06 SEP 2013: Only moments earlier Dan Prior, Ontario sales director of Transat Discoveries, was hanging off the CN Tower’s adrenaline-soaked Edgewalk. But when I spot him afterwards in the bowels of a CN Tower meeting room, a huge grin covering his face - I knew - from one acrophobe to the other - he has conquered a biggie.


“It’s in those discoveries... you know what we did today is what Discoveries is all about,” he says. We are at the Transat Discoveries new 2013-2014 brochure media launch held at the CN Tower. Talk about lofty goals.

Early days
Transat Discoveries, the newest baby from the Transat brand, rolled into English Canada albeit mainly Ontario three years ago.

But the product itself has been a long trusted one in the Quebec marketplace formerly under the Revatours brand Dan noted during the presentation.

You might be scratching your head wondering, 'hey doesn’t Transat already have Transat Holidays, Transat Tours Canada with cruising and other Europe offerings?'

Dan explains Discoveries is different. It is totally unlike the other Transat tour products.

“This year we established ourselves in the marketplace and travel agents know who we are and it’s exciting to see repeat customers.”

Clients see the brand, know the brand and trust the brand, he says noting the remarkable growth, citing a 60 percent increase in passenger numbers in 2012 and 70 percent increase in revenue.

The difference

Transat Discoveries is a specialist division that customizes in dream trips. Exotic thrill trips of a lifetime. Dan tells me how clients can take a boat ride in Vietnam, head to Machu Picchu, basically be inspired and discover the world. “Discoveries is all about that,” he relays.

Big Sellers
Here’s a quick list of top selling tour packages: The Mysteries of Peru; Turkey, Ottoman Discoveries; South African Dreams.

The clientele
While you won’t find extreme adventure or seniors-type of tour packages, Dan notes you will find excursions and trips designed for active types and those clients who have done the regular package holidays and are ready to explore new areas like a Mediterranean cruise, family European visits or exotic destinations.

Dan says they are not an adventure tour operator, but gives a scenario where you might be in Peru with five hundred steps to go for that fabulous view. So you do it!

Demographic
64 year old semi-retired, or retirees with some level of good fitness and have some travel experience behind them.

FIT (Foreign Independent Travel) and Groups

The company Dan says has seen more group bookings and that’s most likely due to the 40 plus countries now on the trip menu and their development as a brand since launching three years ago.

“(This) is due to custom groups from ten to eighty people,” he notes giving an example of a South Africa group booking departing from St. John’s Newfoundland. “We can go from anywhere they (clients) want. We can customize what the clients want.”

Smaller tour group sizes have 25 passengers maximum. See Greece, Turkey with its 16 person capacity or Peru for 20 person maximum bookings.

Now if there’s a destination/product you don’t see in the brochure, Dan says Transat Discoveries can customize tours. “Since we have a list of countries we can offer and have countries we specialize in, we invite travel agents to come to us for either a group or FIT package.”

Result: maximum flexibility.

Customize
“If a client looks at the brochure and doesn’t find what they want, we can really customize what the client is looking for,” Dan says and adds, “This is what makes us different.”

Airfare + Transport
Find motor coach, 4-wheel drives and minivans depending on the group size– the pricing Dan notes includes international airfare from Toronto with scheduled airline partners like Cathay Pacific, LAN, South African Airways and Lufthansa among others. “Where Air Transat flies we try and utilize that air.”

“We book land only too and internal flights are also included.”

Tours
Expect smaller groups, a maximum of 25 clients.

Find scheduled guided tours for Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. “We have select tours that are prepackaged with scheduled departures.”

Also don’t think you’ll get mixed tour groups with other languages. English gets a local English speaking guide.

Most meals are included in the tours (breakfasts, lunches and dinners which are noted).

Dan who has a motor coach tour background says, “We find with escorted style guided trips they are looking for more inclusions.”

Hotels

The majority of tours are 4-star rated properties. However there are exceptions depending on the destination. Example: Mysteries of Peru. “These are more local three star properties with a supplement charged to a four-star upgrade.”

Fast pacing

Dan notes Transat Discoveries wants to include as much as possible for the client so expect lots of excursions, multiple locations spread over generally two-week trips known as moderate to fast pacing trips. “We want to include as much as possible for the client,” he says on the number of experiences.

Mini-discoveries
These are add-ons to existing tours.

You might recall la carte mini tours but that’s no longer the name. These new mini-discoveries are generally 4-day/5-night excursions and are add-ons to existing tours that are easily identified by colour codes in the brochure.

Example: Victoria Falls. Let’s say your client wants to finish their South Africa trip with a visit to the spectacular falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Transat Discoveries has a mini extension, a package that includes airfare to Victoria Falls.

“These (mini-discoveries) can be booked on their own,” Dan says.

It’s good as a private trip and not part of a group. Create your own itinerary and discoveries.

Seaside Discoveries – no longer dubbed ‘beach tours.’ These beach stays are good add-ons pre or after the guided tour. Example: Thailand. Start the 1-week Thailand trip in Bangkok in the north then pick some seaside discoveries for extended stays.

Show me the money

December 15 is the magic date for promos. Here’s what your client can get:

⋅ Clients who book by December 15 will get a $200 discount.

⋅ Best price guarantee so the rate is guaranteed not to increase. If the new price decreases the new price is honoured.

⋅ A reduced deposit of $250 instead of $500

⋅ Save by cash or check, there’s a $60 savings.

⋅ Repeat traveller discount. With any previous Transat family booking there will be a $60 discount for the client’s Transat Discoveries tour.

⋅ Free 21st passenger incentive for group bookings. So a travel agent can actually host a group and travel for free, he notes.

⋅ Watch for a new $30 referral discount, an additional savings so if your client tells a friend and they notify Transat Discoveries the client will get a further discount.

The 57-page glossy booklet which covers Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America launches this week and will be available in travel agencies across Ontario.

Pricing is based on double occupancy and is either air inclusive or land only.

The end

Hats off Dan and Suzie Deveault, Transat Discoveries general manager and the accompanying media! You know how to hang out in high places.




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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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