Feliz Aniversario, Hola Sun!

with Martha Chapman

Happy Hola hosts:  Tessandra Toste MacKenzie & President Juan Carlos Soto Garcia

Representing the Cuban Tourist Board:  Nieves Ricardo, Eloy Govea & Karen Puebla

Tammy Thompson & Rick McCauley with Barcelo

A bevy of happy Hola staffers!

You would have thought it’d be a challenge to sell out a travel agent function held on a Friday evening at a suburban venue not easily accessible by public transit.

Not if you’re Hola Sun. At its annual Friday Fiesta held last week in Mississauga, agents came in droves to help who is clearly a favourite tour operator celebrate not just the official launch of its winter product but also Hola’s 25th anniversary.

“This crowd is way bigger than last year, when we hosted 160 agents,” Tessandra Toste MacKenzie told me. “This year we have 220 agents and more exhibitors – 15 in all -  many who have come from Cuba.”

Certainly the line-up from Hola Sun and its Quebec sister company Caribe Sol is impressive. Not only does the company offer 11 destinations within Cuba (with 29 hotels in Varadero alone) but the company stresses its diversity and flexibility. “We have year round service to Cuba, complete with programs geared for the single traveller, families, solo parents, honeymooners and the destination wedding market,” Tessandra Toste MacKenzie told the enthusiastic crowd.

Air only, land only, rental cars, 2 coach trip itineraries and long-stays with kitchenettes are all part of the program. Another nice touch is that on holidays to 5 selected destinations, clients will automatically receive a free excursion – such as a Tropicana show in Havana or a Matanzas Tour from Varadero.

Cruising to Cuba is relatively new but already proving hugely popular. Hola will be adding a new package featuring Celestyal’s 960 passenger Crystal. Pax will enjoy a 2 night land stay, 7 night cruise (with 2 nights in Havana) followed by an additional 5 night land stay. Tammy Templeton of TripCentral who recently cruised on board Celestyal Crystal said there were about 1/3 each Canadians, Americans and Europeans. While she wouldn’t recommend it for honeymooners or families, she thought it was great for well-travelled couples or singles as it featured a laid-back itinerary and “The best crew I’ve ever seen!”

Hola Sun features flights on Cubana (“With a 36” seat pitch, the largest on any economy flight,” says Tessandra Toste MacKenzie) and pays 8% commission on all product.

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