VANCOUVER — The new Air Canada nonstop daily flight out of Vancouver to Dallas will see more than 500 new seats per week added into the U.S. destination as Air Canada deploys Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet aircraft carrying 75 passengers with 10 business class seats.
VisitDallas’ VP Tourism Mark Thompson said he is hopeful there will be a further increase into Dallas as Air Canada has announced it will begin another direct daily flight out of Montreal beginning in May. The two new flights will join existing service out of Toronto. The Vancouver route started Feb. 5.
“Toronto has always been a very strong market,” he said. “We are excited to be working with Air Canada – we are impressed with the airline and its staff.”
In 2015 some 264,000 visitors from Canada came to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Thompson said 2016 figures are being tallied but they are expected to show a moderate increase while 2017 still remains in question and he is hopeful the city can remain its market numbers.
He said the negativity surrounding the immigrations ban is expected to deter some travellers. At the same time, the U.S. exchange rate is also a disadvantage.
In B.C. Air Canada is coming into the market with a price point that is slightly above Alaska Airlines’ price from YVR. From now until through May, the pricing on the Air Canada flights is approximately $465, which compares to Alaska Airlines flights (which have a Seattle layover) priced at $432 for a similar period. The Air Canada flight takes four hours, while the Alaska Airlines flight takes six and a half hours.
Dallas has been a draw for business travellers and conventions but the leisure travel market is the sector where the city is seeing growth, said Thompson. Individuals coming to the city for business or conventions are adding extra days to explore city attractions plus the pure leisure travel sector is also growing fast.
VisitDallas can provide travel agents with commissionable product ranging from excursions to hotels for those agents looking to provide tag-on sales to a conference or business traveller or assemble package information for a leisure traveller. “There are some existing products that have worked very well across the board for travel agents. The most important is the CityPASS program,” Thompson said. CityPASS has been a “powerhouse” for sales for agents as it provides entry to four of the city’s top attractions and offers clients a 40% discount on admission prices.
The tourism board’s website, visitdallas.com, also has itineraries available for travel agents planning client holidays or special-interest vacations and these can be combined into a fly-drive vacation, said Thompson. If information is not available on the website, the tourism board has individuals who will work with agents. “There are some fantastic resources available online and if it isn’t there, we are just a click away,” said Thompson.
Thompson said VisitDallas has hosted fams to the city out of Western Canada in the anticipation of the Air Canada flight start-up. He is hoping to launch more fams in 2017. “We have identified some agents (during the three-day visit to Vancouver) that would be a good match to showcase Dallas,” he said, adding that the bureau’s marketing initiative includes reaching out to agents plus trade and consumer media to create more interest in the city. Those agents selling into the Dallas/Fort Worth market and wanting more information regarding fam trips should contact the VisitDallas office.
Thompson said the biggest attraction for Canadians coming to Dallas currently is shopping. “Shopping is tax-free for international visitors. It is a very robust program,” he said, adding that it offsets the exchange rate.
A second major draw is the city’s sporting events. “The sports situation is fantastic. We are home to six professional teams,” he said with the Dallas Cowboys a strong draw.
Family travel is also popular, as Dallas is known for providing a wide range of price-point accommodation and delivering a “high-value” vacation experience. The Dallas downtown area has been undergoing a revitalization and densification with many new residents moving into the area. The result, says Thompson, is a resurgence in the restaurant scene with up to 90 new restaurants opened as of January 2017.
Dallas is “stellar” on all levels when it comes to hotel properties and can offer a range of price points from economy to super-luxury, adds Thompson. “The room rates are much lower than what you would normally find in a major market,” he said, especially for many of the higher end brand name hotels.
With growing leisure travel and densification downtown, the hotel industry is also undergoing change. “We are experiencing a large boom in hotel building and growth,” he said. One showcase property is The Statler, formerly the Statler Hilton, which has been dormant for 15-20 years and has reopened after a long renovation and rebuild.
“It was the first property that the founder of the chain, Hilton, put his name on,” said Thompson. When it opened in 1956, it was the premier place to stay in the American Southwest and it became an icon as it embodied the first modern hotel design. It closed in 2001. “It was also the hotel where Tina Turner left her husband, Ike,” he said, providing a historical note. “It has gone through a full restoration and is beautiful.” The property is expected to open later this year.
The Lorenzo Hotel (formerly the Plaza Hotel), the property that Turner went to after leaving Ike, has also undergone a $35 million renovation and opened in February. “It is a smaller property but it has great price points and it is very attractive for business travellers,” said Thompson.
The arts and culture scene is also popular with the Dallas Museum of Art from March into July hosting a show that is being billed as the largest exhibition of Mexican art since 1954 with many works of Mexico’s major artists on display. The exhibit explores 50 years of modern art Mexican art.
Of course, an ageless draw to Dallas has become the long-running TV show of the same name, which aired from 1978 to 1991. “It has left a fantastic legacy,” said Thompson. The Southfork Ranch, made famous by the show’s Ewing family, is now a special events venue and meeting destination with daily tours ensuring its status as a popular tourist haunt.