An evening of culture and travel stories took place in Toronto last night (Feb. 27), as Trafalgar was joined by New York Times best-selling author Patricia Schultz for the tour operator’s Winter Travel Tales.
The tour operator welcomed several travel partners and Trafalgar travellers to Toronto's Koerner Hall, who were treated to stories from Schultz’s 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, along with a ceremonial performance by Turkey’s whirling dervishes, presented by Turkey Tourism. A small trade show preceded the main presentation, featuring The Travel Corporation’s various brands and travel partners, including Tourism Ireland, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations.
Turkey’s whirling dervishes take the stage during Trafalgar's Winter's Travel Tales event
Schultz, who signed copies of the latest edition of her book for attendees at the event, told PAX that through her presentation and role as Trafalgar’s Global Brand Ambassador, she hopes to inspire travelers, both experienced and new, to get out into the world no matter what.
“Travel as much, as often and as far away as you can,” Schultz said, adding that Madagascar and Patagonia have been her latest trips, with New Zealand next on her list. “When my book first came out, I was celebrating my 50th birthday and wanted to mark both occasions. I went to Machu Picchu and I met a woman who was 90 years old, also celebrating her birthday (Schultz recalls the woman revealed that for her birthday, she had received a copy of 1,000 Place To Die) – she was travelling for the first time, on her first passport – and she said ‘Remember, your knees have expiration dates.’ We talk and talk but don’t get off the couch, so my goal is to encourage people to travel.”
She added that while some may be hesitant to travel in light of news reports of incidents such as terrorist attacks, the reality is much different.
“I would say that I have a bigger chance of being hit by a taxi outside my front door,” Schultz joked. “There are statistics that state you’re more likely to be hit by falling furniture or a meteorite than running into trouble in a foreign country. People who are hesitant look for incidents to justify a decision not to travel, but there’s way too many places to see, even in our own backyards – look at Canada and all of its National Parks and coastline.”
Wolf Paunic, president of Trafalgar Tours Canada, told PAX that 2018 is shaping up to be another strong year for the tour operator, following substantial growth in 2017.
“This year has the makings of a very strong year following 2017, which was very strong for us – we’re talking substantial double-digit growth,” he said. “What’s important for our retail travel agent partners to know is that the space is not easy to get – Canadians and Americans alike are travelling and Europe is very much back in vogue. This is really the time to work with their clients to know is that in order to get the tours they want, they need to make a decision soon. The stars have aligned to make the availability and the pricing to Europe is very appealing to the market; the availability of air is still there, but it won’t be for long.”
“In the past two years, especially this year, the Iberian Peninsula overall is very strong,” Paunic continued, adding that interest in Egypt and Turkey is continuing to grow this year as well. “Spain jumped out of the pack last year and this year, Spain and Portugal in combination with Morocco. All of our Iberian, Ireland and Italy programs have seen very high demand.... Scandinavia is also getting a lot of traction, thanks to Iceland’s popularity in the last few years, especially Norway. It’s not only on the map as a strong economy and sports power as seen in the recent Winter Olympics, but also as a destination with a great story to tell; there’s a unique culture and way of contemporary life. This year we’ve added a nine-day program to Norway which explores the entire country and it’s selling very well."
This past fall also saw the launch of a partnership between Trafalgar and Air Canada Vacations, which paired the tour operator’s Europe product with Air Canada’s network. According to Paunic, the partnership has been mutually beneficial, adding that the two companies are “making bigger plans down the road.
“We’re both delighted with the result, as our priority was to offer more choice to our guests,” Paunic told PAX. “From many smaller gateways, you look at the air first and how can you get there. Through this partnership, we were able to marry our land programs through compatible gateways offered by Air Canada and use ACV and their network as a conduit.”