From cutting-edge products to meticulous business strategies, Winter Is Coming is a new PAX series that offers a glimpse into the war rooms of Canada’s leading travel companies as the annual winter vacation season takes flight. Stay tuned for exclusive interviews with industry movers, shakers and decision-makers as we dissect their upcoming plans for Canada’s travel trade.
New faces, new places, new ownership: to say that Transat has had a big year would be an understatement.
The big story unfolded in August, when Air Canada agreed to increase the purchase price for the acquisition of Transat, representing a $720M transaction.
Public interest consultations regarding the Air Canada takeover will commence this November, and insiders expect the transaction to officially close by the middle of next year.
Winter is coming, and this week, Joseph Adamo, chief distribution officer at Transat, unlocks Transat’s business strategy for Canada’s travel trade.
PAX: How is Transat approaching the winter season? How will the company engage with Canada’s travel trade?
Joseph Adamo (JA): At Transat, we are experts in vacation. That is what we specialize in. So when people come to us to book their winter beach getaway, they know they will find the exact product they are looking for within our vast offering, which corresponds to their needs, and within their budget. It is also well-known that we like to cater to families, be it be during the flight with our Kids Club, or once at destination with one of our Family Collection resorts.
Transat is known and appreciated for its great service, both for the travelling public and for our agency partners. For the trade, we have dedicated teams of inside sales representatives and on the road business development representatives that are always available to support travel agents. This is highly appreciated by our partners, especially during this very busy period, to always have someone available when you need them.
We are also always present to support the agent community with frequent webinars to share valuable knowledge on our products. And fall is an important conference season for a lot of our partners, so it is always with great pleasure that our teams participate in the ramp up to peak selling season.
PAX: What investments has Transat made in technology over the past year?
JA: We have invested heavily in our mobile app in the last year to ensure that travellers can easily follow their itinerary and even have a new feature that allows clients to reach our Transat reps at destination at the push of a button. Over 1.3 million clients have downloaded the app and it is a major contributor to enhancing our overall customer experience.
PAX: What are things about Transat that travel agents should keep top of mind this winter?
JA: Here are a few major elements to keep in mind:
The continued deployment of our brand new Airbus A321neoLR. For the time being, we have two operating Airbus A321neoLR aircraft in our fleet, some of which will permit us to enhance our flight offering from Vancouver to the south next winter. We will have a total of 15 in our fleet by 2022.
The enhancement of our offer from Vancouver this winter:
- Air Transat will offer flights to 11 South and 9 Europe destinations next winter
- One direct non-stop flight a week to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic)
- Two direct non-stop flights a week to Fort Lauderdale (Florida), combined with two new all-in one cruise packages on board Costa Luminosa and MSC Meraviglia out of Vancouver
- Two flights a week to San José and Liberia (Costa Rica)
- A brand new cruise itinerary to Alaska for group bookings with Cunard out of Vancouver
More destinations next winter out of Montreal and Toronto:
Starting in November, Air Transat will be the only airline offering direct flights from Montreal to New Orleans, Louisiana. Plus, it will now fly year-round to Malaga (Spain), and to Madrid, new for the upcoming winter.
From Toronto, Air Transat will now fly year-round to Glasgow and Manchester (UK), in addition to its daily flights to London.
PAX: Where is Transat's 'head at' as a new quarter begins? What, specifically, is guiding the company's approach to sales and the trade?
JA: We have just announced our financial results for the third quarter and due to our good performance on all programs (Europe, South and Domestic) we have achieved a nice improvement over last year. Advanced bookings for this winter are also strong. We continue to focus on delivering excellent value and an outstanding customer experience, as evidenced by our being named World’s Best Leisure Airline by Skytrax for the second consecutive year.
PAX: What makes an airline/tour operator successful during the busy winter season?
JA: Increasingly, travellers and agents realize that the best deals for their winter getaways are to be had when they book well in advance, rather than waiting last minute. And in recent years, we have developed early booking promotions that are very appealing to customers, and that allow us to fill our planes in advance. The key, though, remains in our loyal agent partners who proactively secure these early bookings with their customer base.
PAX: Are there any internal changes travel agents should know about?
JA: We have had some changes in our commercial teams. Louise Fecteau was recently named general manager at Transat Distribution Canada, and Karine Gagnon was appointed as the new commercial director for Quebec. Karine has been with Transat for six years and knows our product offering very well.
In Ontario, we recently appointed Robin C. Danes as sales manager, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Robin works with Nicole Bursey and is managing the team of business development representatives in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. And in Quebec, Valérie Gagnon, one of our BDRs, is on maternity leave, and is being replaced by Jean-Richard Boucher.
PAX: Local community tourism and experiential travel is a growing trend. How is Transat embracing this type of travel in its destinations?
JA: As a leisure travel expert, Transat broke new ground several years ago with its Duo packages, the perfect way to enjoy the best of both worlds by experiencing two facets of the same destination in one trip: soaking up the sun on the beach, coupled with exploring a city. This winter, we are introducing a new Duo package in Puerto Rico, which will give travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the historical and cultural riches of its capital city, San Juan, while enjoying one of the three other destinations offered on the island: Ponce, Guánica or Rio Grande.
A total of seven destinations are available as a Duo package: Havana and Varadero, or Cartagena and the island of Barú are some examples.
With the growing trend of people wanting more and more to live like a local when they are on vacation, they can now rent, with Transat, a turnkey condominium without hours of research on the internet to find the perfect location, with flights, transfers and the services of a representative at destination included. Transat is offering a new range of apartment-hotels and condominiums at some of its most popular Sun destinations, such as Riviera Maya or Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, Puerto Plata and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
PAX: What are some of Transat's sustainability and environmental initiatives?
JA: Transat has been working on sustainability for a long time. In fact, we adopted our policy in 2006. Since then, we have achieved many very important milestones. In October 2018, Transat became the first major international tour operator to obtain Travelife certification for all of its tour operating and travel agency activities. More recently, the Air Transat headquarters achieved ISO 14001:2015 certification, the first airline in North America to do so. This is the culmination of a long process to implement a system for environmental management and continuous improvement of its sustainability practices. We eliminated most plastic and single use items at our head office and in our restaurant. And we are always on the lookout to implement new ways of doing things differently.
In our fleet, we are replacing our Airbus A310 fleet with super fuel and noise efficient Airbus A321NeoLRs. This will significantly reduce our carbon and noise footprints. And we are working with a consortium to produce sustainable aviation fuel from captured CO2 emissions. The project was one of the four finalists in a NRCan Sustainable Fuel challenge and won a $2 million dollar prize to be applied to the costs of developing the technology. We are also working with Airbus to get delivery flights with a blend of biofuel for our Airbus A321NeoLR.
Of course, the environment is a big part of sustainability, but we are active on other fronts: the workplace, for our employees, in our operations like how we work with our hotel partners, and in communities, here and at destination.
PAX: What can Transat tell travel agents about Air Canada's pending takeover?
JA: The expected transaction with Air Canada is an opportunity to team up with a great company that knows and understands our industry and has had undisputable success in the travel business. For Transat, this represents the best prospect for not only maintaining, but growing over the long term the business and jobs that we have been developing in Canada and elsewhere for more than 30 years.
Until the expected closing of the transaction sometime in the middle of next year, the two companies remain independent competitors. In the meantime, nothing changes and customers and agents alike can continue to book and travel with Transat with complete peace of mind.
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