WAVE 2023 IS OFF THE CHARTS
THE PROS AND CONS OF CHATGPT
WESTJET-SUNWING DEAL GETS GO-AHEAD
WAVE 2023 IS OFF THE CHARTS
THE PROS AND CONS OF CHATGPT
WESTJET-SUNWING DEAL GETS GO-AHEAD
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Our new online training programme bought to you by VISITFLANDERS. Discover Belgium and its beautiful regions of Flanders and Brussels!
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Flanders – What’s not to like?
TORONTO — After years of pandemic restrictions, followed by unprecedented pent-up demand, a successful Wave season this year was never in doubt.
But even for seasoned travel advisors - not to mention the cruise lines - the sheer volume of bookings coming in during the last weeks of 2022 and the first months of 2023 has truly blown all expectations right out of the water.
Travel agents say they’ve never seen anything like it. From multiple bookings for World Cruises, to budget-be-damned longer durations and high-end stateroom categories, clients are embracing the ‘revenge travel’ trend, and then some.
Caroline Hay, GM Cruise Division, Trevello Travel Group, says this Wave season has been a record-breaker for Trevello, with a double-digit growth rate that has well surpassed 2019 sales figures.
Trevello member agencies have been adept at maximizing the pent-up demand, says Hay. Group bookings continue to thrive too. Trevello’s tools and training for members include everything from weekly cruise training sessions, to access to a cruise-focused community of Trevello members.
She says the host agency’s cruise booking metrics show a consistent increase in longer sailings and higher category bookings, boosted by promotional offerings, a growing trend among travellers to explore new destinations in superior accommodations, and a recent surge in clients who are making sure they use their vacation time - or have more time available to dedicate to travel due to retirement. “Looking ahead,
our projections indicate that these trends are continuing into 2025 which is great news all around,” Hay tells Travelweek.
Feedback from cruise lines on this year’s Wave season shows just how far the cruise industry has come from the dark days of 2020 and 2021. Here’s a look…
One of the most telling indicators of Wave 2023’s success comes courtesy of Silversea.
The luxury cruise line now has almost 15% more on the books for 2023, than it ended up with for the entire year of 2022. “February 2023 was the biggest month booking-wise in the history of the company,” Mark Conroy, Silversea’s, Managing Director, The Americas, tells Travelweek.
And here’s more good news: “We are taking record sales calls, [and] also handling them,” says Conroy. “With a few exceptions, our phone hold times are less than 90 seconds and abandonment rates are running less than 2%.”
Conroy adds that Silversea also has a record number of travel advisors using its online booking tool, reachable
through Silversea’s travel agent portal.
Conroy has a bonus tidbit for Canadian agents: Silversea continues to have great success selling in Canadian dollars at a good exchange rate for guests.
Caribbean sailings are leading the pack for Celebrity Cruises’ Wave 2023, but Europe is close behind, says Allan Brooks, Celebrity’s National Director, Market Sales - Canada.
“Wave has been amazing! We are seeing growth well over our 2019 numbers,” Brooks tells Travelweek. “Caribbean is off the charts. Both seven night and longer have been most popular. Europe is also picking up momentum. We think now that air pricing is becoming normalized, our guests feel more comfortable booking.”
Brooks says Wave 2023 will match and surpass previous years. And that’s not just the case for Celebrity. Brooks is hearing success stories from the cruise line’s agent partners too. “In speaking to our travel partners, they too are seeing ‘best ever’ results this year. Our travel partners have remained engaged and they are now starting to see the fruits of their labours.”
He adds that with so many travel agencies still struggling to fi nd experienced agents to help service the high demand, “we will continue to work closely with our travel partners to ensure we make it easier to book and service our cruises. We hope to see this high demand well into spring and onward.”
Interest in exploring Alaska and vacation plans for 2024 helped boost cruise sales for Holland America, propelling the cruise line to record-breaking results early in the year.
The cruise line’s Wave 2023 got off to a strong start, with bookings in the third week of January the highest on record for any January week for the premium cruise line. Holland America says the rise was especially notable for summer cruises and cruisetours to Alaska.
Notable for Holland America Line’s highest single-day of bookings - Jan. 17 - more than 25% of the bookings that day were for voyages embarking in 2024. The results speak to the trend of cruise clients booking further out, a relief for the industry after the booking window roller coaster during the pandemic.
Viking’s booking patterns for the first weeks of 2023 have been marked by continued strong demand for longer itineraries. A spokesperson for the cruise line says: “We are continuing to see strong interest across our fleet as our guests are seeking opportunities
to spend more time with Viking on our river, ocean and expedition product including our 15-day itineraries and World Cruises. European voyages such as the 15-day river itinerary, Grand European Tour which sails along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, or the 15-day ocean journey, Viking Homelands with ports of call throughout Scandinavia, are among Viking’s most popular itineraries.”
When Viking launched its ocean cruises in 2013, it did so without Non-Commissionable Fees (NCFs). The company also helps agents by maintaining a network of Viking Directors of Business Development (DBD) to help answer the trade’s questions as travel requirements continue to shift.
With all the pent-up demand, Viking is encouraging guests and travel advisor partners to book “as early as possible.”
The seven biggest booking weeks in the history of Royal Caribbean International included the first five weeks of Wave season. Meanwhile net yields for the year are expected to increase 5% to 4.5%, with more and more higher-profit sailings as load factors reach historical levels by late spring 2023.
island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, the excitement to vacation with Royal Caribbean International has skyrocketed.”
NCL’s Todd Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Sales, says the cruise line’s record-breaking success in 2022, combined with accelerated booking volumes in recent months, has led to a great start to 2023 and a strong Wave season. “In fact, we are currently in a better booked position and at higher pricing when compared to the same time in 2019,” Hamilton tells Travelweek.
Longer, more port intensive itineraries, especially in Europe, are big right now, he adds. NCL is also eagerly anticipating its 2023 Alaska season where the line will have five ships.
“We highly encourage our Canadian travel agents to lean into our marketing headquarters, Norwegian Central, to learn more about how to sell NCL and take advantage of showcasing our Free at Sea program which includes Free Unlimited Open Bar, Free Specialty Dining and Free Airfare which opens up more cruise destinations for our Canadian guests,” says Hamilton.
Questions or comments?
Write to Kathryn Folliott at email@example.com
Vicki Freed, SVP Sales, Trade Support and Service for Royal Caribbean International, had this to say: “We are experiencing a record-breaking WAVE season this year driven by strong demand and increased anticipation to cruise from both our loyal guests and travellers new to cruising. Last year we set more than three all-time booking records in our 53-year history and the momentum continues into early 2023. From introducing Wonder of the Seas, to revealing Icon of the Seas, the first-of-its-kind combination of the best of every vacation, and as we get ready to expand our private
In November 2022 NCL announced its decision to pay commission on NCFs. Says Hamilton: “I can’t express enough how excited I am to see the overwhelming participation we received for our history-making NCF initiative, where our travel partners submitted their marketing plans to receive commission on previously categorized as non-commissionable fares. It demonstrates their motivation to sell NCL, and interest in working with our Business Development Managers to fi nd opportunities to succeed together.”
Travelweek is celebrating a major milestone in 2023, and we’re inviting travel advisors and the travel industry to join in the fun.
It’s our 50th anniversary, and we can’t wait to share it with you!
To celebrate this landmark year, we’re putting together a special issue of Travelweek commemorating half a century of keeping Canadian travel agents informed with the latest industry news.
The special anniversary issue of Travelweek comes out April 13.
TORONTO — “Hello, I would like to book a vacation this summer. Do you have any recommendations?”
This was the first question I asked ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that’s taken the tech world by storm since launching in November 2022.
Knowing full well that I was interacting with a ‘robot’ and not an actual person, I suppose opening with “hello” was completely unnecessary. However, it was hard shedding the good manners I was raised with, and besides, everything I had read about the AI entity up until that point mentioned its incredible life-like qualities.
“Certainly!” it replied in the chat box, almost instantaneously. “I can provide some recommendations based on popular vacation destinations and activities during the summer season.”
After warning me of COVID-19’s ongoing risks and recommending that I stay up to date on local guidelines, GPT (as I like to call it since we’re now on a first-name basis) entered into the chat box a list of popular travel styles for me to consider, from beach vacations to city breaks and road trips. All very generic stuff, so I typed in more pointed questions on my computer.
“What are the most affordable destinations for a family of four?” “Where
in Europe has the most affordable flights from Toronto?” “What are the newest all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean?”
For the most part, GPT answered with some fairly decent recommendations (Portugal, Thailand and Costa Rica for affordability, and Dublin, Reykjavik and London for cheap flights from Toronto), and it even composed a three-week, self-drive itinerary in Europe for me, when prompted. But the biggest downside was its inability to provide the most up-to-date information since its cut-off date, as a language model, is September 2021. For example, its recommendations for new all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean included Sandals Royal Barbados (opened in 2017) and Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana (opened in 2016).
“The lack of up-to-date data is the biggest limitation – it’s hard to plan a trip without the knowledge of real-time availability and up-to-date travel options,” said Noam Toister, CEO and co-founder of Bookaway Group, an online platform for managing ground travel services from local transportation suppliers worldwide.
“Such data would have to be compiled externally and regularly updated in order to develop a reliable technology. That said, businesses with dense and global inventory will likely be able to mitigate this issue fairly easily,” added Toister.
Within the travel industry, Chatbots, which act as AI-powered personal assistants to help customers browse and book flights, hotels and other travel options, have been around for the better part of a decade. WestJet’s multilingual assistant, Juliet, comes to mind and has seen tremendous success; it launched in 2019 to help customers manage itineraries, travel documentation and ID requirements, and even answer questions about travelling with pets and luggage restrictions.
But the buzz surrounding ChatGPT is on a whole other level, which Toister
KNOWING I WAS INTERACTING WITH A ROBOT, OPENING WITH “HELLO” WAS PROBABLY UNNECESSARY
says has been mostly positive among travel industry circles.
“While AI is usually aware of the popularity of various destinations and travel options, it lacks deeper, expert knowledge. But by training the AI to mitigate those issues, I believe the technology will soon be able to make fairly reliable recommendations. The emphases is on automation, so even if it’s not perfect, it’s still a very fast, cheap and mostly reliable way to recommend a trip itinerary to the user,” says Toister.
Of course, with every new groundbreaking innovation comes a period of disruption. In GPT’s case, travel agents are at the greatest risk of being negatively impacted and overlooked in favour of fast and concise AI-generated recommendations.
“Travel agents offering very basic, easily substitutable and automated products should likely be worried. But those who are able to adapt and adjust their offering to make room for the new technology will likely prosper – those who don’t will likely fail,” warns Toister.
So I put GPT to the test: If I asked whether I should book a trip online or with a travel agent, which way would it go? Would it lend its support to agents who can offer more personable, professional and up-to-date information, or, in solidarity with the tech world, would it favour online booking sites?
Here’s how GPT responded:
“Booking online versus booking with a travel agent can depend on a variety of factors, such as the complexity of your trip, your budget, and your personal preferences.”
It then listed the pros and cons of booking with both options. The pros for booking with a travel agent included: access to personalized advice and recommendations from a travel expert who can help find the best deals and options for every budget and preference; saving time and stress by having an agent handle the details of the trip; and having an advocate in your corner should flights get cancelled or itineraries see unforeseen changes.
The cons for booking with an agent included: paying a possible service fee; not having as much control over your itinerary as the agent may have their own preferences; and possibly needing to schedule appointments or working around business hours to communicate with the agent.
As for the main benefits of booking online, GPT cited lower prices and exclusive deals, the ability to book a trip at any time in the comfort of your own
home, and being able to read reviews from other travellers to make more informed decisions. The biggest drawbacks included having to spend more time researching and planning, and having to navigate customer service on your own should any issues arise with the booking.
GPT, as it turns out, served as Switzerland on the matter, not picking sides and leaving it to the user to make up their own mind.
“Ultimately, the choice between booking online or through a travel agent depends on factors such as budget, preference for convenience or personal service, complexity of the itinerary, and level of travel experience,” it wrote. “It may be worth considering both options and comparing prices and services before making a decision.”
The verdict’s still out as to whether ChatGPT is here to stay (“It’s hard to say before we see what cards other big players might show in the coming months,” says Toister), but one thing’s for sure: travel agents should keep it on their radars and even learn how to use it to their advantage.
“The market will continue to change and users will expect increasingly personalized content,” adds Toister. “Travel agents who adapt to the changing landscape of travellers’ needs and use the technology to update and automate their offerings will surely prosper alongside this exciting new tech.”
To learn more about ChatGPT go to https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt.
THE MARKET WILL CONTINUE TO CHANGE AND USERS WILL EXPECT INCREASINGLY PERSONALIZED
Transat’s Q1 revenue totalled $667.5 million, up from $202.4 million a year earlier. The outlook for the full fiscal year in 2023 looks promising, with the company expecting to deploy capacity equivalent to 90% of the 2019 level, said Transat’s chief executive, Annick Guerard. Transat also reported a $56.6 million loss for Q1, compared with a loss of $114.3 million a year earlier. “The momentum from the end of 2022 continues, confirming our financial scenarios … these results are especially encouraging since the first quarter, which falls in the shoulder period, is usually the lowest of the year,” said Guerard.
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism is reporting strong tourism numbers for the destination, and the Canadian market is getting a lot of the credit. When visitation from the top 10 countries for Jan-Dec 2019 is compared to 2022, Canada recorded the second fastest recovery to pre-pandemic visitation to the Cayman Islands, ahead of the UK (fourth) and the U.S. (fifth). Between July and December 2022, Canada recorded two record-breaking months, and three that were ahead of 2019 month over month numbers. Raymond Mathias, BDM, Canada for the tourism board, said that despite pandemic-induced limited air service in 2022, which has now returned to normal scheduling, 19,852 Canadian travellers arrived in the Cayman Islands last year. That’s 66% of the country’s record year of 2019.
Disney Cruise Line has announced a brand new island destination in The Bahamas, coming in summer 2024. Called Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera, the one-of-a-kind destination – much like Disney’s cruise ships and private island of Castaway Cay –will feature activities and areas for every age group. These include an expansive family beach with market-style dining and recreation; a family water play area; an adult-exclusive beach; a themed kids’ club for children ages 3-12; 20 premium family cabanas available to rent; a collection of new Port Adventures developed in partnership with local tour operators and more. Lighthouse Point will be open for guests on select sailings in summer 2024. Additional details about inaugural itineraries, entertainment, dining, retail and excursions will be released at a later date.
Windstar Cruises will lift its COVID-19 vaccine requirement on June 1,
2023. With the relaxed rules, guests will no longer need to be vaccinated against the virus in order to sail with the small ship cruise line. However, crew will still be required to be vaccinated and will be tested for COVID-19 upon their first arrival to work, during their first week, and as needed moving forward. Though no longer required, Windstar still recommends that guests remain up to date with vaccinations. Windstar has invested millions in upgrading its six-ship fleet’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to incorporate high-tech air filtration with HEPA filters and UV-C irradiation.
Sunwing celebrated International Women’s Day this month with not one, not two but three Sunwing Airlines flights that took off for sunny destinations from Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg, each with an all-female flight deck and cabin crew. All three of the Sunwing flights were operated and organized by a primarily female-led team across multiple functions, including airport staff, dispatch and scheduling.STINGRAY CITY, CAYMAN ISLANDS
TORONTO — AmaWaterways will have not one but two ships - AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia - sailing Colombia’s Magdalena River, with the first voyage debuting March 30, 2024.
OTTAWA — It’s official: WestJet Group will be acquiring Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines.
Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra made the announcement following Transport Canada’s assessment of the public interest, which incorporated the findings of the Commissioner of Competition, as well public consultations, consumer protection groups, unions and industry.
According to the Minister, the decision to approve the acquisition was “not taken lightly,” especially considering the delays and bottlenecks experienced by travellers last summer, as well as the customer service and communications challenges by Sunwing during the recent holiday season.
“After considering the pros and cons, we have made the decision that will allow Sunwing to continue to provide affordable vacation packages to Canadians, create more good jobs, and protect current jobs as well as Canadians who have already purchased tickets. The agreement will also be accompanied by strict terms and conditions to ensure the public interest, including with regard to competition, connectivity and baggage handling,”
said the Minister.
Given the current air sector landscape, the Minister noted that it was important to ensure that the final agreement offered the best possible outcome for Canadians.
The acquisition will also result in enforceable terms and conditions intended to protect the interests of travellers. These strict terms and conditions include: extending Sunwing vacation package offerings to five new Canadian cities; maintaining capacity on routes most affected by the merger; increasing regional connectivity; improving baggage handling for better passenger experience; and maintaining a vacations business head office in the Toronto area and a regional office in the Montreal area for a minimum of five years.
Other conditions include: increasing net employment by 20% over three years in the Toronto office; ensuring better passenger experience by investing in IT technology solutions to improve Sunwing’s communications; supplying airfare data on vacation packages for monitoring of post-acquisition price trends; and gradually ending Sunwing’s seasonal leasing practice to protect Canadian jobs.
Agents heard the latest news during a recent AmaWaterways webinar.
AmaWaterways’ entry into Latin America and specifically Colombia has been in the works for more than five years, with an unexpected delay due to the pandemic.
Now with two new ships on the way, and interest in travel in Colombia on the rise, the river cruise company’s executive team is sharing the excitement about the new offerings.
“We can’t wait to show you the beauty of Colombia,” Kristin Karst, co-founder and Executive Vice-President of AmaWaterways, told agents. “We are opening the next pages of our storybook,” she added.
Part of the cruise line’s popular ‘Webinar Wednesdays’ series, the presentation, titled ‘Uncover the Wonders of Colombia & the Magdalena River’, showcased early details about the two new ships, itinerary info and special offers for group bookings.
“We want to offer you, our travel partners, our friends, more to sell,” said Karst. “As I’ve always said, oceans take you to countries, and rivers take you through them. We knew from the beginning that river cruising would become a very popular way for travellers to experience the world in an
THE DEAL WILL RESULT IN ENFORCEABLE TERMS AND CONDITIONS INTENDED TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF TRAVELLERS
authentic and intimate way.”
She added: “For AmaWaterways, this is continent number four. This project is really something that’s driving us forward. Colombia has changed. From the moment I arrived there, I felt extremely safe. The country deserves it, and its people have been waiting for so long.”
Colombia’s highlights include UNESCO World Heritage Sites, nature and birdlife, music and culture, and especially “coffee, chocolate and cuisine,” said Karst with a smile.
The new Latin America offering brings Rudi Schreiner, AmaWaterways’ co-founder and President, full circle. In 1974, Schreiner was 22 years old and exploring the upper Peruvian Amazon region for five months on a raft. “That’s how river cruises started for me,” he said yesterday, only half-joking. “We’re totally, totally excited about these new cruises.”
The first ship to sail the Magdalena River for AmaWaterways, the newly designed AmaMagdalena, is an intimate 60-passenger vessel offering the luxury of space and sweeping views.
The ship will feature a pool on the Sun Deck, a spacious fitness room, a Main Restaurant serving regionally inspired Latin American cuisine and Western favourites, and an intimate al fresco specialty dining experience.
Each stateroom features AmaWaterways’ signature twin-balcony staterooms, with both a French balcony and an outside balcony. Each stateroom will also include a safe, minifridge, separate sitting area, desk, bathroom with shower, Entertainment-on-Demand and individually controlled air conditioning. Suites will also feature a bathtub.
Schreiner added that the two ships will be slightly wider than AmaWaterways’ European vessels, and the staterooms will be slightly larger. During the webinar, one agent asked about water depth issues. “Not on the Magdalena,” said Schreiner. “Also these ships have extra low draft, so no concerns in that
department for our ships.”
Schreiner also told agents that AmaWaterways’ product in Colombia will be completely managed and operated by AmaWaterways.
AmaWaterways will be offering two itineraries on the Magdalena. Both are seven days in duration and start from Cdn$4,855.
‘Magic of Colombia’, sailing from Barranquilla, visits Nueva Venicia, Santa Barbara de Pinto, Mompox, El Banco, Magangue, Calamar and Cartagena.
‘Wonder of Colombia’ sails the reverse direction, from Cartagena to Barranquilla and visits all the same destinations, plus Gambote-Palenque.
Both the AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia will sail both of these itineraries nearly year-round.
Clients can add on optional land programs too, including multi-night stays in Medellin, Cartagena and Panama City.
Karst said the 60-passenger size of the new ships is “just right” for this destination, adding that she’s already had charter requests.
“This is going to be a race for space,” added AmaWaterways’ Senior VP, Sales, Alex Pinelo. “Our Groups Department is ready.”
The cruise line’s Colombia Group Sales discount is Cdn$600 per stateroom ($300 per person) for seven-night cruises.
Plus, agents can earn enhanced commissions for group bookings: up to 18% group commission on the cruise fare; 12% commission on
pre- and post-land packages; 5% commission on contracted air packages; and 10% commission on insurance and extra nights.
There’s also the chance to earn one tour conductor (TC) credit for every nine full-fare (double occupancy) paying guests (cruise only), with the value applying to the 10th guest.
The minimum group requirement is five staterooms / 10 guests. A fully refundable Cdn$70 per stateroom group deposit is required.
AmaWaterways is fully onboard with helping its travel advisor partners get group business. The cruise line assigns the group a dedicated Group Coordinator, plus BDMs can assist with Cruise Nights and Consumer Seminars. Marketing Support includes a complimentary personalized group flyer and brochures. And AmaWaterways’ 24-Hour online booking engine provides instant and easy access to group booking details.
TORONTO — 42,000. That’s the approximate number of passenger rights complaints that the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has received since last summer and over the holiday season.
COLOMBIA HAS CHANGED.
I FELT EXTREMELY SAFE. THE COUNTRY DESERVES IT, AND ITS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR SO LONG
But newly announced government funding to the tune of $75.9 million over three years starting in 2023-24 will make it possible to hire more employees to make a significant dent in the processing of these complaints.
“We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruptions to the airline sector that contributed to challenges we saw last summer and over the holiday season. Those challenges have been particularly difficult for travellers and the industry as a whole. Travellers have experienced unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost luggage and many more issues,” said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra at a news conference this week at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“The industry and our government have been working together to make sure issues are addressed. But it’s
clear that there’s still work to be done as a result of the unprecedented disruptions,” he added.
In 2019, for the first time in Canadian history, an air passenger rights regime, called the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), was implemented to clarify minimum requirements and compensation based on whether an airline has control over the disruption or not. During the pandemic, the government strengthened these rights to include refunds for situations outside the airline’s control, including major weather events or a pandemic.
Currently, travellers who believe they are entitled to a refund or compensation must first contact the airline that sold them the service. If one isn’t given, the passenger can then file a complaint with the CTA, noted the minister.
“The events of the past few months have resulted in a record number of complaints to the agency and these complaints must be answered as quickly as possible,” he added. “So today, I’m announcing that we are close to $76 million more over three years to the agency to reduce the backlog of complaints and make sure travellers get the money they’re entitled to from the airlines as soon as possible.”
According to the Minister, the funding will enable CTA to hire approximately 200 additional employees to handle complaints and improve its procedures. The $75.9 million in additional funding represents a 70% increase of the base budget that CTA typically operates with.
In addition, the Government of Canada is working on significant updates to the APPR “so that the burden of proof no longer rests with travellers but with the airline,” added Minister Alghabra.
When asked how long it will take to process all 42,000 complaints with the additional funding, the Minister said it was difficult to say.
“It won’t be done overnight but it will significantly improve the processing time of complaints for Canadians who are waiting for money they feel that they deserve from these airlines,” he said. “Stay tuned may not be much of an answer – it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what the timeline is. But we are taking serious action and that includes resources plus improved processing time.”
The federal government is also working to close what many see as a loophole in the APPR. In the past Minister Alghabra has spoken out about airlines designating ‘crew constraints’, i.e. short-staffed situations, as a safety-related issue and therefore ineligible for refunds. Minister Alghabra has said that he doesn’t feel that labour issues can be used to reject compensation claims.
TORONTO — G Adventures has announced new details about its popular agent incentive program, Change Makers.
Agents can earn their way to the Change Makers global summit, taking place Sept. 22 - 28, 2023. G Adventures promises the 2023 Change Makers location will be an “exciting, yet-to-be-revealed destination”.
G Adventures says the Change Makers campaign incentivizes agents to focus on changing people’s lives through travel, by booking G Adventures trips. Agents who successfully earn a place at the Change Makers Summit will see firsthand how their work directly impacts local communities in the destinations G Adventures visits.
A total of 13 ‘makers of change’ will be chosen from each of G Adventures’ major markets: Canada, the UK and Ireland, continental Europe, the U.S., and Australia and New Zealand. The 65 agents will be brought together at the Change Makers Summit, which will also include members of G Adventures’ team of global purpose specialists and senior leaders from around the world, as well as some special guests.
Other highlights for the week-long trip will include visits to ‘G for Good’ community tourism projects built
Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) has named travel industry veteran, Anita Emilio, to the position of Vice President and General Manager, Independent and Luxury pillars in Canada.
Emilio is now part of the Global Independent and Luxury taskforces. Both segments have fuelled strong growth results for FCTG’s leisure performance. And both are seen by FCTG as major market opportunities “and will see strong investment in their pursuit of market domination,” according to FCTG.
Emilio is well-known in the travel industry, with senior role experience at The Travel Corporation, Travel Counsellors and most recently with Fresh Tracks Canada.
Her appointment at FCTG brings her full circle, back to Flight Centre, where she worked from 1999 to 2005 as Director of Sales.
After 19 years away, Emilio says she’s returning to FCTG with great enthusiasm. “I am thrilled that FCTG has chosen me to lead the independent and luxury businesses in Canada,” she said. “The team clearly have faith in the both pillars and the potential of them in the Canadian market. The foundation has been set with plans to invest in this business and I am ready to drive tremendous growth in Canada. After working alongside FCTG as a partner for many years, I am so happy to be returning to the place I started my career in the travel industry.”
together with G Adventures’ non-profit partner, Planeterra, as well as destination highlights to help agents build their product knowledge. The trip will also include a full-day, immersive G Adventures experience with guest speakers, and a special party night.
To be eligible to earn a space, agents automatically receive one entry per traveller booked. The top eight agents from each region will qualify, with an additional five ‘wildcard’ spaces available to each region to allocate to any agent who commits to changing at least one person’s life by making at least one G Adventures booking.
David Green, Managing Director for G Adventures in Canada, says G Adventures’ purpose as a company is to change lives through travel, and the Change Makers summit has demonstrated its success in reminding agents why they do the job they do. “The feedback following our inaugural Change Makers Summit in 2019 was incredible. At G Adventures, we change the lives of our travellers when they choose to explore the world with us, and as the pioneers of community tourism we change the lives of people in the places we go. We’re so excited to not just welcome our valued agency partners on this special trip, but to also celebrate the return to travel with them,” says Green.
The 2023 Change Makers Challenge is now live now and runs until June 30, 2023. Agents can visit: https://sherpa.gadventures.com/change-makers/ and log into Sherpa, or speak to their regional global purpose specialist for more information.
CALGARY — Swoop has announced its expanded summer schedule featuring new domestic routes and added flight frequencies.
New service will launch this summer between London, ON (YXU) and Abbotsford (YXX), plus seasonal service between Hamilton (YHM) and Charlottetown (YYG) will resume. Swoop will also return popular service to Deer Lake, NL (YDF) enhancing connectivity from southern Ontario with flights operating 6x/weekly from Hamilton (YHM) and Toronto (YYZ).
“As Canada’s leading ultra-not-expensive airline, we’re proud to be expanding our footprint from coast to coast with our summer schedule,” said Bob Cummings, President of Swoop. “Convenience and affordability are paramount, so we’re focusing our ultra-not-expensive flights in true ULCC markets that enable more Canadians to explore their big, beautiful backyard.”
Cummings added that the airline is “thrilled” to add significant frequencies on its top performing routes.
“With daily service in many key leisure markets, we’re making it easier than ever for Canadians to access our ultra-convenience and ultra-affordable flights,” he said.
New seasonal extensions for popular sun routes allow Canadians to escape to the beach through the end of June with low-cost flights from Edmonton (YEG) and Abbotsford (YXX) to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) and Los Cabos (SJD), starting at $119, all in, one way.
The Utah Office of Tourism has launched a new Utah Specialist Academy for travel advisors worldwide, including the Canadian market.
The Utah Office of Tourism is encouraging travel advisors to elevate their expertise about Utah by taking a learning journey through Utah’s unmatched destination experiences via the new Utah Specialist Academy. Travel advisors who complete the Utah Specialist Academy by June 30, 2023 will be in the running for the chance to win a September 2023 FAM to Utah.
Graduates of the academy will receive ongoing open access to the program and resources including up-to-date information, training updates, new Utah experiences to offer clients and access to the industry resource page with assets, itineraries and new product updates.
The Utah Office of Tourism’s Zach Fyne said: “With the Canadian market being Utah’s largest international source market and ranked number one, generating $174 million in spend and 274,000 visits in
2019, the goal of this program is to provide travel advisors with a general knowledge of the incredible experiences Utah has to offer. This knowledge will also give travel advisors the confidence and familiarity to sell our products before even stepping foot in the state. The resources, information and assets provided in this course will provide the necessary knowledge to close more leads and drive sales.”
The program provides travel advisors with the confidence and knowledge to sell the state to their clients and they will learn everything that makes Utah a welcoming destination to visitors from all backgrounds, cultures, and group sizes.
As travel advisors journey through Northern and Southern Utah, they will discover each destination offers unique features, local outfitters, essential highlights, dining and accommodation.
For more information and to register for the Utah Specialist Academy visit: www.visitutahspecialist academy.comBRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
TORONTO — TourRadar has a brand new booking incentive for travel advisors.
‘Spring Into Adventure’, taking place March 1 - 31, 2023, offers extra commission plus the chance to win a trip to Egypt from Beyond the Nile Tours and Getaways Egypt. The prize trip is valued at US$3,750.
TourRadar, billed as the world’s leading online marketplace for organized adventures, offers 50,000+ adventures in over 160 countries worldwide, from a long list of tour operators. TourRadar launched its
commissionable Adventure Booking Platform for agents back in November 2021, and now has more than 5,000 agents on the platform.
As part of the new ‘Spring Into Adventure’ incentive program, the top five performing agents by Gross Booking Value (GBV) will receive a US$250 cash bonus and the following 20 top performing agents will earn a US$150 cash bonus. All agents must meet a minimum of USD$3,000 GBV booking to qualify.
In addition, every agent who makes one booking in March will be entered to win the Pharaohs Highlights tour sponsored by Beyond the Nile Tours and Getaway Egypt. The five-star, nine-day tour starts and ends in Cairo, and includes a Nile cruise, plus stops in six other must-see destinations in Egypt on the itinerary. Four agents will win this organized adventure as part of a FAM group which also includes all accommodations, domestic
flights, insurance, meals, in-destination transportation, and more.
“At TourRadar, we are dedicated to supporting travel agents in their efforts to offer unforgettable travel experiences to their clients,” said Travis Pittman, CEO and Co-Founder of TourRadar. “We understand the value that travel agents bring to the travel industry, and we want to help them succeed by providing them with a wide range of unique and high-quality options for their clients, as well as attractive incentives to reward their hard work.”
To participate in the March incentive program, travel agents must be registered with TourRadar and make bookings between March 1 - 31, 2023. For more information on the March incentive program and to register as a TourRadar travel agent, visit www. tourradar.com/agents.
CIE Tours is celebrating Irish-American Heritage month in a big way
In celebration of Irish-American Heritage month, CIE Tours has launched a ‘Go for the Green’ flight promotion with airfare starting at $839.
The limited-time offer runs from March 1 through March 31, 2023, for travel through the end of 2023 with no blackout dates. Clients will get $839 economy airfare to Ireland from Toronto when booking a qualifying 2023 guided vacation or a Classic itinerary self-drive tour of Ireland, a savings of $150 per person.
Travellers can choose from 15 of CIE Tours’ popular Ireland guided vacations, or one of 10 pre-set itineraries to take as a self-drive tour. They’ll find additional value in CIE Tours’ All-In Inclusive Advantage whereby everything on the itinerary and most meals come included in the up-front price. There are no hidden charges, add-ons or fees for excursions on an itinerary, leaving more money in guests’ pockets.
A sampling of guided holidays include ‘Taste of Ireland’ (5, 6 or 7 days), CIE Tours’ best-value tour that includes Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry and two nights in Killarney, ‘The Irish Pub Tour’ (8 or 9 days) that visits lively cities and towns and includes a Guinness Storehouse tour and Kilkenny beer tasting, and ‘Irish Legends’ (9 or 10 days), which visits hidden gems like the Aran Islands, the National Stud and Clonmacnoise. There’s also ‘Jewels of Ireland’ (14 or 15 days) featuring overnights in Kinsale, Dingle, Galway and Donegal, and ‘Mystical Ireland’ (8 days) that explores the North and West of the island with walking tours of Belfast, Derry and Westport.
To qualify for the offer, travellers and travel advisors must book between March 1-31, 2023 by calling 1-800243-8687 or via online chat.
For more information go to www.cietours.com.
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TORONTO — This year will mark Royal Irish’s first full season in Canada since 2019, and Jonathan Sargeant, Director of Sales for Royal Irish Tours, says bookings are strong.
“Ireland is open for business and we’re excited to get people back. Our coach tours begin again in the middle of April and will run right through to
the middle of October,” said Sargeant.
“We’re already sold out pretty much from May to September, we’re nearly full for June but there’s still space available for July and August if anyone wants to book a tour,” he added.
Sargeant noted that Royal Irish’s smaller sightseeing tours, which were introduced in 2019 and feature a maximum of 16 guests, sold particularly well with little to no spots left available, a clear indication of Ireland’s massive appeal among Canadians, 45 million of whom claim Irish ancestry.
Speaking with Travelweek, Sandra Bailey Moffatt, Chair of the European Travel Commission (ETC) and
The island of Nevis has appointed Phéon Jones as its new Director of Sales & Marketing for all markets, with particular focus on North America.
Jones, who brings with him over 14 years of marketing experiences, will “continue showcasing the beautiful elements and unique events of our destination as well as diversify/expand our source markets,” said Devon Liburd, CEO of Nevis Tourism Authority.
Jones started his career in banking with CIBC FirstCaribbean in St. Kitts & Nevis and before long became Head of Sales for the Nevis Market, ending 2017. He also served as Senior Marketing Officer for The Bank of Nevis Limited where he directly managed the institution’s Marketing Department, brand, market presence and reputation across all segments including corporate, retail and corporate social responsibility.
Manager-Canada of Tourism Ireland, said the outlook for Ireland tourism in 2023 is “definitely positive” following a robust 2022.
“From the Canadian market, we netted out at about 75% of 2019 figures in 2022 and we’re on track to exceed that this year, aiming for over 80% of what we saw last year,” she said.
When Canadians do come to Ireland, they’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there’s something to do in every place, at every time of the year, but especially in the fall, she said.
“A lot of people don’t know that Halloween originated in Ireland. It started with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain over 3,000 years ago, so every year on Halloween, Ireland comes alive with festivals in Dublin, Derry and all over the country,” added Bailey Moffatt.
And, of course, as all TV and film buffs are already aware, Ireland is known for its plethora of filming locations for such blockbuster shows and movies like ‘Game of Thrones,’ the Oscar-nominated ‘Banshees of Inisherin,’ and the upcoming ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’
“Simply put, Ireland is vibrant, beautiful and fun,” said Bailey Moffatt. “We can’t wait to welcome Canadians back to the island.”
TORONTO — The Online Silent Auction of the Air Canada YellowBird Golf Tournament is now live, featuring over 40 incredible items available for bidding.
Open until 9 a.m. on May 22, 2023, the auction, as with all events of the Tournament, will be in support of orphanages in Ukraine with the goal of raising $150,000.
Items available for bidding include: two Air Canada Business Class tickets with a 3-night Accor hotel stay; a 7-day Caribbean-Antilles cruise for two with MSC Cruises; a 7-night Avalon Waterways river cruise; two roundtrip WestJet tickets; two tickets to Las Vegas with Canada Jetlines; 8-day free parking with Park’N Fly; 2 roundtrip tickets with Porter Airlines; a 7-night Kenyan Safari for two with Kenyan Safaris; a Virgin Voyages cruise for two; a Via Rail gift voucher; a 3-night golf stay for two at Casa de Campo; and much more.
Organized by Reps4Rent, the Air Canada YellowBird Golf Tournament returns this year to its pre-pandemic size and format on May 19 at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, ON. In addition to hitting the links, participants will enjoy a sit-down lunch and several new fundraising initiatives, including an online 50/50 draw.
Those unable to participate in this year’s tournament are encouraged to bid in the silent auction or make a simple donation.
For more information call Reps4Rent at 1-877-724-8085, email yellowbird@ reps4rent.com or go to https://trellis. org/yellowbird-golf-tournament.
TORONTO — CATO’s board of directors has announced Jean Hébert as Executive Director, effective immediately.
Between 2011 - 2021 Hébert served on the TICO Board as both a Board Member and Chair (elected and reelected December 2015 to May 2021). He was also a member of the Governance & Human Resources, Audit, Technology and Risk Management, Legislations & Regulations and Business Strategy committees.
From 2003 to February 2006, he
was a senior policy advisor in various ministerial offices of the Government of Canada in Ottawa: Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Human Resources and Skills Development, Industry Canada, Treasury Board and the Privy Council.
Prior to that, he spent almost eight years at Canada Post’s head office as a special advisor to the Chairman of the Board and as Director of Business Development for Canada’s largest network of customer service outlets.
From 1988 – 1994 he worked for the Government of Québec as Chief of staff and Policy Advisor for the Minister of Tourism and other Ministries.
CATO Chair Brett Walker said he could not be more pleased with the addition of Hébert to the CATO team. “Jean is a wonderful person and brings incredible talent to our Board, our members and industry. We know he will make a huge contribution in raising awareness of issues that matter most and working with governments of all levels as well as other stakeholders to achieve our goals,” said Walker.
The CATO Board of directors includes: Brett Walker, Chair (Collette); David Green, Vice Chair (G Adventures); Richard Edwards, Treasurer (The Travel Corporation); Nicole Bursey, TICO Director, CATO appointed (Transat); Joanne Dhue, TICO Director, CATO appointed (Sunwing) and Emma Cottis, Chair Sustainability Committee (GOWAY).
TORONTO — If your clients haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Italy by rail, Railbookers is here to tell you that now is the absolute right time to book.
Speaking with Travelweek, Dan Reisig, Communications Manager at Railbookers Group, says that demand has never been higher, with bookings to Italy up 103% in the first six weeks of 2023 over the same period in 2019.
Canadians in particular are soaking up ‘la dolce vita’ right now, adds Reisig, making up about 20% of the company’s total Italy bookings in 2023 so far. This represents a whopping 73% increase over the same six-week period in 2022. With early numbers like these, it’s obvious Canadians are well on their way to finish 2023 on a high note, considering the fact that in all of 2022, they made up approximately 35% of Railbookers’ total bookings to Italy.
As a rail tour operator, Railbookers offers a diverse portfolio of trips across the UK, Europe, North America and beyond. According to Reisig,
the fact that the company operates as a domestic operator in each of its source markets has helped it withstand the pressures and challenges of the pandemic.
“Our recovery was immediate and fast. While international rail travel took a hit, rail is an essential service in each country. Even throughout the pandemic, we never had a day where we didn’t take a new booking. For example, Canadians were still travelling within Canada with us,” said Reisig, adding that the company surpassed 2019 levels in 2022, ending the year with nearly double the business.
Reisig cannot emphasize enough how important travel agents are to the company. He tells Travelweek that Railbookers’ main mission and singular focus is “to make it easy, convenient and lucrative for travel advisors to book rail,” adding that this approach applies to the Canadian market just as much as it does in other source markets like the U.S., UK and Australia.
“Our main booking method at Railbookers Group is to work with travel advisors over the phone, enabling our travel consultants to offer a one-onone consultation and tailor a package to the client’s specific requirements, building the itinerary in real time and providing a quote by email immediately after the call, he says.”
“Travel agents earn commission on hotels, sightseeing tours, transfers and excursions, in addition to the rail segments we book for their clients. In this way, we have elevated rail to the status of a high-revenue product, and established independent rail vacations as a new category of product that travel advisors can suggest regularly to their clients,” adds Reisig.
In 2019, Railbookers doubled-down on its commitment to the agent community by appointing Cris David, a 25-year industry veteran based in Toronto, as its dedicated VP of Sales for the Canadian market.
Both of the company’s brands –Railbookers and Amtrak Vacations – feature a dedicated Canadian Travel Agent Portal, accessible from the homepage of their respective
websites, where agents can access a wealth of marketing materials as well as pre-recorded ‘travel tidbits’ training webinars.
As for fams, the company offers 20% off the cost of any trip for a travel agent and up to three companions.
Railbookers has a dedicated Canadian toll-free reservations number, 1-877-579-9217, with all of its products displayed, quoted, booked and paid in Canadian dollars. This year, agents can look forward to several new itineraries across Europe featuring new sleeper trains, including the NightJet from Amsterdam to Vienna. Railbookers is also focusing on developing its Cruise Extensions, a portfolio of more than 60 ready-made itineraries categorized on its website by rivers and ports.
To learn more about new itineraries go to https://www.railbookers.ca/ where-to-start/resources.
TORONTO — Building on a working relationship that goes back more than 30 years, Goway and APT have announced some changes impacting their distribution partnership.
Effective immediately, Goway will become the company’s exclusive distribution partner in the market, and APT’s travel offerings will be known as APT by Goway.
Bruce Hodge, Goway’s Founder and President, says the new APT & Travelmarvel distribution model will ensure the best support for trade partners and clients. Agents can get instant availability and confirmations on most APT bookings via Goway’s team of Destination Specialists.
“APT is one of the crown jewels in our product offerings to the fabulous lands downunder,” says Hodge. “They offer excellent and easy-to-sell
trips and lucrative sales opportunities for travel professionals who want to more-than-satisfy their clients.”
Agents can earn cash rewards on every booking with the GowayPro Loyalty Program. They can also take advantage of APT & Travelmarvel’s top-level Australia and New Zealand products for 2023 and 2024. APT’s exclusive ‘Freedom of Choice’ options, allows guests to personalize their journeys to suit their needs.
Paul Melinis, APT & Travelmarvel Managing Director, says: “We are delighted to announce our exclusive partnership with Goway Travel in North America, which will ensure that our valued agent partners are equipped for success and receiving the very best possible support. Goway Travel are the undisputed experts in their field, and perfectly positioned to help the trade to sell our outstanding portfolio of luxury APT and value centric Travelmarvel itineraries. Together we can seamlessly deliver a portfolio of holidays for all budgets and tastes that are unrivalled in the market.” Goway’s announcement came with an FAQ for travel advisors…
Q. What will happen to existing bookings?
Goway: “They will remain in place and will be taken care of by APT. You can still contact APT about an existing booking at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Q. Will the APT website still exist?
Goway: “There will be a redirect from www.aptouring.com to APT by Goway, where all info regarding all APT itineraries will be available.”
Q. I don’t want to book through Goway. Can I still make a booking directly?
Goway: “Unfortunately, no. All bookings for APT will need to go through Goway starting February 1, 2023.”
Q. Is APT financially secure?
Goway: “Yes, absolutely. APT is venturing into this partnership to offer enhanced service and a more streamlined booking process for its customers and partners. As Goway is an active member of USTOA, all APT bookings will be covered by the USTOA $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program.”
For more information about the new partnership, visit Goway’s website, or email email@example.com. More details about APT & Travelmarvel’s 2023-24 travel products can be found at APT by Goway.
LOS ANGELES — Uniworld Boutique
River Cruises has launched its Limited Edition Collection featuring one-time sailings and offerings with just one or two special departures per year.
Ranging from surprise sailings to themed cruises and more, Limited Edition cruises are Uniworld-exclusive experiences with special programming, “created to bring like-minded travellers together for extra special trips that are unique to our portfolio,” said Ellen Bettridge, President and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
The collection includes inclusive LGBTQ+ sailings hosted by gay and lesbian travel veterans, floating art workshops with special guest artists, cycling-themed cruises and more on select dates, added Bettridge.
Susan Bowman, VP, Marketing and Industry Relations at Transat Distribution Canada, has announced her retirement. Her last day at TDC will be April 7. Bowman has been a mainstay in the travel industry for some four decades. In 1985 she joined American Express Canada and served as Director, National Accounts Establishment Services. After eight years with AMEX she moved to INTRA, as Chief Operating Officer. From there a decade with Thomas Cook included five years as Senior VP, Business and Industry Relations with Thomas Cook Travel, and another five years as Senior VP, Marketing with Thomas Cook Canada. She landed at TDC in 2011, after time with Loyalty One.
“Plus, some offerings in the collection are offered for one-time only, such as our popular surprise Mystery Cruises and world trips spanning the globe. We’re even adding a women’s cruise for 2024 to the collection so female travellers should keep an eye out for more details coming soon,” she said.
The Limited Edition Collection includes Mystery Cruise offerings; 46-night Rivers of the World Cruises; Out! On the Rivers LGBTQ+ Sailings; Butterfield & Robinson Cycling-Themed Trips; and Floating Art Workshops.