Travelweek MAY 30 2024

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Special needs travel: Tips from an agent expert, plus biggest red flag to watch for

TORONTO For Kristy Durso, it’s not so much about the size of a hotel bed as it is about the height of it.

That’s because the U.S.-based travel agent of Incredible Memories Travel is a full-time wheelchair user. Due to a genetic disease and an invisible mobility disability that causes extreme pain, Durso, who is also autistic and lives with severe gastroparesis, has relied on a wheelchair for the past five years. But this hasn’t stopped her from travelling – far from it. Her limited mobility has simply enabled her to be more empathetic towards other travellers with specific needs, and according to Durso, these needs are vast and varied.

“Disabled travellers come in all types. What’s accessible for me is not accessible for a different wheelchair user,” she says. “I need a lower bed to easily transfer, while an ambulatory wheelchair user with bad knees may want something a bit higher. I can use any toilet I can roll up to, even if there are no grab bars, but a wheelchair user with single-side weakness may need the grab bars on the left.”

The point, adds Durso, is that when it comes to special needs travel, there is no one size fits all.

“We must treat it like a conversation, evaluating the individual needs, then pairing with the appropriate accommodation or tour,” she says. “One can no longer think of the group as a whole, but must consider the individual needs first.”

Admittedly, it wasn’t until recently that Durso realized just how inaccessible accessible travel is in the travel industry. All three of her children have special needs; her oldest has the same genetic condition as Durso, her middle child is on the autism spectrum, and her youngest is cognitively and intellectually disabled. When her youngest child grew a little older and started travelling, she quickly discovered how little the industry accommodates travellers with disabilities. So she took matters into her own hands and started offering accessible tours, ones that meet her high standard of service.

“We do a lot of FIT and usually do one big accessible group trip a year,” she says. “We have the ability to operate more than that with different suppliers such as Wheel the World, Accessible Travel Solutions, and Tourism For All in Portugal. We can also do groups to theme parks and on cruises – Autism on the Seas is a wonderful partner for group cruises.”

Contrary to popular belief, special needs travel, or accessible travel, isn’t as niche as one may think. According to the Ontario Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility, 6.2 million Canadians

identify as having a disability, which, when combined with their friends and families, represent the third-largest market segment in North America. They’re spending a lot of money, too, with a collective buying power of over $50 billion in Canada and $1 trillion globally. In Ontario alone, there are 2.6 million people with a disability – that amounts to 24% of the province’s population.

The market is even bigger and even more lucrative In the United States, says Durso, who notes that in 2023, her agency did US$1.2 million in sales, approximately 85% of which was accessible travel.

“Open Doors Organization conducted a market study on U.S. travellers, which puts things in perspective,” she says. In 2019, we spent $58.7 billion on accessible travel during a two-year period; we also spent 30% more per trip. Keep in mind that only a fraction of us travel right now because many are too afraid that their needs will not be accommodated and many defer to places they know instead of venturing out. Imagine if destinations and travel advisors knew how to appropriately accommodate these travellers – how much would our business grow?”

Not willing to wait for others to find solutions, Durso started reaching out to hoteliers and suppliers to raise awareness about the problems she and others with disabilities face while travelling.

“My first really big win was seeing Beaches Turks & Caicos add a guaranteed accessible room category. They also built another accessible

TRAVELWEEK | May 30, 2024 3 TOP NEWS

beach cabana and are addition additional accessibility features, making it even easier for clients with disabilities to visit,” says Durso.

While many accommodations have been made for disabled travellers at Beaches and Sandals Resorts (Beaches is the first resort company in the world to complete IBCCES training and Autism Certification, plus it offers beach wheelchairs and adaptive scuba diving, says Durso), there’s still more that can be done. So when given the opportunity to speak directly to Sandals Resorts International’s Executive Chairman, Adam Stewart, a couple years ago, Durso, ever the advocate, took it.

“I told him that his resorts were not as accessible as they should be, focusing on the shower set up in wheelchair accessible rooms, and he listened to every word,” she says. “I know how seriously Mr. Stewart took our conversation because the shower in my accessible room at the new Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has every accessible feature I told him it needed, and they made it beautiful as well!”

Of course, not every hotel and travel company can be as receptive and accommodating as Sandals and Beaches, even though it may claim to be. According to Durso, the biggest red flag to watch out for is a business that says it’s accessible without listing the features that make it so. So it’s up to the travel advisor to ask

the right questions about mobility accessibility. These include:

• Do you have a 4-foot-turn radius in the room?

• Are all the amenities lowered?

• What is the bed height?

• What are the accessible shower features?

• What are the washrooms like in public areas?

• Is there ramp access in public areas?

• Has the staff been trained in how to check in guests with nonapparent disabilities?

• Do you have accommodations for blind/deaf guests?

But even before travel advisors shop around for appropriate accommodations and tours, they must first ask their special needs clients the right questions to gauge exactly what they need to travel safely and comfortably.

“It’s important to have a profile for each traveller with disabilities, so ask questions like ‘What physical accommodations and support services do they need to do a tour safely and comfortably?’ This means we’re budgeting in extra time for transitions, which helps both those with mobility disabilities and cognitive/developmental disabilities, and we’re blocking longer times at each attraction to make sure we have time to consider all the accessibility needs,” says Durso.

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Noting how preparations leading up to the date of departure can be “intense” for clients with disabilities, Durso also recommends that clients sign up for every disability service they are eligible for. “If flying from the United States, utilize TSA Cares for all disabilities,” she says. “And, regardless of where they are travelling, have a grab bag packing list.” For all disabilities, this can include downloading disability apps and having a list of accessible accommodations in each destination they’re travelling to. For those with mobility issues, Durso suggests packing a wheelchair toolkit, a transfer sling, a charger, power convertor and a list of in-destination medical suppliers. And if clients are neurodivergent (diagnosed with a developmental or learning disorder), suggest packing noisecancelling headphones, an eye mask, fidgets, and weighted blanket or pressure vest.

And once your clients return home from vacation, Durso recommends following up to find out what worked and what didn’t. “Ask them, ‘What could the resort have done differently? What was the best part, and would they return again?’” she says. “At the end of the day, travellers with disabilities want to travel and will spend the money to do it – we just need to know we’ll be accommodated.”

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From new acquisitions to renovations, Sandals’ Adam Stewart lays out future plans

SAINT VINCENT “Sandals 2.0 isn’t messing about.”

Call it a declaration or a promise or just the simple truth, the future plans laid out by Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), at the Sandals STAR Awards, which took place at the new Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from May 13-19, are a testament to not only the company’s commitment to the Caribbean, but also to the legacy of his father, the late Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, SRI’s founder and former chairman.

Sandals 2.0, what the younger Stewart refers to as SRI’s plans to revolutionize its Luxury Included concept across the Caribbean, has manifested in countless ways in the last three and a half years since the founder’s passing. Threequarters of a billion dollars have been poured into investments across the company’s Caribbean resorts, including Sandals Ocho Rios where “things are moving at the speed of light,” said Stewart. Sandals South Coast is brand spanking new (“Every single room and the new Rondovals that we’ve built are being elevated to take your breath away”), $200

million was poured into Sandals Royal Curaçao (opened in June 2022) to ‘Sandalize’ it, $110 million was put into enhancing Sandals Royal Bahamian, including the addition of 250 staff members, four-bedroom beach villas have been built at Beaches Negril, and ground is about to break on new Rondoval suites at Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which opened its doors this past March.

“It’s been a dream taking things to the next level,” said Stewart. “Every decision that we are making, we make them intentionally, from rebranding our logos to bringing in consultants. We’re going to keep pushing and putting in little things everywhere we go.”

Of course, Sandals 2.0 isn’t just about enhancing existing properties; it’s also about building new ones.

“Quite frankly, no one on the planet owns real estate like we do,” added Stewart. “My father bought real estate 25 years ago that we still haven’t built on. I don’t want to tell you too much, but we’ve also done several land acquisitions in the last six months alone, in destinations that I promise you no one’s coming to.”

Among these new developments is Dragon Bay Resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica, which Stewart visited this past weekend. Noting its 66 acres, two rivers, two bluffs and a majestic cove, he referred to Dragon Bay as “one of the top three sites that we own,” a significant investment that’s been years in the making.

“We’ve been waiting on this for years while the government of Jamaica

builds highways all over the country, including one that connects Kingston to Port Antonio. What used to take three hours to drive between the two cities will now take one hour and 20 minutes.”

Stewart also highlighted development plans on the east coast of Jamaica, which he says is a completely “untouched wonderland” filled with botanical gardens and crystal clear rivers. It’s here where Stewart purchased the Blue Lagoon, declared a national monument in 2018 and ordered temporarily closed in August 2022 for remedial work. Now open to the public, the site, says Stewart, will eventually include “accommodations that are like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” including ones with “walls missing so you can sleep outside.”



According to Stewart, there was no better place to highlight plans for Sandals 2.0 than at the new Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. As the 18th resort for Sandals and its first in the destination, the property offers 301 rooms and suites across 50 lush acres, in addition to a 300foot linear pool, Vincy Overwater Two-Story Villas, 11 culinary concepts, five bars and much more. And if you ask Stewart, opening a resort on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was an easy decision, following a 2015 trip during which he shared a Hairoun beer with Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves.

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“I said to him, ‘This place is unbelievable.’ You can feel it; old world values, charm, zero crime, the place is clean and the infrastructure is amazing. This is quintessentially an untouched, undiscovered Caribbean island, the last of the true exotics,” said Stewart.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Sustainable Development and Culture, Carlos James, who’s also attending this week’s Sandals STAR Awards, personally welcomed travel advisors “home,” making them honourary Vincentians.

“We believe that when you sell Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and when you sell Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, you’re selling something that you believe in, that you’re connected to, which is why we’ve brought you here this week, to feel the pulse of what Saint Vincent is,” said Minister James.

Air Canada operates one flight per week from Toronto to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines now through Oct. 20, 2024. This increases to 3x/week from Oct. 28 to Dec. 16, 2024, and increases again to 4x/week from Dec. 17, 2024 to April 21, 2025.


A proud Jamaican, Stewart, who was appointed Ambassador and Special Investment Envoy for Tourism in Jamaica in May 2023, made a plea to all travel advisors in attendance to help flip the script on recent negative headlines about the island. In January 2024, both Canada and the United States issued travel

advisories for Jamaica due to a high level of violent crime. But according to Stewart, the numbers don’t add up.

“Today, Jamaica is at a 22-year low of criminal activity,” he said, adding that the government of Jamaica has tripled funding for its armed forces in the last five years. “Let me put it in math: Three million Americans travel to Jamaica each year, 56 had infractions. Two-thirds of those 56 are Jamaican-Americans who were doing nefarious things that they shouldn’t have. That statistically boils down to 0.002% of harm against visitors. We remain one of the safest places in the entire world.”


Stewart also made sure to acknowledge the resiliency of not only Sandals Resorts International, but also the entire Caribbean region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Calling the last two and a half years “one hell of a ride,” he recalled his father’s heroic efforts to keep “the ecosystem” going, despite having to close properties in the wake of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

“The time between WHO’s declaration and closing every one of our resorts was just 10 days, and everyone went home. And I watched other hotel companies get on airplanes and fly out, leaving all their stuff. But I remain incredibly proud that my father made a decision to keep every single team member of Sandals Resorts on payroll in order for them to keep their benefits,” said Stewart.

And while headlines at that time largely focused on the end of travel as we knew it, Butch Stewart paid no heed, doing the exact opposite of what everyone expected him to do.

“He heard what everyone was saying about the end of humanity and socializing and said it was all foolishness. So he went out and bought two hotels, and everybody called him a madman,” said Stewart. “We have seen so many brands come and go, we’ve seen leadership of those brands come and go. People say to me all the time, ‘What does the Executive Chairman of Sandals do?’ I say, all I really do is follow my father’s footprints so that we can keep this extraordinary travel industry, that ecosystem, on fire.”

In addition to commending the travel industry – every cruise line, airline and hotel and resort company – for “dropping all competitive tensions to get the engine going again,” Stewart also thanked the travel advisor community for its steadfast support over the years, particularly following the pandemic.

“People were saying that the travel advisor community was extinct, which is absolute rubbish. Because you remain the most powerful distribution means in the entire tourism ecosystem,” said Stewart. “My father put his money on the horse – the travel advisor – from as far back as the early 1980s, and if you ask me, it was the right bet to make.”

TRAVELWEEK | May 30, 2024 7 TOP NEWS

Scenes from the 2024 Sandals STAR Awards

Sandals celebrated the triumphant return of its popular STAR Awards from May 13-19, 2024 at its newest resort, Sandals Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Officially known as the Sandals Travel Agency Recognition (STAR) Awards, the annual event, now in its 19th year, brought together close to 500 topproducing travel advisors from Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Latin America. In addition to informative sessions and island excursions with Island Routes, the week also included an awards ceremony, where several Canadian travel advisors received the coveted ‘Chairman’s Royal Club’ status.

• Chairman’s Royal Club – Canada:

• Renee Cannon – Marlin Travel, Oakville, ON

• Sahar Cury – Full House Travel, Winnipeg, MB

• Kim Hartlen – Kim Hartlen Travel, Lower Sackville, NS

• Kathy Kennedy – Village Travel, Lachine, QC

• Annette MacGillivray – CME Travel, Montreal, QC

• Chairman’s Royal Club Elite – Canada:

• Lois Barbour – Travel Time Agency, St. John’s, NL

Congratulations to all Canadian winners and the entire Canadian contingent!

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Canada contingent CJ Smith Karen Lippett, Min. Carlos James, Rosie DiMartino Destination Weddings Showcase Adam Stewart and Min. Carlos James with Verona Travel team
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Michelle Pellerin & Robert Smith Annette MacGillivray, CME Travel Kim Hartlen + daughter Anita Hynes Giguere, Voyages le Village Hudson Vivek & Linda Khanna, Tourcan Vacations Travel Leaders Network’s Christine James (center) with U.S. colleagues Lois Barbour, Travel Time Agency Sonia Genois, Voyages Laurier du Vallon Rhonda Friisdahl, The Travel Agent Next Door Dina Bertolo and Zeina Gedeon Kathy Kennedy, Village Travel Renee Cannon, Marlin Travel


For the first time ever, Britain has reached the one million mark in Canadian visitors. According to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than one million (1,003,000) Canadian visitors were recorded in 2023, up 12% over 2022 and an increase of 15% since 2019. Canadian visits have also delivered a record spend of £970 million pounds ($1.7 billion), up 4% from 2022 and an increase of 32% since 2019. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) continued to lead in terms of visits from the Canadian market. In 2023, VRF represented 43% of trips, with holidays slightly second at 40%. Average length of stay for inbound Canadian travellers in 2023 is 10 nights, 2.3 nights higher than the global average of 7.7 nights.

The Turks and Caicos Islands has recorded a growth in air and cruise arrivals in the first four months of 2024. From January to April, the destination saw 271,326 air arrivals, an increase of 10.46% over 2023. The majority of air arrivals were from the United States (215,247), with Canada contributing 26,275 passengers. The cruise sector also saw a slight increase in passengers in the first four months of the year, with 371,857passengers compared to 371,392 in the same period in 2023. for the same period.


International tourist arrivals reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2024. According to UN Tourism, more than 285 million tourists travelled internationally in January-March, about 20% more than Q1 of 2023, underscoring the sector’s near-complete recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. In 2023, international tourist arrivals recovered 89% of 2019 levels, while direct tourism GDP reached the same levels as in 2019. UN Tourism’s projection for 2024 points to a full recovery of international tourism, with arrivals growing 2% above 2019 levels. But according to the UN Tourism Panel of Experts, economic and geopolitical headwinds continue to pose challenges. Tourists are expected to continue to seek value for money and travel closer to home in response to elevated prices, while extreme temperatures and other weather events could impact the destination choice of many travellers.


Avianca has implemented an age requirement for minors travelling unaccompanied by an adult. As of May 15, 2024, on domestic and international flights, all passengers aged 14 or younger must travel with their parents or a responsible adult over 18 years old, duly authorized. Only those who meet this requirement will be able to board. If tickets were purchased before May 15, 2024, passengers will board after approaching the airport counter to complete their check-in process. With this policy, the minimum age for a minor to travel unaccompanied by a responsible adult (over 18 years old) on flights operated by Avianca is 15.


Universal Orlando Resort’s new ticket deal for U.S. and Canada residents includes access to five days of theme park fun across Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure for the price of a 3-Day ticket. Guests can also upgrade their ticket to include access to Universal Volcano Bay water park, where they can cool off in a tropical oasis that offers thrills and relaxation.

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Grand Turk Island Tower Bridge, London, England

WestJet Group strengthens transborder, sun and domestic network

CALGARY The WestJet Group has announced further network expansion with the addition of new service to Tulum and also Grenada.

The airline is also enhancing its transborder offerings with new flights to Fort Lauderdale from Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Tulum’s newly opened international airport will see WestJet service from Calgary (1x weekly, Nov. 9, 2024 - April 27, 2025) and Toronto (3x weekly, Nov. 9, 2024 - April 27, 2025).

In addition to the strongest schedule, WestJet Vacations will offer packages to 35 major hotels in close proximity to the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tulum Felipe Carillo (TQO).

This winter WestJet will also add once-weekly service from Kelowna to Mazatlán (Dec. 13, 2024 - April 18, 2025) and Winnipeg to Los Cabos (Nov. 9, 2024 - April 26, 2025).

Meanwhile WestJet service between Toronto and Grenada will operate once weekly this winter. Flights are timed for connectivity across Western Canada and will be available for sale in the coming weeks for flights Nov. 3, 2024 - April 27, 2025


With the largest narrowbody order book in Canada, the WestJet Group continues to expand its transborder offerings, further enhancing sun service with the addition of onceweekly flights to Fort Lauderdale from Vancouver (Nov. 3, 2024 - April 20, 2025) and Winnipeg (Nov. 18, 2024 - April 21, 2025).

WestJet will also continue to strengthen connectivity to key Delta Air Lines hubs with service from Edmonton to Atlanta and Regina to Minneapolis, moving to yearround. Additionally, Canadians will benefit from WestJet’s yearround connectivity from Edmonton to Ottawa and Montreal and from Winnipeg to Montreal.

Air Canada’s Pierce talks strong routes, seat selection and NDC, and why Russi has been “invaluable”

TORONTO Under sunny skies at The Sheraton Centre Hotel’s beautiful Waterfall Garden event space on May 22, Air Canada and its many industry partners toasted VP International Sales, Virgilio Russi, who is retiring from the airline after 28 years.

Lisa Pierce, VP, Global Sales for Air Canada and ACV, praised Russi’s hard work and dedication in a heartfelt speech. “You have been so generous with your time, your good humour, and your common sense. Your can-do attitude and optimism on every project has been invaluable,” Pierce told Russi.


Pierce also welcomed Air Canada’s Rocky Lo to his new role leading international sales. “This is a time for new beginnings,” she said.

Russi got his start in the travel industry 30 years ago, at Amex. Two years later he joined Air Canada, and the rest is history.

“Thank you for your support, your patience, your feedback, your enthusiasm, your trust and your friendship,” said Russi. “I leave with so many friends, which tells me I’ve done something right.”

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Air Canada’s Lisa Pierce and Virgilio Russi


A quick interview with Pierce touched on everything from summer bookings, to routes-towatch, to NDC and Air Canada’s seat selection policy.

Making sure Air Canada offers the routes customers want and need “is a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” Pierce told Travelweek. “There are lots of new routes we’re super excited about, in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean … we cover the globe.”

Overall market demand is increasing, she added. She singled out Air Canada’s Bangkok service as particularly strong, and also Japan, “especially with the favourable currency exchange.”

There’s no timeline yet on when Air Canada will confirm any direction on seat selection, after pausing implementation of a new policy last month. While Air Canada passengers have typically been able to select their seats for free at check-in (or for a fee pre-check-in), the revised - and so far, paused - policy assessed a fee for seat selection at check-in (or Air Canada would select the seat for the passenger at check-in, for free).

“When we do make an announcement, it will be done thoughtfully and with an eye to operational efficiency.

We do know that seat selection is very important to our customers and stakeholders,” she said.

Pierce also noted that Air Canada is looking forward to marking the one-year milestone of its most recent NDC rollout. First announced in April 2023, the NDC initiatives debuted June 14, 2023.

“We’ve come a long way. We have at least 10 countries using NDC now including Canada, the UK, USA, Brazil, Australia and more,” said Pierce.

She added that this month, 20% of Air Canada agency bookings are coming through NDC channels.

“We’re looking forward to the oneyear anniversary in June,” she said. “It’s been a very challenging year, but looking back on the year as a whole, there’s been an incredible amount of progress.”

Fundraising and plenty of good times at 2024 YellowBird


OAKVILLE, ON There was lots of money raised, and plenty of fun on the links, at the 2024 YellowBird Charity Golf Classic.

With a few clouds in the sky - but thankfully, no rain - this was the YellowBird Foundation’s 24th year hosting its charity golf tournament at Glen Abbey Golf Club.

The big event took place on May 17, and partners from top airlines and tour operators (including title sponsors Air Canada and ACV), hotels and resorts, tourism boards and more came out to help raise money and have a good time on the green.

Event organizer Reps4Rent worked with Travelweek to manage event activities including the golf tournament, sponsorships, raffles, lunch, the silent auction, and much more to create an enjoyable day.

Monies raised go towards the continued support of those suffering in Ukraine as well as those fighting poverty in tourist destinations with lower living standards than enjoyed in Canada.

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Golfers take part in the 2024 YellowBird Charity Golf Classic


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The YellowBird Foundation’s Silent Auction, always a success thanks to the generosity of Canada’s travel industry, included everything from Toronto Raptors tickets to high-end hotel getaways.

At Friday’s lunch, Travelweek’s Publisher, Devin Kinasz, said The YellowBird Foundation has raised close to $1 million over the years. The foundation has completed many great projects, said Kinasz, primarily in the Caribbean refurbishing schools, developing math or agriculture programs for schools, adding solar panels to reduce the burden of utility costs, rebuilding schools after hurricanes, and much more.

“Last year we turned our focus to Ukraine because of the major devastation the war was having on that country, and the terrible impact it was having on newly orphaned children,” said Kinasz. “We have been supporting a church foundation


in Ukraine that takes in these orphans, and again we have had an educational focus, helping the kids continue on with their education, despite the ongoing war.”

A video highlighted the story of Nastya, one of the children who received assistance from The YellowBird Foundation.

Kinasz added that The YellowBird Foundation will continue to support Ukraine and at the same time return to its roots to help with a new project in Jamaica, the Pineapple Place Basic School. Located in Ocho Rios, the school is desperately in need of repair. “I know many people in this room make their living off sending Canadians to places like Jamaica, and the Canadians certainly aren’t staying in hotels with leaky roofs, so we at YellowBird feel it is our duty to give back to these communities that help make our tourism industry tick,” said Kinasz.

In addition to a great day on the links, there was a sit-down lunch. Just about 100 golfers took part in Friday’s tournament, plus more who joined the group for lunch. Plus, five raffle prizes were won, and in a show of great generosity, the 50/50 winner, Mike Quinto from Exoticca, donated his prize money back to the YellowBird Foundation.

Competition Bureau to study competition in Canada’s airlines industry

GATINEAU The Competition Bureau has launched the consultation process for Canadians as it prepares to launch a market study of competition in domestic air passenger services in Canada.

“The airline industry is important to Canadians and the Canadian economy. Since the Canadian population is spread out over vast distances, other modes of transportation may not be feasible replacements for air travel. More competition in the industry will mean lower prices, better services, and improved productivity,” said Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition.

News of the bureau’s upcoming study first hit earlier this month.

A statement from the Competition Bureau notes that recent events have raised questions about the state of competition in the industry:

• The domestic air travel market is concentrated with only two major airlines;

• Domestic airfare in Canada appears to be relatively high;

• Canadians have filed more complaints about air travel services in recent years; and

• New airlines appear to face challenges entering the Canadian market.

The bureau says the market study will allow it to better understand what is driving these issues, and to make recommendations to all levels of government to improve competition in the airline industry. The study will examine how to make it easier for new businesses to compete

14 | TRAVELWEEK May 30, 2024 NEWS
Golfers on the green at the 2024 YellowBird Charity Golf Classic

and easier for consumers to make informed choices.

For public feedback, interested parties can submit their comments by June 17 through a feedback form or by emailing

Following the consultation, the bureau will publish its final terms of reference and officially launch the market study. The final terms of reference will include details on how to provide submissions to the market study.

Azamara welcomes new CEO, Dondra Ritzenthaler

Cruise industry veteran Dondra Ritzenthaler has officially taken the reins of Azamara Cruises as its new Chief Executive Officer. Ritzenthaler, who left Celebrity Cruises earlier this year, brings with her more than four decades of experience, proven success in sales as well as wellestablished relationships with trade partners.

On her new role as CEO, she said: “I’m thrilled to be officially joining the incredible Azmara team. I am very proud of what Azamara has already built and their growth as an independent cruise line, and I plan to drive our company’s growth even further by energizing and inspiring the team to be the best in the business.”

WestJet CEO turning to used plane market, calls for freeze on airport fees

CALGARY WestJet has its eye on a number of used aircraft it hopes to add to its fleet to offset delays on pending aircraft deliveries from Boeing, the CEO of the Calgarybased carrier said.

Alexis von Hoensbroech told a Calgary business audience on May 22 that WestJet is in the market for used planes in the wake of the ongoing situation at the embattled U.S. aircraft manufacturer.

The airline has a firm order for 58 new Boeing airplanes to be delivered between now and 2028, but a door plug blowout on a Boeing Max 737 plane flown by Alaska Airlines in January prompted U.S. regulators to halt a production expansion at the U.S. aircraft maker until an investigation can be completed.

Von Hoensbroech said WestJet remains confident in the safety and quality of Boeing airplanes, but the manufacturer’s challenges are inhibiting WestJet’s own plans to grow its fleet and add new routes.

“It’s slowing us down right now. We were supposed to receive eight aircraft this year ... right now we are down to four (expected) and my best guess is we’ll get probably two,” he said.

One possible source of used planes that WestJet is keen on to fill its unmet demand are the nine Boeing Max 8 planes previously leased by Lynx Air.

Lynx was a Calgary-based discount carrier that shut down in February, a few days after receiving creditor protection and less than two years after launching its first flight.

Von Hoensbroech said he is optimistic WestJet will be able to obtain “at least a share” of those planes.

“We are trying to get through this (Boeing delay) from the used market. And I guess over the next couple of weeks we’ll probably have some news that we’ve been successful,” he said.

“I think we will be able to deliver the growth that we have foreseen.”

Last month, United Airlines said a deal with Boeing would provide the carrier with “credit memos” for future purchases to compensate for financial damages done by a threeweek grounding of its 737 Max 9s and rescheduled deliveries.

Credit memos are written acknowledgments that the buyer is owed money back.

Von Hoensbroech said “the public space” is not the place to discuss any compensation agreements that WestJet may have with the aircraft supplier, but suggested the carrier has not been left entirely hanging.

“You can expect that the contracts that we have with Boeing would always cater to the eventuality that the airplanes have been delivered late,” he told reporters.

Von Hoensbroech added he recently personally met with Boeing executives and walked the firm’s entire production line in Seattle to better understand what is going on with the company.

“I can say with utmost confidence, they make really great airplanes — and they know where they screwed

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Dondra Ritzenthaler PEOPLE

things up,” he said. “They do have to fix a couple of things on their production line, there’s no doubt ... And I’d rather them take a slower pace than have them not fixing the problems that they have.”


Von Hoensbroech also called for a full federal government review of the way airports and aviation infrastructure in Canada are funded.

The WestJet CEO said Canada’s “user pay” model for aviation infrastructure needs rethinking in light of ongoing public concerns about air travel affordability.

Currently, Canada’s major airports are all operated on federally owned lands by private, not-for-profit organizations that pay rent to the federal government based on a proportion of their revenues.

Airports earn money by charging fees to airlines, to businesses such as restaurants, and to passengers through ticket surcharges such as “airport improvement fees.”

Von Hoensbroech said these charges drive up the cost of flying in Canada, as do federal taxes on airfares, security surcharges and other mandatory fees that are currently tacked on to the price of a plane ticket.

WestJet believes the federal government should freeze aviationrelated surcharges and fees and stop collecting airport rents in order to make travel more affordable.

“When millions and millions of Canadians have no way to travel except by air, I think it’s a reasonable ask,” he said.

WestJet delays integration of Sunwing to 2025

CALGARY WestJet has postponed its planned integration of Sunwing Airlines, a move that represents a setback for the Calgary-based company after acquiring the leisure carrier last year.

In an email, WestJet said it will weave the discount airline’s fleet into its own by late April, six months after the integration date initially set for Oct. 26 of this year.

Both airlines will continue with “business as usual” on their winter flight schedules, said spokeswoman Madison Kruger.

The longer timeline comes as pilot shortages continue to plague the industry.

The WestJet Group expects unionized operational team members will be integrated in a phased approach to meet training and aircraft transition schedules by April 27, 2025,” Kruger said.

Wrangling over worker seniority for pilots slated to fly under the same banner remains a point of contention, said John Gradek, who teaches aviation management at McGill University

“There is a union issue there,” he said.

The two sets of pilots are represented by different labour groups — the Air Line Pilots Association at WestJet and Unifor at Sunwing.

“You’ve got a 20-year captain on Sunwing who’s going to be integrated into WestJet. Does he have the equivalent of a 20-year captain at WestJet, or is he going to the bottom of the pile?” Gradek asked.


The delay is due in part to pilot training, said Rick Jones, WestJet’s interim head of route planning, at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. But union turbulence may also play a role.

“With safety, people and guests at the forefront, the WestJet Group intends to integrate as much of Sunwing Airlines as possible by its original October 2024 date.

“This is the same thing that Air Canada went through when they got Canadian Airlines 25 years ago.”

Neither union replied immediately to requests for comment.

WestJet acquired Sunwing’s main airline and vacation divisions last May in a major consolidation of the Canadian aviation market.

Sunwing Vacations will continue as a separate brand.

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Cory McGillivray returns to Globus family of brands

Globus family of brands has restructured and expanded its sales and trade marketing teams. As part of this restructure, the company has brought back Cory McGillivray as senior director of sales operations and channel marketing. McGillivray spent nearly a decade with the Globus family in trade marketing before moving to Silversea. In his new role, he will be responsible for enhancing marketing and sales growth opportunities across the United States and Canada.

Joining McGillivray and increasing the trade marketing team by 50% are: Dave Llewelyn, manager of sales development and channel marketing who previously spent five years at G Adventures; Faith McDade, marketing coordinator; and Tamara Olton, partner training specialist.

Expedia TAAP expands rewards program to Canada and Mexico

TORONTO Expedia TAAP (Travel Agent Affiliate Program) has expanded its rewards program into Canada and Mexico, giving more travel advisors the chance to earn and redeem rewards points.

Following a strong launch in the United States in 2022 where it garnered over 38,000 advisor registrations and 13,000 redemptions in rewards, the program incentivizes travel advisors with redeemable points for booking travel through the Expedia TAAP platform. Through the program, advisors who sign up for TAAP rewards can earn rewards points on eligible bookings, which they can then redeem for gift cards from a variety of popular retailers, including Amazon, H&M and Starbucks.

Travel advisors will earn one reward point for each Canadian dollar or Mexican peso spent on eligible bookings.

“We are excited to expand the highly successful TAAP Rewards program to Canada and Mexico,” said Phoebe Bush, director of Travel Agent Distribution – Americas, of Expedia TAAP. “This initiative allows us to recognize the valuable services travel advisors provide while offering them additional rewards for their dedication. Expedia TAAP remains committed to listening to advisor feedback and delivering programs that enhance their experience.”

For more information go to

Aqua Expeditions’ new website has a dedicated travel advisor portal

TORONTO Aqua Expeditions has launched a new website featuring a revamped portal for travel advisors.

Ideal for users on the go, the website caters to three breakpoints – desktop, mobile and tablet – and features a newly introduced ‘Aqua Experience’ section that highlights the cruise line’s key brand pillars and offerings.

Also notable are interactive deck plans, with clickable pop-ups for each stateroom and social space. On the booking pages, an interactive map zooms into each ship’s daily course as the user clicks through its dayby-day itinerary.

As for the new advisor portal, the website’s landing page now offers an automated advisor account sign-up process, live online booking options, as well as secure and easy access to a ‘Resource Library’ where advisors can download essential information and sales materials like flyers, itineraries, rates and departure dates.

Advisors will also be able to check both FIT and charter availability across the fleet and make bookings 24/7 on desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

Plus, suite images and cabin details will be available for review after selecting sailing dates.

For travel advisors looking to gain a deeper insight into selling Aqua Expeditions, the portal provides access to Aqua Academy, a library of recorded webinars covering the ships, destinations and Aqua Expeditions’ brand pillars.

For more information go to

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Cory McGillivray PEOPLE

Now accepting reservations: Luxury Collection’s Almare Resort on Isla Mujeres

ISLA MUJERES Bookings have opened for the all-new Almare, A Luxury Collection Adult All-Inclusive Resort, Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

Part of the Marriott International family, the 109-suite property marks the newest addition to the Luxury Collection brand and its first in Mexico. Located on the idyllic Isla Mujeres just off the shores of Cancun, it offers suites with expansive balconies, seven restaurants and bars, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a salt room, full salon, hydrotherapy pool and the Alma spa, where guests can enjoy ancient Mayan and Caribbean healing treatments.


The resort is now accepting bookings for stays starting Nov. 15, 2024.

“We are thrilled to announce that bookings are now open for Almare in Isla Mujeres,” said Xavier Pineda, Director of Sales & Marketing AllInclusive, Marriott International. “Being the first luxury all-inclusive in Mexico comes with great honour, and this distinctive hotel will combine the natural beauty of the destination with inspired design and exceptional service and amenities synonymous with the Luxury Collection brand.”

Originated in 1906 under the CIGA brand, The Luxury Collection comprises over 110 of the world’s finest hotels and resorts in nearly 40 countries and territories.

For more information go to or the-luxury-collection.

Just You welcomes new head of trade sales, North America

Just You, the solo traveller specialist, has appointed Meg Murgatroyd as its new head of trade sales in North America. Murgatroyd, who brings with her a strong background in leading travel organizations, says she is thrilled to be joining the Just You team. “With solo travel booming, it’s an exciting time to join Just You, the market leader in solo holidays. I’m eager to lead this opportunity in North America, building upon existing partnerships and cultivating exciting new ones by leveraging my retail and wholesale background,” says Murgatroyd, who can be reached at meg@murgatroyd@

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Meg Murgatroyd PEOPLE Almare, A Luxury Collection Adult All-Inclusive Resort, Isla Mujeres

WestJet planning new fare category for travellers willing to forgo carry-on bag

CALGARY WestJet Airlines plans to launch a new cheaper fare category that would be available to travellers willing to fly without a carry-on bag.

CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech told a Calgary business audience Wednesday that the new “ultra-low” fare category will be introduced within “a couple of weeks” and will appeal to the most budgetconscious travellers.

He said the move will also free up overhead bin space for other passengers. Travellers who purchase the cheapest fare will not have the option to put a bag in the overhead bins, though they will still be permitted to store a knapsack, purse or small personal item underneath the seat in front of them.

“Those guests will not be allowed to bring a carry-on bag. We expect this will significantly reduce the amount of carry-on bags,” von Hoensbroech said.

He acknowledged that having large numbers of passengers jockeying for limited overhead bin space has become a problem on full flights — particularly when the plane is an older model of aircraft.

“On the older airplanes that we have, they are smaller, you actually get less bags in them,” he said.

WestJet is not the first airline in Canada to offer a “no carry-on” discounted fare. Edmonton-based Flair Airlines lets passengers fly with one free small bag or personal item that can be stored beneath the seat, but any bag destined for the overhead bin space costs extra.

The idea of “unbundling” airline

The airline — which aims to attract all manner of passengers, from business travellers to sun-seekers — still includes certain perks like in-flight snacks and non-alcoholic beverages within its basic service.

But WestJet is exploring ways to grow its pay-for-service offerings. Last month, the airline launched


fares so that passengers pay only for the specific services they need has become more common in recent years due to the rise of the ultra-lowcost carrier model.

The thinking behind the model is that budget-conscious travellers can choose to pay a stripped-down, basic fare while more comfort-minded passengers can purchase extras like the ability to select a seat, check a bag or access in-flight entertainment.

WestJet itself is not considered an ultra-low-cost carrier along the lines of Flair or Europe’s Ryanair.

what it calls its “extended comfort” fare category, which for an extra fee offers passengers access to a number of perks — including preferential access to overhead bins.

“Some (passengers) want premium and are willing to pay a higher price. Some want just a rock-bottom price,” von Hoensbroech said. “It’s part of our philosophy that we want to offer choice ... and I think we can do more than we have been doing.”

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Flair sets its sights on Orlando with direct routes from four Canadian gateways

EDMONTON Flair Airlines is expanding its winter schedule from several Canadian gateways to Orlando.

Nonstop service between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Kitchener-Waterloo starts Oct. 29; between MCO and Toronto Pearson on Dec. 16; between MCO and London, ON on Dec. 20; and between MCO and Saint John, NB on Dec. 22.

During peak season, frequency between Orlando and Toronto will be as high as 12x weekly with lead-in base fares ranging from $44 - $124.

Flair execs say the airline is gearing up for its busiest summer season yet, including its inaugural direct flight from Vancouver to Guadalajara (GDL) on May 31.

Block to step down as Travel Leaders Network President, take on new role

ALEXANDRIA, VA Travel Leaders

Network’s President Roger Block is stepping down at the end of the year, and will take on a new role in the organization in an advisory capacity.

Block’s last day as President will be Dec. 31 and he will begin his new role of Senior Advisor on Jan. 1. He will advise TLN’s management team on long-term strategy and competitive analysis.

Block is based in Atlanta, GA but he’s no stranger to the Canadian travel industry, frequently making the trek to Toronto to meet with industry media and partners. And he’s front and centre at Travel Leaders Network’s conferences including the always-popular EDGE. His 45-year career in retail travel has included leadership positions at Travel Leaders Network, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Travel Agent International.

He’s also served in numerous capacities in the industry, including advisory boards and chairing the ASTA Board of Directors. Before joining the travel industry, he was an executive in the banking industry.

“The time is simply right for me to start the next phase of my life and pursue some things I’ve wanted to do,” said Block. “I love to spend time traveling, and that will definitely be in my future. I’ll be filling my time with numerous activities in addition to working with the TLN leadership team in an advisory role and helping shape their future success.”

Roger Block

Block took Travel Leaders Network from a franchise organization to its current position, now comprising thousands of member agencies of all sizes thanks in part to mergers with Results Travel and


“Everyone in the travel industry owes a debt of gratitude to Roger,” said John Lovell, President of Travel Leaders Group. “He cares deeply about travel advisors, and developing them as a sales channel. He’s beloved among TLN members and staff, and I am thrilled that he will continue to work in the company and aid in the transition.”

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BermudAir kicks off new Canada service with inaugural Toronto flight

TORONTO BermudAir’s new flights connecting Toronto Pearson with L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA) took off May 17.

Bermuda’s flagship airline will provide direct service to Toronto three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with a flight time of two and a half hours.

“Flying to Canada marks the latest phase of our strategic expansion of service for Bermuda,” said Adam Scott, Founder and CEO of BermudAir. “Launching flights to Toronto today, along with service to Halifax next week, means that we now offer seven routes between Bermuda, Canada and the USA. This extends year-round air service and capacity overall for residents and companies in Bermuda, while also providing convenient options to reach the island for inbound travellers.”

Scott is Canadian and he hails from Toronto. “We’ve been operating for less than a year and I’m immensely proud of what our team has accomplished in that time with our network expansion,” he said. “It’s a significant milestone for us and being able to connect Bermuda to Toronto in this way is also a personal and professional point of pride for me.”

BermudAir’s team celebrated the inaugural flight to Toronto with gifts and Canada-themed food and beverages for passengers onboard, along with a gate celebration on arrival at YYZ. Officials from YYZ, led by Chief Commercial Officer and Interim COO Khalil Lamrabet, were also on hand in the terminal to greet the BermudAir flight and passengers. Speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Scott, Lamrabet and the Hon. Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, Canada Consul General to Bermuda, also formed part of the celebration.

BermudAir is distributed in the GDS under the ‘W1’ Worldticket code with BermudAir flight numbers and validated on W2.


Barbara Muckermann named CEO of Kempinski Hotels

Kempinski Hotels has appointed Barbara Muckermann as its new Chief Executive Officer, the first woman to take the company’s helm in its 127-year history. Muckermann, who most recently served as President and CEO of Silversea Cruises, joins the hospitality brand at a time of growth. With 82 hotels in 36 countries, Kempinski intends to add another 34 hotels and residences to its portfolio in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa in the coming years.

During her 25-plus years of hospitality experience, Muckermann has successfully led global brands in luxury and travel including Loro Piana, MSC Cruises and NCL. After joining Silversea Cruises in 2001, she became president and CEO of the cruise line in January 2023, taking over the reins from Roberto Martinoli.

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Celebrity Cruises has new enhancements for The Retreat

MIAMI Celebrity Cruises is taking the suite life to new heights with new premium and personalized enhancements for The Retreat.

All suites at The Retreat come with a dedicated butler, who is now just a message away with Butler Chat, allowing for faster and easier one-onone communication from anywhere on board or onshore.

A dedicated shore excursions expert, The Retreat Destination Experience Specialist, is now available for guests of The Retreat to make the most of their time on shore, from planning destination-related activities, to ensuring smooth transfers when discovering Celebrity’s most soughtafter ports of call.

Additionally, guests can relax prior to excursions from the comfort of The Retreat Lounge and will enjoy suite-to-car butler escorts for Private Journeys excursions.

Culinary enhancements have been added to the offerings at Luminae, the exclusive suites-only restaurant, including new Daniel Boulud Signature dishes and a new rotating dinner and dessert menu.

In-suite, guests can enjoy personalized daily delights, selected from the in-suite dining menu, as well as a complimentary stocked minibar.

Guests of The Retreat also enjoy reserved seating in The Theatre. Plus, guests staying in Royal Suites and above will always look their best thanks to complimentary laundry service including unlimited pressing.

In addition to the new offerings, guests of The Retreat benefit from:

• Breakfast, lunch and dinner from the comfort of their suite, selected from the in-suite dining menu, available daily

• Wine portfolio of red, white, and bubbly wines representing vineyards from around the world served complimentary in The Retreat Lounge, Luminae and in-suite

• Express priority luggage drop off and delivery on embarkation

Guests staying in Royal Suites and above will also have access to:

• Complimentary Extend Your Stay providing the flexibility of staying onboard longer on disembarkation day in selected ports (Extend Your Stay is available in Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; Venice (Ravenna), Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; and; Southampton, England).

Guests can store their luggage, access public areas, use WiFi and drink packages, enjoy lunch, and relax before their departure

• Complimentary SEA Thermal Suite access on Edge Series ships and the Persian Garden on Millennium and Solstice Series ships.

• Complimentary unlimited specialty dining, including lunch and dinner

• Ability to customize their in-suite minibar experience before sailing

• Two complimentary bottles of wine or spirits throughout their sailing

• Exclusive complimentary sleepwear


Royalton Chic Antigua joins All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy portfolio

ANTIGUA The newly opened Royalton CHIC Antigua, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort-Adults Only has been added to the All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy portfolio.

The move, says Marriott International, marks a significant enhancement in its Caribbean footprint, offering guests an elevated adults-only, allinclusive vacation in Antigua with the charm that autograph Collection hotels are known for.

Located just 15 minutes from V.C. Bird International Airport, the Royalton CHIC Antigua features 235 rooms and suites, including 12 overwater suites, as well as the Royal Spa and fitness centre, seven restaurants, five bars as well as Royalton Resorts’ Diamond Club experience, which offers better room location and personalized butler service. The resort also offers the ‘Party Your Way’ concept that combines relaxation with lively entertainment and activities like themed parties and DJ sets.

“We are delighted to welcome Royalton CHIC Antigua to our expanding portfolio of all-inclusive resorts in the region,” said Alex Fiz,

Managing Director, All-Inclusive, Marriott International Caribbean and Latin America “By integrating into the Autograph Collection, Royalton CHIC Antigua will offer a unique blend of authenticity and elevation that aligns perfectly with our brand values in response to more travelers that look for this kind of seamless vacation.”

Fiz adds that the addition of Royalton CHIC Antigua further strengthens the partnership between Marriott International and Blue Diamond Resorts, making it the 24th resort to join their joint venture. The list includes other notable mentions such as Planet Hollywood in Costa Rica and Royalton Splash in Punta Cana, both part of Autograph Collection, as well as Mystique Holbox, part of Tribute Portfolio.

As a part of All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy, guests staying at Royalton CHIC Antigua can earn and redeem points through Marriott Bonvoy, the award-winning travel program

That offers members an portfolio of global brands, exclusive experiences on Marriott Bonvoy Moments and unparalleled benefits including free nights and Elite status recognition.

For more information go to

Porter rolls out expanded Porter Pass program

TORONTO Porter Airlines has expanded its Porter Pass program with new options that will make economy air travel easier to customize and plan.

The pass gives frequent travellers on particular routes or within regions a simple way to purchase 10, 20, 50 or 100 flight credits at once for a fixed price, for travel over the course of one year. Those using Uplift can now purchase a Porter Pass in installments with financing options available.


Six new and expanded Porter Passes are now available to passengers, based primarily from the Eastern Canada Triangle of Toronto (Billy Bishop and Pearson), Ottawa and Montreal. The new passes include:

• Western Canada <> Triangle to six Porter destinations across four western provinces:

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Royalton CHIC Antigua

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• Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg

• Florida <> Triangle to five Porter destinations in the Sunshine State:

• Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando and Tampa

• Western U.S. <> Triangle to three Porter destinations in the U.S.:

• Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco

• Northeast U.S. <> Triangle to four Porter destinations in Northeast U.S.:

• Boston, Chicago, New YorkNewark, Washington D.C.

• Everywhere (Canada) for travel between Porter’s 21 Canadian destinations

• Everywhere (North America) for travel between Porter’s 33 North American destinations

The new passes complement 12 existing Porter Pass options, which include popular choices like: Triangle Commuter (Toronto <> Ottawa/ Montreal); Toronto <> New York City; and Triangle Atlantic Canada (Toronto, Ottawa and/or Montreal <> six Atlantic destinations).

Passengers can also now choose to take advantage of Porter’s all-inclusive elevated economy experience with the PorterReserve Porter Pass. Along with PorterClassic inclusions like free beer and wine, no middle seats, and fast and free Wi-Fi on all Embraer E195-E2 routes, PorterReserve passengers enjoy priority check-in, ticketing flexibility and extra legroom seats. Premium pre-mixed cocktails, and fresh, healthy meals are also standard on longer routes.

A complete description of cities included with each Porter Pass and pricing is available at www.flyporter. com/book-travel/porter-pass.

Air France Conciergerie offers new services at Paris-Charles de Gaulle

PARIS Next month Air France will begin offering new concierge services at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, to welcome and assist its customers throughout their time at the airport.

Starting June 11, these services will be available for all bookings for flights operated by Air France or codeshared with a partner airline.

Air France Conciergerie will offer customers travelling in Economy, Premium Economy and Business cabins a range of optional services.

On departure, customers will be able to enjoy a full range of services including a private transfer to the airport (for journeys within a 40km radius of CDG), concierge assistance as soon as they arrive outside the terminal, a porter service to take their baggage to a dedicated checkin counter, assistance through the airport’s priority lanes, to the lounge

for eligible customers, and then to the boarding gate.

On arrival, a concierge will meet customers at the door of the aircraft and accompany them through the airport’s priority lanes. Once their baggage has been collected, they will then be accompanied to the vehicle dedicated to their private transfer (again, for journeys within a 40km radius of CDG).

Connecting passengers will be accompanied from the jetway to the lounge for eligible customers, then to the boarding gate of their next flight through the airport’s priority lanes.

On departure or between two flights, the concierge service will also offer access to one of the airline’s lounges an additional option for non-eligible customers. When it’s time for boarding, they will then be accompanied from the lounge to their gate.

Services are available to book now for flights as of June 11, at or by telephone up to 18 hours before departure.

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IMOT’s Gal Hana will soon bid a fond farewell to Canada

TORONTO — Gal Hana will soon bid a fond farewell to the Canadian market as he gets ready to take on a new position.

Hana is currently Consul – Director for IMOT Canada. A farewell event for Hana will take place next month. Hana took over the reins at the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s Canada office in August 2019. He stepped into the role after serving as an advisor to the Director-General of the Ministry where he was instrumental in streamlining cross-office processes and promoting the development of projects to bolster tourism.

Before joining the Ministry, Hana served as Senior Director of National Projects in the Prime Minister’s office.

As Director of Tourism here, Hana managed the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s Canada office and worked to build on the destination’s many success in this market. That work was of course interrupted by the pandemic starting in early 2020.

Hana ensured that Israel stayed top of mind, organizing virtual events ISRAEL | TOURISM 3.0 in early 2021, featuring keynote speakers and hotel and wholesaler panels.

More recently Hana has been working to allay concerns about travel to Israel amid ongoing unrest, from a briefing for trade media in November 2023, to more recent remarks at the going away party for Fiona Kosmin, formerly Director of Marketing and Partnerships for IMOT Canada.

More information about travel to Israel can be found at

Silversea takes delivery of Silver Ray ahead of June 15 debut

MIAMI Silversea has taken delivery of Silver Ray, the second ship in its innovative Nova Class.

During an official ceremony on May 14 in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, Jason Liberty, president and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Group, boarded the ship to celebrate its official handover and lead festivities that included flagchanging and signing ceremonies, commemorative speeches and a celebratory toast.

“We are thrilled to take delivery of Silver Ray, the newest ultraluxury and expedition jewel in Royal Caribbean Group’s game-changing fleet,” said Liberty. “Delivering the best vacation experiences responsibly is at the heart of everything we do.

We are fortunate to have the best people working together to dream and create unforgettable experiences for our guests, including the Meyer Werft shipyard team, whose partnership has enabled us to continue pushing boundaries.’’

The ship completed its technical and nautical sea trials in the North Sea on May 8. Following its maiden voyage from Lisbon on June 15, Silver Ray will spend its inaugural season in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to the Americas in December 2024.

According to Silversea, Silver Ray joins sister ship Silver Nova as one of the most energy-efficient, ultraluxury and expedition cruise ships ever built, marking an important milestone on Royal Caribbean Group’s journey to reduce emissions and carbon intensity.

Nova Class ships feature reimagined pool decks that overlook the water on the starboard side, and allnew outdoor venues including the Disk Bar and the Marquee. Silver Nova and Silver Ray also boast a space-to-guest ratio of 75 GRT-perguest, and a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:1.3, plus butler service for all suites. Other Nova Class highlights include the largest selection of bars, restaurants and lounges in ultraluxury cruising, Otium, Silversea’s Roman-inspired wellness program, and the Sea and Land Taste (S.A.L.T.) culinary program.

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Executives from Royal Caribbean Group, Silversea and Meyer Werft at Silver Ray’s delivery ceremony

VIVA Cruises to launch Seine River voyages this winter

FORT LAUDERDALE VIVA Cruises has unveiled a new series of Seine River voyages departing this winter season.

Sailing aboard the newly refreshed VIVA Gloria, these ‘winter magic’ sailings include seven unique itineraries, including six-day Advent cruises, a seven-day Christmas cruise, and a luxurious seven-day New Year’s cruise. Available this November and December, each itinerary begins and ends in Paris and offers enriching excursions, such as panoramic city tours of Paris and optional outings to historic sites.

The cruises begin with an overnight mooring in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, allowing guests to easily explore the city’s iconic landmarks. From there, they will journey to Normandy, with visits to historic towns like Poissy, Les Andelys and Rouen, renowned for landmarks such as the Rouen Cathedral and the Joan of Arc Museum. Excursions to towns like Vernon and Conflans will further enrich the journey.

During the festive season, guests will get the chance to see Paris illuminated by dazzling light festivals and visit the Palace of Versailles. These cruises will also feature traditional Christmas market visits, museum tours, ice skating and French wine tasting sessions at VINO.

While onboard the VIVA Gloria, which accommodates up to 152 passengers in 76 elegantly-appointed cabins, most featuring French balconies, guests will enjoy a range of amenities and facilities, including gourmet meals at Riverside restaurant, the newly-designed VINO wine bar, a cozy lounge, wellness area and a spacious sundeck with a heated pool.

During themed evenings, guests will experience the ambiance of 1930s clubs in Montparnasse and Montmartre, complete with lively tap dancing and Parisian melodies.

And for those welcoming the New Year on board, a special sixnight cruise will ring in 2025 with champagne and confetti.

All VIVA Cruises itineraries feature signature VIVA all-inclusive product, which includes snacks, full board, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, minibar, beauty products from luxury cosmetic brand Rituals, Wi-Fi, and all tips and gratuities.

Itineraries are commissionable to travel advisors starting at 15%, which increases based on bookings. The bonus commission special offers travel advisors an extra US$100 per cabin and is valid on new FIT bookings made by Feb. 29, 2024.

For more information go to Travel advisors can also call 1-833-YES-VIVA.

Gindel joins Goway GroupsOnly as Group Sales & Reservations Manager

Goway GroupsOnly has hired Elana Gindel as Group Sales & Reservations Manager. Gindel will lead Goway GroupsOnly’s Europe and South Pacific teams and help grow the market in these key destinations for Goway. She joins Goway from TTC Tour Brands where she was Groups Manager, Canada. Now based in Toronto, and buoyed by a few years of living in London, Gindel has worked in group travel for 10 years.

Shirley Rourke, VP Goway GroupsOnly, says: “With her vast experience in group travel and the hospitality industry, and her ability to connect and build relationships, Elana is an excellent addition to the Goway family. We’re thrilled to have Elana join our team as her experience and energy are a great fit. She fuels our ever-evolving passion and enthusiasm for tailor-made group travel.”

Goway GroupsOnly now has more than 40 team members, adds Rourke. Travel advisors looking for tailor-made group vacations to over 115 countries on all seven continents are asked to get in touch with Goway GroupsOnly.

30 | TRAVELWEEK May 30, 2024 NEWS
VIVA Gloria lounge Elana Gindel PEOPLE




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