TORONTO — Maureen Barnes-Smith wants to say a simple but very heartfelt “thank you” to Canadian travel agents.
Barnes-Smith, well known to the trade as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Canada, Unique Vacations Canada Inc., an affiliate of Unique Travel Corp and worldwide representatives of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, says travel advisors in this market have gone above and beyond over the past 20 months of the pandemic.
Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts have been top of mind with agents despite the pandemic thanks to Barnes-Smith and her team organizing a long list of virtual events to help keep agents in the loop.
Most recently agents benefitted from the company’s quick – and we mean quick – and highly efficient training series, ‘Sandals and Beaches Resorts…in 10 Minutes’. The online updates briefed agents on everything from top resorts to Sandals 5-Star Global Gourmet dining.
We caught up with Barnes-Smith to ask about the months ahead and what she wants to tell Canadian travel agents.
Q. These are still very challenging times for the travel industry. How are bookings holding up?
Barnes-Smith: “Winter 2022 is holding steady. There are limited pockets of availability here and there but for the most part, our resorts are heavily booked during the traditionally-busy winter season….and for that, we are most grateful.
“Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, my sales team and I have been preaching the ‘book now, travel later’ message and it seems that Canadian travel advisors have heeded our advice.”
Q. Who’s arriving at the resorts?
Barnes-Smith: “At the moment, most of our Canadian guests are couples travelling to Sandals Resorts, to reconnect and recharge after a long year and a half. Canadian families are still travelling to Beaches Resorts too, but of course those arrivals will really pick up during the March Break period.”
Q. How has omicron impacted bookings?
Barnes-Smith: “Just like everyone else, we’ve definitely noticed a bit of a slowdown in terms of both demand and bookings since we heard the word ‘omicron’, especially for those last-minute bookings. Clients are looking a bit longer down the road, instead of the immediate short-term and are booking their Sandals and Beaches vacations much further out. This also gives them access to greater availability so they can secure the specific room category of their choice.”
Q. What’s your message for Canadian travel agents?
Barnes-Smith: “I have so many things that I want to say to Canadian travel advisors, but at this festive time of the year, I think a simple but truly heartfelt ‘thank you’ is the most fitting.
“Thank you for your hard work, tenacity and resiliency over these past 20+ months – keeping the travel dream alive and well for your clients – all while our beloved travel industry faced the most trying times that we’ve ever seen.
“Thank you for the trust you have in the Sandals and Beaches product. That trust is something we take very seriously and believe me, it’s not something we ever take for granted. The entire organization works daily to earn and keep your trust, and that of your valued clients.
“Thank you for the incredible support you’ve given to myself and my Canadian sales team. We’ve really tried to connect with advisors in new and different ways during the pandemic…. and they’ve definitely responded!
“From one of our first ventures with virtual fams in both English and French to our latest bite-sized live training sessions with ‘Sandals and Beaches Resorts in 10 Minutes’, Canadian advisors have shown up in spades.
“We’ve been absolutely energized by their positive feedback and are cooking up some exciting new things for the new year….stay tuned.”