Go behind the scenes in Europe with Collette

How carefully curated European vacations are leading client bookings

ILONA KAUREMSZKY

Perched on a terraced vineyard overlooking the Douro Valley in Portugal, the view of all views has left your client speechless. And for this stunning vista at a unique luxurious winery hotel, the river meanders below as the wine terraces cling to the hillside. 

A moment earlier, your client walked out of their hotel room, right into a vineyard ready for a dazzling dining experience that combines wine pairings in a carefully curated experience, all of which, tailored by Collette’s entrepreneurial design team led by Paul Vieira, the company’s senior global contracting manager. He oversees Collette’s travel product procurement for Portugal, Spain, France and Morocco. But then again, for the third-generation Portuguese-American (Portuguese heritage on father’s side), it’s rare travel opportunities like these that elevate Collette’s premium travel brand to the forefront of its competition.

“With our buying and designing team being on the ground, we’re able to curate these fantastic tours that are really taking local culture, locally,” he says and adds that Collette’s travel products have the unique ability to adapt and change due to consumer feedback from the company’s digital data.So we’re really quickly able to pivot and make adjustments to our product based on what the travellers are saying,” he told Travel Courier in a one-on-one interview at Chiado in Toronto.

This pivot wasn’t possible 106 years ago when the tour operator began in 1918.  But over the past three years, consumer digital surveys, which occur right after a tour ends, have as Vieira pointed out, allowed immediate updates that might at times even occur onsite. 

“There are key metrics that we measure. So we’ll have an overall tour excellence, we’ll see tour manager excellence, meals, hotels, pacing of the tour which is really key,” Vieira said, describing one of the behind-the-scenes tools found in North America’s longest-running tour operator’s tool box.   

Now, on the day of this year’s summer solstice (Travel Courier met with Collette executives on Summer Solstice Eve) as advisors are finalizing their summer bookings, Collette Tours Canada wants you to know that while European summer vacation packages are still available, advisors can look forward to new travel products and alternatives to combat this summer’s anticipated revenge travel season.

Over bites of fresh fish flown in from Portugal like the Azorean-sourced Filet of Cherne, select travel trade heard the Collette team of reps: Ron Lonsdale, Collette’s vice president in Canada; Kateryna Havrylova, partnership marketing manager and Vieira share unique ways that clients can enjoy hallmark European destinations.

“Our experiences you can’t Google,” Lonsdale told Travel Courier. “We go off-track and seek out places like truffle hubs and find stays at winery properties in Portugal and in Alentejo there’s an equestrian resort,” he further adds about some of the many inclusions on offer in Collette’s growing portfolio. To date, Collette has released 70 percent of its tours available for client bookings through May 2026 with guaranteed booking dates for 40 percent of these tours. 

In addition, advisors should stretch their booking potential to what Lonsdale and Vieira describe as the ‘smart season,’ a better term for ‘off-season’ travel. Here’s why.

SPANISH GUSTO

Go when the temperatures are milder and the crowds are fewer. So advisors, Vieira suggested, can think beyond the popular summer booking period and consider November through March as a fabulous time to visit the south of Spain. “Add a Madrid trip in December with its Christmas Markets,” he told Travel Courier, about the lesser-known Christmas market location. He said not only will clients get a new, authentic experience with milder weather, they will bypass other popular European Christmas markets regularly over-ridden with tourists and get a different experience. 

TRIP TIP: You can’t go wrong booking the 5-star rated Spain Costa del Sol & Madrid tour, considered a Classic. In this new tour clients will stay 5 nights at the first destination, giving them a true experience of local culture and attractions. Consider it a hub and spoke travel style without ever changing hotels.

FRENCH FLAIR

Collette travellers love the company’s spotlight tours. In these single hotel stays, multi-night tours, clients immerse in storybook settings. Picture a French Riviera tour where a treasure chest of journeys in the South of France have clients exploring Monte Carlo, Monaco, Saint Tropez, Cannes, you name it. In this custom curated guided dream trip, the hub is the coastal French Mediterranean classic seaside town of Nice. For example, at the Villa Rothschild, not only will there be a private tour but a fabulous lunch at their amazing tea house giving clients a trifecta of haute delights: gardens, the museum and later overlooking the gardens, a wild unexpected moment teases the senses at a fabulous lunch in the tea house.

Vieira says, “Again, during smart season. We don’t want our travellers stuck in traffic for three hours, getting from one destination to the other during peak season or summer season, and really providing them with a value priced tour to travel during that season.”

TRIP TIP: Find an extraordinary collection of handpicked properties in the 4.5 star rated 12-day Essence of France tour, giving clients 3-nights in Paris, 3 nights in pretty Provence and 3 nights in the coastal French Riviera gem of Nice. Part of Collette’s Explorations portfolio, clients will stay in the heart of only the finest locales.

PORTUGAL PLEASE

Portugal continues to outshine other European destinations with good reason. Considered safe and affordable, the compact country boasts castles, sweeping country sides, and the Douro river that slowly shifts past idyllic towns where time seemingly stands still. The archipelago of the Azores, meanwhile, is otherworldly. 

“Local culture is important for the company,” says Vieira who resides in the Azores, giving this exceptional travel expert complete carte blanche to hone in on his craft, which is to suss out unique experiences. “(In the Azores), we visit a third generation guitar maker workshop. And that evening we actually have a concert by one of the premier Azorean guitar players that comes to perform for our group at a home hosted dinner,” he says and adds, “We’re visiting a local father and son basket weaver, with their shop in their home.”

TRIP TIP: Consider the 4.5 star rated 16-day duo-country guided odyssey, Flavours of Portugal & Spain: featuring the Douro and Rioja Wine Regions. Start in Lisbon and head into the Douro River Valley then continue into the heart of Basque County as you venture into Spain with stays in Salamanca, the Rioja wine region and conclude the journey in San Sebastien.

BEYOND TRIPADVISOR

Collette wants you to forget Google and Tripadvisor. For the most part, these travel locations sourced from the popular search engine and trip rating platform are over capacity and filled to the max. Instead, the tour operator targets unique settings and experiences, designing guided land tours that are different. 

“In my region, I’m always looking for a property that’s also an experiential hotel and not necessarily just a big box, thousand room hotel stay,” says Vieira, adding that next June 2025, advisors should watch for Portugal Old World Charm, a new guided land tour of the Alentejo region, a lesser known area that is off-the-beaten path, rife with exploration. For this unique experience, clients will be able to overnight at Vila Gale Alter Real, a ranch hotel where Lusitano horses have been bred. The breed which is found in the Iberian Peninsula, dates back roughly 20,000 BC. Guests can enjoy horseback riding, and participate in the ancient art of falconry including a wine pairing dinner in a wine cellar.  

COLLETTE: DEMOGRAPHIC AND GROUP DETAILS

Group size is significant. Collette offers two styles: Explorations (18-20 PAX) with a maximum of 24 and Classic (38-40 PAX) with a maximum of 44. Average consumer age: 58 years into the 60 years age group, with increased appeal from mid-50 year-olds. Clients are a bit more active and savvy. Affiliates and social clubs are popular fits.

So, is it too late to book packages this summer? “No, absolutely not. I think if you’re looking for a summer trip, it’s the Azores,” says Vieira.

And for advisors, Londsdale notes that an $1,800 commission is provided for a $5,200 package. “We also pay commission on air.”





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