MONTREAL — Tour operators, hoteliers, tourism boards and more weighed in on the rapidly improving outlook for winter travel for 2021-2022 at the latest Future of Travel virtual conference, held earlier this month.
Hosted by Gwendoline Duval, Director, Profession Voyages, Travelweek Group’s French-language travel industry news source, this latest edition of the Future of Travel online event offered updates from Air Canada, Air Transat, the Dominican Republic Tourism Office, Oasis Hotels & Resorts, AMR Collection, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts and more, all with timely insights at this critical time for the industry’s recovery.
“Now that the government has lifted its advisory against non-essential travel, travelling has become more possible than ever … and that’s why being well equipped to understand new trends and maximize this recovery momentum is a necessity for travel professionals whose business has been hard hit by this COVID19 crisis,” says Duval.
This Future of Travel event, now with more than 1,000 views, follows on the heels of the successful series of Future of Travel online conferences hosted by Travelweek, mostly recently ‘Future of Travel: Winter Sun Getaways’. Positive feedback from viewers included ”Quality presentations”, “I love this webinar / conference, great formula” and “Thank you very much, very good conference, bravo.”
Here’s a look at the highlights …
Cosette Garcia, Dominican Republic Tourism Office
Garcia says Canada is still the second most important market for the D.R. “We want to be the simplest, easiest, safest destination in the Caribbean right now. There is no longer a quarantine or PCR test required on arrival for Canadians. The only entry condition is a new form, called the e-ticket . It is free and anyone can find it on our official website,” said Garcia.
She adds that the situation is improving in the D.R. and that the forecast for the winter is optimistic. Hotels currently have an average occupancy rate of over 85%.
Robert Trudeau: Senior Sales Director, Quebec, Air Canada
“Finally, we have some positive news!” said Trudeau. “If we compare the 2019 winter season for southern destinations in the broad sense, and December 2021 / first quarter 2022, we only have 10% to 12% less seat offers. That is to say that this winter we are offering nearly 90% of the South offer that we had before the pandemic. On the reservations side, if we take an average, we are around 10% to 15% of our 2019 results for the same period,” he added.
From Quebec, Air Canada has new services to Cancun and Punta Cana and a new flight to Bogota, Colombia.
He reminded viewers that Air Canada offers the possibility of leaving their destination with a portable PCR kit to prepare for their return to Canada with ease.
Pam Basset: Business Development Director for Oasis Hotels & Resorts
Basset says the local market has really supported the economic health of the hotels in Cancun. And she says Groups demand is very strong at the moment. “Cancun remains one of the flagship destinations for Canadians and Oasis Resorts has seven hotels in Cancun, one of which has a casino,” says Basset.
Oasis Hotels & Resorts’ travel agent portal, including exclusive offers for agents, is here.
Orelbys Vigoa: Business Development Director for AMR Collection for Eastern Canada
Has the pandemic impacted AMR Collection’s new resort developments? “Absolutely not,” said Vigoa. “We are going to open eight new hotels this winter, before the end of February.” Three new flagships in Riviera Maya and Cancun are: Secrets Moxché Playa Del Carmen, Secrets Impressions Moxché Playa Del Carmen and Breathless Cancun Soul.
AMR Collection’s agent portal is here. Vigoa reminds agents to check out the trade incentives at the portal. “Don’t forget to record your sales in the system,” he adds.
Gilberto Sacedo: VP Tourism ProColombia
Colombia is ready to welcome Canadians, without having to present a PCR test or a vaccination certificate, says Sacedo. There is a form to fill out at least one hour before the flight. “What many don’t know is that we were very quick to adapt to the pandemic situation and we took this moment to raise our standards and offerings even higher. We were the first to implement a COVID-19 certification system for the tourism industry in Latin America. More than 700 tour operators have been certified,” says Sacedo.
Increased lift to Colombia includes new flights with Air Canada starting Dec. 4 from Montreal to Bogota. Air Transat will also resume its flights to Cartagena this winter.
Antonio Teijero: Head of Operations, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts
Are all the hotels reopened, and what’s new? Says Teijero: ”A total of 16 hotels in the Bahia Principe portfolio will be open by December, out of the 19 hotels operated in Mexico and the Caribbean region”. He adds: “We did not interrupt our projects during the pandemic. Last November, we reopened the completely renovated Bahia Grand Tulum with the Mayan culture as a guide. In the Dominican Republic, the common areas of the Bahia Principe Portillo have been renovated and other projects are underway and will be unveiled in the future.”
Karine Gagnon: Director of Marketing Quebec, Air Transat
“There is really a recovery, we feel the effects,” says Air Transat’s Gagnon. “Everything suggests that the trend will continue for the winter. In terms of Southern reservations, particularly in the last five weeks, we have really seen a marked increase in requests. Many bookings are for December and January. We are seeing very last minute departures, especially for Florida,” she adds.
Who’s booking? “We are gradually returning to our usual clients, mainly couples, followed by families and then single travellers,” says Gagnon. “This summer, we saw more solos and we now see all our different clienteles coming back. Families book, but this is a segment that takes a little longer to leave given the restrictions in place.”
Regarding destinations, “most of our usual destinations in the South are offered for the winter. Mexico and the D.R. are performing very well, followed by Cuba. We can see interest returning to Cuba. As for hotels, it is the big brands that attract, the chains that travellers trust, and mostly 4.5 or 5 stars.”
And when it comes to price, says Gagnon, there is a slight increase in the average spend because customers want to spoil themselves with upgrades and more. “Groups are going well, people are already booking weddings for 2023 and things are filling up fast.”