Pictured above: At Bisha Hotel Toronto are Unique Vacations Inc.’s CJ Smith, Giselle Williams, Furman White and Maureen Barnes-Smith.
“It’s not just a gimmick,” Maureen Barnes-Smith, director of sales & marketing for Unique Vacations Canada Inc., the worldwide representatives of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, told Travel Courier ahead of an intimate travel agent appreciation dinner held at the Bisha Hotel Toronto on Jan 13.
“Travel agents in Canada continue to be our number one distribution channel. Our entire sales team, our primary focus is to work with travel agents and that hasn’t changed. They continue to be the cornerstone of everything we do.”
Outlining five key pillars – quality, luxury, innovation, service and trust – she used the event as a platform to explain why the brand has shifted away from being defined as all-inclusive to luxury included five-star resorts.
“We have over-the-water suites, Love Nests, over-the-water chapels, over-water bars, luxury transfers, all of those things which kind of signify that we’re not just all-inclusive, we’re exceeding expectations,” she said. “We’re not just about building a cookie-cut product.”
During the event, BDM Giselle Williams said over the next year agents can’t rely on clients to approach them, but should look into innovative ways to sell and attract more business. On that note, she recognized Lou-Anne Fradsham of UNIGLOBE Bon Voyage for her outstanding sales achievement, including booking a Pickleball group.
Although she alluded to more development in the pipeline, Barnes-Smith also outlined some of the latest news that includes renovations to the Sandringham block at Sandals Royal Caribbean, set to be completed by Valentine’s Day, nine new rondovals coming to Sandals South Coast, Sandals Ochi increasing its over-the-water chapel to facilitate up to 50 guests, and a fourth resort coming to St. Lucia.
In appearance via video, Adam Stewart, deputy chairman for Sandals Resorts International stated that the role of travel agent has never been more significant as the company continues to reinvest, renovate and innovate.
“Our resorts have never looked better,” he said. “The investment continues in each and every resort on all of the islands. We’re constantly innovating and improving and creating new accommodations, restaurants, features and amenities on the best beaches in the world. Thankfully and luckily both of our resorts in The Bahamas were spared of any damage… both of our resorts are fully functional and sustained no damage. As I always say to people who ask, the best thing that we can do for The Bahamas is continue to book, continue to send clients there, keep everyone working and keep the economy turning.”
Air Canada Vacations (ACV) has introduced significant updates to its ACV&Me Loyalty Program, giving travel agents even more choices for 2020.
After a complete makeover, the agent loyalty program now allows the agents to earn more points faster, take advantage of a wider variety of redemption options, and instantly redeem in just a few clicks.
What’s new? Agents can now earn more points on more products when booking with Air Canada Vacations – 500 points on cruise and flight packages, seven nights or more; 500 points on sun packages, seven nights or more; 300 points per passenger for group bookings; 200 points on land only, three to seven nights; 200 points on cruise only, three to seven nights.
The enhanced program allows agents to earn more points faster, and instantly redeem for a wider variety of options – $50, $100 instant shopping and dining gift cards from 28 Canadian retailers; Travel the world. Redeem for travel vouchers – receive a $75 travel voucher instead of $50 when redeeming the same 5,000 points; Aeroplan Miles – redeem 5,500 points for 2,500 Aeroplan Miles; Cash in your pocket – redeem a Visa gift card of a minimum of $100 with 12,000 points or reload your card for a minimum of $100 with 11,600 points.
The new program is valid for new bookings made as of Jan. 24.
It’s no surprise that the registration writ large on the fuselage of Air Canada’s first Airbus A220 aircraft is C-GROV.
It was chosen by employees to honour president and CEO Calin Rovinescu for his leadership over the past decade; a period which has seen the carrier in major expansion mode, while turning in unprecedented profits.
The first of 45 A-220s took to the revenue-earning skies on a Montreal-Calgary Jan. 16 flight, following an unveiling ceremony at the carrier’s base the day before when Rovinescu was praised by officials from both Airbus and Bombardier for, in effect, saving the C-Series program with its US$3.8 billion order in 2016.
Alain Bellemare, president and CEO of Bombardier, congratulated Rovinescu for “having the courage” to place the C-Series order, stating, “It’s because of Calin that we’re here today.”
He also congratulated Airbus for ultimately taking over the C-Series initiative and for continuing to build the aircraft at Bombardier’s former Mirabel, Quebec facility.
Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer, told several hundred guests at AC’s Dorval Hangar Three, along with the airplane, “Today is a special occasion for our industry. Air Canada showed courage in placing the order, and it’s a big honour for Airbus to be here today.”
And Scherer added, “I love this airplane. It sells itself.”
Air Canada’s first Airbus A220-300 was built at Airbus Canada’s (previously Bombardier) Mirabel facility employing close to 2,700 people. Each A220 includes parts from 30 Canadian suppliers.
Air Canada has firm orders for 45 A220s, with a total list price value of US$3.8 billion for the order at the time it was made, all of which are to be built at Mirabel.
Air Canada will be the first North American carrier to operate the larger A220-300 version of the aircraft, which has a range of 3,200 nautical miles.
The two-class cabin has 137 seats: 12 in a 2×2 configuration in Business Class and 125 in a 3×2 layout for Economy passengers. Customers will have more personal space thanks to the widest economy seats in the fleet at 19 inches, and the largest overhead stowage bins for an aircraft this size.
Additional features include larger windows and full-colour LED ambient and customizable mood lighting that contribute to reducing fatigue while travelling. The high ceilings, extra shoulder room and storage make this an unparalleled interior in the narrow-body segment.
Every seat on the A220 features a Panasonic inflight entertainment system with content available in 15 languages and featuring more than 1,000 hours of high-quality entertainment, including content from Bell Media’s premium entertainment service, Crave, and Montreal-based multi-platform audio service, Stingray. The A220 will also have satellite-based, high-speed WiFi access.
The A220 will also further Air Canada’s environmental commitment, with engines projected to yield a 20% reduction in fuel consumption per seat.
The Scenic Group has donated $450,000 to provide bushfire support and relief to communities across Australia, to help recover from the recent and ongoing bushfires.
“We are deeply saddened by the devastating bushfires in many parts of Australia, and the significant impact it is having on individuals, local communities and our native wildlife,” said Glen Moroney, owner of Scenic Group. “As an Australian-founded company, we are committed to supporting the outstanding work of the many emergency services personnel, community services staff, volunteer fire fighters and animal welfare organizations. Our donation will provide financial support to a range of charities and organizations who are providing much needed support to the many people, communities and wildlife affected by these unprecedented bushfires across Australia.”
The donation will be allocated to several charities and state organizations, delivering direct support, aid and services, including the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal, the Salvation Army Emergency Services, state Country/Rural Fire Services and WIRES.
Celebrity Cruises has announced Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of international non-profit Girls Who Code and author of international bestseller, “Brave, Not Perfect,” as the godmother for Celebrity Apex, the second ship in the brand’s Edge Series of vessels.
She will name the new ship at the official inaugural ceremony in Southampton, UK, on March 30.
Traditionally, the godmother is the spiritual embodiment of a vessel and she inspires, protects and touches the lives of everyone who sails on board. With its groundbreaking Edge Series ships, Celebrity is selecting godmothers who are breaking ground in their respective fields for people around the world. The first Edge Series godmother, who inaugurated Celebrity Edge in November 2018, was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, renowned for her advocacy of educational opportunities for girls everywhere.
Since launching in the US in 2012, Girls Who Code has reached 185,000 girls at nearly every stage of their educational journey. The organization is on pace to close the gender gap in new entry-level computer science jobs by 2027, with college-aged alumni of Girls Who Code majoring in computer science and related fields at 15 times the national average. In 2019, Girls Who Code was named the #1 Non-Profit on Fast Compa-ny’s Most Innovative Companies list.
“Reshma is bridging the gap in the historically male-dominated technology industry,” said Celebrity President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “She is evolving the image of what a computer programmer looks like and does, inspiring a whole new generation of girls and women to bravely pursue this field. Because she is a game-changing visionary, she is the perfect godmother for a game-changing ship like Celebrity Apex.”
In addition, Celebrity will also collaborate with Girls Who Code to offer educational coding programs as part of the cruise line’s Camp at Sea S.T.E.M. experiences on board Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Edge, along with related experiential offerings and products.
Celebrity Apex will begin its inaugural season in April 2020 with a mini-season of five sailings to Northern Europe destinations and then spend the summer sailing seven- to 12-night itineraries in the Mediterranean. In November, Apex will reposition to Fort Lauderdale for a winter season of week-long Caribbean sailings.
Globus’ escorted tours to Newfoundland and Labrador are a huge hit with Canadian travellers every year, and this year one lucky travel agent and his or her guest will be among the travellers.
The tours – both the seven-day “Colorful Newfoundland” and the 12-day “Newfoundland & Labrador” – have proven so popular that this year there are a total of 27 departures offered between June and September.
The trip will be awarded to the agent who books the most passengers in total on the two itineraries by April 30. All they have to do is ensure they exceed their sales from last year for a chance to win the Colorful Newfoundland Tour.
Both itineraries showcase the dramatic scenery, compelling history and legendary wit of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. The New-foundland & Labrador itinerary visits Gander, temporary home to all of those thousands of stranded 9/11 passengers, as featured in the hit musical Come From Away.
“We know that foreigners find Newfoundland and Labrador intriguing, but we’re so interested to see that Canadians far outnumber them on these tours,” says Stéphanie Bishop, managing director for the Globus family of brands in Canada.
“It’s clear that we all want to visit this wonderfully welcoming province.”
TravelBrands is giving travel agents a chance to win prizes with its newly launched Match Game.
For bookings made between Jan. 13 and Feb. 1, agents will be invited to play. Each booking qualifies agents to be entered to win the grand prize of a $2,020 TravelBrands Future Travel Voucher.
To play Match Game, agents must make a new booking with a minimum net value of $100 per component before taxes. Eligible products include flights, cruises, hotels, car rentals, add-ons, packages with TravelGenie, Sunquest and Exotik Journeys. Four days after the booking is made, agents will receive an invitation to play Match Game, where they can win a variety of Loyalty Points prizes.
To start playing, visit: www.travelbrandsaccess.com