European Neighbours Host Agents

with Martha Chapman

Doug Patterson, new President of Collette 

Happy hosts from a host of nations including ETC Chair Laura Pena Alberdi of Spain (in orange jacket)

William Delgado of Portugal with Juliane Ehrich of Germany

Each country contributed a gift basket to the lucky draw

Europe is the #1 continent for tourism, and with spring being the key booking period, what better time for a few of the countries, all members of the European Travel Commission (and  escorted tour operator Collette) to host an evening of all things European?

Held in the cavernous Glass Factory in Toronto’s edgy Liberty Village, the evening was a lovely combo of information and schmoozing – the perfect travel combo! Here are just a few of the great tidbits shared by the participating tourism offices:

  •  This is the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, says Dana Welch of Tourism Ireland, saluting the region’s excellent seafood, beef and dairy products. In the Republic, clients can enjoy Food Trails and even, in picturesque Dingle, “Catch and Cook” fishing and learning experiences at the Dingle Cookery School.  And interestingly, tourism is up 56% from Canada over the past 3 years, thanks to increased lift.
  • Spain continues to be very popular with Canadians, with over 300,000 visitors last year to such popular spots as Barcelona, Madrid and Andalucia.  “But more are discovering the charms of the north – Green Spain as we call it,” Laura Pena Alberdi, Spain’s Consul in Charge of Tourism. Air service to BCN and MAD is now virtually year-round from YYZ.
  • According to Salvatore Basile of ENIT, the Italian Tourist Office, 2015 visits from Canada were up a whopping 10.9% - “Amazing for us – it’s huge!” New this year is TS service from Toronto to Pisa. And, if you have rental car clients here’s a very solid tip for them: DO NOT drive into a city neighbourhood with ZTL signs. This means Zona Traffico Limitado and is strictly for residents only. Non-residents can’t even drive much less park there and they can be fined multiple times on just one drive-through, adding up to hundreds of dollars - and a bitter taste in the mouth.

  • On a sweeter note, Evelyn Lafone of Tourism Switzerland shared that the Swiss eat more chocolate than anyone else in the world: 11 kg per person per year (is that why they are so busy striding up and down Alps?) Also the much-anticipated Charlie Chaplin Museum at Vevey, near Montreux, opened just last Saturday.
  • Germany’s East/West history continues to intrigue Canadians as well as visitors from around the world, but Antje Splettstoesser of the GNTO suggests agents also recommend the 20 thousand (yes, thousand) castles, the 150 themed routes from cuckoo clocks to timbered houses to beer.  Also, she wanted to remind Open Jaw readers of the new Condor service between Halifax and Munich. 

This year’s event was co-hosted by Collette whose new President Doug Patterson is celebrating 5 weeks on the job. “This is my 1st official function in this new role,” he told the group of some 90 agents. And it feels like my wedding day: I’m nervous but excited!” Collette’s “massive goal” he told me, is to strengthen relationships with the retailers – surely music to the ears of travel agents across Canada.

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