Travel Advisors Are "Critical" To Sandals Recognized At Appreciation Dinner
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw
"Travel advisors are critical to our success."
This statement, proclaimed by Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing with Unique Vacations Canada Inc., set the stage for a travel advisor appreciation dinner at the Bisha Hotel's 43rd floor Sky Suite on 13JAN.
The Unique Vacations Canada team. L-R: CJ Smith, Senior National Sales Manager; Giselle Williams,BDM Central Ontario and Ottawa; Furman White, Marketing Coordinator; and Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing.
"They continue to be our primary distribution channel not only in Canada, but all over the world. Our chairman's vision was founded on the success of travel agents and we have not wavered from that since day one," Barnes-Smith told Open Jaw.
That vision and partnership will continue to steer the Sandals sales strategy in 2020 with new education and training opportunities, reliable BDM support, and a "five-star luxury" product that agents can trust, she said, highlighting the fact that Sandals' alliance with the trade extends throughout the entire industry, whether agents are in brick-and-mortar, consortium, independent or home-based arrangements.
Lou-Anne Fradsham, an advisor with UNIGLOBE Bon Voyage Travel, was recognized for bringing the first-ever pickleball group to a Sandals resort.
In fact, the fast-growing home-based sector is receiving more attention from Sandals going forward.
"We're cognizant of trends in the travel trade, and we've seen that we have more home-based agents. So we're focused on building our relationship with that segment," said Barnes-Smith.
Last year the company hosted 30 agents – both top performers and newbies, some who've never even been to a Sandals resort before -- at Sandals South Coast at its first-ever Canadian home-based travel agent conference. In 2020, Sandals is not only bringing the conference back, but also looking to double attendance.
Travel advisors at the agent appreciation dinner.
"We have an international home-based conference, but we recognize that the Canadian needs are different from the UK or U.S. counterparts. There are similarities, but Canada is a separate country and its needs are unique," she said.
Agents also got an inside look at what's new at Sandals, and as a brand that touts innovation as one of its five pillars, there is a lot on the go.
Every room category at the flagship Sandals Montego Bay (which opened 39 years ago!) has been completely transformed and the property now features restaurants Butch's Steak and Seafood and Soy Sushi Bar.
Sandals Royal Caribbean now features the Caribbean restaurant Spices and Bombay Club, serving Indian fare. The property's Sandringham Block has been completely gutted and redone, opening in time for Valentine's Day.
The new highway leading up to Sandals South Coast is complete, cutting down the drive time from MBJ to approximately one hour. Nine Rondoval villas are set to be added to the property this year.
Sandals Halcyon Beach in Saint Lucia now has the longest meandering pool in the English-speaking Caribbean in the place of what used to be the Adam and Eve garden.
The Sandals commitment to travel advisors is perfectly illustrated in Vinnie Vats' story.
Vats, a travel consultant with Travelair who attended the appreciation dinner, told Open Jaw that seven years ago, he hadn't even heard of Sandals. Fast forward to today, and Travelair is a Platinum top-tier agency with Sandals.
L-R: Cheryl Arieli with Sell Off Vacations; Janis Dupuis with UNIGLOBE Bon Voyage Travel; and Lou-Anne Fradsham.
"Seven years ago, a former Sandals BDM came by my office in downtown Toronto and asked if I was selling Sandals. I had never heard of them. We were a corporate agency that only did wholesale ticketing at the time, but I was willing to transition our business to something different and more leisure-focused," he explains.
He says it's the dedication of Sandals BDMs and back office support that have been instrumental in becoming a Platinum Sandals Specialist.
"It's a great partnership. They support travel agents like nobody else does. And their quality is unmatched."
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry