Life in travel, and the media, sometimes presents some amazing opportunities, which can be entertaining, exhilarating, intriguing or simply elicit envy among family and friends who aren’t as lucky.
Through the prism of the industry, I’ve met many interesting people and attended some great events, but invariably, the best experiences are the ones that go beyond personal pleasure or celebrity name-dropping and offer something bigger than oneself, helping or honouring others. From aiding hurricane victims to skiing for cancer, delivering books or clothes to needy regions of the world or planting trees to help stem the tide of environmental devastation, the travel industry is thankfully flush with such selfless opportunities.
One of them happened Sept. 30 thanks to Tourism Australia, Air Canada and Goway, as a couple of dozen members of the trade were invited to witness the closing ceremonies of the Invictus Games in Toronto – a special event so utterly inspiring as to be even beyond the measure of words.
The culmination of the annual nine-day-long athletic competition for injured former soldiers (the name means “unconquerable” or “undefeated” in Latin) inaugurated by Prince Harry three years ago, saw 550 “wounded warriors” – both physically and mentally – from 17 nations feted at a sold-out Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Attendees were treated to a star-studded event, including speeches by the equally charismatic Prince Harry and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, along with A-list performances from Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams (the pair thrilled the audience by sharing the stage for a couple of numbers), plus Kelly Clarkson, up-and-comer Couer de Pirate, and a rollicking finale from Canadian legends Bachman & Turner, including the fitting number, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”
But the real stars were the athletes, who were movingly treated as such, starting with a noisy police motorcycle escort and cheering pedestrians on their way to the arena, and, once inside, an Olympics-style opening Flag of Nations procession, followed by medal presentations and awards.
Earlier in the week an inspiring Canadian Press photograph showed the Prince kneeling to greet legless UK athlete Mark Ormrod, in a clear demonstration of the symbolism of the week.
"These Invictus Games are a celebration of your fearlessness," Grégoire Trudeau said directly to the athletes, eliciting raucous applause from the crowd and capturing the tone of the Games, which were, importantly, apolitical, which is to say not specifically designed to glorify the battles or wars fought by the participants, but rather their courage, character and determination in working to overcome the life-altering injuries they sustained doing so.
“Right now, you’re on a high, at the summit of a mountain many of you thought too high to climb,” said the Prince, while Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, added, “You proved something to all of us!”
As the evening ended and the Games were handed off to the next host, Australia (Oct. 20-27, 2018, in Sydney), millions of in-person and TV viewers, including those lucky enough to be bearing witness in an Air Canada box at the stadium, echoed the encouraging words of the Prince for next year: “Game on!”
• Starting March 14, 2018, WestJet will begin service with four weekly flights between Calgary and Mexico City, while on March 15, the airline will launch three-time weekly service between Vancouver and the Mexican capital. Effective April 29, both routes move to daily service. WestJet currently serves 10 cities in Mexico from 17 Canadian cities…. WJ has also entered a codeshare agreement with HX, Hong Kong Airlines, with the latter code now placed on WestJet flights from Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton connecting on to HX daily flights from Vancouver to Hong Kong.
• Three new destinations – Bucharest, Zagreb and Porto – will be introduced by Air Canada in 2018. Non-stop Air Canada Rouge seasonal services start in June to Bucharest from Toronto and Montreal; and to Zagreb and Porto from Toronto. Lisbon will also be offered from Montreal, while service between Casablanca and Montreal transfers to Air Canada mainline, beginning June 1, 2018.
• Sunwing has now added a second travel option – Cancun – from Mont-Joli, enabling residents of the Bas St-Laurent to reach the Mexican hotspot (via Montreal) directly from Dec. 21 to March 22, 2018. Similar flights options exist to Punta Cana.
This & That
• One of out 35 Canadians visit Orlando annually; one out of 45 visit Britain.
• Trust the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to brighten up the day of the various members of the trade during a recent mission to Toronto. The CVB and partners hosted a unique event at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy in the city’s west end where, in addition to getting an update on the city (it survived Irma), guests cooked their own lunch (in teams and under the guidance of a master chef), and had a total blast doing so.
• Already out on the road as the new representatives for Visit Orlando in Canada is Canlink Travel. The well-known Newmarket, Ont.-based sales and marketing rep. firm, headed by tourism industry veterans Elaine and Brent Carnegie, is also known for its high-end Caribbean resort clientele, such as St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain resort and The Crane in Barbados. (email@example.com or 905-235-9091)
• Congrats to WestJet’s Mike Miguel, who announced his retirement this week from the airline after nearly 15 years covering a host of roles.
• After 16 years at Royal Irish Tours, Tanya Johnson has taken has taken on a new challenge as Eastern Sales Manager Canada for Bedsonline…
• Jason Stremble has been named Sales Manager for the Greater Toronto Area for Trafalgar. He’s been with the company since 2012 and has been in the industry for 23 years. (Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Contiki has named Ian Kivell as its new Sales Manager for South Western Ontario and the Atlantic Canada regions. Kivell comes from Flight Centre in Hamilton. (email@example.com)
Words of the Week!
"The name Swoop denotes exactly what we plan to do. It's a powerful verb that demonstrates we plan to swoop in to the Canadian market with a new business model that will provide lower fares and greater opportunity for more Canadians to travel."
- Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Strategy Bob Cummings on the company’s new ultra low cost carrier, due to launch in 2018.
The Invictus Games (closing ceremony in Toronto shown here), heads to Sydney, Australia, in 2018.