Travelweek JUNE 27 2024

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A relaxing oasis in Cuba

A stunning resort on Cuba’s Cayo Guillermo island, and part of Transat’s Family Collection, Gran Muthu Imperial Cayo Guillermo is an ideal spot for guests of all ages. From the beautiful beach with bright blue waters, to a stunning pool with ocean views, there are many places to relax and unwind. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities like dance, yoga, water sports, tennis and more. Dining options include buffet and à la carte options; and a refreshing, exotic cocktail is always available.

A look ahead with Playa Hotels & Resorts’ Amanda Morris: “We aim to grow our portfolio further”

TORONTO — Everyone knows the expression that says you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to know what they’re going through.

For Playa Hotels & Resorts’ team of BDMs here in Canada, that means a strong retail background that ensures a deep understanding of travel advisors’ needs.

“At Playa, we want agents to know that our Canadian BDM team is dedicated, knowledgeable, and always ready to support them. We truly have the best in the business! With a background in retail, our team understands the pressures of being a travel advisor,” says Amanda Morris, Director of Sales USA & Canada.

Freddie Marsh holds down the fort out west as Playa’s BDM, Western Canada. Playa’s Ontario BDM is Andi Bacho. And Christopher JeffreyRacine is Playa’s BDM for Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

All three have extensive backgrounds in the travel industry, with several stints as travel advisors between them.

Says Morris: “Freddie, Andi and Christopher bring a wealth of knowledge and are invaluable resources, committed to helping agents grow their businesses.”

The team is also committed to helping travel advisors celebrate their successes. Earlier this month the company’s top agent partners were fêted at Playa Hotels & Resorts’ 2024 Spotlight Awards, held at Hyatt Ziva Cancun.


Travelweek caught up with Morris in the days after the big event, to hear more about Playa Hotels & Resorts and its ‘Service From the Heart’.

‘Service From the Heart’ is Playa’s guiding principle, its north star. It’s an ethos that has served the company well and keeps the company grounded and focused on what matters most – exemplary customer service – as it aligns itself with some of the biggest brands in the business.

Expanding this array of brand partnerships is one of many items on Playa’s list for growth over the next few years. Says Morris: “We will continue aligning with internationally recognized and trusted brands, expanding our portfolio with partnerships like those with Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham, Marriott, and IHG.”

Playa Hotels & Resorts has almost two dozen resorts across Mexico, the D.R. and Jamaica. Says Morris: “We began with Hyatt Ziva (for all ages) and Hyatt Zilara (adults only), notably

launching the first all-inclusive Hyatt in the world with Hyatt Zilara Cancun.

“Following our success with Hyatt, we have formed partnerships with Hilton, Wyndham, and Marriott. Noteworthy properties include the luxurious Sanctuary Cap Cana and the upcoming Paraiso de la Bonita, both part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection.

“We are also thrilled to announce our latest brand partner, IHG, with the first all-inclusive Kimpton Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park set to open later this year.”

She adds: “Playa has always aimed to align with internationally recognized and trusted brands. With these strategic partnerships, Playa continues to redefine the all-inclusive experience, offering unparalleled quality and service to our guests across stunning destinations.”

Morris notes Playa’s other goals for the next several years. “We have an incredible team that is always on the lookout for new opportunities,” she says. “These strategies are designed to ensure that Playa Resorts continues to lead in the all-inclusive market, providing exceptional experiences for our guests.”

Here’s a look …

• New property developments:

“We aim to grow our portfolio further, enhancing our presence in the all-inclusive market,” says Morris. “This includes upcoming properties like the Kimpton Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park, Paraiso de la Bonita, a Luxury Collection Adult

Amanda Morris, Director of Sales USA & Canada, Playa Hotels & Resorts

All-Inclusive Resort, Riviera Maya, and Wyndham Alltra Punta Cana.”

• Enhancing guest experience: “We are committed to continuously improving the guest experience through upgrades to existing properties and the introduction of innovative amenities and services.”

• Sustainable practices: “From the start, Playa Hotels & Resorts has prioritized supporting our local communities and employees. We’re committed to being responsible corporate citizens, focusing on sustainable environmental practices.”

Travelweek asked Morris if she could sum up the Playa resort experience in three words.

Her picks? First up, ‘Consistent’. “Playa ensures a high-quality experience across all its properties, providing guests with dependable amenities and standards.”

Next is ‘Service’. Says Morris: “The resorts are renowned for their exceptional ‘Service From the Heart’, prioritizing guest satisfaction and personalized attention.”

And finally, ‘Culinary’. “Playa excels in delivering outstanding dining experiences, with diverse and gourmet options that cater to various tastes and preferences.”


Close to a dozen Canadian travel advisors were honoured at the Playa Hotels & Resorts 2024

Spotlight Awards, plus two host agencies took home awards as well. Trevello won the Momentum Award – Canada, while The Travel Agent Next Door was named Top Selling Agency – Canada.

Zeroing in on two of the individual award winners from the Canadian retail trade, Travelweek asked Morris about Red Label Vacations’ Vikas Malhotra, who won the Top Selling Agent - Canada, and TTAND’s Angie Brevetti, who won the Ambassador Award - Canada.

“Vikas is a true Playa supporter who goes out of his way to stay up to date with everything Playa,” says Morris. “He takes the time to visit our properties, whether on FAM trips or for his own vacations.”

And Brevetti? Morris says the prestigious Ambassador Award “honours individuals who truly embody unwavering commitment, steadfast support, and the true spirit of partnership. Angie’s dedication to Playa is unmatched, showcasing her unwavering commitment through consistent support and active involvement. She not only excels in her professional duties but also inspires others with her enthusiasm, expertise, and dedication.”

Both advocate for the Playa brand within the travel agent community, says Morris, adding that the company is incredibly grateful for their continued support.

Got a story idea? Questions or comments? Write to Kathryn Folliott at


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This year’s Spotlight Awards lauded the accomplishments of 100+ attendees, who were all treated to culinary adventures, unique entertainment, and whimsical surprises inspired by the magical world of Willy Wonka.

“Our Spotlight Awards are an incredible annual event where we host our most loyal and supportive travel advisors,” says Morris. “This year, we spent three amazing days at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, enjoying exceptional food, outstanding service, and fantastic entertainment –three of Playa’s pillars. The highlight of the trip is our Awards Gala. We all get dressed up and celebrate the successes of the past year! Many advisors qualify to attend this event year after year.”

Travel advisors looking to learn more about Playa Hotels & Resorts can check out Playa’s travel agent platform, AgentCASH+, at The AgentCASH+ site is where travel agents can report their bookings and accumulate points for perks. The site also has a learning centre with in-depth training, a comprehensive resource center filled with sales tools, media library, webinar recordings, agent rates and more.

Put simply, the AgentCASH+ site has “all the knowledge they need to confidently recommend Playa Resorts,” says Morris..


That palace life

As an exquisite 5-star hotel housed in a 19th-century palace, Palacio de Los Duques Gran Meliá provides the royal treatment and is a symbol of timeless elegance in the heart of Madrid.

Unique architecture, grand gardens, gourmet dining, top-notch service, a rooftop pool, stunning views of the Spanish capital... Guests will be over the moon!

The Buddymoon: Why honeymooning with friends and family is on the rise

TORONTO It used to be that honeymoons were a time for newlyweds to ‘discover’ one another and enjoy some much-needed privacy. Having lived separately up until then, the post-wedding trip represented the first time a couple could truly be alone together. But with many now marrying later in life and living together before tying the knot, ‘quality alone time’ isn’t such a novelty anymore.

Enter the ‘buddymoon,’ a modernday honeymoon that wedding couples are now taking with close family and friends. Whether it’s just one other couple tagging along or a big group of extended family members, either for the entire duration of the trip or just a few days, buddymoons are gaining in popularity, particularly since the solitary years of the pandemic, says John Hawks, Executive Director of Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA).

“Our members have definitely received a surge in requests for buddymoons during and since the pandemic; we estimate 10%-15% of our honeymoon couples want to invite others along,” he says. “Not only are more couples living together before getting married, younger couples – Gen Zers in particular –have grown up travelling in groups with their friends, so it just seems natural to them to invite them along on honeymoons, too.”

As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers, which is ever so true in

travel. Larger groups travelling and booking together are often privy to better rates, bigger discounts and additional perks. If splitting the cost of the trip evenly amongst the group, buddymoons can also be a cost-savvy option for newlyweds. Plus, inviting friends and family is a great way for couples to ‘keep the party going’ and prolong the magic of their wedding day.

“Here’s the key factor for gauging whether couples should plan a buddymoon: their goals for the trip,” says Hawks. “If they want to escape together after the wedding and spend time together before returning to their normal lives, then inviting others along may be a bad idea. But if they view the honeymoon as an extension of the wedding celebration, and they’ve already been living together and they’ve travelled a lot as a couple, then adding friends and family may be just the ticket.”


A good rule of thumb is to keep the group to under 10 people, big enough so that newlyweds still get the benefit of travelling with multiple friends and family, but intimate enough so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. But of course, buddymoons come in all shapes and sizes. For more introverted newlyweds, inviting just one other couple would make for great dinner conversation and added laughs on excursions, but those who are more sociable and love a good party may want to ask 10 or more friends and family members to share in the fun.


To avoid a logistical nightmare, it’s a good idea to choose a short-haul destination that’s easy for everyone to get to. Also, while a road trip is a good way to stay local, having to rent multiple cars and book several rooms at various hotels along the way is a lot to coordinate among a big group of people. Keep it simple by choosing an all-inclusive resort, a city break destination with one hotel as a primary base, or a cottage or villa rental by the lake or sea.


Couples opting for a buddymoon often find that inviting friends and family to join the middle portion of the trip is best. This allows couples to enjoy a couple days on their own at the beginning and end of the trip, with a few days in between to be with their loved ones. With this in mind, anywhere from 10-14 days is the perfect amount of time for a buddymoon that’s private and sociable, the best of both worlds.


Hawks tells travel advisors to help couples add some structure to their buddymoons, which may involve pre-planning activities, excursions and special meals. “Nothing feels more awkward than the couple and their arriving friends sitting around the hotel room, asking each other what they want to do for the day!” says Hawks.

Travelweek celebrates another successful year with summer rooftop party for industry partners

TORONTO Lake breezes, cold drinks and plenty of camaraderie and great conversation made for a perfect evening at Travelweek’s Summer Party, held atop 130 Queen Quay East. At nine storeys up, and with the sun dipping below the skyline, the day’s scorching temperatures mellowed, and party guests mixed and mingled with the rooftop summer vibe in full effect.

You know industry colleagues are truly friends when they face down not just Toronto traffic, but also a heat wave, to join the fun. With a DJ matching the mood with high-energy 1980s party classics, and a busy bar and a delicious Mediterranean dinner catered by Montfort’s Bishara Arraf and his team, the night couldn’t have been better.

Travelweek’s Publisher Devin Kinasz welcomed everyone to the festivities.“Thank you so much everyone for coming.

You’ve been working with us for years, for decades even, and we truly value your partnership,” said Kinasz.


Travelweek’s AI initiatives were front and centre, and guests heard all about Travelweek’s many AI projects in partnership with TravelBrands.

Launched in February 2024, the initiatives aim to propel the travel industry into the dynamic realm of Artificial Intelligence.

Projects include a monthly (and free!) year-long webinar series for travel agents called ‘Unleashing AI’s Potential for Travel Agents’, sponsored by TravelBrands. The series takes participants step-bystep through how to set up and use all the best AI tools, and includes everything from generating 10 social media posts in 10 seconds, to writing email responses to client complaints, building custom GPTs, chatbots for sales leads, lifelike video avatars and much more.

The next webinar is scheduled for Wed. July 10 at 1 p.m. EDT.

For those agents who want to learn more quickly or have a deskside resource, there’s also the ‘AI Manual for Travel Agents’, with step-by-step information and instructions on using all the AI tools most relevant to travel agents. Travelweek has also launched a suite of five new AI marketing products for supplier partners, showcased in the new media kit, ‘Travelweek AI Marketing Unleashed.’


Kinasz also took the opportunity to introduce the Travelweek team’s two newest members.

Gary Lawrence joined The Travelweek Group in fall 2023 as editor in chief of French-language industry news source Profession Voyages.

A seasoned and well-known journalist in the world of travel and tourism in Quebec, Gary has been working for 25+ years in media in general, and for news sources devoted to travel and tourism in particular.

Kinasz also introduced Travelweek’s newest BDM, Michelle Zimmer. Michelle has a solid background in the retail travel industry thanks to her work as a travel advisor, and has been with Travelweek for just over a year.

The Travelweek team would like to thank everyone for attending the 2024 party. We’re already looking forward to the 2025 rooftop event!

Travelweek’s Annie Cicvaric (fourth from left) and Devin Kinasz (third from right) with industry friends at Travelweek’s rooftop party


Ambassador Cruise Line is expanding into North America. The UK-based cruise line has opened a dedicated office in the U.S., complete with a tollfree phone number to serve the North American market. And that includes Canada, as a spokesperson confirmed for Travelweek. Ambassador Cruise Line’s sailings are commissionable. Ambassador has two ships, the 1,400-passenger Ambience and the 1,200-passenger Ambition, and eight regional ports across the UK, including London, Edinburgh Leith, Liverpool and Belfast. The cruise line’s dedicated North America office is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. Travel advisors and customers can also connect with the Ambassador Cruise Line team via email at usasales@

HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions) has signed a strategic partnership with Air Greenland. Starting in 2025, HX will fly guests directly into Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, debuting three new ‘Grand Greenland’ itineraries aboard the hybrid-battery-powered MS Fridtjof Nansen. The voyages will spend more time on the destination’s west coast and explore further north than ever before, including a voyage to Thule and Kane Basin, exploring the northern limit of the world. The two companies say the collaboration marks HX as the first expedition cruise company to invest in such a partnership, aligning with Greenland’s developing tourism economy.


The Dominican Republic has extended passport validity for certain nationalities, including Canadians. Originally announced in December 2023 with an expiration date of May 31, 2024, the new measures are now valid from June 1, 2024 until Nov. 30, 2024. These visitors can enter the D.R. using their current passports, which must remain valid throughout their stay and departure from the country. This measure eliminates the previous requirement of passports having at least six months’ validity upon entry.


Scotland welcomed a record 3.9 million international visitors in 2023, a 15% increase from 2019 and a significant rise from 3.2 million in 2022. This marks the highest number of international tourists ever recorded for the country, according to the 2023 International Passenger Survey by the Office of National Statistics. Visits from North America and Europe grew by 16% and 19%, respectively, while visits from other countries, including Australia and China, surged by 53%. International visitors spent £3.5 billion, a 41% increase from 2019, with North American and European tourists each contributing 39% of the total spend.

Deluxe Suite accommodation
Kilchurn Castle in Loch Awe, Scotland
Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambience

TDC study reveals upward trend of booking with travel advisors

MONTREAL The number of Canadians looking to book their next vacation with a travel advisor is on the rise, says a new study by Transat Distribution Canada (TDC).

The cross-Canada study of 920 Canadians, commissioned by TDC and conducted by Ipsos in March 2024, found that 40% of Canadian travellers – and 45% of Quebec travellers – plan to book their next vacation with the help of a travel advisor. This represents a significant increase over 2023, when 31% of Canadian and 38% of Quebec customers used their services, says Marc Pelletier, Senior Director, Marketing, Communications and Events at TDC.

“The three main reasons why they do so are almost all equivalent in terms of importance: being able to book everything from a single place, making travel arrangements less stressful, and finally, talking to a real person and having the opportunity to really verbalize their needs. In short, the human factor,” he adds.

Also notable is the fact that 90% of Canadian travellers say they are very or fairly likely to travel in 2024, which bodes well for travel advisors and TDC members.

When it comes to the destination of choice among Canadians, the top three preferences are the U.S. (37%), their own province (35%) and within Canada but in a province other than their own (33%). The next most popular international destinations are Mexico and the Caribbean (29%), followed by Europe (27%).

In terms of accommodation, hotels are still by far the favourite choice for Canadians at 73%, followed by house or apartment rentals at 34%.

Highlights of the survey were shared with TDC owners and managers of franchised and affiliated agencies this past April, as part of the company’s Leaders Forum. According to Karine Gagnon, General Manager of TDC, the data will help members structure their advertising offensives better, aligning them with the interests of their customers.

“Overall, the survey shows that travel professionals continue to occupy an enviable place with Canadians when it comes to planning and booking their next vacation, a very positive trend for all TDC network members, whether they work in our franchised or affiliated agencies, in one of our corporate agencies, or our agent@ home program. Canadians know they are real experts, specially trained to meet their specific needs,” says Gagnon.

WestJet launches Fredericton-Calgary & Halifax-Edinburgh

CALGARY The WestJet Group is celebrating its return to Fredericton, and new service between Halifax and Edinburgh.

Nonstop service between Fredericton and Calgary is now up and running, following the departure of WS315 on June 20. The flight is scheduled to operate twice per week throughout the summer and fall, through Oct. 24.

From Atlantic Canada this summer, WestJet has grown its overall seat capacity by 71% compared to last summer, with 149 peak weekly departures. Including the addition of seasonal service between Fredericton and Calgary, the airline’s domestic seat growth in Atlantic Canada will grow by 50% alone.

Also taking off last week was WestJet’s inaugural service between Halifax and Edinburgh, which followed the return of nonstop service between Halifax and Dublin.

“Further solidifying our position as Canada’s leading leisure airline, this flight is another milestone in our commitment to enhancing Atlantic Canada’s business and leisure ties through air connectivity,” said Andrew Gibbons, WestJet Vice-President of External Affairs. “With today’s inaugural service, we are thrilled to further strengthen the connection between Halifax and Edinburgh as we continue to expand strategic air access across the region.”


Air Canada makes changes to DCR fee policy, and other NDC updates

TORONTO Time flies for just about everything these days – and that includes Air Canada’s NDC rollout.

It’s now been a year since the Air Canada went all-in with IATA’s New Distribution Capability initiative (NDC), one that’s been adopted by scores of airlines around the world.

When it rolled out in June 2023, Air Canada’s best available seat inventory and discounted ancillary pricing became available via NDC, in addition to the carrier’s domestic Basic fares already in the system.

Over the past 12 months Air Canada has implemented NDC in eight different technology platforms, including Amadeus, and executed three new GDS distribution agreements, all incorporating support for NDC.

Lisa Pierce, VP, Global Sales for Air Canada and ACV, told Travelweek that a more robust agreement between Air Canada and Sabre is “imminent” and notes it will provide access for the vast majority of Air Canada’s travel trade partners to a productionready Air Canada NDC solution.



Looking back on this first year, Pierce told Travelweek she’s very happy with the NDC rollout so far. “We’ve accomplished a lot and we’re very happy to see it evolving. Looking at it from the perspective of our relationships with our trade partners, we’re very happy.”

More than 20% of Canadian agencies have adopted NDC, she added. Worldwide, Air Canada has significantly expanded the reach of its NDC offering, enabling NDC in 20 different country pointsof-sale, representing 96% of Air Canada’s global ticket volume, with plans to further expand this month. Another stat: over 70% of all Air Canada bookings now use modern technologies. Meanwhile more than 600 agencies globally are now actively using Air Canada’s NDC.


One big change is that Air Canada’s Distribution Cost Recovery (DCR) fee has just last week been simplified to apply only to the lowest fares booked in each cabin. That means G, K, A and P class bookings.

The DCR was first announced at the launch in June 2023. Pegged at $20 – $30, the fee aims to address the high expense of legacy models of fare distribution, and applies to tickets issued globally via GDS EDIFACT channels.

The DCR does not apply to bookings made via any of Air Canada’s NDC connection options including NDCsourced content in a GDS solution, as well as through Air Canada’s other direct booking channels such as, agents, Air Canada for Business, and the Air Canada mobile app, or group bookings.

The DCR is integrated into the fare and paid by the customer.

Speaking to the DCR policy change with the fee now applied only for the lowest booking classes, Pierce had this to say: “It’s much more targeted this way. The decision was based in part on feedback from agencies. It’s also a different market out there compared to a year ago. There’s more competition. We’re being sensitive to market conditions.”


In addition to the DCR fee change, and access to Air Canada content and features through Sabre NDC in the coming weeks, more new features and planned advancements for 2024 include more generous refund capabilities; continuous pricing and availability and special benefits for corporate partners.

In the next 12 months, Air Canada’s travel partners can also expect more new content and additional features from Air Canada that include support for disrupted customers, new features for the handling of Involuntary Changes and more.

The airline offers four connection paths to NDC with dozens of technology solution providers. All of that information can be found at Air Canada’s multilingual NDC hub at

Lisa Pierce, VP, Global Sales for Air Canada and ACV

Air Transat debuts nonstop Montreal - Marrakech route

MONTREAL Air Transat has launched its exclusive nonstop service between Montreal and Marrakech.

The departure of flight TS396 from Montréal-Trudeau International Airport marked the beginning of the year-round connection to MarrakechMenara International Airport.

“We are extremely proud to introduce this new route between Montreal and Marrakech,” said Joseph Adamo, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Transat.

He added: ”This direct route will allow the Moroccan diaspora to reunite more easily with their loved ones while offering Canadian travellers a unique opportunity to discover the cultural and historical wonders of Morocco. This is a major milestone in our history, demonstrating our commitment to creating memorable and meaningful travel experiences.”


Intrepid shakes up leadership team, appoints new President of Canada

TORONTO Intrepid Travel has restructured its North American leadership team.

This new route will operate twice weekly during the summer until October and once weekly during the winter from November to April.

The direct service is the only one of its kind between Canada and Marrakech.

Clients can add on packages, guided tours, and à la carte hotel options. Flights will be operated with Air Transat’s new-generation Airbus A321LR aircraft.

Leigh Barnes, the company’s current Chief Customer Officer, is moving into the role of President of the Americas, while Christian Wolters has been appointed to the newly created position of President of Canada. Barnes, who has been with the company for more than a decade, steps into his new role in January 2025, at which point he will be responsible for leading all aspects of the region, including operations, sales and marketing.

Intrepid’s Tom Smith and Matt Berna
Intrepid’s Tom Smith and Matt Berna

He is currently based in Intrepid’s global head office in Melbourne and will relocated to the Pacific Northwest in the U.S.

Wolters returns to Intrepid in his new role on July 1. He most recently served as Chief Marketing Officer at TourRadar where he also led the North American team for the past nine years.

Notably, Wolters was a founding team member of Intrepid in Canada from 2008 to 2015, before eventually becoming General Manager and VP of Sales.

Other changes to the Americas management team include current President of Americas Matt Berna transitioning to the role of Senior VP, U.S. Sales & Operations and Global B2B External Sales.

He will focus on the development of Intrepid’s domestic operations, including Intrepid-owned Wildland Trekking, U.S. B2B sales and global

BermudAir to increase service between Bermuda and Halifax

HAMILTON, BERMUDA BermudAir is ramping up service between Bermuda and Halifax to twice a week.

Bermuda’s flagship airline announced that it will be adding a flight on Wednesdays to its schedule starting on July 10, along with flights on Saturdays.

After a 10-year absence of direct flights, this shows both the opportunity and demand on this route and we’re happy to help fill that previous service gap for Bermuda residents and visitors.”

Scott added that the timing of flights was taken into consideration following feedback from guests, “which indicates that the combination of this timing and a short two-anda-half-hour flight works from the perspective of both business and leisure travel.”


business development for Intrepid’s DMC network. He remains President of the Americas until January 2025. Meanwhile, Tom Smith will be taking over the role of General Manager, Central America & Mexico, reporting to Managing Director of Latin America Gary Cohen.

The new Wednesday flight will leave Bermuda at 8:30 a.m., arriving at Halifax Stanfield International Airport at 10:55 a.m. It will return to Bermuda at 11:40 a.m. and arrive on the island at 1:55 p.m. All times are AST. This timing is similar to the existing schedule for Saturday flights.

“We’re delighted to be increasing our Halifax flights after launching service in May,” said Adam Scott, Founder and CEO of BermudAir. “The response to this route has been remarkable. Our inaugural flights were basically full, and bookings have been solid ever since.


Travel advisors earn 4% commission on economy class bookings and as much as 8% on business class. For more information on general bookings, groups and key clients email salesandtravelpartners@

BermudAir began service to Canada with direct flights to Toronto starting on May 17 and Halifax on May 25.


How does Collette do what they do so well?

Paul Vieira has answers

TORONTO A ‘behind the scenes’ event hosted by Collette recently featured insights from Paul Vieira, the company’s Sr. Global Contracting Manager for Portugal, Spain, France & Morocco.

In Toronto to meet with travel advisors and Collette’s business development team, Vieira took time to sit down with Travelweek to talk about how Collette designs its unique tours - and his own personal recommendations for Canadian travellers right now.

Vieira’s team is part of Collette’s product development group, tasked with curating tours and contracting the partners and suppliers that go into the tours, handling all the details behind the scenes.

“This means selecting destinations, building out the tours and determining which partners to work with to create a seamless product for travellers,” he explained.

Having worked with Collette for the past 10 years, Vieira is responsible for 25 tours in Collette’s portfolio of 170.

“Our product design team is based in-destination, something Collette does well,” he said. “Being ‘boots on the ground’ really allows us to be able to react to find new experiences, sometimes just by talking with locals.

It’s as if Ireland and Hawaii had a baby. Clients will be wowed by the natural beauty like beaches, volcanic craters and thermal springs.”

He added: “Since it’s in the Atlantic, it’s much cooler than mainland Europe. June through October is the ideal time to visit with less rainfall and consistent weather. Local culture is abundant as this spot is kind of set back in time. There’s not as much overtourism as you may see in mainland Europe.”

One new tour that is trending very well at the moment is ‘Flavours of Portugal and Spain,’ a small group exploration. “The group may be small, but the experiences are big,” Paul quipped. The tour uses experience hotels. For example, one is a ranch hotel with a private tour of the stables and horseback riding.

“We can bring more intimate experiences for our travellers. We try to focus on local cuisine and flavours,” he added.


Being in-destination allows us to react and solve issues faster should they arise. It’s a great advantage that maybe some of our competitors don’t have. If something’s not working, we can make changes to itineraries immediately. I seek out creative partners that are flexible and looking to work with groups.”

When asked what destination he would recommend to Canadian travellers at this current moment, Vieira suggested the Azores. “It has a European feel with an exotic touch.

Central-northern Portugal and northern Spain are really trending right now. Within Collette’s portfolio, Portugal and Spain experienced the largest percent growth last year with almost a 50% increase in passenger counts to the two destinations.

“Many are starting to discover Portugal more and these two countries are more affordable compared to some of the other destinations in Europe. When you combine the price of flights and packages that we offer, Portugal is

Collette’s Ron Lonsdale, Kateryna Havrylova and Paul Vieira

the best value right now. This is one of the reasons why we’re introducing a new tour called ‘Portugal’s Old World Charms,’ an exploration small group tour just in Portugal. It’s nine nights with three nights each in three different hotels and minimal drive times, about two hours maximum,” said Vieira.

Another destination travellers may wish to give more consideration is Morocco. One interesting fact: 70% of travellers to Morocco are women with a great number travelling solo.

“We’re the only company to do two nights in the desert,” explained Kateryna Havrylova, Partnership Marketing Manager for Collette, adding “the desert is one of the most transforming experiences I’ve had in my many travels. Two nights are needed to embrace the desert experience. There’s too much to enjoy to even sleep.”

Vieira added that Collette gets results immediately after tours are completed, with digital guest surveys. “We live and breathe the feedback of travellers,” he said. “If something is resonating as a highlight, we definitely keep it. We’re not relying on Google, we’re visiting and vetting every hotel, every meal, firsthand.”

Collette’s small group tours have a maximum of 24 participants, with an average of 18 to 20 people. In total, it has close to 60 small group tours worldwide that include plenty of free time for exploration and choices for some activities.

“Collette provides the local knowledge you wouldn’t have without hitting the streets,” explained Ron Lonsdale, Collette’s VP Canada, adding “we’re giving travellers that wow moment and connecting them with the local culture.”

Air Canada Vacations unveils new guided tours to Dubai

MONTREAL Air Canada Vacations has announced the launch of its new Dubai guided tours program, bringing the allure and luxury of the Emirates within closer reach of Canadians.

Travellers can now enjoy year-round tours that highlight the best of Dubai, with Air Canada’s daily direct flights from Toronto and four weekly flights from Vancouver, Oct. 28, 2024March 27, 2025. Connections from over 60 Canadian airports further enhance accessibility.

ACV’s VP Nino Montagnese expressed enthusiasm about the new program, stating, “Our goal at Air Canada Vacations is to continue to provide travellers with unique opportunities to discover the world.

With the introduction of our Dubai guided tours program, we are excited to offer a glimpse of the Emirates and create lasting memories for those seeking to experience this extraordinary destination.”

The Dubai guided tours program features a diverse selection of 10 year-round packages, which include

private transportation across key destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ras Al Kaimah, accommodation ranging from 3- to 5-star hotels, breakfasts and entrance fees when visiting monuments.

For those looking to extend their adventure, Air Canada Vacations also offers cruise options departing from Dubai. Partnering with renowned cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Azamara, and MSC, among others, these packages provide an ideal complement to exploring the Middle East via sea.

The Dubai program features five guided tours, also available for longer stays with two additional days. Tours include Arabian Cultural Highlights, Taste the Emirates, The UAE Explored, The UAE Present and Future and The Dubai Stopover.

All of ACV’s Dubai guided tours include personalized airport greetings and fast-track access through immigration and security. The company aims to enhance the travel experience by focusing on small group sizes, with no more than five participants per group.

Jumeirah Burj Al Arab, Dubai


Make tracks to the USA for fun in the sun

California’s new brand platform invites travellers to stay and play

For the first time in more than a decade, California has launched a new brand evolution that encourages visitors to discover ‘the Ultimate Playground.’

Based in research from the National Institute for Play (NIFP), the global brand platform includes a 30-second ‘Let’s Play’ television spot that captures the joys of playing in California. The three-month, US$32.8 million integrated campaign will air across Canada, the United States, Mexico, the UK, Australia and China.

A new section on also features a quiz for travellers to identify their ‘play style,’ and connects them to regions of California and activities that align with each style. NIFP has identified eight different play styles: Collector, Competitor, Creator, Director, Comedian, Explorer, Mover and Storyteller.

“California’s playful lifestyle, paired with our abundance of experiences, create something no other destination can claim. California is the Ultimate Playground,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “The power of play is scientifically proven, and majorities of every generation aren’t satisfied with the amount of time they spend playing. It’s time for that to change.”

According to Visit California’s consumer research, more than 85% of consumers across six global markets agree it is important to incorporate play into their lives, and 43% said that vacation “is the only time I have to really let go and play.”

Said Beteta: “Travel is a time and place that gives us permission to embrace play, and California offers every visitor an opportunity to play in a way that speaks to them. Vacation can be an excellent time to rekindle joy, rediscover how to play, and then take that playful spirit home as a souvenir.”

A recent NIFP study, ‘The Power of Play: Losing and Finding Ourselves through Everyday Play,’ found that a straight line can be drawn from travel to play. Scott G. Eberle, co-author of the study, writes: “The intention of travel is routinely framed as ‘leisure’ and ‘recreation,’ experiences that happen to the traveller.

But travellers may seek the occasion for a deeper, rounder, more active, more personal and tailored reward – play. Travel gives travellers permission to play their own way. The lucky ones will find that play itself is the destination.”

To read the full study, go to

For more information on travel to California, go to

What’s new in Myrtle Beach for 2024? Plenty!

South Carolina’s Grand Strand is celebrating 2024 with a host of all-new activities, experiences and culinary delights.

With over 100 kilometres of stunning beaches and 14 unique communities, the Myrtle Beach area invites travellers of all ages to try something new and exciting at The Beach this year.

“Our ever-evolving destination continues to see exponential growth, innovation and advancement in terms of diverse offerings and experiences for all,” said Karen Riordan, president and CEO of Visit Myrtle Beach. “We look forward to welcoming Canadian visitors to The Beach who are looking for year-round relaxation and adventure paired with sunny skies and Southern hospitality.”

New and recent developments in Myrtle Beach include:

• DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront: Completed in spring 2024, the resort’s US$30 million renovation includes the transformation of the north tower into a Tapestry Resort by Hilton, offering luxurious waterfront amenities.

• Holiday Inn Club Vacations Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort: Opened in April 2024, this new 11-acre resort on the Grand Strand features 152 one- to four-bedroom villas, each including patios with ocean views. A portion is designated for luxury options, including 60 villas that will be part of Signature Collection, the company’s luxury product.

• Compass Hotel North Myrtle Beach @ Margaritaville: This hotel, scheduled to open in early 2025, will boast

approximately 150 guestrooms, an indoor/outdoor pool experience, a fitness centre, meeting space, a 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, Provisions Grab & Go and a complimentary breakfast buffet.

• Surfside Beach Pier Reconstruction: The town of Surfside Beach is reconstructing its iconic pier after is suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Built to withstand hurricane force winds, the pier will feature a restaurant and vendor space and will be completed in 2024.

• Myrtle Waves Water Park: In addition to 20 waterslides, a wave pool and lazy river, the water park will be adding a new ‘Wild Water Racer’ mat slide for the 2024 season. It will also be expanding its cabana and shaded seating area for the season.

• Greg Rowles Legacy Theatre: The brainchild of veteran local performer Greg Rowles, the new theatre opens its doors in spring 2024 and features a performance lineup of world-class singers and musicians.

• Coffee & Cream Cabana: A new addition to awardwinning Chef Heidi Vukov’s portfolio, this new ice cream joint opened in spring 2023 and offers 16 handcrafted seasonal flavours, homemade waffle cones, cookie ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cakes, as well as specialty coffees and light fare foods.

• Mimosas: Opened in June 2023, Mimosas is a breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating, an extensive list of mimosa drinks and elevated brunch offerings like signature fried lobster and waffles. For more information go to

KTO, Air Canada celebrate launch of MontrealIncheon service

MONTREAL Air Canada inaugurated its new direct service from Montreal to Incheon, South Korea, celebrating alongside the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) at a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Held at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, the ceremony included a Jang-go traditional folk dance performance at the gate, Korean canapes, as well as a T-Money Card for all passengers to use on Seoul public transport.

On the new route, KTO Director Jane Kim said: “It’s wonderful to see the expansion of this new MontrealIncheon route for Canadians travelling to Korea this year. This new route is especially significant this year because 2024 has been designated as the ‘Year of KoreaCanada Cultural Exchange’.”

Air Canada’s Montreal-Incheon flight service will fly 4x/week on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, until Oct. 24. This marks Air Canada’s third direct route to Seoul, alongside its services from Toronto and Vancouver.

Explora Journeys announces new delivery date of EXPLORA II

GENEVA Explora Journeys has delayed the delivery date of its newest ship, EXPLORA II.

EXPLORA II will now be delivered on Sept. 12, with its maiden journey scheduled for Sept. 16.

Explora Journeys is contacting guests booked on the voyages affected, either directly or through their travel advisors, to arrange an alternative journey on EXPLORA II or sister ship EXPLORA I, which is also sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.

EXPLORA II’s maiden journey will depart Sept. 16 from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy for a seven-night journey to Sorrento, Lipari, Trapani and Siracusa in Sicily, Valletta in Malta, and Tarragona, Spain. Voyages start at seven nights and can be extended to 14 or 21 nights, with all departures from easily accessible ports like Civitavecchia and Barcelona and avoiding repetition of ports during combinable voyages.

EXPLORA II will sail in the Western Mediterranean with visits to many less-explored destinations such as Portofino, Porto Cervo, Saint-Tropez, Calvi, Mahon and Monte Carlo.

St. Kitts Tourism Authority appoints new CEO

The St. Kitts Tourism Authority has named Kelly Fontenelle as CEO, effective July 1.

In her new role Fontenelle will lead international marketing efforts for the destination, focusing on travel trade and airline relationships; orchestrate strategic plans across earned, paid and owned media; foster lucrative partnerships; and facilitate effective stakeholder communication.

She will also focus on leisure and cruise, two perennially high performing areas for tourism to St. Kitts. She will also prioritize the romance and MICE markets, with the goal of increasing tourism’s economic benefits across the island.

Fontenelle says she plans to collaborate with travel agents, tour operators, and airlines to enhance passenger loads and improve service to the destination.

Originally from Saint Lucia, Fontenelle served as Director of Marketing for the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, USA. She also played a fundamental role in developing the Saint Lucia Expert (SLEx) loyalty program.

Kelly Fontenelle PEOPLE
EXPLORA I on its way to Copenhagen

HX appoints Rainer as new CEO

Gebhard Rainer is taking over the reins as CEO of HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions), effective July 15. Current Group CEO and CEO for HX, Daniel Skjeldam, will transition to a board member in Hurtigruten Group.

Prior to joining HX, Rainer served as CEO of Sandals Resorts International. He also served as President & Chief Operating Officer at Coach.

On Rainer’s appointment, Skjeldam said: “The appointment of Rainer is a key component of our strategic plan for the future of HX. With his proven leadership and strategic acumen, knowledge of the U.S. market and successfully running a company with strong ties to the travel trade, Rainer is ideally positioned for this key role in HX’s forward journey.”

Rainer expressed his enthusiasm for joining the HX team and his confidence in the brand’s potential for success. “I’m thrilled to embark on this journey with HX and to contribute to our shared vision for expedition travel that is mindful, responsibly lowimpact and considerate of our surroundings,” he said. “The opportunities ahead are truly exciting and I look forward to leveraging HX’s strengths to drive innovation, growth and positive impact in the expedition travel industry.”

Direct Travel advisors nominated for Virtuoso Travel awards

TORONTO Two of Direct Travel’s Canadian advisors have been named finalists for Virtuoso Travel community awards.

Sheila Gallant-Halloran of Direct affiliate Lush Life Travel in Ottawa has been nominated in the Top Sustainability Community award category.

“I have long joined hands with those who champion sustainable tourism, and feel strongly that we can have a trip of a lifetime while also making a positive impact on the local communities and places,” said Gallant-Halloran.

travel, is proud of her achievements in the field of culinary travel.

“When one experiences ‘local’, there is always a story about the cuisine, maybe a local cheese maker, an organic farm or family secret family recipes. Food connects people, history and culture.”

The winners will be announced at the Community Lunch event at Virtuoso Travel Week which will take place in Las Vegas in August.

Stephen Smith, Senior Vice President, Leisure Strategy & Marketing at Direct Travel, says the awards reflect the advisors’ strong support of Virtuoso partners in their respective communities.

“It’s wonderful to see Sheila and Shawn nominated for these awards,”


Shawn Kilner of Imagine Cruise & Travel in Nanaimo, B.C. has been nominated in the Top Culinary Community Advisor award category. Kilner, who specializes in small ship and river cruises as well as adventure

said Smith. “They have both carved out niches in a very competitive industry and are proving they are at the top of their game. To be recognized like this amongst one’s peers is impressive indeed.”

Gebhard Rainer PEOPLE
Sheila Gallant-Halloran (left) and Shawn Kilner (right)


We’re giving our Economy Class experience an upgrade with our complimentary selection of sweet and savoury snacks on all flights, including two Canadian favourites: TWIGZ Buttery Herb and Garlic pretzels and Leclerc’s Célébration Cookie made with real milk chocolate and butter. You can also travel better this summer with free beer and wine, plus $5 spirits*, on flights within Canada and the U.S. throughout 2024**.

Want more details? Dig in at

*Taxes not included

**Limited time offer valid on flights within Canada and mainland USA, Alaska and Hawaii throughout 2024, operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, and Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz. For full details, visit Alcohol will be served to persons of the age of majority and in a responsible manner.

Registration opens  for ACTA Travel

Industry Summits

TORONTO Registration has opened for the three ACTA Travel Industry Summit events taking place this September.

The theme this year is ‘The Future is Bright – Exploring the Possibilities’.

Each summit will feature motivational speakers, entrepreneur panels, peer-to-peer learning and a day of professional development and networking.

There will also be a trade show with 100+ suppliers for Toronto, 70 suppliers for B.C. and 50+ for Quebec.

The premier sponsor for the events is Air Canada, plus major sponsors include Globus, Manulife and Marriott International. Destination sponsor is Brand USA.

Keynote speakers are: Kerianne Wilson - Director of Customer Accessibility, Air Canada on Enhancing Accessibility in Travel; and David Tanguay – Head of Global Sales, Aurora Expeditions on Maximizing Sales and Profit – Discover the World of Expedition Cruises ACTA summits are complimentary for ACTA members. Non-ACTA Members will be asked to provide a $50 contribution to the Advocacy Fund. Attendees who register before July 31 will be entered



The emcee for Ontario and B.C. will be Ryan McElroy, CEO, Travel Agency Tribes. The emcee for Quebec will be Annie Peyton, psychosociologist, speaker and intuition specialist. Peyton will lead a session on Maximizing Business, Creativity and Well-Being through the development of intuitive intelligence in one’s professional and personal life.

into a prize draw of a $250 Visa gift card, with one winner per Summit. Travel advisors, managers, senior leaders, consortia, and host agency teams are all invited to attend. The ACTA Eastern Canada Travel Industry Summit is scheduled for Sept. 12, the ACTA Western Canada Travel Industry Summit for Sept. 19 and the ACTA Québec Travel Industry Summit for Sept. 25. For agenda and information about ACTA’s Summits see

Strong demand has Uniworld adding more sailing dates on top ships

LOS ANGELES Uniworld has added new sailing dates on its most indemand itineraries on three different Super Ships – the S.S. Joie de Vivre on the Seine River in France, the S.S. Maria Theresa on the Danube River in Central Europe, and the Mekong Jewel on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The itineraries with added dates include Paris & Normandy on S.S. Joie de Vivre (new date: Nov. 10, 2024); Enchanting Danube on S.S. Maria Theresa (new date: Nov. 10, 2024) and Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & The Mekong on Mekong Jewel (new dates: March 27 and March 31, 2025).

In addition to the added sailings on the S.S. Joie de Vivre, S.S. Maria Theresa and Mekong Jewel, travellers can also book alternative fall river cruise dates on these and other Super Ships sailing in Europe, including the S.S. Catherine, S.S. Bon Voyage, and brand new S.S. Victoria.

S.S. Maria Theresa

Level up with GFOB University eLearning program

In today’s ever-changing travel landscape, education isn’t just a tool—it’s the cornerstone of exceptional service and continuous business growth. At Globus family of brands, we recognize that for Advisors to excel, staying informed is essential.

VISIT FLORIDA Travel Pro Program eLearning program

Learn all you need to know about selling Florida, from our wonderful beaches to everything in between!

By becoming a certified Florida Travel Pro, you’ll be able to provide clients with informed recommendations, create tailored travel experiences, and ultimately boost your sales by showcasing the best of what Florida has to offer.

Celebrity Learning Link eLearning program

Our Celebrity learning link is only accessible through each of the agents own personal Cruising Power accounts, so we cannot link directly to the modules, however what we can do is link to this page which allows them to access our learning program when they login through cruising power, but also get familiar with other helpful resources such a webinars and marketing materials.


ACV extends Aeroplan Points program

MONTREAL Air Canada Vacations is extending its ‘A New Way to Earn’ Aeroplan Points program until the end of next year.

The program, first launched back in October 2023, will now run until Dec. 31, 2025, giving customers the chance to accumulate points on both the flight and vacation portion of their travel package.

“We believe in rewarding our customers,” said Nino Montagnese, Vice President at Air Canada Vacations. “Earning extra Aeroplan Points is just one of the many perks of booking your next vacation with us since points can be redeemed for future travel, excursions, shopping and so much more. As part of Our Vacation Promise, we want to enhance our customers’ experience every step of the way, and Aeroplan allows us to do just that by increasing the overall value of their vacation.”


Based on the success of the program, Air Canada Vacations has also added 14 new destinations to the list of qualifying options, including those in Asia, Australia, India and Dubai. Eligible members can earn up to 12,000 extra points when booking a minimum seven-night stay from a selection of more than 280 vacation packages to Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as earn points on 14 new destinations and 75 packages including Rome, London, Lisbon, Asia, Australia, India and Dubai.

Even if a client is not yet an Aeroplan member, they can sign up to become one at Aeroplan-Enroll and start earning Aeroplan points with their next qualifying booking through a travel advisor or at Aeroplan Members can also take advantage of an exclusive 10% discount offered by Air Canada Vacations on the next booking of their activity or excursion with GetYourGuide. To book, members can log into their Aeroplan account and click ‘Activities’ on the home page search bar.

Scenic Cruises debuts new group amenity program for Scenic Eclipse

VANCOUVER Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has introduced a new Group Amenity Program for its Scenic Eclipse and Scenic Eclipse II yachts.

The program aims to enhance the group travel experience by offering onboard credits and luxury amenities.

Travel agents can now access three reward tiers. Tier 1 comes with $500 onboard credit per suite, a welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, and a special travel advisor rate for bookings of at least 16 guests. Tier 2 comes with $300 onboard credit per suite and a welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Tier 3 comes with a welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

These credits are in U.S. dollars and can be used for various services including the spa, helicopter tours, and submersible excursions.

The program is available for new group agreements from May 29Dec. 31, 2024, for travel in 2024, 2025, and 2026.

“This initiative is designed to enhance the luxury experience for our guests and provide travel advisors with valuable tools for securing group bookings,” said Lisa Auguste, Director of Group Sales at Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours.

For more details, travel agents can contact Scenic’s Groups Department at 1-866-689-4648 or email

ACV’s Aeroplan Points program will run until Dec. 31, 2025


It’s all about the journey and the destination as you explore 90 miles of northern Idaho along the International Selkirk Loop, where every curve reveals awe-inspiring beauty and every pit stop invites a fresh adventure. Extend your trip beyond the border and embark on an experience you can only have in the Gem State.

Plan Your Road Trip at

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