TORONTO — It’s a good time to be a sports fan in Canada – even if some fans, including anyone cheering on the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, are having a better time of it these days than fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Not only are the NHL and NBA playoffs underway, but baseball season is also in full swing, and football season – the CFL at least, assuming a deal is struck – should be just weeks away.
Add those big league North American draws to the long list of other massively popular sports played both here and around the world, and you’ve got an opportunity to package travel to games pretty much year round.
And as any sports fan can tell you – or anyone who lives with a sports fan knows – this is an extremely devoted fan base that needs little urging to splurge on a dream trip to see their favourite team play live.
It’s a niche that many travel advisors may have overlooked, but especially now in these post-pandemic days of bucket list travel, and as more and more agents look to extend their client base, it can be a lucrative opportunity.
Tim Macdonell, who heads up Elite Sports Tours, says packages typically include hotel accommodations and tickets to premier sporting events across North America. Custom trips are available.
The best news? The company is launching a new platform in the in the coming months, and Phase 2 will include a travel agent login and commissionable product. “It would be a great tool for agents,” says Macdonell in this exclusive interview with Travelweek.
Travelweek: For the uninitiated, can you tell us what Elite Sports Tours offers to travellers?
Macdonell: “Elite Sports Tours offers fully customizable travel packages for clients including hotel accommodations and tickets to premier sporting events across North America. In addition to our custom packages for groups of any size, we offer pre-planned sports tours from the Toronto area that include bus transportation, hotel, tickets and pre-game tailgate for football. The pre-planned trips focus on following the Toronto-based sports team (Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays).
Travelweek: Why and when did the company get started – was there a gap in the market?
Macdonell: “Elite Sports Tours started in January 2008. We saw an opportunity in the market to better serve the sports tourism market. With very little options available to consumers in one of the largest markets in Canada, we saw an opportunity to provide an experience to sports fans that wasn’t available. Curating experiences for sports fans like ourselves and making them available to the average fan.
“There was definitely an opportunity to help fans in the Toronto market to travel to see their team play on the road. As our client base grew and the power of the internet, we were able to expand into other markets across North America and provide custom hotel and ticket packages for sports fans.”
Travelweek: Is there a typical formula for package sports events with Elite Sports Tours, or are the packages very customizable?
Macdonell: “The pre-planned trips are tailored to premium events. However our custom packages are fully customizable. We are excited in 2022 we will be launching a brand new booking platform for clients to search for any combination of tickets, hotels and flights in real-time on our website platform. It will give sports fans the ability to build their dream trip, get the pricing right away and have the ability to book their package online. It’s something we have been working hard at during the pandemic and are excited to launch.”
Travelweek: Can you tell us about how travel advisors can mark up your package prices to generate revenue? And we understand Elite Sports Tours will launch a new travel agent login /commissionable product in the coming months?
Macdonell: “It’s completely up to the agent. Some of them charge their client a flat fee, others decide to add the margin they need to work with.
“In the fall of 2022 we plan on having a travel agent booking system available that will allow agents to get commissionable rates upon approval as an official agent.
“This will be part of our new booking platform. So check back in the fall with what will be a great option for travel agents to offer a new product line to their clients and make commissions.
Travelweek: What are some of the biggest upcoming sports events on the calendar that you’re getting a lot of requests for?
Macdonell: “Las Vegas for football is always a popular one. The NFL does a great job with their scheduling and often teams only visit specific cities once every eight years. So for the sports fan looking to cross every stadium off their list, each season provides them with a new opportunity. However, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles (being the new state-of-the-art stadiums) are popular ones. Plus, who doesn’t like a trip to Los Angeles or Vegas — why not both?”
Travelweek: Can you share one of your most memorable sport event trips, either that you’ve put together for yourself, or that Elite Sports Tours has put together for clients?
Macdonell: “Personally, the Super Bowl in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium was a memorable experience being a Los Angeles Rams fan. Seeing them win the Super Bowl at home, inside one of the most incredible stadiums in the NFL, was priceless.
“As for clients, I would say that we often put together trips for clients that are their ‘bucket list’ trips that they have always dreamed of. Seeing the team they grew up their entire life watching on TV and finally making the trip to see a game at that team’s home stadium. When we get the emails/reviews back from those clients, it always touches the heart. Being able to provide those experiences to clients on a daily basis is what makes running Elite Sports Tours so special.”
For more details see EliteSportsTours.ca.