As well as the party in April, the operator is rolling out a new Luxury Travel: All-time Favourites magazine, featuring 35 destinations, where 130 hotels have been chosen by a panel of travel experts and its own staff, along with dedicated offers.
The operator has sent out 3,000 copies of the magazine to agents in time for the peak booking period, while top agents have also been given white-label versions to send to their clients.
Ashleigh Addis, trade marketing executive at Carrier, said: “Alongside our main book, this year, we created a second version designed specifically by our marketing team for 35 Preferred Partner agents, featuring their logo, contact details and a personalised message from the agent. A condensed version like this also allows agents a cost-effective option in terms of postage.”
The trade marketing executive position is also new to the business, with Addis moving into the role from elsewhere in Carrier.
“We’ve never had a dedicated marketing resource to support trade activity in the department before, but every year we try to introduce new ways to make life easier for agents,” said Maxine Roberts, head of marketing. “We have had an increasing number of marketing requests from agents and from our sales team on the road, so I wanted to put someone in place who could react to those, as well as working with our Preferred Partners on proactive plans to help them win new clients.”
Rick Milne, head of sales, added that the operator’s Preferred Partners were also benefiting from extended office opening hours in January and February and a new dedicated out of hours booking line.
“We will also be looking for agents to become part of a marketing steering group so they can help influence the trade activity we produce,” said Milne.
The operator finished 2016 in “a strong position”, added Roberts.
“Business was up over 11% for the year and peak-period sales are also off to a good start this month, with bookings currently showing double-digit growth year-on-year,” she said. “Notably, departures to the Indian Subcontinent, Far East and Australasia are 12% up year-on-year – during a time of uncertainty, this may be due to the currency being non-Euro, non-Dollar.”
In response to trade feedback, she said Carrier had introduced more than 500 boutique hotels, lodges and guesthouses which could be used to create more flexible touring itineraries.
Roberts said other high points included an 80% leap year-on-year to Croatia and Montenegro, given their position outside the Eurozone. The operator also highlighted how the planned opening of One&Only Portonovi in 2018 would bode well for Montenegro.
Carrier is to feature Ibiza for the first time in 2017, with the opening of Seven Pines Hotel & Spa, the first in a new brand of hotels, which is also looking to expand elsewhere. The hotel will open on the west coast of the island in June.
Elsewhere in Spain, Carrier said demand continued to be strong for Tenerife "due to its year-round temperate climate and perceived safety".
Still in Europe, Roberts said bookings to Portugal had been "steadily increasing" with the destination experiencing a 20% increase year-on-year. She highlighted the operator’s inclusion of Anantara Vilamoura Resort Algarve – the group’s first in Europe – due to open in April 2017, where it joins other recent luxury arrivals in the country, such as Six Senses Douro Valley.
Prince Harry’s recent tour is also said to have put the Caribbean in the spotlight, especially Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados St Vincent and The Grenadines, where Carrier features the recently-opened Pink Sands Club on Canouan island.
“Pink Sands welcomed its first guests in October and is one to watch for 2017,” said Roberts. “As one of the first tour operators to be invited to experience Pink Sands Club first-hand, we arranged the earliest trade trips from the UK, hosting 14 agents on two educationals and investing in 10 members of our team to visit the resort too.”
Roberts said she also expects Canada to do well, given the destination’s 150th birthday celebrations and initiatives this year, which include free admission to the country’s national parks.
But she added the operator was also facing an overall challenge of being price-matched against "airline operators", such as British Airways and Emirates Holidays. “That is one of the biggest obstacles facing us,” she said.