VANCOUVER — Tour wholesaler Collette came into its Vancouver product launch dinner with a message of “more” for travel agents – and their clients. Collette started the evening with a $20 Starbucks gift card at each place setting.
“We wanted to thank you,” said Collette President Doug Patterson, who acknowledged the cards were from a travel partner – the Portugal Tourism Board – and thanked the 30 or so travel agents, all major producers, for turning up on a rainy evening at Seasons in the Park restaurant located at Vancouver’s highest point, Queen Elizabeth Park.
Patterson also proposed a toast to the travel agents, thanking them for their work in making the company a success despite a challenging year in 2106 that saw much travel turmoil.
Patterson said the ‘more’ campaign provides travel agents’ clients with more value, including four-star hotels, sedan service to and from home, a more flexible travel insurance plan, and guaranteed to-go programs in the brochure, more tour choices, and more inclusive features.
He said Collette has tailored its product to provide more choices for clients too. The main product areas are classic (regular tours), exploration (usually smaller groups of 18 to 20 people wanting off-the-beaten-track travel), Spotlight programs (where one hotel is used, eliminating much packing and unpacking), river cruises, and faith travel.
The ‘More’ campaign by Collette focuses on more peace of mind, expertise, inclusiveness in products, and more flexibility for clients on tours, he added.
“We also offer more expertise,” he said, adding that Collette in 2018 will celebrate 100 years of business as a privately-held company that has built its reputation on repeat business with customers and travel agents. Guides and experts accompanying tours have 20 to 25 years of expertise, he said, adding that these are also the people who help plan itinerary visits. “They are our litmus test,” he said.
More options and choice for clients is available. The New York program offers up to eight shows on Broadway. “Why should you be limited to one?” he said. He said progressive meals have been included in various tours, allowing clients to sample different restaurants and foods. “It is not just the food, but how we orchestrate it,” he said.
When a local festival or event is on in a city, Collette guides will include it in the itinerary, he said. There are also more options for free time if clients want to explore on their own or have downtime.
Patterson said that travel agents and their clients can reach a Collette representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An international network of staff work is available. “As we close up shop here, Australia takes over,” he said.
Karen Craven, Collette’s business development manager for B.C., said the company is also giving more commission to the agents. “We pay on everything that you sell (land, air, pre-sold options, insurance),” she said. “We never work with online companies, discounters or wholesalers.” The company’s loyalty to agents has seen the company’s owners, the Sullivan family, turn down a lucrative $11 million deal from an online discounter to remain loyal to agents. “You are the ones that drive our business,” she told agents.
Collette, which offers prizes through the Wheel of Fortune game show on TV, sees a flurry of sales activity when a Collette product is featured on the show. Craven said the company has a specialist program that agents can sign onto and when viewers of the game show log onto the site they can find a specialist in their geographic region. The agents are also offered commission incentives.
Collette’s booking bonuses for agents include Book your own Bonus where an agent’s first booking qualifies them for the program, the second earns $50 and the third earns $100 with no limit on further bookings.
The company has rolled out 16 new tours listed in a handout for travel agents looking for new 2017 products. They are: New England Charm ($3,299), America’s Historic Hotels ($4,919), Charming French Canada ($3,759); Portugal, Spain & France ($5,949), Irish Adventure ($2,029), From Castles to Causeway ($6,428); Best of Britain & Ireland ($6,709); France and Italy ($5,269); The Complete European Journey ($7,029); Captivating Europe ($7,099); Amsterdam & London ($2,659); Romantic Road & Fairy Tale Road ($3,649); Taste of Vietnam ($3,319); Exploring Sri Lanka ($4,949), India’s Treasurers ($2,299) and Antarctica & Chile’s Patagonia ($16,399). The new tours are included in the Collette 2017-2018 world travel guide which has 137 tours.
Collette is also offering two time-limited offers on its European classic or exploration style tours. Offers are valid on new retail bookings made now until Jan. 31, 2017 for travel between March 1, 2017 and Nov. 30, 2017. The offer consists of $400 off per couple on land only Collette classic or exploration tours in Europe. (Offer is not valid for groups). Collette is also offering a $600 per couple saving on any of the Collette classic or exploration tours in Europe.
At the dinner, agents were also provided with a booklet offering an extra $50 per person discount on trips booked to the end of the year.
Patterson recently spoke with Travelweek about their reputation for poaching groups, see the story here.
Collette was also the focus of Travelweek’s latest video series: