Pictured above: from l to r, cutting the ribbon at itravel2000’s first bricks & mortar location in Toronto are Dianne Jackson, Frank Demarinis and Japan’s consul general, Takako Ito.
Since its launch 25 years ago, itravel2000 has made a habit of shaking things up in the Canadian travel marketplace.
Back in 1994, itravel2000 was on the crest of the wave of online travel agencies (OTAs) – in company with the likes of Travelocity and Expedia – that changed the nature of travel distribution around the world, and since then, it has never looked back.
Now, true to its origins, itravel2000 continues to follow its own path with the opening of a bricks & mortar location at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Yes, that’s right, an OTA is opening a bricks & mortar, now that’s definitely news.
As Frank Demarinis, president and CEO of TravelBrands and Dianne Jackson, vice-president, retail for Red Label Vacations tell it, itravel2000’s move from virtual to reality, so to speak, was a case of an opportunity presenting itself and Demarinis and Jackson taking it.
The move follows H.I.S. Group’s acquisition of Red Label Vacations Inc. – which operates redtag.ca, itravel2000, The TravelExperts and TravelBrands – back in January of this year and was spurred on by the fact that H.I.S has a bricks & mortar location at the Sheraton Centre.
Demarinis explained that there’s no doubt that OTAs continue to be a strong force in the marketplace, but based on research that he’s seeing on today’s consumers and their travel behaviour, those consumers want higher levels of service and are looking for different kinds of products – and those services and products are exactly what bricks & mortar agencies offer their customers.
Jackson certainly agrees, telling Travel Courier that the H.I.S location has a good book of both leisure and corporate business, and there was a clear opportunity to expand the amount of outbound business that
the agency could do.
Demarinis also views the new itravel2000 location as an opportunity to take advantage of the growing demand for specialty and exotic products that an aging marketplace is looking for today.
“Canadians are looking for diversity and exotic products, and you can’t find those in an OTA,” Demarinis told Travel Courier during the official ribbon cutting at itravel2000’s first bricks and mortar location last week.
He also emphasized that today’s travellers “want the level of service that bricks & mortar [agencies] offer.”
Clearly, TravelBrand’s president and CEO is intent on giving that level of service to them and taking advantage of what he sees as a marketplace opportunity.
“I have a vision and I want to take advantage of it,” Demarinis told the crowd of about 50 travel trade types gathered last week for the official opening.
And he added that H.I.S has given him the opportunity to pursue that dream.
So are there going to be more bricks & mortar itravel2000 locations, well, says Demarinis, “this is a pilot to test to see if what I’m thinking will work … so there could be more.”
Hmmm … from virtual to reality … who’d have thought it …
The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has significantly increased its wingspan after a $100,000, over three years, commitment with WestJet was announced during the International Indigenous Tourism Association Confer-ence in Kelowna, Syilx Territory, BC (IITC).
Keith Henry, president and CEO of ITAC, said that: “From launching Indigenous itineraries with WestJet this summer to announcing this invaluable multi-year commitment, WestJet is providing ITAC and our Indigenous tourism entrepreneurs endless opportunities to grow Indigenous tourism across Canada and showcase our experiences to global audiences.”
The strategic partnership will see WestJet and ITAC collaborate in the following areas:
Enhancing export readiness of selected Indigenous tourism businesses, as they ready for international visitors.
Support the work and ambition of Indigenous youth entrepreneurs by supporting their participation at the IITC in 2020, 2021, 2022.
Utilize West-Jet’s inflight entertain-ment system to tell the story of the range of Indigenous tourism experiences via its inflight entertainment system both domestically and internationally.
Collaborate on content and stories about Indigenous tourism to be featured in WestJet’s inflight magazine throughout the year.
WestJet will become the official airline of the annual International Indigenous Tourism Conference which is held in new Canadian destinations every year.
Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet’s chief commercial officer, said that: “Bringing people together is what we do, and in that spirit, we are partnering with Indigenous peoples, entrepreneurs and youth of Canada by sponsoring ITAC. In doing so, we are proud to support Indigenous stories, history and culture across Canada and the globe.”
WestJet is collaborating on global initiatives with ITAC and Indigenous leaders including the blessing of WestJet’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the airline’s Dreamliner hangar.
In early May 2019, WestJet partnered with Destination Canada and ITAC on an Indigenous tourism showcase in London, UK, to help grow opportunities and inform the global travel industry of the importance of indigenous tourism, a unique and developing sector of the Canadian tourism industry.
For more on WestJet, go to www.westjet.com.
For agents with clients looking for bold new adventures, immersive cultural connections and unexpected discoveries in 2020, then Crystal Expedition Cruises may just have the answer.
Bookings are now being taken for the Crystal Endeavor’s 2022 and January 2023 itineraries, with sailings ranging from nine to 19 nights.
The voyages will explore the High Arctic and Antarctica, Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, the Falkland Islands, and Chilean fjords and glaciers on designated “Remote Expeditions,” while “Cultural Discovery” and “Destination Exploration” sailings sail to Western Europe, the British Isles, Africa’s west coast, the Caribbean, and Panama Canal.
Mark Spillane, director of marketing and sales for Crystal Expedition Cruises, observed: “Crystal Endeavor’s 2022 and early 2023 voyages focus heavily on the expedition nature of Crystal Expedition Cruises, with voyages to some remote locales that have rarely seen human explorers.”
Spillane pointed out that: “These remarkable journeys, along with those that offer in-depth perspectives of local cultures and the natural wonders of the destinations, are exactly what travellers continue to tell us they want most – all while exploring the world in the unwavering luxury that they expect from Crystal.”
Crystal Endeavor’s 2022 collection of all-inclusive itineraries is now available for booking, with fares beginning at $6,299 per person.
The German-built, 20,000-GRT, all-suite Polar Class-6 expedition yacht will accommodate just 200 guests with elegantly casual, expansive public spaces; all-suite, butler-serviced guest rooms; Michelin-inspired dining options including Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar; full-service Crystal Life Salon & Spa and state-of-the-art Fitness Center. Expedition-specific amenities and spaces will enhance guests’ experience, including designated “mud rooms” and helicopter lounge.
Sail on over to www.crystalcruises.com for more.
This festive season, Sunwing and Hakim Optical are partnering to bring holiday cheer to local children in destinations across the Caribbean and Mexico.
Through Jan. 6, 2020, the Sunwing Foundation will be collecting new and gently-used children’s books at select Hakim Optical locations across the Greater Toronto Area. As a thank you for their generosity, customers who make a book donation in store will receive a $50 Hakim Optical gift card for prescription eyeglasses and can enter a contest to win an all-inclusive vacation for two adults and two children to Riu Emerald Bay in Mazatlán.
Donations collected at Hakim Optical locations will be flown to destinations across the Caribbean and Mexico on board Sunwing Airlines, where they’ll be distributed to local school children as part of the Sunwing Foundation’s Flying Start initiative. Established in 2018, the Flying Start initiative aims to provide students in the destinations that Sunwing serves with all the essential tools and building blocks for a successful education. To date, the Flying Start initiative has supported communities across Jamaica, Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, and the Dominican Republic.
Stephen Hunter, CEO of Sunwing Travel Group, commented, “All too often children’s reading books are discarded or left to gather dust in basements when their owners have outgrown them. The Flying Start program seeks to find new homes for gently-used children’s reading books with children across the Caribbean and Mexico who often do not have the resources to have their own personal library. Reading is key to a child getting a successful education and we appreciate this partnership with Hakim Optical and the generosity of Torontonians in helping us give children a Flying Start this holiday season.”
WestJet Vacations is advising travel agents that they can now make land-only bookings for their clients in SIREV and RevNet and by calling WestJet’s Travel Support Team.
“Our travel trade partners expressed interest in being able to make land-only WestJet Vacations bookings, and we’re happy to introduce this new product today,” said Charles Crowder, WestJet vice-president, Sales and Distribution.
Agents will earn commission on land-only bookings at their agency’s current WestJet Vacations base commission rate.