Saturday,  July 11, 2020  2:55 am

“We’re just getting started”: Collette marks 102nd season with new destinations & experiences

“We’re just getting started”: Collette marks 102nd season with new destinations & experiences
Of Collette: (from left) Ron Lonsdale, vice-president; Alisia Apostolou, marketing manager - Canada; George Christakis, head of sales - Canada.
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“It may be our 102nd season, but we’re just getting started,” remarked Collette President Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, before presenting the tour operator’s new products during Collette’s 2020 season kick-off.

The Rhode Island-based tour operator welcomed its Canadian travel partners to downtown Toronto last night (Sept. 25), showcasing the latest itineraries with a selection of immersive experiences for guests to try out, from mixing Moroccan spices to learning the secrets of making the perfect temaki handroll.

Among the more than 30 new tours launched last night include a new Imperial Russia tour, during which visitors can travel by Soviet-era vehicles; an exploration of Argentina’s wild side with Patagonia: Edge of the World; Journey through Egypt & Jordan, marking a return to a popular travel destination for Collette; and a unique island-hopping itinerary with Azores: Jewels of Portugal.

READ MORE: Collette's Ron Lonsdale skates into the latest edition of PAX!

Sushi Maestro Sang Kim shows guests how to craft the perfect temaki handroll.

A strong year ahead

Collette CEO Dan Sullivan told PAX that while 2019 has been a very strong year for the company, “2020 is looking even stronger,” with destinations such as Finland, Iceland and Japan – the latter of which Sullivan said has been “red-hot” for several years – continuing to draw travellers.

“Oberammergau is nearly sold out and our small-group tour brand, Explorations, is exploding,” he said, citing the growing popularity of exclusive experiences offered on the Explorations line, which welcomes groups of just 16 people on average.

Sullivan added that in differentiating its brand from other tour operators, Collette continues to seek out unique experiences in which travellers can immerse themselves to truly get the most out of a destination. One example he cited is the Roaming Coastal Maine itinerary, where guests not only taste the state’s most well-known export, but learn first-hand about the

“Not only are you having a lobster dinner, you’re learning from a lobsterman and what his life is like,” Sullivan said. “We continue to expand programs where guests can meet the locals.”

Growth in Canada

Alisia Apostolou, Collette’s marketing manager for Canada, told PAX that the tour operator’s Canadian marketing strategy continues to focus on building brand awareness in the market, prompting travellers to keep Collette top of mind when booking their next journey.

“It’s really about getting people to understand who we are and what we do, why we create the product that we offer and what it means for the client,” she explained, adding that customer feedback continues to be an essential component in crafting and refining itineraries for the following season. “Our goal is to have people walk into their local travel agent and say ‘I saw this great ad from Collette – tell me more about them,’” Apostolou said. “Rather than them saying ‘I want to go to Italy,’ we want them to say ‘I’m interested in taking a Collette tour of Italy.’”

And with travel agents as the primary distribution channel, Collette Vice-President Ron Lonsdale told PAX that the company continues to invest in agent resources, including the annual Agent Resource Worldwide Travel Guide, detailing and explaining the different travel styles offered by the tour operator, as well as a detailed breakout of ancillary revenues associated with each itinerary.

“The agents are the true driving force behind our success,” Lonsdale said.

Of Collette: (from left, back row) Courtney Iannuccilli, vice-president marketing; Nicole Diebold, image campaign manager; Dan Sullivan, CEO; Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, president; Christian Leibl-Cote, SVP – global business; Alisia Apostolou, marketing manager – Canada. (From left, front row): Todd Bridges, vice-president of business development & partnerships; Ron Lonsdale, vice-president; George Christakis, head of sales - Canada.

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