In an interview with Paxnouvelles.com, Colin Hunter and Sam Char, of the Sunwing Travel Group, explained why they staunchly believe that the Quebec market, from Montreal to Mont-Joli, is ready to venture beyond the classic sun triangle of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
But where and how? The congenial, soft spoken Colin Hunter explains.
Hunter, who regularly stays at his own hotels when he’s on vacation (“Well, is there any better brand than Royalton? ”, He jokes), does so under a pseudonym as to preserve his anonymity and receive an authentic treatment. He states that 2017 ended up being a very fruitful year for Sunwing, despite everything… to the dismay of its competitors.
And the best surprise of all?
That the Caribbean, especially Honduras, Saint Lucia, Costa Rica and Panama, showed very impressive tourist numbers.
“I believe that destinations like Aruba, Antigua, the Bahamas and Jamaica could use a bit more traffic. And the typical Quebec consumer is slowly warming up to the idea. In fact, travel agents are being asked more and more about these spots and are being told by travellers that they want to explore beyond the usual triangle. It’s no coincidence that we also offer flights to emerging destinations, as well as Central America,” explains Colin Hunter.
Same goes for Sam Char : he’s also noticed a shift in the market, or at least, a new openness.
“That’s the feedback we’ve been getting from travel agents – that customers are asking about different destinations, stating that they’ve ‘seen enough of Cuba and Mexico.’ That’s what they’re telling me. There will always be a customer base for each hotel and each destination, but now, there are more options than ever.”
And that not only goes for Montreal, but Quebec City as well, and even the more rural areas of the province.
An emphasis on the Quebec regions
Sunwing offers flights from six different cities in Quebec, more than anywhere else in the country.
Sam Char adds that Sunwing has “gotten out of the established comfort zone. We were the first to do this in Quebec – to venture out of Montreal – and all our competitors thought we had lost tour minds! It wasn’t easy, but it was all worth it in the end.”
“It’s always been part of the strategy, from day one actually, to take on new places for which we believe there is enough demand. Fast forward to today, and we’re in six cities in the province,” says Colin Hunter, gleefully.
The spirited and vibrant founder was also quick to point out that he would love to serve even more places, by offering directs flights no less, but that the challenges would be less related to aircraft or personnel, and more about red tape with customs.
“That’s the reason you have to go through Montreal or Quebec, it’s a customs issue.”
“I’ve noticed that the Quebec market especially has become more sophisticated over the past five years. There has been a meaningful change. We’ve come a long way from the vacation packages that Quebecers would buy in the 80s!” he jokes, referring to the dreadful 2 star-rated resorts that were sold at the time.
“Customers now understand that they get what they pay for, and so, they are choosing higher quality products. Luxury travel does much better in Quebec nowadays.”
Sam Char adds: “When I meet with hotel chain representatives, they all agree: the el cheapo market is declining in Quebec. More and more people are booking suites now, for their 10 day stays even! It seems a sort of metamorphosis is under way.”
Sunwing and Travel Agents in Quebec
“I often get the feeling that the travel agents in Quebec are far better informed than elsewhere in the country. They make smarter sales,” says Sunwing’s owner.
“They are the only ones, for example, who, when sending groups to popular destinations, do so by selling seats individually so they can offer more advantageous rates. It’s brilliant! They know their market,” he adds, clearly bemused that the practice isn’t more widespread.
The compliment is rather flattering, knowing Colin Hunter is at the head of a conglomerate worth billions of dollars.
In short, the Owner, Chairman of the Board and Founding President of Sunwing considers that there are no limits to people’s imagination, nor to what the company has to offer. He says, grinning: “cruises, helicopters, the whole shebang… it’s a logical progression, don’t you think so? Now that we have the hotels, why not add floating ones?”
Only time will tell!