The Managing Director of Omega Tours discusses the company's focus on Canadian experiences
What shift did Omega Tours make in the wake of COVID-19?
Omega was experiencing significant growth and in January 2020, we had our largest revenue month ever. Then, in February, we felt things start to change but couldn’t really understand why. When the world stopped travelling in March, we understood this wasn’t going to be temporary so we had to move quickly. A few years ago, when I was Head of Canada for Travelzoo, I met the Destination Canada team in Vancouver and they introduced me to the Canadian Signature Experiences program. I thought the initiative was very exciting, with over 200 designated experiences, but it had little exposure as a program. It was always in my mind but there was never the right opportunity to do something with them, until now. We have connected with 75% of the partners in the program and as more of them open up, we will continue to add their experiences to our portfolio.
“Travel advisors are absolutely key to getting people moving. Once again, travel advisors have shown their worth over the last few months handling changes, cancellations, refunds and the incredible amount of information that has been coming from suppliers. The right consumers appreciate and understand the value a good advisor provides, and this will lead to a solid recovery and growth in the coming months.“
Managing Director, Omega Tours
Can you provide an example of one or two signature experiences you are excited about?
There are so many but the Private Algonquin Canoe and Log Cabin trip is really exciting and one that I would like to experience with my family. Each one of our partners has a story to tell and the second experience is a perfect example of that. The owner of the Eco-Culture Experience: St. John’s & Outports Staycation tour is from Newfoundland and he acquired vacation homes across the island, renovated them in classic, coastal style, wrote a book about the island and now offers itineraries with stays in the homes, a car and the book as a map and guide. It is a wonderful experience.
For those who don’t know, can you share some background on Omega and what’s changed since you took over in January?
Omega Tours has been part of the Sarracini family business since 2005. We ran our own escorted tours to Eastern and Western Canada, New York City, Fatima & Lourdes, Israel, and Italy. Over the last few years, we started focusing more on European day and multi-day tours, small groups, and private experiences. Since January, we have really focused on sourcing premium travel experiences and we started expanding our partnerships into the U.S, South America and now, of course, Canada. We also started focusing on distribution partnerships as multi-day tours is the last segment to go digital, and there are a variety of opportunities opening up. I’m really excited about the segment.
How does Omega support the local travel industry? What are the opportunities for travel agents?
We are travel advisors and have been for many years so we understand what it takes to be a good one. We believe the Canadian Signature Experiences program will help support the local, Canadian industry as it tries to get back on its feet and make up for the significant decline in inbound travel. Additionally, we pay commission on these Canadian experiences and if agents sign up to our platform, they will have the ability to easily feature these and the rest of our programs on their own websites very easily.
Why do you think domestic travel is key to recovery?
Back on March 3, I wrote this post based on a survey we ran to our clients. My first point was that domestic travel would be the first to come back. We are now seeing this in the U.S. and it is key because it will be the easiest way for people to feel comfortable travelling again. People need to start moving around again and the local market is the best option for that. There is plenty of anxiety to go around and getting on planes is going to be a big step for people. If we can build some confidence travelling locally, taking the next step to travel internationally will be easier.
Do you have anything to add?
Travel advisors are absolutely key to getting people moving. Once again, travel advisors have shown their worth over the last few months handling changes, cancellations, refunds and the incredible amount of information that has been coming from suppliers. The right consumers appreciate and understand the value a good advisor provides, and this will lead to a solid recovery and growth in the coming months.