20 JUL 2012: When Raymond Durocher popped inside a National Geographic Store along London’s busy west end Regent Street, a couple of summers ago, the president of Holiday Group’s first thought was: where’s the luggage?

Not a bad question coming from a businessman who oversees one the biggest distributors of luggage and handbags in Canada.

“I love to shop,” Raymond tells me over an espresso at the ultra glam Victor Restaurant & Bar in Toronto’s Entertainment district last week. “So when I went inside this huge store I saw every kind of travel product and said they need luggage.”

A few phone calls later with ample discussions and months of legal rapport on naming rights and product production, the deal between Holiday Group and National Geographic, he says, was made.

Hence, the Toronto visit, which was to launch the National Geographic luggage collection by Holiday Group.

So what’s the skinny on these bags?

They have got to be light (weight is critical). They have got to be noticeable (fuhgeddaboud the black bag), and they have got to have some kind of bio-conscious attachment because National Geographic likes to partner with companies that help save the planet.

For instance, the 28” soft shell bags use approximately three yards of recycled fabric. “You would need 60 (water) bottles,” says Raymond relaying some stats.

The luggage collection which is smartly affordable starting from $90 even has something for the shutterbugs, backpackers, and parents who need lunch bags for the kids. There’s even a moleskin-like suede cover for your I-pad. (These are way cool!)

It looks like Holiday Group’s thought of everything.

Krista Newberry, National Geographic’s senior vice president of licensing for North America noted via a press release that for more than a century National Geographic explorers and photographers have travelled the world to capture stunning images and collect compelling stories.

“As a leading pioneer and innovator in the travel product category, Holiday Group has the particular experience and ability to create products inspired by National Geographic,” she said.

Here are the goods:

There are two lines and each has two different collections.

1. The National Geographic line

The 6-piece Kontiki Collection is a ruggedly stylish retro looking travel bag reminiscent of those old fashioned khaki canvas travelling bags. Except these ones are constructed from high grade recycled polyester that is much lighter in weight. Prices from $90.

The 7-piece Northwall Collection has a fun celestial lining, most likely an image from the National Geographic archives. There’s a choice of two colors and prices start from $90.

2. The National Geographic Explorer line

The Photographer Series has dramatic shots of animals, a romantic Mediterranean seascape, and a sunset over NYC’s George Washington Bridge. These images are inspired by the world-renowned photography designed to inspire you to explore the world. I like the clever packing spots and the easy-peasy four wheels that spin a smooth 360 degrees; available in three sizes starting from $120.

The Appalachian Collection is for discerning travellers who crave functionality but want a statement that says smart, modern. An expandable wheeled duffle bag with multiple straps, plenty of zippers and compartments along with other clever packing amenities, this collection will definitely get you to rethink your world of packing. Appalachian is available in black or charcoal and also has those fabulous easy-gliding inline ball-bearing wheel technology that makes pulling a heavy load a cinch. Prices from $150.

Raymond wasn’t shy about his love of product buying. His company distributes other big brands across Canada like Travelpro, Swiss Gear, Nygard, Roots, and Ecko among plenty more.

And like the travel pro he is, Raymond’s gearing up for his upcoming two-week vacation to Italy. He will be visiting Sicily and the dreamy Amalfi Coast. Okay I had to ask.

“Are you taking any National Geographic bags with you?” You betcha.

He’s got his eye on the map collage-lined interior of the stark black Appalachian collection. “It’s the 26 inch for me,” he smiles. Look, Raymond packs light and is not worried about his extra Italian purchases which I’m going to guess might be a pair of fab leather shoes, and maybe a belt or two.

Watch for this special National Geographic luggage collection distributed by Holiday Group coming to a mall near you in August. Expected stores: Sears, The Bay and of course CAA. Additional chain stores (we are unable to disclose at press time) will also carry the collection later in the fall.

Holiday Group reports net proceeds from the luggage sales will support funding of the many National Geographic projects i.e. education programs, research and conservation.

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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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