg Novi Region of Montenegro from £679pp, based on four sharing and including Candacraig House, Scotland

Villa Kraljica, Croatia

flights from Gatwick Airport.

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32 / Bright ideas

Soak up the winter sun Seychelles Families can explore the private island of Silhouette in the Seychelles as part of Turquoise Holidays’ family offer for February half-term 2021. Staying at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa, the only resort on the island, guests will enjoy their own private villa with surrounding views of the protected nature reserve and Marine National Park.

Malta With over 300 days of sunshine a year, cold days are a rarity in Malta. Clients can immerse themselves in culture-rich capital Valetta with a stay at newly reopened 16th Century palace Casa Rocca Piccola, which is now a family-owned living museum and B&B.

St Barts Available for departures from March 2021 is the new seven-day St Barts by the cabin cruise by Dream Yacht Charter. Clients will sail to French Caribbean destinations including St. Martin, St Barts, Antigua, Anguilla as well as the Prickly Pear Cays two uninhabited islands off the coast of Anguilla.

Abu Dhabi Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers opened its doors to the public on October 1, 2020, having operated as a Jumeirah hotel since 2011.The hotel features 567 rooms, premium suites and residences, all with views of the Arabian Gulf or the Abu Dhabi Corniche.The resort has 12 dining concepts, three swimming pools with swim-up bars and a private beach.

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Maldives First time visitors have the chance to engage in popular local activities, from fishing to learning the art of cooking authentic Maldivian cuisine as part of a new ‘Reconnect at Baros’ initiative. Healthcare workers will also be treated to a complimentary massage at the island’s Serenity Spa, a private dinner for two on the beach, champagne upon arrival, and a choice of a free scheduled excursion with social distancing observed.


Baros Maldives

Among recent developments in Tunisia is a £50 million five-star property in the middle of an oasis: Anantara Sahara Tozeur Resort and Villas features 50 desert-view rooms and 43 villas. Guests can wake up to desert sunrises and drive though Atlas Mountains to the abandoned villages of Chebika, Tamerza and Mides.

Canary Islands Clients can island hop around the Canary Islands as part of a new seven-day Lanzarote& Fuerteventura Island Hop with Olympic Holidays. Both islands are known for their dramatic volcanic landscape, adventure activities like kitesurfing and diving and yearround sunshine.

sri lanka Only 15 minutes from Kandy city center, the Hanthana mountain range is recognised as one of Sri Lanka’s most picturesque regions. Guests staying at W15 Hanthana Estate, a restored 10-room bungalow which opened in June 2020, can throw themselves into traditional Sri Lankan culture by meditating with a monk, exploring the tea plantations or take an outdoor cooking lesson.

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34 / My journey

In its elements

Morocco Morocco’s deserts and Atlantic coastline rewards visitors with an array of thrilling outdoor activities and socially-distanced al fresco fun, discovers Rhonda Carrier


ou can feel the release of eight months of pent-up stress and uncertainty as we take our quad bikes up to their maximum speed of 50mph along the deserted beach, sand and sea glistening all around us. Back at our starting point, everyone is beaming. "I felt so free," exclaims one of our group, most of whom are travel agents. "It was as if I’d left all my worries behind me." The atmospheric port city and resort of Essaouira is the starting point for 20 miles of unspoilt beaches, where as well as quadbiking you can horse-ride or take a surfing or kite-surfing lesson. All these activities are available courtesy of the family-run Ranch de Diabat and the Ananas Kitesurfing school, which had just reopened at the time of our visit in mid-October. Their joy in welcoming back customers and showcasing this gorgeous stretch of elemental coastline was palpable. Moroccans are a famously warm people, but lockdown and anti-Covid measures have truly bought that to the fore. Essaouria is the perfect place for a seaside break on a two-centre holiday in Morocco. Just two-and-a-half hours west of Marrakech, it has a charming old town, picturesque 18th-century seafront ramparts and delightful places to stay for all tastes. Just north of town, out on its own, the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa Hotel is as hedonistic as the name suggests, with playful contemporary decor, shimmering outdoor pools and gourmet dining with both maghrebi and international cuisine.

Better for those who like to be in the heart of things, thanks to its location in Essaouria’s medina itself, the Heure Bleue Palais riad – part of the Relais & Chateaux group – has cosy, romantic rooms and suites around a colonial-style courtyard. Many of the dishes we savour on the terrace restaurant feature organic local argan oil, better known as a beauty product. The regional forkbeard fish with candied quince is a revelation, as is the tiramisu using the Moroccan equivalent of Nutella.

Desert adventures Heading back towards Marrakech, about 25 miles south-west of the city we hang a right into the Agafay Desert. Agafay is a great alternative to the Sahara for those on limited time or aren’t keen on the eight-hour drive and mountain passes. It unfurls several hundred acres of white dunes that provide an outdoor playground for more quadbiking, mountain-biking and sunset camel rides through hidden Berber villages. Traditionally-clad Berbers welcome us to the Agafay's remarkable Inara Camp, with its luxury tents and a sparkling gem of a swimming pool surrounded by loungers. Here, after feasting by candlelight on tajines made from home-grown ingredients, we dance around a campfire under a sky heavy with planets and stars to the sound of hypnotic drums and chants. The musicians loose themselves to the cadence, but this is no mere performance for visitors but a genuine paean to the

Be Inspired inspired My My journey journey //

t Agafay is a grea the desert alternative to Sahara for those on limited time

glories of nature and human connection. As cosseting as the tents are inside, this is the kind of place where you want to stay up late and get up early: the kind of place where you feel free. Another early-morning awakening is equally worth it – to go up above the Moroccan desert in a hot-air balloon. Also based about 40 minutes from Marrakech – but this time to the north – the experienced firm Ciel d'Afrique takes us floating over Berber villages, farms, oases and gorges as the sun rises up over the mountains (sunset trips are also available). With 15 of us in a single basket, it feels like an act of insanity, but up in the air, our nervousness is replaced by an almost unearthly sense of peace and timelessness. We feel literally untethered from the earth and all its current troubles.

35 35

on the African continent and the place where David Beckham celebrated his 40th birthday; La Mamounia, a regal palace-hote; The Pearl (shortly to become the Nobu Hotel Marrakech); and Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa with its alfresco area perfect for social distancing.

Clean and safe Which brings us to COVID 19. This felt a very safe trip. Notes: my temperature was taken each time I went into a hotel and restaurant and the wearing of face-masks in the streets – but not on the beaches – was strictly adhered to. With the regulations for individual countries ever-changing, travel agents can keep up-to-date with the current travel information at, and the tourist board’s own Coronavirus guidance page at •

Classic Marrakech Marrakech Airport, handily located less than three miles from the city centre, is a beguiling, ancient imperial city, with its lush gardens, buzzing souks and luxury hoetls with their range of pampering options. We spend a sybaritic couple of nights in the Four Seasons Marrakech, a haven of calm in this often-hectic city by virtue of its vast grounds dotted with lime, orange and olive trees and festooned with colourful flowers. It will soon see the addition of Four Seasons Private Residences as part of M Avenue, a new half-kilometre ‘garden avenue’ being built next to the hotel and also featuring Christiano Ronaldo’s Pestana CR7 hotel and an array of shops, restaurants, cafés and art galleries. Other hotels we experience are the superhigh-end Amanjena, the first Aman resort


Rhonda stayed at at the Four Seasons Marrakech Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa sofitel. com and under the stars at Inara Camp The hot air balloon experience was courtesy of Ciel d'Afrique Ranch de Diabat supplied the quad and horse riding. Meals in Marrakech were provided by the hotels La Mamounia, Amanjena amanjena, and So Lounge Marrakech at the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa Hotel. Royal Air Maroc operates from London Heathrow into Casablanca three times weekly royalairmaroc. com. See

Trade talk

36 / The review news

Pre-departure tests begin Passengers flying to Italy and Hong Kong are benefiting from rapid-result Covid-19 tests. Available at Heathrow (T2 and T5), the advanced-booked tests cost £80, with results known in 20 minutes. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific, which all fly routes that require predeparture tests, are the first airlines to offer it. The test, a ‘rapid saliva swab’, known as a Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification test – or Lamp – gives quicker results than the NHS PCR test because the sample does not need to be sent to a laboratory. According to Collinson’s Chief Executive David Evans, passengers need only to turn up an hour or so earlier than normal to take the test. If such tests - which the travel industry are united in advocating - become commonplace, they will allow passengers to more easily (and more affordably) meet the entry requirements of their intended destination as well as giving them peace of mind that passengers aboard are Covid-free. However, the Lamp test at Heathrow does not meet the entry requirements of many countries, such as South Africa, Bermuda, Greece and the Bahamas, which are asking for proof of a negative PCR test, which does require analysis in a laboratory.

• Virgin flies to St. Vincent Virgin Atlantic will launch the first direct flight from Europe to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent from June 2021. The twice-weekly service will depart from Heathrow on the airline’s A330-300 aircraft and is available for agents to book from November 24. Until now, the quickest way to St. Vincent from the UK has been via Barbados. The hope is that, sooner rather than later, all countries will adopt the same approach to the type of testing that is required and adopt one uniform test. Evans added: “With countries around the world putting the UK on their list of ‘high risk’ countries, we need to find a way to work with governments, leading travel brands and other commercial entities to safely open up travel.” Meanwhile, there is hope that an air corridor between the UK and the U.S. - probably New York – might still be established before the end of the year after the trialling of a ‘health passport’ on a United Airlines flight between Heathrow and Newark, New Jersey.

Agents key to recovery Travel agents will be more important than ever postpandemic, as even experienced travellers will look for reassurance when booking, a virtual World Travel Market audience was told. Lee Haslett, Vice-President of Global Sales at Virgin Atlantic, said: “I really believe that travel agents that have looked after their customers during this crisis will keep those customers, and will be more important than ever during the recovery stage.” Jo Rzymowski, Vice President & Managing Director, EMEA, Celebrity Cruises, said: “There is pent-up demand for cruising and we can already see it. But the key thing will be reassuring our loyal guests and trade partners about the strict new safety and


health standards we are putting in place.” Those enhanced protocols on board Carnival’s ships are being developed by the company’s ‘Healthy Sail’ advisory panel, consisting of 11 doctors, scientists, and health specialists. She added: “We will definitely be looking at reduced capacity... the return will be slowly, slowly.” Meanwhile, The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the NHS could be ready from December to roll out the new coronavirus vaccine, if it gets full approval. And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the Government’s proposed ‘test to release’ scheme would start once the second lockdown ends in early December, with the aim of cutting the 14-day quarantine to a week.

• P&O sells summer 2022 P&O Cruises has introduced a range of early-booking offers to coincide with the launch of its new summer 2022 programme. Agents can take advantage of 5% deposits on over 150 holidays ranging from four-night breaks to Amsterdam to a 30-night sailing to North America and Canada

• Scenic adds 2021 tours Scenic has added luxury escorted tours to Canada and Alaska as part of its 2021 programme. Operating with reduced group sizes, the 11 itineraries will form part of the newly-launched Canada, Alaska, and USA programme.

• Classic Collection

brochure launch

Classic Collection Holidays has new product for this winter and next summer with more luxury resorts and private tours. The nine new brochures are Canary Islands; Italy; Madeira; Morocco & Egypt; Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico & Costa Rica; Portugal; Indulgence, Winter 20/21 and Summer 21.

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Could ‘RT-LAMP’ be the future for the travel industry? Andrew wheeler, GeneMe UK, talks to Laura Gelder

“Our key message is: test, test, test,” said the World Health Organisation back in March. Testing has also been lauded as the answer to the travel industry’s woes, but British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected travel industry requests for airport arrivals testing as an alternative to quarantining, citing research that only 7% of asymptomatic travellers will be picked up. But Andrew Wheeler, CEO of GeneMe UK, the biotech firm behind the 30-minute COVID-19 test system called FRANKD, envisages a future where mass testing creates safer zones and allows the travel industry to get back to normal. FRANKD is an RT-LAMP test, as opposed to the more commonly known RT-PCR test – though both are declared as ‘gold standard’ by the World Health Organisation. “LAMP tests have been in the market for about 10 years pre-Covid-19, but they have some serious credentials and USPs when compared to PCR tests,” says Wheeler. Both PCR and LAMP tests collect samples from the throat and nose with a swab, which are then analysed, but PCR tests must go to a laboratory whereas LAMP tests can be processed on-site as a point-of-care test

so the result can be gained in 30 minutes driving license, along with your result from rather than between 24-72 hours. the FRANKD test. Wheeler says FRANKD is highly accurate, “It’s a secure way to share and check Covid achieving 97% sensitivity in confirming results with smart anti-spoofing technology genuine positive results and 100% specificity to prevent result swapping.” to SARS-CoVoV-2, as well as being able So why aren’t we using this technology? to detect very low viral loads – effectively A trial this summer at Heathrow returned catching both pre-symptomatic and positive results and Virgin Atlantic is asymptomatic people. already working with FRANKD. On However, the cost of PCR The problem is that PCR tests is prohibitive, even for are more widely known and site PCR governments, with a street accepted and many countries machines can price of £150 per test; specifically request negative process over meanwhile the FRANKD test PCR tests for entry. But this 4,000 tests a costs businesses between could be about to change as £15 and £25, depending on FRANKD is on the verge of being day the volume ordered, and one approved by several governments, on-site PCR machine can process over alongside airports and airlines. 4,000 tests a day. Wheeler agrees with Grant Shapps’ view FRANKD has partnered with the free digital that testing on arrival is not a solution, but identity Yoti app to ensure that test results testing pre-departure is, and agrees with the can be linked to a specific individual in a WHO’s ‘test, test, test’ philosophy. safe, secure and tamper-proof way. “What Grant Shapps means is that it’s “The Yoti ID app has completed trials with better to test on departure, or pre-arrival,” Heathrow Airport and accepts IDs from over says Wheeler. “The idea is to create Covid185 countries,” says Wheeler. free zones and the way to do this is to test “It uses people’s biometrics and NISTon a regular basis.” approved facial recognition software to He adds: “All this discussion about secure key documents like passport and ‘test-and-release’, reducing the time for quarantine and even self-isolation prior to departure, is confusing for travel businesses and consumers alike, which is doing even further damage to consumer confidence in the already beleaguered travel sector.” GeneMe UK will be releasing a dual COVID-19/influenza test soon and a robotics testing solution which will be available in January. The latter will scan each user’s Yoti app before presenting them with a saliva test tube which they deposit into and give back to the machine. It will send the result to their phone via Yoti in half an hour. Wheeler finishes: “There is a real opportunity here for forward-thinking businesses to partner with FRANKD for a scientifically robust, technically innovative and trustworthy solution to ensure future travel is possible.”


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38 / Show report SHOW REPORT

Jessica Pook reports from...


LATA Expo 2020 Latin America talked of ‘signs of recovery’ for 2021 at the Latin American Travel Association’s first virtual LATA Expo in October


OCTOBER 12 – 16, 2020

The annual B2B show saw 73 exhibitors around 50% in September. The data also from 27 countries gather remotely for concluded that the top-searched South one-to-one business meetings. Over American destinations from the UK for the course of the five-day event, Latin travel between October and December American countries including Guyana, 2020 were Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Belize, Argentina, Panama and Peru were Rica and Argentina. able to showcase new tourism product It was predicted that holidaymakers and provide destination-wide updates. are likely to follow the trend towards The region is showing green shoots of later bookings for 2021 but will be more recovery, it was revealed, with increased inclined to spend more on their holidays seat capacity and a smaller year-on-year next year, with the amount averaging decline expected for Q4 of 2020. at £2,200 per week on flights and Statistics from global travel intelligence accommodation. experts ForwardKeys suggested LATA chairman Colin Stewart reflected that Mexico is showing more on a successful LATA Expo 2020, rapid signs of recovery, commenting: “We were delighted One in outperforming all other to have attracted 73 exhibitors two would countries in the region and 117 networking buyers from with inbound visitor 27 countries making this our feel safer volumes rising to most international show yet. booking with “Our ambition for LATA Expo an agent was to open a dialogue in the supply chain, facilitating new trade which we hope will go some way into kickstarting a sustainable recovery. “We look forward to seeing our LATA members and delegates in person at LATA Expo 2021, taking place in June at Battersea Evolution (London) with subsequent events in Paris and Amsterdam”

UNCHARTERED GUYANA “Guyana is a country that has never suffered from overtourism and still remains a lesser-known destination. Visitors can experience our wide-open spaces and dramatic scenery safe in the knowledge that we speak their language (English) and comply with all health and safety regulations. Once visitors can return, we will be excited for them to experience our country through a series of new tours created by independent operators, one of which is a new Gordon Ramsayinspired tour which retraces the steps of the celebrity chef on his most recent trip to Guyana with National Geographic, as part of his ‘Uncharted’ series. The tour is available to book through Latin Roots and follows Ramsay’s journey from Georgetown to the remote indigenous community of Rewa. Like Ramsay, visitors will travel with local chef Delven Adams ,who will bring to life the unique cuisine of Guyana. Guyana is welcoming back tourists in a safe and sustainable way, with UK visitors required to produce a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.” Nicola Balram Guyana Tourism Authority

Panama puts sustainability first 47% will book closer to the departure date

Panama has outlined a five-year sustainable tourism masterplan to help revive its tourism industry. The country will promote three main focus areas to visitors: Cultural Heritage, Green Hertiage and Blue Heritage, with the Panama’s conservation and sustainability efforts at the forefront, followed by its nature, culture and historic offerings.


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your guide to

selling Canada

Contents • Canada Calling in 2021 • Saskatchewan • Nova Scotia • Sun Peaks, BC • Atlantic Canada • Alberta • Québec

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40 / Road to recovery

Canada calling

Off the radar for much of the year, Canada’s attractions and iconic experiences are anticipating a return to business in 2021, says Stuart Forster


asps of excitement resonate throughout the train carriage. anyone not already holding their camera or smartphone make a grab for them, but the rest of us are already pointing our lenses at the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian rockies as we roll closer to Banff. The upper-level of the Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf car has arching panoramic windows ideal for viewing the dramatic landscapes of western Canada. I’ve already photographed the raging Fraser River at the suitably named Hell’s Gate, scrubland near Kamloops that reminded me of sets from Western movies, and the snowy mountains around Revelstoke, one of British Columbia’s many world-class winter sports resorts. I captured a bald eagle gliding above the Thompson River, where gold used to be panned, and bighorn sheep chewing grass while peering down from a hillside.

An announcement by a member of the luxury train’s Guest Services team about wildlife up ahead prompts people on the right-hand side of the bi-level carriage to stand from their leather seats. Excited, I head downstairs to the open platform at the back of the train. There, lumbering across the icy surface of a frozen lake, is a creature that is often nicknamed Bob in this part of the world – a ‘Big Old Bear’. The grizzly pauses and turns to look at the train; capturing the moment proves another highlight of this scenic rail journey.

Coast to coast Long-distance train journeys are a popular way of seeing Canada’s countryside and wilderness areas. Although confined to their sheds for the entire 2020 season, in usual years Rocky Mountaineer’s trains operate on three scenic routes in British Columbia and Alberta. The two- and three-

embRAcINg cANAdA


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Road to recovery /

and first won the coveted International Fishermen’s Trophy. Normally moored in the UNESCO World Heritage Site town of Lunenburg, Bluenose II will tour the province’s harbours. With more travellers expected to seek eco-tourism getaways, recommend two attractions in Nova Scotia: Tobeatic Wilderness Area, for forest bathing, and Trout Point Lodge, the world’s first certified Starlight Hotel, for guided stargazing and astrophotography in Kejimkujik National Park’s dark sky preserve.

Bucket lists Bucket list experiences among Canada’s great outdoors in 2021 will likely appeal to anyone who has spent months cooped up. Grizzly bear watching is an option in British Columbia and there’s ever-popuar polar bear viewing in Manitoba. Whalewatching cruises operate off Vancouver Island and in the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada. Conditions to view northern lights in the Yukon, Alberta and elsewhere are often ideal in spring and autumn, providing opportunities to sell Canada holidays throughout the year. Self-drive holidays enable travellers

stuart forster

day train journeys can be combined with holidays featuring sightseeing packages – including helicopter tours – and even cruises. Western Canada draws UK travellers for winter sports, its national parks and scenic drives, including the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Canada also offers much for foodies, with many restaurants focusing on regional produce. Craft distilleries and breweries flourish across the country while wine lovers will appreciate wineries in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. Meanwhile, the World Whisky of the Year, Alberta Distillers’Alberta Premium Cask Strength, is crafted in Calgary. Movie and TV fans may get a kick from visiting filming locations in Canada, whose cities frequently stand in for those in the USA. Many scenes in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan were filmed in Montréal and watchers of Emmy Award-winning Schitt’s Creek will recognise Bob’s Garage, Rose Apothecary and Cafe Tropical in Goodwood, Ontario. In 2021 Nova Scotia will celebrate a century passing since the Bluenose racing and fishing schooner was launched


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42 / Road to recovery

Agents should look at promoting some of the lessvisited parks, such as Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario and Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. ”

stuart forster

Tim Greathead, Premier Holidays


to maximise sightseeing opportunities while mostly socially distancing. For clients concerned about Covid-19, motorhomes provide the ideal way for families to stay in theirr own ‘bubbles’ and at the same time minimise contact with strangers in a country whose remote locations and wildlife viewing opportunities count among its key selling points.

grizzly bear

stuart forster

What’s new On Vancouver Island, the retro-chic Hotel Zed Tofino, which has the world’s first bikethrough lobby, opened in August. In Toronto, the Ace Hotel Toronto will soon tempt guests with rooms featuring acoustic guitars and record players. In September, the 262-room Sutton Place Hotel Halifax opened in the city’s new convention hub, the Nova Centre. And Halifax’s first five-star hotel, the 110room Muir, opens in 2021. Part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, the sustainably designed hotel will showcase local art and feature a wellness centre.

totem pole IN STANLEY PARK, vancouver

stuart forster

Tour operators “Canada is well-known as a welcoming, friendly country and its wide-open spaces have always been a big draw for visitors. Within two hours’ drive of Toronto, visitors

can be in the Niagara or Blue Mountain regions,” says Denise Hunn, Director of Canada Tour Operations at Prestige Holidays. Denise contends that agents who work with the operator have plenty of clients who are researching itineraries and will book as soon as they feel comfortable. Dan Gathercole, Managing Director of First Class Holidays, advises agents to upsell. “This could be a once in a lifetime trip,” he says. “Many clients will be open to doing more and for longer, and will likely have additional funds available due to not having a holiday this year. Late-2021 and 2022 bookings are averaging nearly a day longer than previously.” Tim Greathead, Product Manager for Canada and the USA for Premier Holidays, reports increased demand for holidays combining both the east and west coasts. “Agents should look at promoting some of the less-visited parks, such as Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Wells Grey Provincial Park in British Columbia, Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario and Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. “These can be explored independently via self-drive and have accommodations in or close to the park.”

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Flower Pot Island, ONTARIO

badlands NEAR kamploops, BC

stuart forster

Destination Canada’s Agents’ Training Hub canada-specialist-program-unitedkingdom, provides video introductions to destinations across the country and details of national parks and indigenous tourism. “They give an excellent overview of the regions and products to help agents get to grips with selling Canada and putting together the perfect itinerary for their clients”, says Adam Hanmer, Travel Trade Manager, Destination Canada.

stuart forster

Destination Canada training

Quarantine plan From November 21, air travellers to Canada will be asked to submit a quarantine plan, contact details and travel information before boarding flights – via the ArriveCAN website or mobile app – and retain the receipt or risk fines of up to CAD$1,000 (£575). Unless exempt, all new arrivals must confirm reaching their place of quarantine and submit daily COVID-19

symptom assessments throughout the quarantine period.

How to book it Titan Travel - 0800 988 5923 The 11-day Rocky Mountain Railtour includes international flights, nine nights in hotels, six excursions and SilverLeaf Service aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. It is priced

from £4,149pp. Canadian Sky - 01342 331 796 The 11-night Eastern Explorer escorted tour includes international flights, dinner in Toronto’s CN Tower, a cruise at Niagara Falls plus visits to Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Algonquin Provincial Park, from £2,199pp. •

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44 / sponsored feature

Guided Park Tours A guided tour can maximise time spent exploring Saskatchewan’s wide-open spaces and result in close-up wildlife encounters


askatchewan has an impressive parks system, with several faciltities open year-round. Guided tours with knowledgeable interpreters usually lead to discoveries visitors may never make on their own. Here are a few guided park tours to consider.

Fossil Fever

Grasslands National Park, East Block: Grassland National Park’s East Block bares a gritty, rugged character with infinite stories of prehistoric life on the planet. Its Rock Creek Badlands yield a treasure trove of fossils and adventures. Fossil Fever is a summer highlight, held each August. Explore the area with Royal Saskatchewan Museum palaeontologists and learn the ins and outs of fossil hunting. After a day of discovery, enjoy Fossil Talks in the evening.


Where the Buffalo Roam

Treetop Zip

Grasslands National Park, West Block: The West Block’s distinguishing feature is the Frenchman River, where the silence is interrupted by the playful chatter of black-tailed prairie dogs and the thundering movement of bison across the prairie. Where the Buffalo Roam tours, offered in July and August, examine the history of Plains bison during a visit to the park’s handling facility. Following the tour, learn about the importance of the bison to Indigenous peoples during a guided hike.

Treeosix Adventure Parks, Cypress Hills: The Treeosix Adventure Parks zipline experience is more than a quick thrill above the forest canopy. Two-hour guided zipline tours prepare guests to ‘fly through the trees with ease’, while gaining an appreciation of the beautiful surroundings. Climb a rope ladder, walk a sky bridge and soar across 2,000 feet of ziplines connected by treetop platforms. Treeosix Adventure Parks operates from May-September and also has a location at Elk Ridge Resort, just outside Prince Albert National Park.

All-rounder Saskatchewan’s parks are generally busiest in the summer months, from June to August. Catch the fall colours from September and, during the winter months, see lake skaters, cross-country skiers, and ice fishermen take to the parks. PRINCE ALBERT NATIONAL PARK

Mystery of the Bog

Prince Albert National Park: Spanning 3,875 sq. km, Prince Albert National Park has a network of trails that take visitors deep into the boreal forest. Mystery of the Bog tours explore the Boundary Bog Trail, a two-kilometre loop that winds through the shadowy world of the black spruce bog, where carnivorous plants share a home with dwarf birch, golden tamarack and a variety of birds and wildlife. Prince Albert National Park is open year-round. Find out more at •


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sponsored feature /


Six of the best...

Nova Scotia spots With over 8,000 miles of rugged coastline dotted with beaches and colourful fishing villages and a blend of Acadian and Celtic culture, there’s plenty to see in Nova Scotia. Cultural capital Halifax

Nova Scotia’s capital and cultural hub has a long harbour-front boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants, pubs and live music venues. Visitors can head here to visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, take a harbour tour or catch the ferry to neighbouring Dartmouth. Other top spots include the Halifax Citadel National Historic site and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which includes artifacts from the Titanic.

Riding the tides

The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s highest tides. Visit at low tide and you can dine on the ocean floor at Burntcoat Head Park or trot a horse over the salt-scented sands. Get ready to leave before 160 billion tonnes of seawater flows in around the dramatic red cliffs and tree-topped outcrops, creating the perfect place for a kayak. Thrill seekers can try Tidal Bore Rafting, for a wild ride on the powerful waves and rapids. Other activities include fossil hunting or whale watching.

Driving the Cabot Trail

This winding loop is ranked one of the most scenic drives in the world but the 185-mile highway on Cape Breton Island is great for those that want to get off the beaten track too. It weaves through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park for access to 26 coastal hiking trails. Other stops include the village of Baddeck, home to an iconic lighthouse and a museum dedicated to telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Star quality in the south

The Acadian Skies & Mi’kmaq Lands was the first place in North America to receive certification from the UNESCO-supported Starlight Foundation. Nestled in dark forest at the southern tip of Nova Scotia, there’s limited light pollution to dull the celestial night show. Trout Point Lodge gives budding astronomers the chance to gaze with a professional and the Deep Sky Eye Observatory spies distant galaxies beyond.

Nature on the Eastern Shore

This region is famous for its wild coast, with endless beaches and pounding waves popular with hardy surfers. Martinique Beach Provincial Park is home to the longest sandy beach in Nova Scotia, a 5km crescent backed by sheltered woods and sand dunes. Off the coast is the 100 Wild Islands, a protected archipelago of untouched beaches and rich bogs home to eagles and osprey.

Indigenous culture

The Mi’kmaw people referred to Kejimkujik as ‘the land of the fairies’ and the National Park is still a place of magic. Visitors can spy ancient petroglyphs and paddle 1,000-year-old canoe routes used by the Mi’kmaw, taking in lush forests and islanddotted lakes. Kejimujik National Park Seaside is a separate protected space, 100km southeast on the Atlantic coast, home to pristine beaches, turquoise waters, carpets of wildflowers and lagoons.


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46 / My experience

Sun Peaks, British Columbia

Hit the heights in BC’s alpine star Ski resorts can look a little forlorn out of the winter season, their white slopes that once heaved with meandering skiers replaced by empty green hills dotted only with untidy areas of brown worn grass and exposed rocks, writes Steve Hartridge. But not at Sun Peaks, in British Columbia’s interior, close to Kamloops. At Canada’s second largest ski resort the Sunburst Express transports walkers, hikers and mountain bikers three-quarters of the way up one of the resort’s three mountains. From here, a network of numbered and coloured trails – depending on their difficulty level or physical challenge - branch off in all directions. Those up for a serious hike can head up to a point called Top the World, 2,080 metres (or 6,834 feet) above the town. The meadows below are ablaze with summer flowers like the fire-red Indian Paintbrush, white-and-yellow Mountain Asters and Blue Arctic Lupins. Cows in these parts have ‘alpine roaming rights’ and I also spot deer, marmots and cute Columbian ground squirrels. Often, black bears can be seen foraging on the mountainside.

Mountain bilking is big business in Sun Peaks, which is building a reputation for its expert terrain and some of the most technical riding in Canada, But it also attracts beginners to its Progression Park, a learning and skills development area at the base of the mountain. “Keep the pedals level, brake before a turn but accelerate through it,” urges Madeleine, my instructor. Then it was up the mountain to take on the top-to-bottom ‘green’ (but challenging) nine-kilometre trail. Other activities at Sun Peaks include golf on a fabulous course which starts right in the pedestrian-only village and then wends its way into the foothills of the mountains, and stand-up paddlebarding on nearby Heffley Lake. Here, in-between face dives into the water, I retain enough composure to spot turtles, trout and an osprey nest. I row across another lake, McGillivray, my oars sending ripples just they as they did for those early French Canadian Voyageurs who transported furs by canoe. Other activities at or close to Sun Peaks include a village market, horse-riding lessons and trail riding, Segway tours and excursions to nearby wineries.

Hit it high Sun Peaks’ 18-hole championship course is, at 1,200 metres, the highest in British Columbia. The highlight is the 16th, with an elevated tee 40 feet above the landing area and stunning views of Mt. Morrisey.

On the water Whether it is paddleboarding, kayaking or enjoying a trip that takes you into Canada’s storied past by paddling an authentic Voyageur canoe, there are plenty of ways to makes a splash at Sun Peaks.

Family matters With its mountain walks, purpose-built village, Sundance Kids Centre, cross carts (pictured) a bungee trampoline and eateries such as Baby Doh’s Mini Donuts, Sun Peaks is geared up for families.

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sponsored feature /


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Guests can spot humpback whales, minkes and icebergs from the comfort of their own lighthouse lookout at Newfoundland & Labrador’s Quirpon Lighthouse Inn. Located on the shores of the province’s famous ‘Iceberg Alley’, the Inn is one of the best places in the world for watching icebergs as they are carried south on the Labrador Current. The fully-restored 1922 light-keeper’s home, a registered heritage building, features 10 rooms at the base of a still-operating lighthouse looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.


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Sustainable living is at the heart of this five-star coastal property in Nova Scotia. Making the most of its 1,100-acre grounds, the resort has bee hives and its own vineyard, adding to the picturesque setting. Guests can enjoy freshly-caught seafood and garden-fresh vegetables on a new two-night, chef-hosted tour which takes in dining locations like a raw bar on a private beach, a gourmet dinner in the middle of a vineyard and a seafood feast beside a lighthouse.

Treetop Haven

Getting there Atlantic Canada is closer to Europe than any other part of North America. Direct flights from London and Glasgow whisk clients there in less than six hours. TREETOP HAVEN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Guests can tap into the latest trend of ‘forest bathing’ at Prince Edward Island’s Treetop Haven. Forest bathing simply means visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in substances called phytoncides, known for helping people to de-stress, improve mood and cognition and calm the nervous system. Guests can visit one of the designated forest bathing trails whist staying in an elevated TreePOD. Massage therapists and yoga instructors are also available to enhance the experience. •


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48 / sponsored feature

Magical winter

Activities in Jasper Step into the real Narnia with a winter visit to Jasper National Park and the chance to embark on some of these snowy adventures Put yourself on ice

Equipped with special shoes, clients will be able to walk on top of the frozen Maligne River and into the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, which is filled with ice caves and sculptures, as part of The Maligne Canyon ice walk. There’s also the chance to scale pale-blue frozen waterfalls on an ice climbing course, or rent some skates from Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and glide on rinks on Mildred or Pyramid Lake.

Spot some winter wildlife

In Jasper, many of the locals have four legs, thick fur and a big set of antlers, but some wildlife is more common than others so the best chance of spotting the more elusive moose, for instance, is by booking a wildlife tour with a guide. They can follow migration patterns, take you to common sighting locations, spot animals from afar and teach all about the moose, caribou, sheep, wolves and coyotes here.

Get ready to shred it

Hit the slopes at local ski resort Marmot Basin. Known as a powder haven, it has the highest base elevation of any ski area in Canada and nearly 100 runs which cater for every level plus a Terrain Park with boxes, rails and jumps. No time to learn to ski? Fat bikes have large, spongy tires that grip the snow and give year-round access to Jasper’s extensive trail network. Rent one from Pyramid Lake Resort and take it for a spin.

Indulge indoors

After a long day exploring, it’s always lovely to get inside, get warm and refuel with something tasty. The Wilderness Kitchen (found at the trailhead of Maligne Canyon) is a purveyor of comfort foods. Tuck into warming soups and meals crafted from slow-smoked meats, handmade preserves and fresh local veggies. Or check out the Jasper Brewing Co., where you can find craft beers and warm, buttered pretzels.

Gaze up at the stars

Jasper National Park is also a Dark Sky Preserve – the second largest in the world, actually. The sky really comes alive in the winter, so get cosy with some hot chocolate and enjoy the show. See if you can spot the Milky Way or, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights. Wrap up warm and take a Winter Dark Sky Astronomy Tour or stay indoors and visit the Jasper Planetarium at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for star-studded views.

Dog or bird’s eye views?

Glide through the winter wonderland using a classically Canadian method of transport – a dogdrawn sledge. Relax under a snug blanket while a team of strong dogs swishes you through the forest (with an expert guide, of course) in search of the most stunning winter scenery. Alternatively, take a helicopter tour for jaw-dropping views from above. You can book a heli-snowshoe tour and get dropped off on top of the world.

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Selling Travel event report /



The event WHAT: Québec Roadshow WHERE: Glasgow & London WHEN: Pre-lockdown One WHO: Bonjour Québec, formerly QuébecOriginal, Air Canada, Colorful Québec, Cruise the Saint Lawrence, Misa Tours, Sépaq, Tourisme Laurentides, Tourism Montréal WHY: To discover the many unique experiences and activities that Québec, Canada, offers year-round.

Agents gathered in Glasgow and London to hear from regional tourist boards, airlines, tour operators, cruise and national park representatives from Québec in Canada. During the panel discussion, agents were able to get an insight into the destination from those that know it best and generate ideas on how to create the perfect itinerary at any time of year. Attendees also had the chance to win a holiday to the province including flights courtesy of Air Canada.

The take-away

The panel was really informative and gave the audience a great idea of how to create an exciting itinerary”

The Covid-19 situation is changing rapidly. Please note that this event occurred before the pandemic.


Located at the northeastern tip of North America, For more information on the Québec is Canada's largest Quebec government's directives province. With its specific to each region, visit: multicultural cities, national parks and waterways, Québec offers experiences that can't be found elsewhere in Canada. Québecers have a strong tie to the land, something that is showcased through its indigenous culture, unique cuisine and love of the outdoors, while its French-infused heritage offers creativity, sophistication and a joie de vivre (zest for life).


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50 / Selling Travel event report QUÉBEC ROADSHOW

MEET THE SUPPLIERS Tourism Montréal Cosmopolitan Montréal is abuzz with activity whatever the season. With over 115 festivals year-round, the city is a showcase of art, music, gastronomy, outdoor sports and circus performance (it is the home of Cirque du Soleil). Clients are recommended to spend at least three nights in this vibrant city, making time to marvel at the architecture in Old Montréal, home to Notre-Dame Basilica, gorge on local delights from street-side food trucks, surf the mighty Saint Lawrence River and discover Montréal's neighbourhoods including LGBTQ-focused The Village.

We've never had a Québec event in Glasgow and we really appreciate representatives taking the time to educate us on the province! JIM FRENCH, TRAVEL COUNSELLOR

Why would you recommend Quebec to a client ? 33.3%



11.9% 9.5%

For nature

For cuisine


For culture

For adventure

For skiing

For history

Sépaq Sépaq is a government organisation put in place to administer, operate and promote the province's national parks and wildlife reserves and is the largest outdoor network in Québec. For clients that want to ‘get away from it all’ Sépaq offers remote accommodation from mountaintop resorts to cosy winter chalets with opportunities to go hiking, biking, and wildlife spotting. Colorful Québec Drive a few hours from Québec's cities and you'll encounter the sprawling Canadian countryside of Southern Québec, made up of three regions: The Eastern Townships, Montérégie, and Centre-du-Québec.This part of the province is proud of its culinary scene - it was here that Canada's staple dish poutine (chips, cheese curd and gravy) was invented. It’s also one of the few regions where maple syrup is produced and a visit to a sugar shacks - the place where maple is harvested - is a dining must. The region also has over 40 wineries, a thriving ski season from mid-November to April and displays spectacular fall foliage colours from October onwards.



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The event

MEET THE SUPPLIERS Misa Tours Misa Tours specialises in small group escorted tours with packages from relaxing 'lodge & spa' vacations to ready-to-go adventures. Have clients that would love to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of their own tipi? Or experience the indigenous tradition of ‘throat singing’? Misa Tours can make it happen. Tours range from one-day dog-sledding excursions to weeklong itineraries in the great outdoors. Tourisme Laurentides Located just north of Montréal, The Laurentides is 22,000 square kilometres of wilderness and pretty smal towns. Outdoor enthusiasts will find pursuits for every season. In winter, MontTremblant offers some of the best runs in Quebéc, but for non-skiers there's the chance to try snowshoeing, dog sledding and tubing. In summer, watersports take centre stage. In autumn a cycling tour or hike is the best way to enjoy the changing colours while in spring suggest whitewater for thrill-seekers.

What word springs to mind

when you think of Quebec ? Natural


Original Hiking

Canada Rivers


Artisan Historic Snow




Beautiful Varied


Cruise The Saint Lawrence Offer cruising clients something different with a sail on the Saint Lawrence River. They will cruise the shores of Montréal, TroisRivières and Québec City during a seven-14 day cruise that takes in pretty fishing villages, Saguenay Fjord National Park and the bay of Tadoussac, where saltwater and freshwater meet to create an ecosystem that plays host to abundant marine life. Sailings are available with big names such as Silversea, Carnival, Tui Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and others. Air Canada Air Canada regularly flies directly between Heathrow and Montréal daily and indirectly to Québec City.


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Caesars for families Who says family getaways can’t be indulgent? Caesars Resort Bluewaters Dubai promises endless fun in the sun, with world-class restaurants, abundant activities and accommodation fit for royalty. Whether you’re dreaming of winter sun on the pristine private beach, a dazzling stay to ring in the New Year or a family holiday for summer 2021, the resort is ready to welcome you back.

BEACHFRONT BLISS Private beach, shaded kids’ pool and plentiful watersports.

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Find out more at

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