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TORONTO — Air Canada Vacations knows just how valuable its travel agent partners are.
“They’re the ones listening to what the customers are saying. They’re watching what the customers are booking,” said Dana Gain, Senior Director, Sales, Groups & Partnerships, at last night’s 2019/2020 ACVDreamMakers Sun Collection launch.
Generating sales comes down to teamwork with the trade, and ACV knows it. “We want to be a good partner,” said Gain.
Last night’s big event, at the UNIVERSAL event space in Vaughan, ON, was the last stop on the ACVDreamMakers Sun Collection roadshow, wrapping up a tour that started in Calgary and headed to Vancouver before coming back east to Halifax and Montreal.
Hundreds of agents came out for last night’s event, and resort companies, tourism boards and other suppliers were out in droves too. ACV started its presentation with awards for six of its partners. Carnival Cruise Line was recognized as ACV’s Exclusive Cruise Spotlight Collection Partner. Best Luxury Product went to Saint Lucia’s Jade Mountain Resort. Catalonia Hotels & Resorts was named Rising Star. Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts received an Award of Distinction. The 2019 Award of Excellence award went to Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts. And the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award went to ACV’s long-time resort partner, Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
Gary Sadler, Senior VP Sales, Unique Vacations, Inc. was on hand to accept the award together with Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing, Unique Vacations Canada Inc., who got a special shout-out complete with flowers for her recent 25th anniversary with the company.
While the suppliers were front and centre at last night’s event, agents were the top priority.
Gain and Erminia Nigro General Manager, Sales – Ontario & National Accounts, gave agents a complete rundown of ACV’s 2019/2020 ACVDreamMakers Sun Collection product, and made sure the audience knew about new perks for the trade, including a new and improved ACV&ME program featuring instant redemption.
ACV has also brought back its popular perk for large group bookings, where agents earn two free air seats with a minimum booking of 60 passengers.
For home-based agents ACV has launched ACV@Home.
ACV also announced that its Groups desk is now open on weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A new Facebook page introduced last week, called ACV’s Inner Circle, is aimed at improving communication with the trade. Some 1,300 agents have signed up so far.
Meanwhile phase one of the new upgrade for ACV’s Revelex Power Agent 5.0 platform is now complete. Starting this fall agents will be able to package cruise bookings with air through Revelex.
And in early 2020 ACV will introduce a new travel agent portal.
“You gave us your feedback and we’re listening,” said Gain. “The trade community is the closest to the customer. We’re one step removed. We need to be close to the travel professional, because they’re close to the customer.”
Gain says tight relations with the trade has helped ACV stay nimble. “There was a time everybody wanted to go to Iceland. There was a time everybody wanted to go to Africa. There was a time everybody wanted to do river cruising. If we’re not close to our travel partners, we’re not hearing that.”
Speaking of Iceland, ACV has seen a “massive increase” in its Europe sales. Nino Montagnese, Managing Director, ACV, reminded agents that ACV has much more than just sun product. “We have Asia, we have South Pacific, we have South America,” he said. “We’re a one-stop shop. Don’t just think of us for sun. We offer the world.”
ACV’s 2020 Europe brochure will be released in early October, added Nigro. Early booking bonuses include $1,000 per couple off for bookings six months out, and $500 per couple off for bookings four months out. “When you think Europe, think ACV,” said Nigro. “We’re giving you extra tools to help close the sale.”
ACV’s 2019-2020 Sun Collection brochure, meanwhile, is out. And it’s a whopper, at 340 pages. Here are the highlights …
. The Sun Collection features more than 750 hotels – mostly all-inclusive – 63 of which are new to the lineup, four resorts that are exclusive to ACV, 28 semi-exclusive resorts, and over 100 cruises. Air Canada Vacations is also promoting its wide network of connecting gateways in Canada, 63 in all. Capacity for winter 2019-20 sun flights is up 11%, with more weekend departures.
. New this year is an enhanced Spotlight Collection featuring the U.S. Spotlight Collection and Cruise Spotlight Collection. Travellers receive such perks as free standard seat selection, $20 in-flight meal credit per passenger, as well as bonus hotel and resort offers at participating hotels and resorts in California, Hawaii and Las Vegas. ACV’s Cruise Spotlight Collection with Carnival includes exclusive offers when booking select Carnival sailings. Other Collections include Adults 18+, Adults 21+, Boutique, Family, Luxe and Spa.
. With the 2019/2020 Sun Collection, ACV has expanded the Play Program to Florida, California and Hawaii. Families can select from over 140 hotels where kids aged 12 and under eat, play and stay for free. Plus, they’ll benefit from priority boarding for the entire family onboard Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flights.
. Agents earn commission when selling ACV’s CareFree and new CareFlex plans. CareFree or CareFlex is $59. CareFree and CareFlex together are $99.
. A new BOGO deal launched last week offers 50% off for second passengers booking winter sun vacations.
. New this year, groups (10 passengers or more, including kids) pay only a $500 deposit, while 20+ passengers can be held with no deposit.
ACV also handed out several awards to retail groups, including 2019 Diversification Award, Ensemble Travel Group; 2019 Groups Partner of the Year, TL Network; 2019 Online Travel Agency Partner, Red Label Vacations; 2019 Breakout Partner of the Year, TravelOnly; and 2019 Network Partner of the Year, Transat Distribution Canada.