“Off The Hook:” Fierce Winter Has Agents, Operators Hopping

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

It’s no surprise that nasty winter weather is driving interest in get-me-outta-here southern vacations. But retailers and operators say a recent bitter cold snap across much of the country has ignited a sun rush.

“It’s off the hook,” says Nino Montagnese, Managing Director, Air Canada Vacations. “We’ve had exceptional booking days. I posted on Facebook this morning advising people to book and not wait, because inventory is selling quickly.”

 Montagnese says the rush of bookings is good news for tour operators, “as we`ve been distressing up until now. But now if people wait they will not get what they want.”  

Coreen Doucett, Travel & Cruise Consultant, The Travel Agent Next Door, in Aurora, Ontario, says emails have been coming in “more feverishly” this week than all of December for south AI packages. “As well, they are more anxious than usual to pick a resort versus going back and forth trying to decide.”

Karolle Fleurke Screaton, who runs Savour The World Travel in Ottawa, says the past several days have been overwhelming. “Every time I pick up my phone I have inquiries via Facebook, a new email or voicemail. It’s not just new bookings but existing too. People want to upgrade to ocean view or make it just a little nicer. Budget expectations start out low still but it’s easier to upsell.”

Nicole Bursey, Commercial Director, Transat Tours Canada says it was pretty busy all through Christmas, but things are really taking off now.

“Now, as the cold spell settles into the east, we are starting to see a much higher than typical booking pattern. Ontario has been strong and continues to be. Alberta had a spike with the early snow in fall. So, yes, we have definitely noticed an uptick – similar to having a rainy summer. The weather has a strong effect.”

Sunwing Travel Group COO Andrew Dawson told Open Jaw that bookings are slightly higher than last year, but there are some regional variances.

“What we’re seeing is that areas of the country which are more accustomed to the harsh temperatures are having pretty normal booking patterns, whereas travellers in the ‘less hardened’ regions (naming no names!) are more focused than ever at ensuring they get their fix of the sun.”

Dawson says Sunwing can handle a rush. “We’ve really ramped up our staffing, so other than a short spike around midday, call wait times have been good. That said, it’s worth reiterating to our agent partners to please continue to use self-service options whenever its possible -- its faster for everyone.”

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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