CEO Dan Sullivan Jr. with Canada Vice President Ron Lonsdale.
Jennifer Coulter, Travel Product Specialist, CAA SCO (left), with Dianne Jackson, Director, Travel and Retail Product, CAA Club Group, and Linda Khanna, Development Manager, Eastern Canada, Tourcan Vacations.
Flight Centre's Jennifer Bradbury (left) and Marcus Johnstone-McKinney (right), with Open Jaw's Karen Dahdah.
Tres Lobo, Director Sales & Product Development, Suvara Travel, with Ron Lonsdale.
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We keep hearing that today’s group traveller wants to see more, taste more and do more, elevating themselves from mere observers of the places they visit to active participants getting under the skin of a destination’s culture.
If you needed more confirmation that this shift toward authentic experiences in travel is an authentic trend, Collette CEO Dan Sullivan Jr. provided it at the recent Toronto launch for the century-old brand’s small group, immersive travel style known as Explorations.
“This is the product that’s taking the world by storm,” Sullivan told an audience of top travel sellers. “We launched Explorations in 2008, but last year alone sales for this product were up 56%.”
Now a standalone brand within the Collette product line, Explorations has been tweaked to answer the desires of travellers. It has always been a small-group product, but Collette has taken the intimacy a step further, reducing the number of guests on tour from a maximum of 24 to just 19, with an average 15 travellers per group.
In her introduction to the new-look, 76-page 2019-2020 Explorations brochure, Collette president Jaclyn Leibl-Cote describes the company’s approach.
“When it comes to creating an immersive travel experience for Explorations, we have truly explored the world. We’ve spent the night in the Moroccan desert, sleeping in Berber tents among the dunes. We’ve braved the snows of Finland to find the northern lights. We’ve spoken to the locals and found they places they know and love.”
On Explorations tours, travellers don’t follow a sign-waving guide. They do things like ride Vespas through Italy’s hillsides and vineyards, lead a dogsled team through snowy Finnish forests or snorkel with sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands. They learn from local experts, sample home-hosted meals and savoury street foods and stay in 4-star and above accommodations.
Ron Lonsdale, Collette’s Vice President, Canada, will celebrate 25 years with the company in January. He says constant innovation keeps the job fresh.
“I’m always amazed at how our product designers continue to add depth and richness to the product. Explorations is the pinnacle of their work and we’re thrilled that Canadian travel advisors are enthusiastically proposing these trips to clients seeking unforgettable experiences.”
Travel professionals attending the Collette Explorations event were invited to stimulate all of their senses. There were lavender bunches infusing the rooms with the tantalizing scent of Southern France, a henna artist used hands as a canvas for this ancient Indian body decoration, regional foods from Italy and Morocco to stimulate taste buds and tasty Pisco Sours to inspire dreams of South America.
Londsdale says selling Explorations tours is lucrative labour for Canadian agents. “But what I most often hear is how thrilled their clients are on their return, and how grateful those clients are to have experienced their destinations in ways that exceeded their wildest dreams.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.