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Canada’s Travel Trade News
November 16, 2023
SUPPLIERS, AGENTS WEIGH IN ON BLACK FRIDAY Page 3 WESTJET EXPANDS EUROPE NETWORK Page 9 MORE LIFT FOR MARTINIQUE Page 22
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Airlines, cruise lines and tour ops are fully onboard with Black Friday; agents say many clients in this oﬀ-the-charts year have already booked By Kathryn Folliott
TORONTO — Come early Novem-
ber in Canada, consumers can count on seeing Christmas ads rolling out on TV, Christmas decorations at the stores, and increasingly, Black Friday deals. Long an American phenomenon timed for the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, Black Friday promotions (and their online counterparts on Cyber Monday) started popping up in Canada several years ago. During the pandemic, the travel industry’s Black Friday deals were naturally few and far between. But as travel’s recovery continues unabated, they’re back and bigger than ever. And just as the start of the holiday season seems to come earlier and earlier, Black Friday - Nov. 24 this year - is getting traction way ahead of the actual day. This time around travel agents began seeing a cascade of Black Friday deals more than two weeks out. It’s a crowded and competitive marketplace, and all it takes is one airline or tour operator to release their Black Friday deals for others to follow suit. The first two days of this week alone saw the launch of Black Friday sales from Sunwing Vacations, Transat, Collette, Scenic Group, Globus, Karisma, Rocky Mountaineer and many more. Even before that, G Adventures had launched its monthlong Cyber Sale on Nov. 1. Intrepid Travel’s Cyber Sale starts Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 4.
Along with the exposure, Black Friday can deliver big revenues. In Canada, Black Friday has gone from a fun novelty to a can’t-miss on supplier calendars.
“A SUBSTANTIAL REVENUE GENERATOR” “Black Friday has proven to be a substantial revenue generator for Blue Diamond Resorts in recent years. Over the years, we have seen remarkable success with the Black Friday promotions, particularly in the family-friendly experiences through our Royalton Luxury Resorts and Planet Hollywood Beach Resorts brands,” says Blue Diamond Resorts’ Director of Marketing & PR, Alejandro Rodriguez del Peon. The hotelier’s Black Friday deals are available at properties in Mexico, the D.R., Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, and Grenada until Nov. 26, 2023, for travel Nov. 16, 2023 through Dec. 23, 2024. Over at Sunwing Vacations, Black Friday is consistently the company’s biggest selling season year over year, says a spokesperson. Sunwing Vacations’ Pre-Black Friday Sale, on now through Nov. 19, 2023 for travel Dec. 14, 2023 - April 30, 2024, offers savings on select Mexico packages. Meanwhile the company’s upcoming Black Friday Sale will feature more discounts across many Sunwing Vacations destinations. Sunwing Vacations says its all-inclusive packages to Mexico and Cuba tend to sell very well around Black Friday: “They’re two of our most
popular vacation destinations and offer a great variety for our customers, from family-friendly to adults only and budget-conscious options.” Another Canadian travel company, Scenic Group Canada, says Black Friday sales can also boost revenues down the line, thanks to increased visibility: “They drive incremental sales growth and increase awareness and consideration for future travel. Scenic Eclipse is not something we usually discount heavily due to it being an ultra-luxury product and offering world-class experiences, however we recognize that this is an opportunity to offer a bit above and beyond what is currently in market.” Scenic Group Canada’s deals, good on new bookings from Nov. 13 all the way through Dec. 7, 2023, apply to both Emerald Cruises and Scenic. Ensuring that travellers have a plenty of opportunities to save on travel in 2024, Globus is offering ‘12 days of deals’ in the spirit of the season. Headlining these deals are discounts of $1,300 per couple on 70 different 2024 departures to some of Globus’ most popular destinations, including Italy, Ireland and Greece. Steve Born, chief marketing officer for the Globus family of brands, tells Travelweek: “There’s no doubt that our Black Friday sale generates action among travel shoppers. During last year’s sale, the pace of sales doubled compared to previous weeks. Consumers seem to have a high awareness that this is a good time to both shop and purchase. Not to mention that travel is the only thing November 16, 2023 | TRAVELWEEK | 5
TOP NEWS they can buy on Black Friday that will make them richer.” Along with the converts, some companies are joining the fray for the very first time. Rocky Mountaineer’s first-ever Black Friday sale, good through Dec. 4, offers up to $2,000 off per couple for all 2024 travel dates on select Rocky Mountaineer routes of six nights or more. “People love a good Black Friday deal, including those who are seeking travel deals,” says Nicole Ford, Rocky Mountaineer’s VP, Communications and Sustainability.
“DESIGNED WITH OUR ADVISORS IN MIND” All say they’re committed to working with travel advisor partners. “Our Black Friday sales are designed with our advisors in mind, with a goal of generating demand that advisors can capitalize on,” says Globus’ Steve Born. “Our sales team gives agency partners notice about promotions like this. In fact, they have been working with our agency partners in the weeks leading up to [the sale’s] start to ensure that details and marketing are in the pipeline.” Karisma’s Black Friday deals, available in Mexico, the D.R., Jamaica, and Belize for booking Nov. 16 - Dec. 7, 2023 for travel Nov. 16, 2023 - Jan. 2, 2026, are available to travel agents booking through tour operators, “and tour operators have received the same offers that Karisma has available. We want Black Friday to be a success and that success definitely includes travel agents and tour operators,” the company tells Travelweek.
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IT 'S OUR BIGGEST SELLING SEASON Scenic Group Canada says it makes sure travel agents receive its promotions in advance and have an ‘exclusive sneak peek’ for their clients. “Every promotion is accessible via our travel partners and commissionable. All marketing activity will always have a call-to-action option of booking with your travel advisor. Currently, we have a gift card incentive (until Dec. 17, 2023) where travel advisors can earn MasterCard gift cards on every new deposited booking. We are very much appreciative of our travel advisors and look to grow the partnership together.”
MANY TRAVELLERS HAVE ALREADY LOCKED IN TRAVEL PLANS Travel agents tell Travelweek that while clients are asking about Black Friday deals, the off-the-charts demand for travel this year means that many travellers have already locked in their travel plans. With this in mind, a long lead time on the travel window, like Karisma’s Black Friday savings good all the way until Jan. 2, 2026, might be the way to go. And marketing that supports a ‘book and save now, travel later’ message might also help close more sales, if clients are under the impression that Black Friday travel windows are short. “I find my clients are booking earlier than ever so the winter season is almost already fully booked,” says
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Cambridge, ON-based travel advisor Caitlin Lajeunesse, part of the Independent by Flight Centre network. “I don’t have too many clients taking advantage of Black Friday promos as they have already secured their travels for the year.” Jennifer Trofimuk with Planes, Trains & Kids Travel in Calgary says many travellers “wait for the Black Friday deals to see what pricing is like for travelling over the Christmas holidays or spring break, not realizing that by that point, availability at many resorts is already lacking, and pricing is higher than normal just due to supply and demand.” Other agents drive home the ‘book early and save’ mantra to clients, and that’s ultimately good news for the travel industry, even if it doesn’t always dovetail with perceptions around Black Friday deals. Says Kathleen Penner with Hamilton, ON’s Plenty of Sunshine Travel: “I don’t get much movement with the Black Friday deals. The value isn’t there compared to having my clients book early. In my opinion, booking in advance is the best way to secure the lowest price possible.” That ’s not to say that Penner doesn’t maximize Black Friday opportunities - or, for that matter, social media opportunities. “I usually post some of the Black Friday promos and use a specific hashtag for those specials to make it easier for my clients and potential clients to see everything in one place. I might put #BlackFriday2023TravelDeals, or I might put #BF2023POSTdeals. I make it easy for my clients to click on the hashtags and see all my posts with those promos. They can see all the travel pricing in one place at one time.” CONTENTS COPYRIGHTED We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada.
Heading towards 10 years and approaching half a billion dollars in annual sales, The Travel Agent Next Door has lots to celebrate By Kathryn Folliott
TORONTO — As if its upcoming 10th anniversary wasn’t cause enough for celebration, The Travel Agent Next Door is also riding high on projected sales of $400 million - or even more - for 2023. Highlighting that $400 million+ figure at TTAND’s VIP Supplier event, an annual get-together on the TTAND calendar, CEO and founder Flemming Friisdahl expressed delight and amazement: “That’s heading towards half a billion dollars. That’s our goal,” he said to cheers from TTAND’s supplier partners. It’s all the more incredible considering TTAND started out in 2014 with
60 agents, three staff and $7 million in annual sales. The host agency took a hit during the pandemic, just like everyone else, but sales came roaring back in 2022, with a $265 million total, generated by 1,100 travel advisors. Those numbers made TTAND, by its own calculations, the largest host agency in Canada with the highest sales volume. Those sales made TTAND an award winner with TL Network last year, winning top agency for 2022. Now the 2023 projections are the icing on the cake for TTAND, in a phenomenal recovery year for the travel industry. Friisdahl summed it up: “It’s the largest sales volume of any host agency in Canada.”
THE TEAM AT THE TRAVEL AGENT NEXT DOOR HOSTED THE VIP SUPPLIER EVENT AT THE FAIRMONT ROYAL YORK
8 | TRAVELWEEK | November 16, 2023
Michael Friisdahl, Flemming’s brother and a travel industry veteran in his own right, as well as past CEO of MLSE (and current executive chairman of Signature Aviation), said that what the TTAND team has achieved in 10 years is “unbelievable.”
MORE NEW AGENTS IN THE PIPELINE The number of TTAND agents now tops 1,250, with support from 63 TTAND staff members, including 37 in Canada and 26 in India. “Why two teams? It helps keep costs down, and allows us to allocate more money for things like marketing and training,” said Friisdahl. That 1,250+ total includes 109 agents who joined TTAND in the past 18 months. In addition, there are 886 more people in the pipeline. “Some people say the retail travel industry is dying. I don’t think so,” said Friisdahl. Training the newcomers is one of many tasks for Rhonda Stanley, who heads up the New Agent Program at The Travel Agent Next Door as VP, Talent Development. Stanley was honoured last night by surprise guests Diane Petras, President, The Travel Institute and Sr. Dir. Education, Guida Botelho, who presented Stanley and the TTAND team
TOP NEWS with the 2023 Educational Excellence Award. “Everything you do contributes to the excellence of The Travel Agent Next Door,” Petras told Stanley to applause. TTAND’s VP, Travel Agent Experience, Penny Martin, shared survey results from TTAND agents showing a 94% satisfied or very satisfied rate among respondents. TTAND agents gave the host agency high marks for communication and transparency, innovation “and a support team that rocks.” Over 600 travel advisors attended The Travel Agent Next Door’s cross-Canada roadshows last month.
MORE AGENTS IN QUEBEC Along with support from TTAND staff, TTAND advisors also avail themselves of a long list of IT benefits, said Friisdahl. “We’re number one for ICs in Canada, and we have the best customizable sites for ICs, the best digital and print marketing for ICs, the best tools for ICs,” he said. TTAND’s membership across Canada now includes 20 agents in Quebec, buoyed by more French-language supports including the website. When TTAND’s new Marketing Director, Christine Ufniak, joined the host agency in early October, TTAND had just nine Quebec agents. “We’re really growing in Quebec,” said Ufniak during last night’s presentation. She urged suppliers to include French-language collateral when sending through promotions for TTAND agents. Along with Quebec growth, TTAND is also prioritizing a new consumer cruise booking engine, a powerful lead generation program, the Z.I.P. program and continued IT development for 2024. There are also key new initiatives for Golf Town Travel, Flexiti, Today’s Destination Weddings & Honeymoons and more.
WE’LL STICK WITH YOU, WE’LL SUPPORT YOU, AND WE WON’ T BRING ON PARTNERS WHO COMPETE WITH YOU 10TH ANNIVERSARY AND JORDAN CONFERENCE IN 2024 Also looking ahead to 2024, TTAND’s 10th anniversary celebrations will kick off in March and run all year long. Friisdahl announced the host destination for the 2024 conference Jordan - during TTAND’s 2023 conference earlier this year in Cancun. Weeks later, TTAND announced that demand for spots on the 2024 conference in Jordan was so high, the event sold out in 47 seconds. The Jordan trip is in partnership with G Adventures, Jordan Tourism and Royal Jordanian Airlines. So far more than 260 agents are confirmed for Conference, and more than 125 are on a wait list. Friisdahl says the TTAND team is paying close attention to the war in the Middle East. “We hope for everyone’s sake that things calm down,” he said, adding, “we don’t want to pull the plug on it as we’re confident things will settle down. If it’s not safe,
we won’t go. But I think it will be amazing. We believe we will be moving ahead with Conference.” TTAND’s charitable partner throughout the year, but particularly at Conference, Pencils for Kids, was spotlighted at last night’s event with powerful words from founding member and President, Robin Mednick. Friisdahl ended the evening with a message for TTAND’s supplier partners that has served the team well over the past decade. “I hope you notice that I haven’t swayed from what I said nine years ago: we’ll stick with you, we’ll support you, and we won’t bring on partners who compete with you,” he said. Plus, of course, there’s the Win-WinWin mantra that has been a driving force behind the company’s success for all these years. “Anything we do has to be a win for the agent partners, a win for the supplier partners, and a win for The Travel Agent Next Door,” he said. “If it’s not, we don’t do it. It’s that simple.”
RHONDA STANLEY, T TAND’S VP TALENT DEVELOPMENT (CENTRE) ACCEPTS THE 2023 EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE AWARD ON BEHALF OF T TAND, AWARDED BY THE TRAVEL INSTITUTE’S DIANE PETRAS (LEFT) AND GUIDA BOTELHO (RIGHT)
November 16, 2023 | TRAVELWEEK | 9
DESTINATIONS More resort rooms are on the way for Jamaica, as Lopesan Hotel Group eyes growth in the Caribbean. At the World Travel Market in London, Lopesan - with 17,000+ hotel rooms across Europe, Asia and the Caribbean - connected with Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett and his team to announce interest in developing a new 1,000-room luxury resort. Lopesan Hotel Group is so far more of a force in Spain’s Canary Islands, plus the company has properties in Thailand, Germany and Austria. In the Caribbean, Lopesan has one property in the D.R.: Lopesan Costa Bavaro Resort, Spa & Casino. Earlier this fall Minister Bartlett confirmed that 20,000 new hotel rooms are being added to Jamaica’s pipeline in the next 10 years, 2,000 of which are coming next year. It took just three quarters in 2023 for The Bahamas to surpass its total number of arrivals for all of 2019. The destination has reported more than 7.2 million visitors in the first three quarters of 2023, equalling in nine months the total number of arrivals in 2019, putting it squarely on target to welcome more than 8 million visitors by year’s end. “Our tourism performance in 2023 has been spectacular,” said Chester Cooper, Deputy PM and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation.
AIRLINES Air Canada will ramp up capacity to Asia starting next month through to the end of next summer 2024. This winter the airline will offer up to 57 flights per week between Canada and Asia, and up to 64 flights per week next summer. It will also have up to double daily flights to Hong Kong and larger aircraft operating to Shanghai during the holidays and Lunar New Year travel periods. Next spring, seasonal Osaka flights will resume earlier and larger aircraft will operate to Narita and Seoul. “Air Canada’s Asia services continue to reflect strong demand and we are boosting capacity to this geographic area as we deploy our international diversification strategy,” said Mark Galardo, Executive VP, Revenue and Network Planning.
Celebrity Cruises has revealed the name of its fifth ship in its awardwinning Edge Series: Celebrity Xcel. The ship had its official steelcutting ceremony earlier this month at Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, with executives from parent company Royal Caribbean Group in attendance. Celebrity Xcel will make its debut in November 2025 in the Caribbean. Sailings are now open for sale. Meanwhile sister ship Celebrity Ascent is set to begin sailing later this month.
Norwegian Cruise Line NCL has opened bookings for its new Norwegian Aqua, the first of its expanded Prima Plus Class. The ship sets sail in April 2025. Norwegian Aqua’s first voyages to the Caribbean include sevenday itineraries departing from Port Canaveral to Puerto Plata, Tortola, St. Thomas and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in The Bahamas.
WestJet’s intercontinental expansion starts summer 2024 CALGARY — WestJet will be spread-
ing its wings even further next summer with an expanded European network and increased frequencies for international routes. Propelled by its growing 737 MAX fleet, the airline reintroduced service connecting Eastern Canada and Europe, as well as introduced new service from Calgary to Reykjavik. Out of YYC the airline will also offer Europe routes to Rome, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Paris, London (Heathrow) and Dublin. WestJet is also increasing frequencies for international routes and adding daily exclusive service to Japan. “This announcement underscores our commitment to affordably connecting Canadians from coast-tocoast to some of the world’s most popular destinations,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Group Executive VP and Chief Commercial Officer. With four times weekly service beginning May 15, 2024, WestJet will be the only airline providing direct connectivity to Iceland from Calgary. WestJet’s service to Reykjavik will be further enhanced by the airline’s interline agreement with Icelandair, enabling guests to travel across Icelandair and WestJet’s network via one boarding pass, with the convenience of a single check-in and baggage tagged and checked to their final destination. WestJet has also announced that it will be reconnecting three major eastern Canadian cities to key European destinations this summer, including Toronto to Dublin and Edinburgh, Halifax to Dublin, Edinburgh and London, and St. John’s to London. The Halifax-Edinburgh is a new route for WestJet. In addition, with increased frequency between Calgary and Tokyo and six transatlantic destinations, WestJet is
providing Western Canadian communities with more choice and access to their favourite international destinations this summer. Following a highly successful introduction of non-stop service to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the airline is responding to significant demand for the popular route and increasing service to daily this summer. The news comes on the heels of WestJet’s earlier announcement about new transborder routes from Western Canada starting summer 2024. The summer schedule will feature new routes between Edmonton and Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco, along with new service connecting Vancouver and Detroit.
Cathy Stapells is VisitBritain’s new Director, Canada TORONTO — VisitBritain has ap-
pointed Cathy Stapells as its new Director, Canada. Based in VisitBritain’s Toronto office, Stapells, who has been with the organization for a decade, will now be responsible for integrating travel trade and communications strategy in Canada. Her role is also a key interface for cross-government activities with the British High Commission in Ottawa and Consulates in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Paul Gauger, VisitBritain’s Executive Vice President, The Americas,
Australia & New Zealand, said: “Cathy brings a wealth of tourism and communication experience during the 10 years she has been at VisitBritain, including leading on our tourism efforts in Canada for the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, England. In appointing Cathy to this new role, we recognize the increased importance and significance of the Canadian market in driving tourism growth across Britain throughout the year.” On her new role, Stapells said: “I am excited to lead VisitBritain’s activity in this market. Canada is playing a significant part of the post-pandemic tourism recovery to Britain, and we’re not stopping there. Our ambition is to crack a million visits from Canada to the UK. With the support of our incredible trade partners we want to inspire Canadians to ‘See Things Differently’ by enjoying the experiences and attractions that can be found only in Britain.” In 2022, Canada achieved record spend, reaching £934 million in 2022, up 27% on 2019, and is ranked the seventh most valuable market for spend to the UK. With continued growth this year, spend forecast is expected to surpass £1 billion. Visits were also up 3% to 897,000, with Canada currently the UK’s ninth largest market for the number of visits. This year, VisitBritain expects to welcome 37.5 million inbound visitors overall (92% on 2019). November 16, 2023 | TRAVELWEEK | 11
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G Adventures launches new ‘Geluxe Collection’ TORONTO — G Adventures has
launched a brand new travel style featuring 28 trips that focus on physical activity, one-of-a-kind accommodation, elevated dining and community and culture. Called The Geluxe Collection and available to book now, the new travel style has been handcrafted by G Adventures to ensure that as much money as possible stays in the hands of local people, from start to finish. It also fills a gap in the market for people looking for a premium active experience, done the G Adventures way, says Yves Marceau, VP of product for G Adventures. “We’re rolling out the purple carpet with our new line of premium active
trips – The Geluxe Collection. These trips have been carefully curated for travellers who enjoy adventure with a softer landing, yet still appreciate meaningful interactions with local people as part of their travel experience,” says Marceau. “Each day has been meticulously crafted to get travellers deeper into the destination, while still being physically active throughout their trip. Every meal tells the story of the people and place it came from. Accommodation is unique to the location, and all trips have community tourism at their core so travellers form a richer connection with local people and their culture, while also giving back as they travel,” he added.
history, design or surrounding experiences. These include the Cardamom Tented Camp in the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, Refugio Amazonas ecolodge in the Peruvian Amazon, glamping at Changa Safari Camp in Zimbabwe, and Mr and Mrs White Tinos, a boutique hotel in the Greek Islands. ‘Your OMG Day’ gives travellers the chance to personalize one of their days by picking between two different travel experiences on each trip. Examples include a food walking tour in Tokyo, a Cape Malay cooking class in South Africa, a rowboat ride and yoga session in Nepal, and a Jeep safari that includes meeting nomads and villagers in southern Morocco.
Highlights of each trip in the collection include at least one ‘Your OMG Stay’ and one ‘Your OMG Day.’ ‘Your OMG Stay’ is a standout style of accommodation selected for its
People Corzo joins Premier Worldwide Marketing as VP Sales North America Premier Worldwide Marketing, the global sales and marketing representative for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, has named Frank Corzo as VP Sales North America. “I am thrilled to join the Premier Worldwide Marketing team and embark on this exciting journey. I look forward to spearheading our team and collaborating with our travel trade partners to propel our programs to new horizons,” said Corzo. Corzo’s primary focus at Karisma will be to strengthen partnerships throughout the marketplace and craft a loyalty and recognition program aimed at bringing more financial wealth to the travel community. He succeeds Marilyn Cairo, who, for the past six years, has led global sales, groups, and weddings at Premier Worldwide Marketing. Cairo has been instrumental in Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ success while developing new seasonal programming and delivering commercial brand renown for both the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts and Margaritaville Island Reserve all-inclusive collection. Corzo took on his new role earlier this week. Cairo will work alongside Corzo for a seamless transition until Nov. 30, when she will embark on her future endeavors. 14 | TRAVELWEEK | November 16, 2023
The 16 countries featured at launch are: Botswana; Cambodia; Costa Rica; Egypt; Greece; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Mexico; Morocco; Nepal; Peru; South Africa; Thailand; Vietnam; and Zimbabwe. The maximum group size is 16, with an average of 10-12 people per departure. Example trips include ‘Southern Morocco: Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains & the Sahara’ from $3,479 per person, ‘Central Mexico: Oaxaca to Mexico City’ from $3,649 per person, and many more. Prices do not include international flights.
Hola Sun debuts Cuba Collection 2023/2024 interactive brochure TORONTO — Hola Sun Holidays has
introduced its brand new digital brochure for the 2023/2024 season. Says the company: “This brochure is not just informative; it’s interactive, easily downloadable, printable, and
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NEWS shareable, allowing you to plan your dream trip to Cuba.” Along with the launch, Hola Sun also provided a list of selling points for the new brochure … • Share with Friends and Family: “Planning a group trip or sharing your dream vacation with loved ones? Our digital brochure can be effortlessly shared via email, social media, or messaging apps, making coordination with your travel companions a breeze.” • Download and Print: “Save a copy of the brochure for oﬄine reference. Whether you’re on the go or simply prefer a physical brochure, our digital design allows you to print it easily, ensuring you have the information you need at your fingertips.” • New Hotels and Destinations: “Explore the latest additions to Cuba’s ever-expanding list of hotel accommodations and destinations. From charming boutique hotels to luxurious beachfront resorts, we’ve got it all. We bring you the freshest experiences on the island, ensuring your visitis nothing short of spectacular.” • Interactive Features: “Dive into the heart of Cuba with our interactive elements. Get a taste of the vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and thrilling activities you can enjoy on the island. Our brochure includes interactive maps and hotel locations to help you plan your itinerary effortlessly.” • Comprehensive Travel Services: “Access detailed information on arange of travel and tourism services available in Cuba. We provide insights into everything from transportation options to must-visit attractions.” • Trust the Experts: “With decades of experience, Hola Sun Holidays is your go-to source for all your travel needs to Cuba. As your dedicated Cuba Specialist, we’re here to ensure that every moment of your trip is filled with the warmth, culture, and beauty that Cuba has to offer.”
Exodus Adventure Travels now has private group adventures TORONTO — Exodus Adventure Travels says its new private group adventures are getaways designed to cater to clients looking to travel when they want, where they want, and in the company of those who matter most. With no set departures, enabling agents to customize travel dates to meet client needs, these trips come in all shapes and sizes with tried and tested itineraries that have been expertly crafted to meet the needs of every type of traveller, says Sasha Andrews, Director of Industry Sales for Exodus Adventure Travels. “Through our new Private Group Adventures program, our agent partners can now craft the perfect Exodus trip for their clients,” says Andrews. “Our wide range of itineraries to destinations worldwide will not only look after your clients’ well-being but will also ensure they learn about the places, people, wildlife, history, and culture of the places they visit from our passionate local leaders. What’s more, we are happy to build in a free spot for agents looking to escort their own group.”
OUR AGENT PARTNERS CAN NOW CRAFT THE PERFECT EXODUS TRIP FOR THEIR CLIENTS
KEY INFORMATION FOR TRAVEL ADVISORS Exodus Adventure Travels has put together a list of helpful tips for agents … • How Private Groups are quoted: Exodus offers private group rates as NET to agents to allow for mark up with desired amount, be that a standard commission amount through Exodus, or an alternate amount. • Free Spots for Agent/Leader: FOCs can be built into the quoted NET from Exodus for however many free spaces are needed. • Trips Available as Private Departures: Most all of Exodus’ adventures are available as private departures, however there are some that cannot for logistical reasons. • Minimum Group Size: Exodus requires a minimum of 8 travellers for a private group; 7 or less can travel together on an existing Exodus departure. For maximum group size, it is the same as the maximum group size for scheduled departures to offer a true Exodus experience, however slight larger group sizes may be requested. • Larger Groups (20+ travellers): For groups of 20 or more, culture- and wildlife-focused trips are the best bet. To align with safety protocols, hiking and cycling tours cannot accommodate larger groups. • NET Rates for Single Supplements: Exodus will offer the NET rate on the single supplements if requested, allowing agents to mark it up for a little extra commission. • Itinerary Changes: Exodus can only offer private departures of existing itineraries. Of that, there are more than 500 trips to choose from that have been painstakingly researched and vetted for the best experience possible for private groups. • Pre/Post Tour Accommodations & other extras: Exodus can arrange the same extras as are normally offered on group departures with pricing as per the group departure pricing. This includes pre/post tour accommodation, e-bikes (where November 16, 2023 | TRAVELWEEK | 17
NEWS applicable) and private transfers. • Why sell private groups with Exodus Adventure Travels: Commitment to sustainability; Award-winning local leaders; 50 years in operation of experience and expertise; Over 500+ expertly crafted itineraries to choose from; No set departure dates; Unique, often family-run accommodations with a focus on sustainability; Small groups, big adventures – minimum 8 passengers and a maximum of 16; Active travel expertise, including walking and cycling itineraries for all levels of fitness. To request a quote for a Private Group, visit ExodusTravels.com/ca/ private-group-holidays. Exodus’ site is ExodusTravels.com.
Icelandair’s Halifax-Reykjavik flights set to start May 2024 REYKJAVIK — After a five-year absence, Icelandair is returning to Halifax with seasonal service to Reykjavik starting in May 2024. Flights will operate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting May 31 and running through Oct. 14, on B737-MAX 8 aircraft with 144 seats in Economy and 16 seats in Saga Premium. Icelandair is also adding seasonal service out of Pittsburgh. Icelandair also serves Toronto and Vancouver with flights to Reykjavik. “We present an ambitious flight schedule for next summer and the largest in the company’s history,” said Icelandair’s CEO, Bogi Nils Bogason. “Our fleet continues to grow and next year we will add three new, efficient, and eco-friendly Boeing 737 MAX’s. We are very pleased to be adding two new destinations in North America and significantly increasing frequency to other destinations. The North American market has been very 18 | TRAVELWEEK | November 16, 2023
NICHE TRAVEL GROUP’S FAITH SPROULE (CENTRE) WITH THE AFFLUENT TRAVELER COLLECTION’S KATHRYN MAZZA-BURNEY (LEFT) AND NICOLE MAZZA (RIGHT)
strong, with Americans now the largest single group of tourists to Iceland. Our experienced team, comprehensive sales infrastructure and strong international brand, together with valuable cooperation agreements with other airlines, allow us to continue moving forward and seizing the opportunities we see in our markets.” Icelandair’s 2024 flight schedule is the carrier’s most extensive schedule to date. Icelandair will offer flights to over 50 destinations, with three connection banks within the day, and daily flights to 28 destinations in Europe and North America, with more than one flight a day to 19 destinations. In addition to new / returning gateways Halifax and Pittsburgh, frequencies will be increased to a number of destinations. Increased connectivity will offer 800 different connections and far more through codeshare agreements with other airlines. In 2024, available seat kilometers (ASK) are expected to increase by at least 10% from the previous year “We’re delighted Icelandair is returning to Halifax Stanfield,” said Joyce Carter, President & CEO, Halifax International Airport Authority. “We know Iceland is a top travel destination for many Atlantic Canadians, and this non-stop flight makes visiting Iceland easier than ever. We are looking forward to the restart of this service next summer and we can’t wait to welcome visitors from Iceland and beyond back to this beautiful region of Canada.”
ATC Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Sales goes to Niche Travel Group MIAMI — Dartmouth, NS-based trav-
el agency Niche Travel Group received the Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Sales Achievement at the recent Aﬄuent Traveler Collection symposium in Miami. Only four agencies out of more than 300 members in the U.S. and Canada were honoured at the luxury travel event. Not only that, but Niche Travel Group was the only Canadian agency in that group of four. The two other Chairman’s Award winners were Boscov’s Travel based in Ohio, and Lisell Travel based in Texas. The ATC Soaring Eagle Award went to Winger Travel Agency based in Florida. The Affluent Traveler Collection (ATC) is a by invitation-only luxury marketing group and the luxury arm of American Marketing Group (AMG), and its advisors are also members of sister brands TRAVELSAVERS and NEST. Niche Travel Group is an ATC affiliate. “Niche Travel Group sets a shining example for all of us,” said Nicole Mazza, Chief Marketing Officer for The Aﬄuent Traveler Collection. “At
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NEWS a time when demand for luxury travel is skyrocketing, Niche Travel Group is leading the way in innovative offerings, customer service and creative marketing. Its advisors truly listen to and understand the desires of their aﬄuent clients and excel at making those wishes a reality.” ATC Symposium took place at Kimpton EPIC Miami Oct. 28-30. Some 250 travel advisors and suppliers took part in the conference, featuring 1:1 meetings and networking receptions and meals, and a trade show. ATC agencies selected the following winners among the collection’s preferred partners … • Luxury Cruise Partner of the Year – Oceania Cruises • Luxury Guided Tour Partner of the Year – Abercrombie & Kent • Luxury Specialty Cruise Partner of the Year – AmaWaterways • Luxury FIT Partner of the Year – Journese • Specialty Land Partner of the Year – Rocky Mountaineer • Luxury OnLocation Partner of the Year – Island Routes • Luxury Resort & Spa Partner of the Year – Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa • Luxury Hotel Program Partner of the Year – Marriott International STARS & Luminous ATC reported that revenue from its portfolio of luxury suppliers has grown 32% since last year.
BRIGHTLINE, MIAMI STATION
Brightline launches agent program supporting commissionable bookings MIAMI — Brightline, the intercity rail
provider that serves top destinations in Florida, has launched a new Travel Professional Program that includes commissionable bookings. Qualified Canadian and U.S. advisors can now book clients’ travel on Brightline between Orlando and South Florida (Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach) with access to the lowest published fares, and earn commissions of up to 10% for both PREMIUM and SMART services. “The Brightline team is excited to roll out this new program dedicated to travel professionals as we grow our business together,” shares Johanna Rojas, SVP Partnerships and Sales for Brightline. “Agents can connect their clients to and from the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’ to South Florida’s iconic resorts and even the ‘Cruise Capital of the World.” The program supports the popular ‘From Station to Vacation’ cruise offer, which connects cruisers to Florida’s top cruise ports. When reserving a PREMIUM ticket, a complimentary Brightline+ ride is included,
with clients getting picked up from home or their hotel to the cruise port, all in one ticket. The PREMIUM ticket also includes access to exclusive station lounges, priority boarding, extra space as well as complimentary drinks and snacks. To further support travel advisors, Brightline is also growing its sales team by adding Ralph Ebra as senior manager of distribution who will be focusing on building partnerships within the advisor community. Travel advisors are encouraged to sign up for Brightline emails on gobrightline.com to stay up to date on the latest news. Last month, Brightline increased its service to meet the demands of its recent Orlando expansion, offering 15 departures in each direction between Orlando and South Florida.
Curaçao: The passport to island romance, with Inclusive Collection TORONTO — Inclusive Collection em-
braces every romantic celebration as a perfectly poised, unique moment in time. It expertly crafts stunning experiences, creating lifelong memories for couples to love and cherish, whether they’re at the beginning of their romantic journey or somewhere in the middle. To help couples celebrate their next chapter in a storybook tropical setting, Inclusive Collection offers romantic packages in Curaçao with savings of up to 40% off. Its Curaçao resorts offers stunning wedding packages that include all the romantic details. For the ultimate honeymoon or elopement, Zoëtry Curaçao Resort & Spa is where to go for ultimate tranquility. There’s also Dreams Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, which provides elevated weddings perfect for guests of all ages, November 16, 2023 | TRAVELWEEK | 21
NEWS and Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, perfect for couples and families on a budget so that the entire group can celebrate together. Guests can experience paradise in Curaçao and save up to 40% on their stay when they book by Dec. 14, 2023. For more check out hyattinclusivecollection.com/en/special-offers/ sun-sand-savings/.
Emerald Cruises unveils luxury yacht cruises through April 2026 VANCOUVER — Emerald Cruises
has unveiled a new collection of luxury yacht cruises through April 2026 sailing aboard its twin luxury vessels, Emerald Azzurra and Emerald Sakara. In addition to a brand new destination – the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles – the upcoming season also features new ports of call and fresh itineraries in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Red and Caribbean Seas. As further incentive, guests joining either yacht from April 17, 2024 onward will enjoy a complimentary drink package with unlimited access to a range of cocktails, mocktails, premium wines, Prosecco and Champagne by the glass, bottled beer and soft drinks, as well as a minibar selection in each suite.
Guests who book by Dec. 31, 2023 will receive free, roundtrip economy air on stateroom and premium air on suites, plus additional savings of up to $1,000 per couple with Emerald Cruises Super Earlybird offer.
THE SEYCHELLES New for winter 2024 and into 2025, the 100-guest Emerald Azzurra will take guests on a journey to the Seychelles, a vast Indian Ocean archipelago known for its pristine beaches, coral reefs and granite rock formations. The eight-day ‘Tropical Charms of the Seychelles,’ sailing roundtrip from Mahé, calls on eight islands, including Praslin where guests will visit Vallée de Mai reserve, a prehistoric palm forest where the colossal coco de mer nut grows wild. They’ll also visit Cousin Island, a nesting ground for sea turtles and rare magpie robins, and La Digue Island, known for its granite boulders and aquamarine waters. The first sailing will depart on Dec. 22, 2024.
EMERALD SAKARA WILL WINTER IN THE CARIBBEAN Sea sailings are available in December 2024, March, April, October and November 2025 and April 2026.
THE MED AND ADRIATIC Another first for Emerald Cruises, 2024 will find both yachts spending the full summer season in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. A variety of new itineraries will call on the Western Med, including Emerald Sakara’s eight-day ‘Yachting Gems of the French and Italian Rivieras’ between Nice and Barcelona, and the nine-day ‘Coastal Spain and the Algarve’ between Barcelona and Lisbon.
THE RED SEA
As it transits between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, Emerald Azzurra will offer several sailings in the Red Sea. Calling on gateway ports in Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, these itineraries highlight some of the region’s most ancient and fascinating landmarks, including Jordan’s hidden city of Petra, the Pyramids of Giza and Valley of the Kings in Egypt, and the sacred city of Jerusalem. A variety of eight- to 12-day Red
Beginning this November, the 100-guest Emerald Sakara will spend the winters in the Caribbean, offering three distinct, eight-day itineraries that call on a total of 22 ports in the Eastern Caribbean, Grenadines, Windward and Leeward Islands. Guests can combine these three itineraries into a 15- or 22-day ‘Hidden Treasures of the Caribbean’ sailing with no repeat ports. Most Emerald Cruises yacht journeys in all regions are combinable, from two weeks to 22 days, without repeating a port. Emerald Azzurra, the line’s first ocean-going vessel, made its debut in March 2022, followed by Emerald Sakara in August 2023. On the rivers, Emerald Cruises sails eight branded Star-Ships in Europe and one on the Mekong.
EMERALD AZZURRA IN SANTORINI
For more information call 1-855444-0161 or go to emeraldcruises. ca to order or download a brochure. 22 | TRAVELWEEK | November 16, 2023
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More lift for Martinique this winter, with Air Canada’s new YYZ flights starting Dec. 16 TORONTO — Martinique is a small gem of an island with a lot of big announcements for the coming winter season. The biggest news is that, for the very first time, there will be a weekly, direct nonstop flight from Toronto to Martinique (FDF) with Air Canada. The new service starts Dec. 16. Plus, Club Med Les Boucaniers (Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek) is reopening in November 2023. And MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside will be sailing from Martinique this winter. Martinique’s Tourism Commissioner, Benedicte di Geronimo, shared all the news at ‘Martinique Sensation’, an industry event at Hotel X Toronto. The evening included a workshop with hoteliers and other tourism stakeholders, followed by a cocktail reception. There were prize giveaways too. Travelweek connected with Bruno Brival, CEO, Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme (Martinique Tourism Committee), ahead of ‘Martinique
MARTINIQUE SENSATION AT HOTEL X TORONTO
Sensation’, to talk about more updates from the island. From January to August, Martinique saw a 4.3% increase in visitors (420,000 visitors), from all markets. More figures on visitors are coming soon, said Brival. In addition to Air Canada’s new Toronto service, the airline also offers year-round flights, up to five flights per week, from Montreal to Fort-deFrance (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), and Air Transat with a seasonal flight, up to three per week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), from Nov. 4 to May 30, 2024. Tour operators selling Martinique include Transat and ACV. Brival says the primary motivation for visitors coming to Martinique is for a beach destination, “but we have a lot of attractions beyond beaches. We have hiking, green tourism (forests, rivers, etc.), memorial tourism with our many museums, and gastronomic tourism with rum and incredible creole cuisine. Martinique is just as suitable for those who want to relax during all their stay, and a
People The Palm Beaches contest winner gets PGA National Resort getaway One lucky winner is looking forward to a stay at the PGA National Resort thanks to a contest with The Palm Beaches, hosted by Travelweek. Sophia Dean, Cruise & Vacation Consultant with Expedia Cruises in Woodbridge, has won a two-night stay at the PGA National Resort thanks to her winning entry in ‘The Palm Beaches - Get in the Know’ contest which ran on Travelweek.ca earlier this year. The newly reopened and completely redesigned PGA National Resort has been described as ‘Palm Beach style meets breathtaking amenities’, with 800 manicured acres just minutes from Palm Beach’s aquamarine coastline. For many, The Palm Beaches offers a gentler side of Florida, with cleaner sands, warmer waters and fewer crowds. Known as ‘America’s First Resort Destination’, The Palm Beaches is where genuine hospitality began. For more information on The Palm Beaches check out ThePalmBeaches.com. 24 | TRAVELWEEK | November 16, 2023
perfect destination for sports too, as it is for families (activities are accessible to children).” He added that visitors should check out the island’s Michelin-starred establishments (Sable Bleu, Résidence Kaouanne), and lots of renovations (La Pagerie, La Panoramic, Club Med undergoing major renovations). “There’s also the Martinique Trail Tour: 19 trails with different themes, ultra trail, sports and tourism, with a wide range of levels, from beginner to expert. These trails are an opportunity to discover places that are usually inaccessible. Many Martinicans rediscover their country this way,” said Brival. Curaçao: The passport to island romance, with Inclusive Collection Inclusive Collection embraces every romantic celebration as a perfectly poised, unique moment in time. It expertly crafts stunning experiences, creating lifelong memories for couples to love and cherish, whether they’re at the beginning of their romantic journey or somewhere in the middle. To help couples celebrate their next chapter in a storybook tropical setting, Inclusive Collection offers romantic packages in Curaçao with savings of up to 40% off. Its Curaçao resorts offers stunning wedding packages that include all the romantic details. For the ultimate honeymoon or elopement, Zoëtry Curaçao Resort & Spa is where to go for ultimate tranquility. There’s also Dreams Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, which provides elevated weddings perfect for guests of all ages, and Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, perfect for couples and families on a budget so that the entire group can celebrate together. Guests can experience paradise in Curaçao and save up to 40% on their stay when they book by Dec. 14, 2023. For more check out hyattinclusivecollection.com/en/special-offers/ sun-sand-savings/.
A luxury brand debuts in the Americas: Kempinski Hotel Cancun CANCUN — After a year-long transi-
tion, Kempinski Hotel Cancun has debuted on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, welcoming guests to discover its newly updated 363 rooms and suites. “This property fits perfectly into the portfolio, the Kempinski brand and the Kempinski DNA,” explained Conrad Bergwerf, the hotel’s general manager. Located within the hotel zone, Kempinski Hotel Cancun is less than a half hour from Cancun International Airport and downtown Cancun, 90 minutes from Tulum, 2.5 hours from Chichen Itza and a short ferry or yacht trip to nearby Isla Mujeres. The timing was right for this former Ritz-Carlton Hotel to transform into a five-star Kempinski. “There will be some refurbishment,” said Bergwerf, to enhance the classic style of the hotel. “The vision is to use this hotel as the pied-à-terre for the American continent, and to expand into the US and South America.” Kempinski Hotel Cancun is the brand’s first property in North America, and the brand is looking at Brazil
and the southern U.S. as their next possible locations. Kempinski’s renowned hospitality will be on display with the Lady in Red, the hotel’s brand ambassador, offering intuitive and thoughtful assistance, and ensuring all guests’ questions and requests are answered. “Our service philosophy is to pamper guests with European hospitality and to encourage living the experience through their senses,” explained Bergwerf. “We’re focused on exceeding expectations.” This hotel is also only one of four in the vast Kempinski portfolio which will also have a Gent in Red, Ruben Grajeda, who has worked at the property for almost two decades. Bergwerf stated Kempinski’s focus on travel agencies with a niche for luxury-focused clientele. “We are with all the consortiums, like American Express, and have been working with high-end meeting planners and multigenerational-focused travel agents.” He added that the presence of St. Regis, Waldorf Astoria and Fairmont, along with Kempinski, puts the spotlight on Cancun as a luxury destination. Kempinski Hotel Cancun’s rooms are divided into four types, while there are six different types of suites. At almost 2,500 square feet, The Presidential Suite includes a private bedroom for two, walk-in wardrobe, marble bathroom with soaker tub, living room, dining room, private terrace
and outdoor hot tub overlooking the Caribbean Sea. In addition to the expansive 1,200 feet of white beach with private cabanas and lounge chairs steps from the hotel, guests have access to two swimming pools, fitness centre with Technogym equipment, sauna and steam rooms, tennis centre, pickleball courts, Titan Tikes Kids Club and Kayanta Spa featuring Mayan-inspired treatments. Additional indulgence for clients is reserving a beach villa, offering exclusive amenities for up to four adults to enjoy a private beach area and Club Rooms or Suites, which have daily access to the Club Lounge, offer private check-in/check-out, all-day dining, concierge and a dedicated mixologist for cocktail hour. Food and beverage are an essential part of Kempinski’s core; this luxury brand’s roots began 130 years ago in the catering and restaurants industry, which led to the opening of hotels. Kempinski Hotel Cancun features six on-site dining options overseen by Chef Rene Camelo, including the five diamond Fantino and beachside restaurant Casitas. Bergwerf happily claimed “the best beach in Cancun is the one in front of our hotel” and with a smile added “I really hope it will be a cold winter! We love Canadians, come down to Cancun!”
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Uniworld announces 2024 President’s Cruise onboard newest Super Ship LOS ANGELES — Uniworld Boutique
River Cruises has set a date for its 2024 President’s Cruise, departing next June with President and CEO Ellen Bettridge. The special voyage will set sail on June 16, 2024 on the popular ‘Castles Along the Rhine’ itinerary, onboard Uniworld’s brand new Super Ship for 2024, the S.S. Victoria. The cruise will operate on its usual Basel to Amsterdam route, but guests can expect exclusive activities and excursions, plus time to interact with Bettridge. “Travelling with our incredible guests is always something that I look forward to, and I’m thrilled to do so next year on our beautiful new ship,
the S.S. Victoria for my 2024 President’s Cruise,” says Ellen Bettridge, President and CEO of Uniworld. “We’ll be setting sail on one of our most popular itineraries along the Rhine River with exciting new twists and surprises, including exclusive experiences both onboard and onshore, plus a lavish new ship experience that our loyalists won’t want to miss.” The S.S. Victoria will debut in March at the start of the 2024 season and features some of the largest suites on the rivers, with the capacity to host 110 guests in 55 luxurious accommodations. All rooms and suites feature a similar design, with full-length windows in front of the king-sized beds to enjoy the passing scenery along with leather, velvet and marble touches throughout. Certain suite categories offer even more extravagant amenities such as walk-in closets, fireplaces and, a Uniworld-first, two-bedroom accommodation with adjoining suites for 759 square feet of space. Other ship highlights include a
massage room, well-equipped gym, bistro for casual snacks, rooftop bar and grill for cocktails and light fare, and a fine dining restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and gourmet dinner. In line with all Uniworld cruises, the dining venues prioritize farm-to-table cuisine, utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients gathered by the chef daily from the destinations visited. The eight-day ‘Castles Along the Rhine’ itinerary takes travellers along the fabled Rhine River, with Germany on one side and France on the other. Itinerary highlights include a visit to Alsace, known for its food and winemaking traditions that date back to the Romans; Marksburg Castle, one of the only castles on the Rhine that has never been destroyed; the fairytale town of Rüdesheim; and the historic cities of Cologne and Strasbourg. Guests also have the opportunity to opt for a precruise extension in Amsterdam, and a post-cruise extension in Lake Lucerne, which both last three days.
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