The USA and Canada were the focus of Selling Travel‘s latest trio of Connect events this week.
Over 130 agents gathered together across three cities – Leeds, Birmingham and London – for inspiring evenings of networking, Q&A sessions and prize draws.
There were updates from top-selling destinations, including Arizona, Quebec, Daytona Beach, Martin County, Space Coast Florida, Memphis, Miami, Florida, Ontario, Yosemite and Denver. Plus new routes from Delta, Expedia TAPP and United, alongside product updates from American Queen Voyages, VIA Rail Canada, North America Travel Service, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Travelpack.
Sebastian Sarrasin, Account Director for Greater Miami CVB for the UK and Ireland, showcased the unique selling points of the Florida city, saying: “Miami’s amazing food scene has been a hot topic, football is a huge focus with David Beckham and Lionel Messi playing for the local MSL club, and there is now a direct link from Orlando International Airport to Miami with Brightline. We want to highlight the fun, busy and diverse neighbourhoods of the city.”
Another U.S. destination present was Denver, highlighted by Managing Director of Black Diamond Jim Odoire. On behalf of Visit Denver, he stressed that no visit to Colorado is complete without visiting its capital. “Denver is very easy to get to from the airport, it’s a great place to acclimatise to the altitude of Colorado, and it is a vibrant city to spend at least 48 hours in,” he said. Jim also chose Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre as a USA highlight, describing it as “the best outdoor concert venue in the world.”
Arizona has a big initiative to encourage visitors to see more of the state beyond the Grand Canyon. Lauren Mckeever said: “We want to see people adding a pre- or post-stay around the Grand Canyon and heading further north to the Utah/Arizona border to Monument Valley to experience North American/Indian tribal land or further south to Tucson and Tombstone to immerse themselves in the wild west history of Arizona.”
For clients who sway towards nature and wildlife, Account Manager for Black Diamond Nicola Swabey showcased Yosemite Mariposa County. “We’re here to highlight the things you can do in Mariposa County outside of Yosemite National Park. Only 5% of accommodation is inside the national park, so it’s best to book well in advance. We are also seeing the best waterfalls in 40 years.”
North of the border, Ontario, is another destination known for its natural beauty, which was stressed to agents by Tilly Grace, Sales & Marketing Senior Executive for Destination Ontario. “Ontario is the perfect four-season destination. Any time of year you choose to go, you’ll find something special, with experiences and attractions to suit your needs,” she said. Tilly was keen to remind agents that Niagara Falls is known as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World”.
Delta offers an extensive network with up to 39 daily flights to the U.S. this summer, including a new Delta nonstop flight from Gatwick to New York-JFK. Kate Devereux, Senior Account Manager at Delta Air Lines, added: “We want to get our messaging across and showcase everything we have to offer in the UK market. Highlights include our network, our product onboard and what our plans are for the coming year.”
Victoria Culling from North America Travel Service was on hand to give agents an insight into the impressive range of itineraries on offer. The tour operator is now selling sporting events such as the F1 and music events including Kylie Minogue’s Las Vegas residency.
Rupert Thomson, Director of American Queen Voyages in the UK and Europe, was keen to tell agents all about the historical paddle steamers that tell the story of the history of the Deep South. He said: “We’re talking to travel agents and tour operators about our product, between New Orleans and Memphis, and highlighting the Southern states. We have fantastic seven-night cruises and pre-cruise hotel nights and the best part is clients get to see multiple destinations and only have to unpack once.”
Claire King, representing SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, welcomed the chance to answer any questions that agents may have about selling the attraction. She said: “We have an open door policy and encourage agents to come and see for themselves the work we do. A lot has changed since the parks opened 40 years ago. For example, the whales we now have in captivity were born here so the Government has deemed them ‘non-releasable’. The breeding programme has stopped so the ones we have now will be the last ones at SeaWorld, and they get daily health care tests and have their own personal nutritionist.”
A key focus was the rescue centre and certified autism centres, Sesame Street and Discovery Cove. Claire said: “We have rescued over 40,000 animals including manatees, dolphins, turtles and seabirds, and this June we opened a coral reef rescue centre. We are on hand 360 days a year to rescue animals and strive to rehabilitate them into the wild.
“Another big focus is accessibility and we have dedicated sensory rooms and an IBCCES app which acts as an accessibility card and establishes what attractions cater for those with special needs.”
Among the agents in London was a long-term attendee at our events, Sue White, a Travel Specialist with Go Travel, who enthused: “I’ve been coming to the Selling Travel events for about 10 years. It’s always interesting to meet other travel agents and suppliers and learn about different products. They’re always really informative and enjoyable events.”
Personal Travel Consultant at Fourways Travel Chrissy Mackenzie-Cooper is another regular, and said: “I’ve been to many Selling Travel events. They’ve always been well organised at upmarket venues. The suppliers are intriguing, and never fail to bring something new to the table. I like meeting agents and suppliers that I know, too. It’s nice to see them again and find out what’s been going on.”
Prizes on the night included $1,000 in Delta flight vouchers, Love2Shop vouchers, luxury hampers and more.