Friday,  August 12, 2022  3:02 am

Winter Is Coming: Sunwing's Andrew Dawson talks trade strategy

Winter Is Coming: Sunwing's Andrew Dawson talks trade strategy
Andrew Dawson, COO, Sunwing Travel Group. (Supplied photo)

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.

Winter is Sunwing's time to shine in Canada. 

The leisure carrier, which flies to more than 45 vacation destinations across the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Florida, is kicking fall and winter off by offering customers more options. 

Just last week, the company announced a new agreement with low-cost carrier Swoop, a move designed with local airports in mind that, in turn, should offer Canadians more flexibility when booking vacations down south. 

“Saving our customers time and money by providing convenient, direct flight services from their local airport has always been a key priority for us," Andrew Dawson, chief operating officer at Sunwing Travel Group, stated in a release. 

The idea behind the agreement is that it will allow more Canadians to experience Sunwing's resorts, such as Royalton Luxury Resorts, RIU Hotels & Resorts, Planet Hollywood Hotels & Resorts, as part of a valued-added vacation package departing from their local airport.

Winter is coming, and this week, we dig a little deeper with Dawson to learn more about what Sunwing has in store for consumers and Canada's travel trade. 

PAX: How is Sunwing engaging with Canada's travel trade this season?

Andrew Dawson (AD): Our sales team will be attending hundreds of agent events from coast to coast throughout the next few months; participating in numerous conferences, regional training sessions and many tourist board spotlight events.

We are also hosting a number of new webinars throughout the fall including a new groups webinar in October. Every Sunwing webinar has a wealth of valuable information and offers agents an opportunity to win great prizes. For a full list of current webinars which are available 24/7, please check

Agents are encouraged to participate and learn all about our destinations and what Sunwing offers to ensure their customers Vacation Better. When agents book their customers with Sunwing, they’ll get to take advantage of award-winning service, top-rated resorts and excursions and more.

PAX: What should travel agents keep top of mind when booking clients with Sunwing? 

AD: When agents book their customers with Sunwing, they are choosing a travel company that will be with them every step of the way.

As well as arranging their vacation packages, agents can enhance their customers’ time away by pre-booking Sunwing Experiences excursions and adding additional revenue on every booking. With STAR point promotions they can earn even more, too.

Keeping in touch with customers whey they are away and enabling them to stay in contact with friends and family is also really important. The Sunwing App makes this easy and allows customers to call home for free from their destination. They should also sign up for flight alerts to ensure they have the most up to date information on their travel plans.

PAX: The past year in travel has had its share of highs and lows. Where is Sunwing's 'head at' as a new quarter begins? What's guiding its approach to sales and trade?

AD: We are encouraged by the amount of early bookings that we’ve received, especially with regards to Group reservations, and are grateful for the support agents have shown us again. 

At the same time, we do recognize that there are always external factors to keep in mind like potential spikes in oil prices, the federal election and more, which can occupy our travellers. Working closely with preferred partners, investing in new systems and working closely with our agents to make sure they can deal with us quickly and efficiently both on and offline, is always essential for us to deliver great results.

PAX: What routes is Sunwing showcasing this upcoming season?

AD: We have many exciting routes for this upcoming season to help our customers Vacation Better:

  • Moncton-Miami
  • Waterloo-Cancun
  • Montreal-Havana
  • Hamilton-Cayo Coco
  • Hamilton-Cancun
  • Hamilton-Cayo Santa Maria
  • Victoria-Mazatlan
  • Victoria-Ixtapa
  • London-Cayo Santa Maria
  • London-Punta Cana
  • Ottawa-Mazatlan
  • North Bay-Cayo Santa Maria
  • Sault Ste-Marie-Varadero
  • Sudbury-Cancun

PAX: What should travel agents be aware of in regards to Sunwing's MAX 8 groundings? What's the best way for advisors to explain this situation to clients? 

AD: The prolonged absence of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft left a significant gap in Sunwing Airlines’ operations. We’ve had to overcome this shortage in aircraft by sub-contracting flight services to third-party air carriers, which brought with it its own challenges. We know it has been a testing time for agents and customers alike, which is why we announced in August that we were removing the need to operate the MAX aircraft from our schedules for the entire winter season.

Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is one of the Caribbean's oldest cities and a Sunwing destination. Photo: Sunwing

From November onwards, we’ve proactively sourced replacement aircraft that can be integrated into the Sunwing Airlines fleet, with the full service and orange tails that customers expect. 

We’re thankful for all the wonderful feedback we received from travel agents for taking this bold step. The response has been almost instant with an uptake in sales. Now, there is total confidence that our operations will not continue to be disrupted.

PAX: Local community tourism and experiential travel is a growing trend. How is Sunwing embracing this type of travel in its destinations? 

Our Sunwing Experiences excursions offer numerous opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture an get under the skin of the destination and including everything from visits to archaeological sites and city tours to jeep safaris that lead through local villages and fruit plantations. 

These tours allow guests to learn about the history, culture and life of the local communities that they are visiting. We have our own local teams of experts in destination who share their knowledge and passion for making impactful lifelong memories with our travellers. 

Plus, these excursions are very easy for agents to pre-book for their customers and earn commission.

PAX: How is Sunwing keeping its services competitive as more low-cost carriers fly south? 

AD: The market is, and always has been, competitive. It is forever evolving and as some brands merge or leave, others come to fill that void. The main difference for us, which we always stress, is that Sunwing is first and foremost a tour operator. 

The products we sell come first and foremost and our vertically integrated structure of being with the customer every step of the way sets us apart. We’re about selling the full experience, so it is hard to compare us to airlines whose main objective is to sell seats from A to B.

PAX: Finally, what are some of Sunwing's current and upcoming sustainability initiatives?

AD: We are proud to operate one of North America’s most fuel-efficient fleets and work hard to make sure our corporate offices, suppliers, partners and destination teams practice sustainability in day-to-day operations from the use of double-sided printing that reduces paper consumption, to a heavy reliance on e-communications and much more. 

We are always careful to partner with hotels and suppliers that demonstrate a strong commitment to the environmental issues and sustainability.

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!