Blarney Castle, Ireland
Standing before 90 travel advisors at the Taste of Destination Europe event on April 27, Doug Patterson, the newly-installed president of Collette in Canada, admitted that “this feels like my wedding day as it’s my very first official function in my new role. I’m nervous but excited!” The presentation showcased Collette’s latest offerings of guided European vacations – in conjunction with the European Travel Commission (ETC). Based on such a well-matched partnership, Patterson can quickly dispatch anything resembling pre-marriage jitters. The Collette-ETC coupling bodes well – for travellers as well as for travel agents who want the best for their Europe-bound clientele.
A round-up of the Taste of Europe event’s best bites:
Collette’s close working relationship with the European Travel Commission has enabled Collette to tap into authentic Europe. Laura Pena Alberdi, Spain’s Consul in Charge of Tourism Affairs in Canada and president of the Operational Group for Canada for the ETC, told CT she’s “excited that member countries can work closely with Collette to offer up authentic Europe. In the case of Spain, I’m happy when Canadians experience the Gaudi architecture of Barcelona – but I’m also thrilled when they ‘get messy’ at La Tomatino, the tomato-throwing festival in Valencia.”
“Flexible Independent Travel (F.I.T) is and parcel of Collette’s escorted vacations,” says Patterson, “We hire the best trained guides to escort our small group tours – who can help visitors to easily go off on their own. Our guides advise on where to eat, what to do, how to find the best off-the-beaten path bistros and experiences.” Patterson alluded to the growing popularity of pre- and post-tours: “Increasingly, travelers will book a guided vacation but add a few days of independent travel at the start or end of their vacation.”
Cancellation policy: keeping clients in their comfort zone.
While some travelers have been hesitant to book European trips after recent events overseas, travel agents have an excellent selling tool: Collette’s cancellation policy. Collette clients get a full refund for cancelling at any time, for any reason, prior to the day of departure.
Dana Welch, manager for Tourism Ireland Canada, was happy to talk about Northern Ireland’s Year of Food & Drink 2016. “In July it’s ‘Seas, Rivers & Loughs,’ September is ‘Bread & Baking.’ Our motto is ‘Picked here, not shipped here.’” Collette’s Ireland trips are still popular, and increasingly so with foodies.
Set-jetting is trending.
That’s the term, say industry experts, for customizing a vacation based on where a particular movie or TV series has been set. “Game of Thrones fans,” says Welch,” can visit spots such as Tollymore Forest Park in County Down which doubled as the Haunted Forest, where the White Walkers first appeared in the series.” Game of Throne fans can easily enjoy a themed fan trip before or after a Collette vacation package.
Multigenerational travel continues to grow.
Brett Walker, general manager of Collette Canada, acknowledged that multigenerational travel keeps flourishing. Patterson agrees: “Grandparents are eager for their families to create memories together, real experiences – which Collette’s tour guides can customize for their clients.”
Two countries, one vacation.
Walker says that Canadians, especially if it’s their second trip to Europe, “are eager for a one-week experience in Spain, but then love the idea of taking a short jaunt to an adjacent country such as Portugal for a second week.” Canadian visitors to Portugal jumped by 17% in 2015, with 155,000 Canadians heading to that country – no doubt enticed by the 278 sandy beaches and 250 days of sunshine.