TORONTO — Having too many cooks in the kitchen wasn’t an issue yesterday at Transat’s 2018 Europe launch, which took place at Toronto’s Cirillo’s Culinary Academy.
The tour operator, known for hosting fun and interactive industry events, invited media, trade and retail partners to participate in a hands-on cooking demonstration to showcase the local cuisines of destinations it will visit in 2018. Led by acclaimed Chef John Cirillo, guests were divided into ‘countries’, or teams, and were taught how to make homemade gnocchi, braised meatballs, spanakopita, seafood paella and bread pudding.
The food was plentiful, as were the friendly gibes between competing teams, and by the time lunch was served, Europe was top of mind at each cooking station.
“Our European program is growing, but its not growing with a bunch of new destinations, that’s not what it’s about,” said Nicole Bursey, Commercial Director, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. “It’s about strengthening our position in places where we already have a great program, and about recognizing what Transat does really well and what the Canadian market needs.”
For the 2018 season, Transat has added more capacity into Ireland, the U.K., Portugal and Tel Aviv, Israel, which the company launched as a new destination last year. In Spain, it’s also offering more lift into Madrid and Malaga, “and of course Barcelona remains very important to us for both our land and cruise programs,” added Bursey.
Capacity increases are from Toronto and Montreal, with increased connectors also coming out of the west. “From Vancouver and Toronto specifically, there are more connectors than ever before,” said Bursey. “You can connect your passengers right through on an Air Transat flight overseas, which we also sell as domestic.”
Denise Heffon, VP National Sales & Commercial, noted that this year Air Transat flew to 28 destinations in Europe, increasing capacity this winter by 19%. “We’re not only defending our #1 position in Europe, we are increasing it.”
Heffron called for increase support for its London Gatwick and Portugal routes, and reminded guests that just this month, Air Transat revamped its Eco Fares to include standard seat selection in Eco Extra and Eco Max. Moreover, Air Transat’s Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina, launching Dec. 1, is served complimentary to all Club Class passengers and available for pre-purchase in Economy.
Building on its successful debut in 2017, Transat will once again offer thrice-weekly departures from Montreal to Tel Aviv next summer. More direct flights have also been announced for Dublin from Toronto, as well as Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Paris and Lisbon from Montreal.
To complement flight services, Transat has 81 holiday packages to Europe, either as part of trips to various locations with activities and transportation included, or through air-hotel packages that provide the freedom to plan for your own excursions and visits.
Cycling packages, which were launched last year in the English market, are proving to be extremely popular, with Bursey saying that “fitness is a growing market segment” for the company. As such, Transat has increased its cycling offerings that visit the Loire Valley, the Douro wine country in Portugal, and the shores of the Costa Brava. In partnership with Vélo Québec, there are six packages to France, Portugal and Spain on offer that include flights, accommodation, breakfast, porterage and a route map.
As for guided tours, clients departing from Toronto can now take advantage of the Your Way Tours formula, perfect for those who prefer independent travel. While Transat takes care of all transportation and accommodation arrangements, travellers are free to explore destinations at their own pace, including Croatia, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France (Provence and Côte d’Azur).
Cruising is also on tap to have a big year in 2018, with sailings from eight different ports (not counting Greece).
To entice clients to book early, Transat’s Early booking promotions include reduced deposit amounts, travel credits, the Price-Drop Guarantee, and free transfers when purchasing Europe packages, cruises and tours. Plus, Option Flex allows clients to change their departure date, destination or hotel up to 72 hours before departure, transfer a vacation package to another person up to seven days before departure and, subject to certain conditions, cancel their trip altogether and get a full refund. Option Flex is available at a cost of $89 per person, with a purchase of a Europe package only.
When reflecting on Transat’s 30th anniversary this year, Heffron acknowledged its trade and retail partners, who she says play a huge role in the company’s success. “Thirty years in the market is a big accomplishment and we wouldn’t be here without all of you. Thirty years surviving, thriving, 100% still wholly owned Transat, and 100% Canadian owned and operated.”