Canada Agency Owners On What’s Hot

by Chris Ryall
Canada Agency Owners On What’s Hot

Panel points to more a-la-carte trips and immersive experiences. From left to right are: George Dafnos - Manager, National Accounts Sales & Marketing, Royal Caribbean International, Caroline Lavictoire - Owner, Voyages Fountainebleau, Kimberley Tobias - Business Development Manager, WestJet Airlines, Robert Townshend - Owner, Total Advantage Travel, Nicole Mazza - Chief Marketing Officer, TRAVELSAVERS and the Affluent Traveler Collection

Caroline Lavictorie, owner of Voyages Fountainbleau in Montreal, says her clients are “tired of all-inclusive and want a lot more a-la-carte-style” trips. Dubai is a very popular destination right now for her and it sells “like water.”

Fellow agency owner Robert Townshend of Total Advantage Travel and Tours concurs about all-inclusive: “There is a movement away from all-inclusive; people want more of an experience,” he says. 

Kim Tobias from WestJet Airlines says that Costa Rica and Belize are selling very well this season, while Las Vegas has dropped off.  She believes Las Vegas is more a discretionary-type trip.  

The discussion was part of Focus 2016, the Travelsavers Owners Retreat held at Hockley Valley Resort, just north of Toronto, last week.

Marketing tips, ways to increase agency sales and utilizing the latest technology tools were just some of the key things on the agenda. The sold-out event was attended by 51 Travelsavers owners from across Canada and 15 preferred suppliers, including tourism boards, cruise lines, tour operators, an insurance company and an airline. 

“The Owners Focus Retreat is a great opportunity for Travelsavers owners and managers in Canada to attend educational sessions, network, engage with industry leaders and suppliers, learn about the latest marketing tools and resources available to them, and discover new travel trends,” said Travelsavers chief marketing officer Nicole Mazza. 

The agency owners were part of an Executive Panel discussion moderated by Travel Market Report. The panel also featured Mazza of Travelsavers; George Dafnos, Royal Caribbean International; and Kimberley Tobias, WestJet Airlines.

The “hot” destination for Royal Caribbean, according to George Dafnos, is Alaska, which has seen a huge spike in sales.  Europe, despite recent terrorism incidents, has also picked up considerably the past couple of years.

Destination weddings also seem to be a growing travel trend. Townshend said his agency does a lot of destination weddings business, with many choosing Jamaica, where tourism officials and hotels have really made it easy to plan a wedding, with little red tape. Townshend said destination weddings are a very lucrative and growing market.  Many in the audience agreed.

Learning how to use social media has been a thorn in the side for many agencies. Some have embraced it, though, with a few owners noting they assign it to a specific staff person while others get all agents involved. But it is a necessary activity most agree if you want to engage with millennials – you need to communicate on their terms and surprisingly millennials will use a travel agent as recent studies have shown.  

Townshend strongly encouraged agencies to use social media. In his agency he hasn’t seen much new business generated from traditional forms of advertising like print and radio.  Other agents in the audience disagreed, but the conclusion was that the best way is to use an integrated marketing approach using a mix of traditional and social media.  Many feel it depends whom you want to target.

One factor that is affecting travel, at least to the United States, is the devalued Canadian dollar, currently trading at 76 cents to the U.S. dollar. When it goes below 80 cents, Canadians, tend to cut back on spending on accommodation, tours and dining out. Most feel since it is something most Canadians have dealt with for so long it won’t have a huge affect on travel patterns, especially when it comes to winter—Canadians will still want to escape the cold!

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