Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Air Canada Vacations is encouraging travellers to test-drive their dream vacations before departure at its cross-country #ACVDreamMakers Sun Collection launch events taking place this month.
The events, which highlight ACV’s 2018/19 Sun Collection, programs and offers, also showcase the innovation of virtual reality, which the company is using to promote the many destinations it travels to.
“VR technology seems to be a growing trend and there’s no question is a terrific tool for travel agents to use in the selling process,” says Dana Gain, Senior Director of Sales, Groups & Partnerships, Air Canada Vacations. “Travel is an experiential product, so our trade partners need to draw a picture of what the experience can look like before a customer will buy,” adds Gain. “If they are successful in painting that picture, they will close the sale. VR is a great tool to help them do that, so I imagine it will continue to grow in popularity.”
Agents were able to experience many different destinations in VR at ACV’s launch events in Vancouver (Sept. 10), Calgary (Sept. 11) and Montreal (Sept. 13), including Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, St. Petes, Las Vegas, Canada, Italy, Scotland and more. ACV’s next stops are Halifax on Sept. 18 and Toronto on Sept. 20.
The Vancouver and Calgary events were a big success, with ACV explaining its core objectives going forward. These include a digital transformation that will include a new B2B website in 2019 featuring added functionality, as well as continued diversification away from Sun product to other destinations Air Canada flies to, like Europe, Hawaii, Asia and Canada. Finally, ACV is undergoing “project excellence” in an effort to update its image and culture, which will be supported by employee training at the Disney Institute.
Air Canada is anticipating a 17% capacity increase for winter 2018/19, while ACV will be adding 77 new hotels to its collection, including 13 that are exclusive to the company. Agents are also encouraged to pick up its Ultimate Escapes brochure featuring luxury properties enjoyed by the likes of former U.S. President Barack Obama and hip hop mogul Jay-Z.
Also in attendance at the Calgary and Montreal events was Explor VR, a leader in the virtual reality market, which will also be attending the Toronto event on Sept. 20. In addition to showcasing the VR experience, the company will be drawing one lucky winner to win an Oculus Go in each city. Agents are encouraged to swing by its booth for a chance to win.
Explor VR recently visited Sandals Montego Bay with a film crew to capture footage of the resort’s recent enhancements. Filming took place over two days and was shot with an eight-camera-rig. The new virtual reality video experience gives agents a feel for the property, almost like a virtual fam of the upgraded resort.
Air Canada Vacations, which helped organize the in-destination film shoot, was happy to be part of the project. Said Gain: “Sandals is a longstanding and outstanding partner of ACV, so we were very excited about the video shoot!”
First opened in 1981 by Sandals Resorts International Founder and Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Sandals Montego Bay has remained at the heart of the most popular all-inclusive resort chain in the world. And now with its recent renovation, the resort has once again been transformed into the pinnacle of progress and luxury in the Caribbean.
“VR technology seems as if it was tailor-made for travel. Aside from agents visiting a resort or a destination for themselves, it’s the next best thing so they can get a complete, 360 view of the product,” says Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing, Unique Vacations Canada. “Sandals Resorts has long been the innovator in the all-inclusive industry, from introducing many industry standards like swim-up pool bars and specialty dining to opening the Caribbean’s first over-the-water bungalows, so it’s only natural that they offer a next level selling tool such as VR to agents.”
The Sandals Montego Bay virtual reality experience and many more will be available to agents to view at the #ACVDreamMakers events. Agents can also download the Explor VR app now from Google Play and the Apple Store.