TORONTO — You might have seen their ads, and maybe you’ve done a double-take at their name: Exoticca, with two Cs.
If that’s all you know about the Canadian travel industry’s newest tour operator, then check out this Q&A with VP Sales, Mike Quinto.
Quinto’s a familiar name and face in the industry, and now in his new role with Exoticca he wants the travel trade to know just how strongly the company believes in travel agents. “We pay full commission on all components including international airfare, taxes, excursions, internal airfare, transfers, hotels, and everything else. We pay a minimum of 10% commission on EVERYTHING. And if you are a preferred partner, then your commission levels will be much higher,” Quinto tells Travelweek.
Travelweek: Exoticca hit the ground running here in Canada, with high-profile appointments to its sales team, yourself included. But some agents may not be familiar with what Exoticca has to offer. What can you tell us about the Exoticca brand and its product?
Quinto: “Exoticca provides Private & Small Group Tours, guided by local expert guides. We believe in immersing our clients in the country and the culture that they are in.
“We don’t like to rush our clients, so our itineraries aren’t jam-packed, we don’t aim to see EVERY castle in Ireland or every cathedral in Italy. We believe in seeing the major sights, the highlights, with some hidden gems sprinkled in the tour.
“We offer very leisurely paced tours that never feel rushed, and we always guarantee clients a ton of free time to venture off in the city and do what they want to do on holiday. Some people might venture off in Rome to see more cathedrals, while others will grab a glass of prosecco at the Spanish Steps and watch the street performers and others walk by. It’s the client’s vacation, and they should spend their time there, the way they see fit.
“Our top destinations consist of South Africa, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Peru, Ecuador & Galapagos Islands, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam as well as over 50 more countries.
“Most of our destinations can have a maximum of 20 passengers but it does vary. For example, East Africa can only have a maximum of six passengers, while South Africa can have a maximum of 25. Our average group tour has 12 to 18 passengers.”
Travelweek: Does Exoticca have any marketing campaigns that agents (and their clients) should watch out for?
Quinto: “Yes, we are currently running this campaign on national television – https://youtu.be/cjRf3aANwRQ – which has been a huge undertaking. It’s received rave reviews, not only across the industry, but also with marketing execs. Travel advisors interested in receiving information on our 2023 FAM trips and receiving our specials can register at the Exoticca Travel Advisor portal: https://www.exoticca.com/ca/travel-advisors.
Travelweek: Is this a U.S.-based company that expanded to other markets? When did the Canadian office open and who’s on the Canadian team that agents should know about?
Quinto: “Exoticca was born in Barcelona in 2013 and first launched in the Spanish, French, German and UK markets.
“In 2018, we came to the U.S. and in 2019 to Canada. At the time we were just beta testing the North America market by using publishers. We only had a small office in Miami and didn’t have an office in Canada.
“Our company grew exponentially during the pandemic and today North America accounts for 70% of our global sales. With offices in the U.S. and Canada, we are supported by our Managing Director, industry veteran John Vavrina, and our field sales team which is strictly dedicated to the travel trade. The key Canadian contacts are myself – Mike Quinto, VP of Sales – and also Matt ‘Billy’ Stewart, Director of Sales – Western Canada.
Travelweek: It can be tough for agents to convince clients to try a tour operator that’s new to the Canadian market. What’s your message to agents about Exoticca’s differentiators? And what clients would make ideal Exoticca clients?
Quinto: “Exoticca sits in a unique place in the touring market, because we truly aren’t like anyone else out there. We aren’t a traditional touring company – we’re the next generation of touring companies. We include the international airfare from any gateway in North America. And our trips are structured so that clients can enjoy touring with a local guide in the mornings, while the afternoons are completely free, so clients can do whatever they want while they are in destination. Or, they can book onto one of our optional afternoon excursions and continue touring with their local guide.
“A typical day with Exoticca in Rome would go something like this: wake up in a beautiful hotel, have breakfast, and meet your 12 passenger group and guide in the lobby. Then venture off to see all the major highlights, then lunch. And then after lunch there’s free time, to return to the hotel and relax, or explore more of Rome. Then dinner at leisure, go to bed at leisure, and wake up the next day at leisure for another day of sightseeing in the morning and leisure time in the afternoon.
“We have 13,000+ reviews on Trustpilot with an average satisfaction rating of 4.5/5. Clients who travel with us, absolutely LOVE it. So while we are new to the North American market, we are by no means new to travel or the Industry. Travel agents can be assured that their clients are in good hands!”
Travelweek: Does Exoticca pay commission? How else does it work with and connect with agents?
Quinto: “We pay full commission on all components including international airfare, taxes, excursions, internal airfare, transfers, hotels, and everything else. We pay a minimum of 10% commission on EVERYTHING. And if you are a preferred partner, then your commission levels will be much higher.
“We don’t have any NCFs (non-commissionable fees). A travel advisor can simply take the total sales price and multiply it by their commission rate. We don’t charge service fees, and we pay commission on taxes and fuel surcharges.
“We pay 60% of the travel advisor commission within 30 days of booking … without risk of recall if the passenger cancels their trip.
“We provide simple point and click booking technology that can be used as a selling tool by travel advisors and provides instant quotes. Our travel advisors are not required to make a phone call or send an electronic ‘request a quote’ and wait while a quote is built. We also provide a calendar view that allows a travel advisor to see the pricing, with air, on every departure for each month.”
Travelweek: Exoticca launched in Canada during the pandemic. How are bookings going now, what’s selling really well and what is the company hoping to achieve in the Canadian market for 2023?
Quinto: “Pre-pandemic, 2019 was Exoticca’s best year ever. During the pandemic we made a strategic decision to double down on our marketing efforts rather then go into hibernation. This strategy paid off as we only took a 37% decline while other companies were taking an 80% to 90% decline.
“It was in 2021 that we really saw the results of our actions. We doubled our 2019 revenue and passengers in 2021, making it our new best year ever. Most travel companies today are still striving to get back to their 2019 numbers. In 2022, with the help of our amazing consortia and award-winning host agency partners, we finished the year at 3.5 times our 2019 revenue and passengers.
“In 2023, our travel advisor business is conservatively forecasted to grow three-fold. Our top destinations listed above are still our strongest destinations, but we have created some brand new products based on feedback from our partners that we expect to take off. Examples include: ‘Albania in 11 Days – Between the Balkans and the Adriatic Sea’ from $2,699 per person, including international air; ‘Croatia in 9 Days – Medieval Cities & Magical Lakes’ from $2,699 per person, including international air; and ‘Italy in 9 Days – Escorted Colosseum, Cathedrals & Gondolas’, from $2,699 per person, including international air.”
Exoticca’s site is https://www.exoticca.com/ca, and its travel agent portal is https://www.exoticca.com/ca/travel-advisors.