The CEO of the Martinique Tourism Authority called it an “historic moment.”
Bruno Brival, his team and partners were in Toronto Tuesday night (Nov. 7) to meet with the travel trade and celebrate Air Canada’s new route to Martinique – a seasonal program of direct flights, starting Dec. 16, between Toronto and Fort de France, the island’s capital.
The new service, which will operate on Saturdays aboard a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, until the end of March, builds on Air Canada’s long-running program out of Montreal, where five flights per week to Fort de France are currently offered.
“The [Toronto] route is more than just a connection,” Brival told attendees at last night’s “Martinique Sensation” event, which was held at Hotel X Toronto. “It opens doors to new opportunities.”
Air Canada’s Karen Acs, a senior manager of regional sales, noted how Air Canada and Martinique have a “long-standing friendship” – ever since launching that inaugural route out of Montreal in 2009.
On introducing lift to Martinique from Toronto: “Nothing beats a direct flight,” Acs told the audience, noting how Air Canada is relying on the support of travel advisors to make the new route a success.
Between Martinique’s French-influenced cuisine, UNESCO sites, and hospitality: “This is really a holiday exploration [destination]…that has so much more than a beach,” Acs said.
Plan to grow by 25% in three years
An overseas department of France in the Lesser Antilles, Martinique is famous for its colourful flora, lush mountains, tropical forests, and idyllic coastline — and what really sets it apart is its distinct mix of Creole and French cultures.
In 2023, between January and August, the island, which is about a five-hour flight from Toronto, saw a 4.3 per cent increase in overnight stays by tourists compared to 2022, Brival shared. (Last year saw roughly 16,000 Canadian arrivals, he said).
The overall numbers, though, represent an increase of 0.6 per cent compared to 2019’s overnight stays, Brival added.
Air Canada’s new Toronto-Martinique service fits into an ambitious growth strategy – the tourism authority, as it diversifies its source markets beyond Quebec, hopes to increase visitors from Canada by 25 per cent over the next three years, Brival said.
“It’s very huge,” he told last night’s crowd. “But we’ll try to do it, together.”
“The Isle of Flowers”
Martinique, known as “The Isle of Flowers,” is a mountainous island with three main massifs – two in the north and one in the south.
Mount Pelee is the highest point on the island, and it is known for its eruption in 1902.
UNESCO has added Martinique to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which promotes biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
The French and Spanish-speaking island is a unique leisure destination, renowned for its rich history and culture, outdoor activities and natural beauty, that thrives on four types of tourism, Brival explained.
This includes heritage tourism (“Martinique is an open-air museum,” he said); natural tourism (UNESCO has also named Mount Pelee, as well as “yole,” a shallow-draught boat with a tapered shape, rooted in local tradition, as assets); beach tourism (think “white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters,” Brival said); and culinary tourism, including Martinique’s locally-produced rum, which is sold in 160 countries.
Speaking with PAX at the event, Brival said the tourism authority “isn’t interested in mass tourism,” noting how Martinique doesn’t have all-inclusive resorts.
That is, of course, with exception to the 292-room Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek, the first Club Med village to open in the Americas, which is in the final stages of a major renovation.
All-inclusive Club Med, Brival said, played an important role in securing Air Canada’s new Toronto route, as did the support of MSC Cruises, which offers altering seven and 14-night southern and northern Caribbean itineraries out of Martinique aboard the MSC Seaside.
Travel advisors at last night’s event were treated to Martinican cuisine and one-on-one meetings with representatives from the destination’s hoteliers, villa rental agencies and activity partners.
“We were pleased to see familiar faces and make new friends with this year’s Martinique Sensation, as we continue to build an ever-stronger relationship with the Canadian market,” Brival said in a statement later on. “We know Martinique has so much to offer as a destination, and that is especially true with Canadians - with whom we share so many values.”