ACV Launches Winter Product With Virtual Show & Consumer Day

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Nino Montagnese

The very first virtual trade show in the Canadian marketplace launched on Friday and for the first time ever, with a consumer component.

Air Canada Vacations' sixth annual Dream Makers event, held 28-29AUG, celebrated the launch of the 2021/2022 Sun Collection. Thousands of agents from across Canada registered for the event to learn about the operator's winter offers, to network with supplier partners and to win some great prizes – all in a digital format. 

Upon logging in on launch day, agents were greeted in the Lobby with a special welcome video from Nino Montagnese, Managing Director, Air Canada Vacations. 




From there, agents could visit the Mainstage Presentation, a large auditorium with attendees seated before a screen with the ACV logo and panels featuring the title sponsors on each side (Sandals, Beaches and Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts). Here, Montagnese shared the latest and greatest updates from the 2021/2022 Sun Collection, as well as the operator's enhanced health guidelines and new offers.

"We've been working extremely hard to ensure sure we implement new policies, procedures and tools to help give our customers the confidence to travel again," Montagnese said. 

"We were the first to offer as much flexibility as possible for any clients when their travel plans were affected. We were the first to introduce new programs with enhancements that would give your clients peace of mind for rebooking and making new travel pans. We were also the first to offer exclusive rates to our travel agent community to allow you the opportunity to experience the health and safety measures we and our hotel partners have put in place firsthand.

"More importantly, the entire team at ACV wants to personally thank all of you. Thank you for your dedication to our company and to our industry. We will be better and stronger and we will do this together."

The ACV team was on-hand in the Networking Lounge – set up against a backdrop of intimate seating arrangements -- to watch video updates and chat directly with regional representatives: Erminia Nigro, GM, Sales – Ontario; Marigold Fortuna, GM, Sales - Western Canada; Judy Munden, ASM - Atlantic Canada; and Guy Marchand, GM, Sales - Quebec. 

With over 70 participating partners, agents could enter each supplier's digital booth to speak directly with reps in the Partner Showcase section.

Most hotel suppliers reaffirmed a "slow but steady" state of play at their properties, many sharing that their new health and safety policies were well-received by their guests. 

"We have had great feedback from our properties across the board. The health and safety of our guests, employees and partners is our number one priority, and it is clear to see that we have prioritized it on properties," AIC BDM Jasmine Grant told Open Jaw. 

"After health concerns, I think the biggest concern that travellers have is that the overall experience of their vacation will be jeopardized because of the safety protocols put in place. I can say first hand that at our properties, the Hard Rock experience and Unico 20° 87° experience  is still very much there. Yes, there have been modifications, but our teams on property have done a phenomenal job on pivoting to ensure that guests are getting the things that make a trip to any of our properties so special."

Amanda Morris, Eastern Canada BDM with Playa Hotels & Resorts, said, "We have had really amazing feedback on the execution of our SAFE STAY Promise which is great! Occupancy is still low but picking up."


Karisma's Sabrina Filatow, Director of Retail Sales, commented: "Things are moving slowly but surely. We are running the hotels at 30% occupancy in Riviera Maya as per the current government regulations. We have a great health and safety initiative we have implemented called Peace of Mind."


Suppliers Open Jaw spoke with said they were grateful to reconnect with agents, even if it wasn't face-to-face

Rod Hanna, Director of Sales, Canada for the Saint Lucia Tourism Board, said, "It's been really nice reconnecting with so many travel agents and industry colleagues, although a constant during the day has been comments indicating people missing that face-to-face interaction. Understanding the reality we are facing right now, this a great option to provide our message and updates to the trade."

Although AIC's Grant said "nothing beats in-person events" and that the platform "lacked some personalization factors with just the chat boxes versus video or video chats," she still felt that "for the times, this is a great format to interact with agents."

Playa Hotels & Resorts BDM Amanda Morris said she was a fan of the virtual format. 

"Yesterday was a huge success for us with so many great conversations with the travel agent community. This format allows us to have some really great conversations with agents who may otherwise pass our booth if it is too busy at a traditional show."

Many travel advisors also had positive feedback about going virtual, sharing their experiences on the ACV Inner Circle Facebook group. For many, the show went off without a hitch.  

TTAND agent, Carleen LeBlanc suggested ACV continue to offer a virtual component for those who cannot attend the operator's live, in-person events. 

Agents all the way from New Brunswick chimed in with their feedback. 

"I am loving it. We don't get a yearly product launch any more in Fredericton so this is great. Hope you do it every year from now on," Tracy McCully, advisor with Maritime Travel, wrote. 

2021/2022 Sun Brochure & Product Highlights

The 2021/22 Sun Collection offers 42 destinations in over 700 resorts, including 31 new resorts, 30 semi-exclusive, 3 completely exclusive resorts and newly added LGBT-friendly properties. More than 100 cruise options are offered – including voyages with brand new partner Cunard. There are more than 175 hotels participating in the brand's Spotlight Collection and 124 in the Play Program. 

The 2020/2021 Collection can be viewed here in English and here in French. 

Here are some highlights of ACV's offerings:

ACV's Commitment To Safer Travel
Complementing Air Canada's CleanCare+, ACV implemented additional health and safety standards which include the enhanced grooming of vacation transfer vehicles and safety protocols throughout the entire travel journey. "We are working with cruise and hotel partners to ensure we are providing customers with greater peace of mind through the various stages of travel," Montagnese said.

CareFlexPLUS Offers "Flexibility & Confidence"
In May, ACV launched CareFlexPLUS, which at this time is applicable on bookings made between 06JUL and 30SEP for departures between 01NOV, 2020, and 30APR, 2021. This plan, currently available for free, lets travellers change or transfer their booking free of charge, cancel their reservation with a full refund up until 25 days prior to departure, and other perks. 

“This year has brought on many challenges to our industry. And we know that customers want to travel but they need more flexibility. That’s why, Air Canada Vacations launched CareFlexPlus, to give your customers the confidence they need to book.”

Winter Early Bird Sale
On top of offering up to $400 in savings and a refundable deposit of only $100 per person, ACV is also offering the CareFlexPlus and CareFree plans for free.

New ePackages Shopping Tool
The new ePackages shopping tool features: 

  • Lowest available fares
  • Multiple Flight & Hotel packages (excluding transfers)
  • User-friendly and flexible booking options across Canada, Europe and the United States (excluding Las Vegas, Orlando & Hawaii)
  • 300 ACV&ME points per room
  • Agents earn commission on the land-only portion of ePackages and may add a service fee to make extra commission on their booking
  • To celebrate the launch, ACV is offering one free checked bag per person on all ePackage bookings.

 

"Our ePackages program was designed to equip you with the tools you need to easily book flight and hotel pack for customers anywhere Air Canada operates, bookable through Sirev, Sabre Vacations and Galileo Vacation," Montagnese said. 

Upgraded Cruise Promise and Canada Promise
"While the current crisis had a dramatic effect on the industry, we're still seeing interest from travellers. The desire to cruise is still there. That's why we've upgraded our cruise promise," Montagnese said. 

New features of the Cruise Promise include:

  • Only $50 Cruise deposit per person is required (instead of $250 per person). 
  • Cancellation allowed on the air portion up to 7 days prior to departure (instead of 30 days prior to departure). 
  • One free checked bag per person. 
  • Applicable for Cruise Group bookings

 

The upgraded Canada Promise includes:

  • Free standard seat selection
  • Free first checked bag
  • 2,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles per couple

 

New Flex Programs For Groups
The new Flex Program for groups (10 people, with kids) includes:

  • One free date change or cancellation up to 7 days prior to departure
  • a Price Drop Guarantee and a Group Price Match Policy
  • Until 18SEP, 2020, add the new Flex Program for groups for only $49 per person.

New RV Packages
RV road trip packages part of the Canada Collection include:

  • Round-trip flight with Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge
  • First night hotel accommodation
  • Transfers (from hotel to rental office and from rental office to airport)
  • RV rental for 7 nights
  • Last night in a campground near the rental office (3 services included)
  • RV packages are offered in Quebec, Ontario, BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia

 

Consumer Component

For the first time, Air Canada Vacations encouraged travel agents to invite their clients to attend a dedicated Virtual Travel Show taking place on Day 2. Just over 4,000 consumers had registered to attend the Saturday event and had access to many of the same features – to text directly with suppliers, download documents, access limited-time deals and learn about ACV's programs and offers. 

The purpose was to incentivize consumers to book with their agency by offering on-the-spot travel deals.

Anna Kroupina

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



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