Forget the dollar disparity, there is a way for clients to get bang for their buck when travelling to the U.S. this winter, and St. Pete/Clearwater might be just the place.
For Canadians, soaking in the sunshine during our cold winter season comes with a price, especially if thinking outside of the all-inclusive box. And considering the value of the Canadian dollar, that price might be 20 per cent higher than what the sticker says. One destination that is vying for your clients’ business is St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida; in fact, representatives say, look no further for your top winter vacation recommendation than right here.
Why, might you ask? “St. Pete/Clearwater is at a more competitive price point compared to some other Floridian destinations like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando,” says Rosemarie Payne, director leisure travel - USA & Canada, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. “We also have excellent air service into both Tampa International and St. Pete-Clearwater International airports, giving customers many choices and price points for airline travel.”
Interested yet? Here are a few selling tips and things to know when it comes to value-based itineraries, courtesy of Payne and her team:
A PLACE TO CALL HOME:
St. Pete/Clearwater is a competitive Florida destination due to its wide variety of accommodations. It’s true that for some, a hotel is just a place to sleep at night, while for others, it heavily plays into their overall enjoyment of a vacation. In St. Pete/Clearwater, there are hundreds of lodging options, so travel advisors can cater to different clients and different price points. For example: downtown hotels, cozy vacation rentals, classic beach motels and much more. Value tip: Recommend a condo rental if price is heavily weighing into your clients’ decision, emphasizing the option to cook several meals (which means saving money on dining out). Regardless, all accommodation choices are commissionable to agents and are featured in many wholesale packages.
GETTING AROUND TOWN:
Suggest clients forgo the cost of a car rental, but assure them that it won’t mean missing out on anything the destination has to offer. Instead, they can hop aboard the Suncoast Beach Trolley to tour the Gulf Beaches stretching from Clearwater Beach south to Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, St. Pete Beach and Pass- a-Grille. They can make time to explore the shores and attractions near one stop or several, or travel the entire route to get a truly comprehensive view of the coastal communities and sample their many offerings. The regular cash fare is US $2.25, though up to three children (five-years-old or younger) ride for free with an adult. Full- day unlimited ride passes are also available. With trolleys arriving every 20 to 30 minutes between approximately 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. (midnight on Fridays and Saturdays), it’s easy to cover the whole coastline in a full day of fun.
Whatever your clients’ preferred dining style – kick-back casual or dress-up elegant – there’s a fabulous restaurant that can offer-up a stunning water vista along with a mouthwatering meal. From laid-back beach bars along the Gulf beaches to downtown St. Pete restaurants with a view of Tampa Bay, visitors will be spoiled for choices of venues serving delicious dishes, perfectly paired with stunning water views.
KEEP ACTIVE & ENTERTAINED:
White-sand Florida beaches with crystal-clear water, a foodie and arts scene praised by Travel & Leisure, and glittering nightlife options that range from craft beer bars to New York-style dance clubs: in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, the options are endless for whatever kind of vacation your clients might be yearning for, be it rejuvenating or exhilarating.
RECOMMEND THESE THINGS TO DO IN ST. PETE/CLEARWATER
Most trips to St. Pete/Clearwater start with exploring the area’s award-winning beaches:
- Anclote Key Preserve State Park
- Caladesi Island State Park
- St. Pete Beach
- Clearwater Beach
- Fort De Soto Park
Make the right recommendations to your clients. Find out more here: www.visitstpeteclearwater.com /things-to-do/beaches
For off-the-beaten-path beaches, suggest:
- Belleair Beach
- Indian Rocks Beach
- Redington Shores
- Sand Key Park
These options are great for shelling, fishing or simply, strolling.
Of course, there are plenty of attractions to experience, such as:
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- The Dalí Museum
- Great Explorations Children’s Museum
- John’s Pass and Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
Working with outdoor enthusiasts? In St. Pete/Clearwater, they can enjoy:
- Stand-up paddleboarding
- Horseback riding on the beach
TAKE 5 WITH ROSEMARIE PAYNE
Director Leisure Travel - USA & Canada, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Who is the client that travel advisors should consider for St. Pete/Clearwater vacations?
Couples, singles, families and groups will all enjoy what St. Pete/ Clearwater has to offer! From exploring miles of white sand beaches to downtown St. Pete night life, there is a little something for everyone.
How can travel advisors position St. Pete/Clearwater as a value destination over Caribbean all-inclusive options which so many travellers are looking at this time of year?
St. Pete/Clearwater offers a wide variety of restaurants, attractions and accommodations to fit even the budget-minded traveller. If the all-inclusive concept is important to certain clients, keep in mind that we are fortunate to have a hotel that offers an all-inclusive package: Sirata Beach Resort, on St. Pete Beach. Sirata Beach Resort is the only resort in Florida on the beach to have an all-inclusive package.
For travel advisors interested in the “upsell,” let’s talk about options that value clients might be convinced to invest in, for a more upscale experience.
The best upsell a travel agent can offer is a Gulf-front room when booking certain properties, so clients can watch our award- winning sunsets each night and sip their coffee from their balcony overlooking the beach each morning. As another option, many properties offer rooms with kitchenettes as part of an upgrade package; this will give clients the opportunity to save money while in the destination, by being able to enjoy some meals in their room. There are many local grocery stores that even deliver your groceries to your door; talk about a win!
What can travellers do in St. Pete/Clearwater that might surprise them (e.g. craft beer)?
We like to call our beer scene the “Gulp Coast!” Think of it as the Sunshine State’s answer to California’s wine country. We have the largest craft beer trail in Florida, along which clients will stumble upon an array of small, independent breweries crafting fresh artisanal beers you can’t find anywhere else. Belly-up to the tasting room bar with other beer enthusiasts, take a tour, meet the brewer and fill a growler with a local brew to take home with you.
And the art scene is big in St. Pete/Clearwater too, right?
Of course! The outdoor art scene is nothing short of astounding in St. Pete/Clearwater. More than 70 murals have popped up in recent years on buildings in the Central Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg. Recommend that your art enthusiast clients get a sneak peek of these gigantic public works by browsing the neighbourhood on their own, or take the walking mural tour to hear the stories behind their creation.
Q&A WITH REG MENDES
VP USA & Cruise Division, Sunwing Travel Group
Why do you see St. Pete/Clearwater as a destination travel advisors should be selling?
St. Pete/Clearwater is a favourite relaxing destination for travellers as it’s home to miles of white-sand beaches that offer incredible views of the coast. It caters to families, couples and groups alike with beautiful parks, top-rated restaurants and fascinating museums. Don’t worry about when to go, as this destination holds the title of “most consecutive days of sunshine” so you’re assured warm weather.
Why do you think St. Pete/Clearwater is a Canadian favourite?
This Floridian destination is a favourite among Canadians for its easy accessibility, as it’s only a short flight away. Sunwing offers two weekly flights from Toronto and weekly flights from Halifax. Customers can choose a flight-only booking or a package that includes flight, hotel and Alamo car rental. It is also an easy drive from St Pete to central Florida’s major theme parks so can also be an option for a two-centre. It offers numerous ways to make the most out of your vacation. St. Pete/Clearwater is known for having great shopping with plenty of boutiques, outlets and malls, numerous restaurants downtown, as well as a thriving art scene and easy access to attractions such as Busch Gardens, Legoland and major sport arenas.
For travellers seeking value destinations, why St. Pete/Clearwater and how can you help travel advisors facilitate the booking?
Sunwing offers a great flight schedule with a variety of top-rated hotels. Agents can also pre-sell some of the most popular attraction tickets.
Why should travel advisors work with you, especially when it comes to providing additional value to them and their St. Pete/Clearwater- bound clients?
All Sunwing St. Pete/Clearwater vacation packages include an Alamo car rental. We offer “Fly and Drive” specials for customers who only need a flight and car. Agents can also earn STAR points for every St. Pete/ Clearwater package booking, flight-only or car-only booking.
Anything else to add?
Situated on Florida’s pristine Gulf Coast, St. Pete/ Clearwater’s warm, sunny weather and tranquil beaches make it a delight for nature lovers. Whether by bike, foot or kayak, Florida’s sun coast is full of untouched spots just waiting to be explored: from Caladesi Island, accessible only via ferry or kayak and whose unspoiled beach often pops up on best in the world lists, to the 60-plus-kilometre Pinellas Trail, a protected greenspace currently extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. A favourite area for bird watchers, St. Pete/ Clearwater also boasts 15 sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, home to a diverse range of species, which live in or frequent the area’s mangrove swamps, slash-pine forests and estuaries. For visitors seeking nature and the pleasures of the outdoors, this part of Florida is pure heaven.