11 FEB 2019: In case you missed it, and even if you didn’t, here’s a quick look at some of last week’s need-to-know travel news:

AIR

Air Transat’s new TGV AIR service, offered in association with the SNCF in France, is now available across all its platforms. The service lets Air Transat passengers landing in Paris connect with the TGV railway system to reach 18 cities in France as well as Brussels – all available for one rate on one ticket in one booking.

New three-times weekly non-stop service between Edmonton and St. John's will be offered by WestJet starting June 25. The carrier has also announced daily non-stop seasonal service from Calgary to Portland, Oregon, effective April 29, and twice-weekly service to Austin, Texas from May 2.

ParkWhiz, a transactional platform and marketplace that enables drivers, fleets and connected vehicles to find, book and pay for parking, is now available at Toronto Pearson airport. Spaces at Daily Park garages at Terminals 1 and 3, Value Park garage and surface lot, and the airport's Valet Care offerings, can all be booked through the ParkWhiz and BestParking apps, as well as the company's distribution partners, such as Groupon, Ford, and Ticketmaster.

DEALS

Sunwing’s “Seize the Sun” promotion offers savings of up to 40% on select vacation packages to top-rated resorts across the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Available for booking through Feb. 15, the promotion includes such properties as the Royalton Suites Cancun Resort and Spa, Riu Bambu in Punta Cana, and Royalton White Sands Montego Bay in Jamaica.

The 10-year anniversary of the introduction of its signature Be My Guest program has prompted Trafalgar to offer $500 per couple off on trips to Italy, birthplace of the unique tour experiences, which feature local hosts opening up their homes and businesses exclusively for Trafalgar’s guests to toast, dine, explore and learn about the places visited, straight from the source. The offer applies to bookings made by Feb. 28.

To celebrate of the arrival in April of the Scenic Eclipse, billed as the world’s first Discovery Yacht, Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has announced several Wave Season specials available to Canadians who book by March 2. They include: 10% early bird savings and free Deposit Protection Plan on departures from late 2019 through August 2020; two-for-one airfare from all major Canadian gateways for Antarctica or Arctic & Fjords cruises; a free three-day stay in New York as well as free private door-to-door home-to-airport transfers and up to US$500 p.p. onboard credits when booking northeast North America sailings; and $1,000 off for couples booking and paying in in full for any Americas, Baltic or Europe cruise by March 2.

TOURS

Clients can ride through Tuscany to Siena and Florence, over the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, and up the Tyrrhenian coast through Naples on Toronto-based TDA Global Cycling’s new Viva Italia tour in Italy and France, debuting in 2019. Covering 2,350 km. in 5-1/2 weeks, the tour will take cyclists through hilly vineyards and olive groves, mountainous islands, ancient cities and seaside villages, and allow them to savour handmade pasta, fresh seafood and traditional pizza along the way. The full tour begins Sept. 14, starting at $10,800 p.p. double.

Luxury travel company Explora has teamed up with luxury cruise operator Aqua Adventures to offer a unique, upscale experiences that take travellers from Explora’s Valle Sagrado property near Cusco and Machu Picchu to Peru’s Amazon, cruising onboard the Aria Amazon. Available April 1 to Nov. 30 (including a 20% discount, $350 in flight credits and cabin upgrade), the customizable programs feature at least three nights at the property and three nights on board the vessel. More information can be found on Explora’s website.

In 2020, Adventures by Disney will offer more European river cruise sailings than ever before, including a brand-new vacation through southern France on the Rhone River. The guided group travel operator will also launch new Short Escape itineraries in Paris, Amsterdam and Budapest, Hungary, which can be booked as pre- or post-cruise stays or as standalone trips. The expanded season of Adventures by Disney all-inclusive river cruises includes 27 departures along the Danube, Rhine, Seine and Rhone rivers, all sailing with AmaWaterways.

HOTELS

universal

Bookings are now being accepted for Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites (photo), opening in May 2020. With rates starting at US$76 per night, the 2,050-room coastal-themed hotel will join its sister property, Surfside Inn and Suites, in Universal Orlando Resort’s new Value hotel category. Both Loews Hotel-operated hotels will be located minutes away from Universal Orlando’s three theme parks and Universal CityWalk.

Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York will celebrate a milestone 90th anniversary in June and reveal a major transformation in the summer.

The Radisson Hotel Group is introducing its upscale hotel brand, Radisson Blu, in Toronto – the company's first upscale hotel in Canada. The property, which will be a conversion of the existing Radission Toronto Harbourfront, is expected to open in June.

RESORTS

AMResorts continues to expect a late 2019 opening for Secrets St. Martin, which marks not only the all-inclusive collection’s first property on the island, but also its first resort in the French Caribbean. The former RIU Palace St. Martin, set on Anse Marcel, will receive a US$20 million upgrade; it was permanently shuttered after hurricane Irma in 2017. Meanwhile, family-friendly Now Natura Riviera Cancun is now accepting reservations, though the opening is still listed as late 2019.

As St. Maarten continues to show it has bounced back from the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten is extending its re-opening specials for its Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Maho Resort, Casino & Spa properties with 45% off rates for bookings through Feb. 28 for travel through Dec. 20. The former property re-opened on Dec. 15 and the latter had a soft opening on Feb. 1. All-inclusive rates start at US$132 p.p. per night. Use promo code REOPENING when booking.

CRUISE

With 80% of Earth’s land mass suffering from light pollution, and 99% of the population of North America and Europe subject to a night sky that is obscured by artificial lighting, online cruise marketplace CruiseCompete predicts that Dark Skies cruising will be a growing trend in 2019 as stargazers seek better access to “spellbinding panoramas” (including Northern Lights). CC cites Princess and Cunard as cruise lines that offer such curated options, including stargazing nights led by an astrophysicist by the former.

Following its inaugural year, U by Uniworld, the first river cruise dedicated to millennial travellers, has announced that The B will be moving to Central Europe for the 2020 season. With increasing demand for the region, where sister ship The A also resides, The B will cease operation on the Seine river and instead sail from Brussels to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Frankfurt, while The A will sail from Nuremberg to Vienna and Vienna to Belgrade. Additional details for the new 2020 itineraries will be announced shortly.

When Caribbean Princess emerges from drydock in June for a series of Caribbean cruises, it will debut the Reef Family Splash Zone. Located aft on deck 17, The Reef will include a splash pad with interactive whale, game zone, new outdoor furniture with shade canopy and wind panels, music, refurbished pool, Jacuzzi and bar.

THEME PARKS

Fifty-four days of fun and food are about to be served up at Disneyland Adventure Park in California. The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival kicks off March 1 and runs through April 23 featuring daily entertainment and interactive activities, special signature events, and of course, cuisine, craft beers, wines and spirits from around the state. Available at 14 different festival marketplaces, many events are free with park admission, but signature events, demonstrations and seminars require a separate fee. Hotel and ticket packages are available.

Come spring, families will be able to stroll down Sesame Street for the first time at SeaWorld Orlando. This new land brings the colourful street to life, connecting guests to the fun, laughter, and learning of the beloved television show.

Old Town, Kissimmee, Florida’s vintage-themed shopping, dining, and attractions complex, will debut three new eateries this spring, including Froggers Bar & Grill, Shoney’s Restaurant, and Bobby’s Garage Bar.

FAMS

Narat
Star Wars film set in Tunisia

Toronto-based NARAT will host a 13-day Ultimate Tunisia Deluxe FAM from May 1 to 13. The excursion explores the capital Tunis, Gammarth, Carthage, Sidi Bou Said, Sbeitla, Tozeur Oasis, Douz, Matmata, Jerba Island, Tataouine, El Djem and Sousse, among other locations, and is open to all members of the travel industry, though owners, managers and agents with two-years experience have priority acceptance. One companion per agent is allowed. The cost of the FAM is US$2,440 (plus US445 taxes) and includes return international airfare, luxury accommodation (including Sahara desert camp), activities, meals, and more. Single accommodation is subject to availability. For more details, e-mail fams@narat.org.

INCENTIVES

Throughout February, Sunwing is offering agents double STAR Agent Reward Points for select Karisma Hotels & Resorts bookings (for travel through Oct. 31). Each booking also qualifies agents to win a weekly prize including a trip to a Karisma resort. Participating properties included in the promotion are El Dorado Casitas Royale, El Dorado Maroma, El Dorado Royale, El Dorado Seaside Suites, Hidden Beach Au Natural Resort and the world-class Palafitos Overwater Bungalows.

In addition to incentives for agents, travellers can also benefit from savings of up to 40%.

This Valentine’s Day, Flair Airlines wants to treat its travel agent partners to something special. For every five passengers booked, the agent gets a free round-trip flight, anywhere on the Flair network. Based in Edmonton, low-fare Flair flies to destinations across Canada and the United States. Flights must be booked through Flair’s travel agent portal by Feb. 14. For info, email travelagent@flairair.ca.

Agents can win up to 10,000 Loyalty Rewards points for TravelBrands bookings made through Feb. 15. Entry is automatic. The Valentine’s Day promotion (which involves playing a game e-mailed to participants) includes all hotels, car rentals, attractions, tours, transfers, dynamic packages including air, cruises, Sunquest packaged vacations and Exotik Journeys bookings with a minimum net value of $100. Air-only web bookings with WestJet and United Airlines are also qualify.

PEOPLE

Kumar Thusyanth, Manager, CWT in Pickering, Ont. is the lucky winner of a three-night stay to a Sandals or Beaches resort. He won simply by booking a group with the luxury included resort chain between October and December, as part of an exclusive group incentive for Canadian agents.

AGENT NEWS

Atout France is once again inviting travel counsellors to help the organization find the “most inspiring travel product in France.” Agents have until Feb. 20 to vote for one of four tour operator finalists for 2019 as listed on the tourist board’s web site. The winner will be unveiled at the Destination France 2019 gala trade show event in Toronto on Feb. 26. Two prizes will be raffled off to voters including a half-day guided tour in Paris and a suite for two at the W Paris Opera, including breakfast. Tradeshow dates are Feb. 25-28 in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver respectively. To vote or find out about the trade show, check www.destinationfrance.ca

The Canadian agent who books the most individual travellers on a G Adventures tour in February will earn a ‘wildcard’ space at the tour company’s Change Makers Summit June 2-9 at an as-yet-to-be disclosed location. The extra spot brings to 15 the number of Canadian agents who will be taken to the event, with 10 other spots being awarding to successful ‘Change Makers Challenge’ participants, three who will be selected based on a ‘social submission’ entry, either written or video, that demonstrates how they’ve given back to others and/or their community, and one more wildcard to be announced in March.

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) reports that its new consumer awareness campaign is in full swing, informing consumers about Ontario’s regulated travel industry. Launched in December, the digital-based campaign features YouTube videos, social media posts and banner ads on various websites targeting specific demographics, based on their travel behaviours. In addition, video ads are running in the PATH system and at Dundas Square in Toronto. TICO-registered travel agencies and websites are asked to make sure that the TICO logo or registration number is prominently displayed on their website, social media accounts and marketing materials.


BY THE NUMBERS

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for 2018 showing that demand (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose by a healthy 6.5% compared to full-year 2017. Although this represented a slowdown compared to the 2017 annual growth of 8.0%, it was another year of above-trend growth. Full year 2018 capacity climbed 6.1%, and load factor edged up 0.3 percentage point to a record 81.9%, exceeding the previous high set in 2017.

Four in 10 travellers (40%) says they are excited about the prospect of space travel in the future and are open to considering the experience themselves (38%), reports Booking.com. But until space travel becomes a reality, this brave new mentality will also translate to travel slightly closer to home with a desire to explore uncharted territories here on Earth, such as staying under the sea (60%).

Send your news to baginski@travelindustrytoday.com

 

author

Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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