TORONTO — How do you inspire a room full of people to travel to the far corners of the world? Easy, you bring the world to them.
At Collette’s new season launch event in Toronto last night, the company transported guests to places like Japan and Morocco with interactive stations that included sushi rolling and an exotic spice market. The idea, of course, was to highlight some of the destinations Collette will be travelling to in 2020, which Director of Marketing Stephanie Mirando tells Travelweek is shaping up to be the company’s biggest year ever in 102 years.
“We have over 20 new, exciting tours that explore new destinations and provide guests with new experiences. One of the most exciting elements about this season is that the tours have uniquely been designed with the guest’s interest at the forefront,” she says. “For example, we heard several travel agents comment that their guests have expressed interest in the culture and distinctive allure of Russia, a land abundant with intrigue and history, so we built a tour to capture just that.”
It comes as no surprise that agent feedback holds so much weight with Collette. As Mirando notes, the company’s partnership with the travel agent community is a personal one.
“Travel agents are an extension of the Collette family, and for us, family comes first. We continue to remain committed to the success of our agent community every step of the way, and this will remain crucial for us as we embark on the new season and the years ahead,” she says. “We know that personalization is key in this industry, so we want to be sure we are listening to what travel agents want and plan to deliver on that.”
Along with a competitive commission structure already in place, Collette is planning several new agent initiatives in the months to come. According to Ron Lonsdale, VP of Collette’s Canada office, the company will be launching its revamped agent platform in early November.
“Travel agents are our largest channel of distribution, so we want to help them understand the nuances of our pre-planned guided vacations and the significant savings available to their clients,” he says. “We’re in aggressive growth for next year, we’ve enhanced and enriched the product and we want our agents to know how to best sell that product.”
The first step, adds Lonsdale, is knowing that travel has evolved and that people want more personalization and customization. As such, 90% of Collette’s itineraries have choice on tour, meaning that although activities are included, guests can choose which activities best suits them.
In addition, the company has made a conscious effort to reduce the number of one-night stays, allowing guests more time to experience local cultures and fully enjoy each destination.
“We want people to do a deeper dive in the towns and cities that we visit,” says Lonsdale, “so only 30% of our tours have a one-night stay while 70% feature multiple-night stays.”
This will certainly be an added perk for travellers when booking Collette’s 20 new tours next year, which include: The Azores; Jewels of Portugal; Northern Portugal & Spain; Northern Italy & Its Lakes; Sicily & Malta; Greece Island Hopper; Croatia & Its Islands; The Baltics Revealed; Imperial Russia; Shrines of Ireland; Shrines of France; Journey Through South America; Patagonia: Edge of the World; Journey Through Egypt & Jordan; Australia & New Zealand Uncovered; Spotlight on Nashville; Roaming Coastal Maine; and Autumn in Vermont.
In addition to these, Morocco is “going through the roof right now”, says President Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, as are Egypt and Jordan. Russia is also back in a big way for the company, while expansion continues throughout much of Europe.
“We hang our hat on the pride that we have on the product that we create,” she says. “We may be in our 102nd travel season, but we’re just getting started.”