TORONTO — There’s nothing like a ‘bomb cyclone’ to get travellers thinking about sunnier locales. And for passengers flying out of Windsor, Ottawa and Toronto, that sun-soaked destination can very well be Melbourne, Florida.
Located just 20 minutes from Port Canaveral (the world’s second largest cruise port) and 30 minutes from Kennedy Space Center, Orlando-Melbourne is expected to get a major boost in Canadian visitation this year thanks to increased service from Porter Airlines. The carrier has launched new flights to Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB) from Windsor and Ottawa, as well as relaunched seasonal service from its hub at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) for the 2017-2018 winter season.
To spread the word about the new flights and destination, Porter Airlines and MLB, along with local suppliers and tourism partners, hosted an industry luncheon in Toronto yesterday. Calling Orlando-Melbourne a “fantastic gateway”, Michael Curmi, Director, Agency Sales and Distribution for Porter Airlines, encouraged Canadians to take advantage of the seasonal service, which runs from Ottawa and Windsor until March 31, and from Toronto through April 7. Service from Toronto includes twice weekly flights during peak periods, plus three times weekly for March Break.
Curmi also noted that now is a particularly exciting time for the airline, which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary in October. Crediting the travel trade as a “big part” of its success, he praised YTZ for its convenient downtown location and exceptional pedestrian tunnel, which he says is responsible for a strong bump in passenger traffic since opening in 2015.
What’s in the pipeline for Porter? The completion of a terminal renovation by year’s end, which includes the expansion of lounges and increased food and retail offerings, as well as the introduction of U.S. customs pre-clearance. According to Curmi, if all goes well, pre-clearance will be implemented by Q1 2019.
This is particularly exciting news for Florida-bound Canadians, who Bonnie King, Director of Sales Special Events for Space Coast Florida, referred to as a very important market. In 2017, the Sunshine State welcomed 120 million tourists, three million of which were Canadian.
In order to accommodate high volumes of visitors, MLB is nearing completion of a US$9 million renovation. Known as one of the fastest and most technology advanced entries in the United States, the airport serves the Central Florida coast with three runways, a 200,000 square-foot terminal and a 40,000 square-foot customs facility.
Porter first started flying to Orlando-Melbourne – its most southernmost destination – back in 2015 with flights out of Toronto. It then followed up with a mid-week flight out of YTZ in 2016, which was particularly beneficial to cruise passengers. Now with Windsor and Ottawa flights, Porter is making it easier than ever for Canadians to not only cruise out of Port Canaveral and see top attractions (Orlando is about an hour’s drive away), but also discover Melbourne and the Florida Space Coast.
The 72-mile stretch of Atlantic shoreline spans from the Canaveral National Seashore to Sebastian Inlet, and is considered to be Orlando’s closest beach. Known for being the East Cost Surfing Capital, Sebastian Inlet will host the inaugural Florida Pro Surf competition on Jan. 18-26 where, for the first time ever, the women’s purse will be significantly higher than that of the men’s (US$55,000 compared to $25,000). Also, this coming Monday, Jan. 15, the Space Coast will debut the world’s largest key lime pie (132 gallons) on the Today Show with hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.
Other top attractions along the Coast include bioluminescence kayaking, Brevard Zoo, and Downtown Melbourne, which hosts a monthly street party and the Downtown Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. But without a doubt, its #1 attraction is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the only place on earth where visitors can view the Space Shuttle Atlantis, see launch areas, meet a veteran astronaut, train in spaceflight simulators, and even view a live rocket launch.
If your clients are looking to stay an extra day or two pre- or post-cruise, or vacation on the Coast as an alternative to downtown Orlando, accommodation options include Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne West, Residence Inn by Marriott Melbourne, and Courtyard Cocoa Beach. Porter Escapes, as a complement to Porter’s flight service to MLB, also offers flight and hotel packages.