As we saw the opportunity to travel internationally may not be possible in 2020, Canadians were expressing more interest in exploring their own backyard! We saw this as an opportunity to create a series of trips within Canada for Canadians 18-35 year olds. While Contiki has always offered trips in Canada, they were created for inbound travellers, not necessarily for Canadians looking to explore their own country. We recently surveyed over 1,100 millennial and Gen Zers in Canada asking what their travel intentions were, where they wanted to explore and what experiences they wanted to have. The responses were fantastic.
We took their feedback and got to work, creating four incredible local adventures spanning coast-to-coast. There certainly is an appetite to travel our beautiful country and now is the best time to do so if done in a very organized fashion and the well-being of our guests is of the utmost importance. Since our launch, we have seen an increase in bookings for our Canadian trips and copious amounts of interest in our upcoming winter departures. We encourage our travel agent partners to reach out to the 18-35 year olds and start the conversation about exploring Canada, there is demand and we are here to support them in any way we can.
Further, Contiki is encouraging Canadians to get out and explore our amazing country to the point that we’re offering a contest where travellers can send us their images of their favourite spots in Canada to a chance to win one of our trips, and they can choose the itinerary of their preference. We’re also grateful for the incredible support we receive from our loyal travel agent partners and to thank them, we’ve launched an agent incentive program as well. We are encouraging agents to join our agents-only Facebook page and over the next several weeks, we will be highlighting the most authentic Canadian foods, drawing inspiration from local culture, tradition, and ingredients. From August 11th to September 30th, agents can share their favourite Canadian recipes on
the Contiki Canada’s Agent Facebook page, in the comment section of the brand’s Cooking with Joel videos for a chance to win either one hundred loonies or fifty toonies. We hope they appreciate this as much as we appreciate them!
Hiking the lush & vast forests of Whistler
Since you’re originally from the West Coast, do you have any insider tips to share about what travellers shouldn’t miss if they choose the new Whistler or Banff trip?
Do I ever, the options are endless to get outside, get active and take advantage of this incredible country we live in. I love Whistler, there is so much to see and do…and you don’t have to be a ski or snowboarder to enjoy the destination. One of my favourite activities is to walk around Lost Lake which is just a few blocks from the village. The scenery is unbelievable and it is great exercise, you can do this in any season. I also love getting a pair of snowshoes and exploring the trails, this is very inexpensive and the terrain is massive. Some of the best trails are at the Olympic Park which is about 15 minutes from the village. Once you have exhausted yourself, the best part will be soaking your muscles at the Scandinave Spa! Treat yourself, you will not regret it.
What role do you see travel advisors playing in the recovery of the industry? As consumer confidence has been shaken by the pandemic, travellers will look towards knowledgeable travel advisors for assurances and validation that the right steps have been taken to ensure that their health and well-being is going to be looked after when they go on a holiday.
What are some of the other new trips that you are excited about?
Beyond the great selection of new Canadian trips, Contiki is excited to see the response from our travellers when it comes to our classic European experiences we offer. Iceland has become an extremely desirable destination over the past few months and travellers are committing to 2021 departures. Our “Special Stay” in the Icelandic Highlands is an experience like no other, with a rooftop hot tub and the perfect setting to sneak a peek at the Northern Lights. Simply Italy is by far one of our top five trips every year and this year we don’t see that changing. We have made some improvements to the itinerary and one of the great new additions is learning how to make your own pesto from a local chef in the Cinque Terre, which is actually much harder than it seems! Another favourite would be our Ireland trip, which sells out every year. Contiki travellers rave about Ronan, a local guide and a hidden gem. Ronan guides our group through the streets of Londonderry and provides an insight into life during ‘The Troubles’ and how the city has flourished once the peace agreement was signed. It is always the most popular activity and a surprise to our travellers as they were not aware of the history when they book the trip.
Snowshoeing the peaks & valleys of the West Coast
What’s it been like being in travel while travel was at a standstill? Has this been the most challenging part of your 10-year tenure with Contiki?
It certainly has been a challenge to see travel halted and the effects it is having on the tourism industry. It is heartbreaking to see so many people being affected and companies struggling. We have to forge ahead though, people will travel and we are 100% ready. At Contiki, we are taking this time to look at all areas of our business and identify where there are opportunities to pivot and adapt to a new world post COVID-19. You don’t have the time to do this when you are hustling, so it has been good to pause and take a step back to really look at our overall business. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Contiki team on developing the new Canadian trips, it is super exciting to create trips that are in your own country and that will support and revitalize the local economy. Each member of our team helped shape these new trips based on consumer feedback and they contributed to the final product. There are many exciting new trips launching in the weeks to come for Contiki that we have been focusing on over the last six months. We are looking ahead to 2021 and we cannot wait get back out there.
Exploring the walking & biking trails of Whistler
What part of Canada is still on your bucket list?
Great question! My own personal bucket list is long and I need to get cracking on some of these local adventures. I would love to explore Atlantic Canada next summer, I have never been and would love to visit PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I can’t get enough of the outdoors so kayaking the Bay of Fundy and biking the Confederation Trail are at the top of my list. I would also like to eat my weight in lobster and all the delicious local delicacies.
How can traveling locally positively impact the Canadian industry?
Now is the time to support our communities, local businesses and the Canadian economy and help restart our Canadian travel industry. We need to rally around one another in this beautiful country of ours and Canadians are excellent at being there for one another. Everyone that I have spoken to has taken the opportunity to gather up their close friends and/or family and have planned a local vacation. They have jumped in the car and explored their local surroundings, all the while injecting money into our economy. We can still sell Canadian trips to locals, the demand is there. Everyone wants to travel, and when you can’t travel internationally, then you will travel locally. Travel advisors can capitalize on this and most certainly should!
Do you have anything to add?
The younger travellers are going to be the first ones out there willing to travel when it is safe to do so. At Contiki we want to help advisors in any way we can to book those clients on their dream vacation. Rest assured, we have made some changes at Contiki – we will accommodate fewer guests to ensure physical distancing can be met and our experiences will focus on the outdoors as much as possible. We are ensuring that travellers have an opportunity to give back to local communities, boosting the local travel & hospitality industry and the economy as conscious travel will become the new way to travel and continues to be at the forefront of our operations.
We’ve also introduced Well-being Protocols to ensure that our guests’ well-being is prioritized and we’ve established these protocols with guidance from the World Health Organization and various government agencies. As members of the WTTC, we’ve been involved in defining global protocols as well and have been awarded the WTTC “Safe Travels” stamp – meaning we’re a business which has adopted global, standardized health and hygiene protocols so travellers can expect that their well-being is of utmost importance to us.
Some specific Well-being Protocols examples include: