10 JUN 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:


The introduction of Airbus A321neoLRs into its fleet will provide more route flexibility for Air Transat in its winter 2019-20 flight program, says the airline. Some program highlights, effective Nov. 1, include:
•  Two flights per week from Montreal to New Orleans, La., plus daily direct flights to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from Montreal and increased frequency from Quebec City.
•  Year-round service to Madrid and Malaga, Spain, from Montreal.
•  From Vancouver: two direct flights a week to Fort Lauderdale from Vancouver, plus new flights to San José and Liberia, Costa Rica, and the reintroduction of a direct flight to Punta Cana, D.R.
•  A new direct flight London, Ont., to Puerto Plata, D.R.; new direct flight from Hamilton, Ont., to Santa Clara, Cuba.
•  Year-round direct flights to Glasgow and Manchester, and an extended flight season (until mid-January) for Barcelona from Toronto.

Southwest Airlines has extended its bookable flight schedule through Jan. 5, 2020.


Clients booking a Globus tour by Nov. 26 will save 10% on every European and North American Globus itinerary for 2020 (excluding Escapes by Globus). And when they book value-brand Cosmos by Oct. 22, their European and North American tours will be reduced by $50. The early booking offer applies to both groups and individuals.

Travellers looking to kick-off the summer with an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico can take advantage of AMResorts’ Upgrade Your Promotion, which offers discounted room upgrades and up to US$200 in resort credits through Dec. 22 at Dreams Huatulco, Dreams Los Cabos and Sunscape Puerto Vallarta. Bookings must be made by June 18.

Travellers to Saint Lucia this summer can save up to 60% off hotel rates at more than 20 properties, including Coconut Bay, Calabash Cove and the Hotel Chocolate. For details, click Specials on the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority web page and follow the link to Summer Specials.


LWTM-intrepid cycling tour

A hike in bike tours is on the agenda for Intrepid Travel, which has launched 12 new cycling tours in 2019, bringing the total number of tours to over 40. The tour operator notes that cycling has become an extremely popular way of touring that has evolved to meet mainstream demand (photo). In fact, Intrepid says its North America bookings for cycling tours jumped 30% in 2018 alone. “The strong interest we’re seeing in this style of travel proves that cycling tourism is no longer for hard-core cyclists, but for travellers who want to better connect with the sites, smells and sounds of the destinations they pass through,” says Intrepid exec Darshika Jones. New tours include Spain, Colombia, Central America, northern Vietnam, Croatia, Cuba and more.

With many tour operators announcing that their allotments for next year’s Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, are already sold out, Toronto-based Connaissannce Travel and Tours, reports that it still has space for the once-a-decade event as part of a 13-day package to the Bavarian Alps in 2020. Highlights of the 13-day itinerary include Neuschwanstein (the “Disney castle”), a night in Oberammergau culminating in the once-a-decade Passion Play; and a Danube River cruise tour with a first-class wine tasting. Pricing starts at $5,890.

Colorado-based, Natural Habitat Adventures, a conservation travel partner of World Wildlife Fund will conduct a first-of-its-kind field education in Churchill, Man., Oct. 14-20. The “Special Expedition: Polar Bears in a Changing Arctic” tour will take participants into the polar bear's wild tundra habitat along Hudson Bay, but with an experiential twist: the event will also take a deep dive into the complex issues surrounding conservation, climate change and Arctic ecology via conversations with a slate of special guests including Nobel Laureate Paul Romer and WWF global climate expert Brad Schallert. For more details, see the company web site.


LWTM_rocco forte

Rocco Forte Hotels has unveiled its second hotel in Rome, the Hotel de la Ville (photo), following a comprehensive renovation to the historical 18-century palazzo. Located in the heart of Rome, atop the Spanish Steps with sweeping views of the Eternal City, the hotel’s 104 well-appointed rooms and suites are amongst the most elegant and spacious in Rome, while the signature suites offer spectacular panoramic views of the city from their large terraces. A courtyard in the centre of the hotel offers a hidden retreat away from the bustling city. Future Rocco Forte openings: The Westbund Hotel, Shanghai in 2019 and Villa Igiea, Palermo in 2020.

With the addition of Raffles Shenzhen and Raffles Maldives Meradhoo to the Raffles Hotels & Resorts roster, the luxury chain now boasts 14 properties across 12 countries. "With a storied history spanning more than 130 years, Raffles is currently experiencing a renaissance, with a robust project pipeline that will see the portfolio add an additional eight to 10 hotels over the next few years,” says Chris Cahill, Deputy CEO, Accor. Scheduled for opening in 2020, the 101-room Raffles Udaipur will be the brand's first hotel in India, to be followed by a second, Raffles Jaipur, set to open by 2022. Other locations: Dubai and Boston in 2021. Meanwhile, Raffles London is being transformed into a flagship hotel featuring 125 rooms and suites, restaurants and, spa.

Four Season Hotels and Resorts has unveiled plans for a new private jet to take flight in early 2021. Designed to evoke the bygone glamour of air travel, the new Airbus A321LR aircraft is being fully customised by Four Seasons to enhance its current Private Jet experience.


Hotel BLUE in Myrtle Beach is the newest resort to become available to Diamond Resorts members. The beachfront property located along south Myrtle Beach will join three other Diamond Resorts affiliate properties in the South Carolina city: Dunes Village Resort, Marina Inn at Grand Dunes and Peppertree Ocean Club.


With two new resorts in the Maldives, RIU becomes the first Spanish hotel chain to operate in the south Asia destination. Riu Atoll and Riu Palace Maldivas are four- and five-star hotels respectively, both located on Dhaalu Atoll offering guests suites over the Indian Ocean.

Palace Resorts is inviting guests at the Grand at Moon Palace Cancun to unleash their inner kid at the resort’s new wave pool. The new addition to the already lavish swimming pools gives guests a feeling of being in the beach inside the waterpark.


Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the launch of Royal Caribbean’s “game changing” Oasis of the Seas. A veritable city at sea, the vessel is undergoing a US$165-million (CA$219 million) facelift – or “amplification” in cruise speak – which will take two months ahead of the launch of its fall-winter Caribbean cruise season starting Nov. 24. Highlights of the ampli (amplo?) include a reimagined, Caribbean-inspired pool deck with kids’ aquapark including the tallest slide at sea; the cruise line’s first barbecue concept, Portside BBQ; and a dedicated karaoke venue.

Loyalty Club members at MSC Cruises are in line for additional discounts and benefits from the cruise line. MSC Voyagers Club (available to anyone who sailed or booked with MSC since 2006), will receive a host of benefits based on status, such as welcome cocktail for classic members, fruit basket and $50 onboard credit for silver, and one-hour spa visit for gold. Top status black card members (to be renamed “diamond” in September) will get all of the above, plus complimentary state-room amenities, dinner for two in one of the Specialty Restaurants, free dance class, priority disembarkation at the end of the cruise, exclusive party during the cruise, and more.

Tauck has revealed details of its three 2020 Douro cruises – its first ever on the Portuguese river – aboard the new ship, the ms Andorinha.  Three new cruises will include "Douro Discovery: A Family River Cruise in Portugal," and two adult cruises – the eight-day, cruise-only "Villages & Vintages: Cruising the Douro River Valley" and the 12-day "Exploring the Douro, Plus Lisbon & Madrid,” the latter combining a seven-night Douro cruise with a two-night, pre-cruise hotel stay in Lisbon and a two-night, post-cruise hotel stay in Madrid. The cruises are open for booking.


LWTM-Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure_Coaster Details (002)

At Universal Orlando Resort, Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure coaster opens on June 13 (photo). The ride, described as Universal's most highly themed coaster to date, takes guests deep into the Forbidden Forest to check out the various fantastic beasts that call the woods home.


Throughout June, Sunwing is offering agents double STAR points and a chance to win prizes as part of its Partner of the Month promotion featuring Barceló Hotel Group. Each time an agent makes a booking at a participating Barcelo or Occidental resort for stay between Aug. 1 and April 30, 2020, they will be entered into a weekly draw for a chance to win a seven-night all inclusive vacation for two to a select Barceló property.

For every five car rentals booked June 1-30 with TravelBrands, travel counsellors can earn 5500 Loyalty Rewards points – the equivalent of a free $50 gas card.


A series of Sandals Specialist workshops is taking place this month across the country. The sessions are designed to give agents key product updates, selling strategies, tips and information to help lock in more Sandals and Beaches bookings; they also fulfill the educational requirement towards becoming or maintaining Certified Sandals Specialist status and earn agents 10 CTC or CTM credits. Dates are: June 11 – Quebec City (French); June 13 – Ottawa; June 13 – Charlottetown; June 18 – Brossard, Que. (French); June 18 – Winnipeg; June 19 – Saskatoon; June 19 – Drummondville, Que. (French); and June 27 – Belleville, Ont. Space is limited and a non-refundable fee of $40 is required at time of registration. Agents can register online HERE.


There are two new faces at Red Label Vacations: Industry veteran Dianne Jackson (CAA, Expedia, Allianz Global Assistance, First Choice) has been named VP President, Retail, responsible for RLV’s retail brands, which includes redtag.ca and itravel2000.com, the latter for whom Jackson has previously worked as a senior director. She can be reached at Dianne.Jackson@redlabelvacations.com. Meanwhile, Charlotte Antill is TravelBrand’s new Ontario BDM (charlotte.antill@travelbrands.com) overseeing partnerships in Ontario’s West and North divisions. Antill’s resumé includes Uniglobe, Transat and Robert Q Travel.

UNIGLOBE Travel (Eastern Canada) reports that Mississauga-based A. Nash Travel Inc. is its newest partner agency. In addition, UNIGLOBE The Premiere Travel Group and UNIGLOBE Bon Voyages Travel have signed multi-year renewals of their agency franchise agreements.


With the Mexico Tourism Board significantly curtailing operations, the Los Cabos Tourism Board has announced the creation of a new fund, supported by private tourism industry stakeholders, to promote initiatives and programs abroad for the destination.


Led by a 24% rise in arrivals from the US, the Caribbean recorded a 12% increase in tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2019, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). Canada posted a 4% gain (1.5 million visitors), contributing to the region’s 9.1 million international tourists, which is up 970,000 over the corresponding period last year. The arrivals boom extended to the cruise, with a single quarter record 10.7 million cruise passengers’ visits – an increase of 9.9% or 900,000 more arrivals when compared to the same period in 2018.


Key West, Fla., has taken the fight to remove plastic from the world’s oceans underwater with the introduction of a special art project in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Plastic Ocean Project consists of 24 large photo illustrations installed on Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a ship that was scuttled south of Key West to create an artificial reef. The project is designed to inspire divers and create awareness of the plastic problem and will remain onsite through Aug. 25 before being moved to an above-water gallery.

Whitby Abbey has reopened in the Yorkshire town after a £1.6 million (CA$2.7 million) reinvestment. The inspiration for Dracula’s Castle in Bram Stoker’s classic novel, the facility now features a newly designed museum, interpretation located at key points around the site, and the addition of a small coffee shop. “Dracula Season” begins July 20, with performances of the ghoulish tale held on the abbey grounds.

A new museum dedicated to the birthplace of modern blues is preparing to open this year in Chicago. The Chicago Blues Experience (opening date TBA) will celebrate pioneering artists and generations of musicians who have been influenced by blues and continue to carry on its traditions. Situated near Millennium Park, it will be filled with history-driven interactive displays, tributes to local legends and Chicago blues memorabilia, as well as a performance lounge and restaurant.

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Michael Baginski

Editor, 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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