Canadian Affair has brought forward the third year of its ambitious trade plan, less than 12 months after launching to agents last November, with managing director Chris Hedley telling TTG the Canadian specialist would end its first year selling via the trade 50% up on where it expected to be after a year.
Such has been the success of Canadian Affair’s trade launch, Hedley said he expected business through agents to comprise 30% of the operator’s departures by the end of 2020.
“They’re not coming to us because they have no alternative; they’re booking with us through choice,” said Hedley. “Canada’s been hot for five or six years now; our multi-destination competitors all have dedicated Canada brochures now. That tells you everything about the demand.”
Canadian Affair launched to the trade last November, targeting summer 2019 sales and beyond.
“We weren’t getting involved to move business around our channels,” explained Hedley, who has been with Canadian Affair for 20 years and admits he was “B2C through and through” until last year.
Hedley admitted he was concerned about how Canadian Affair would be received by the trade, but launching with a price parity promise soon allayed his fears. “It made people sit up and realise we were serious,” he said.
“Our increased [sales] target for 2020 is up 173% on 2019. We’ve sold more for 2020 now than we will finish having sold for 2019. For 2020, we’re looking at the trade making up around 30% of our business.”
Canadian Affair’s trade team now numbers five with the recent addition of a new marketing executive. “We needed to be present and visible on the road,” said Hedley.
While Canadian Affair’s airlift is primarily out of London, Hedley said working with the trade had allowed the business to be “more surgical”. “If you want to push a departure point, you can work with agents in that region,” he said. “With B2C and online, it’s less precise.”
Ski has been an unexpected boon for Canadian Affair, Hedley revealed. “Over a third of our ski business next year is through the trade,” he said. “We didn’t expect major ski business, we thought people would gravitate to specialists.”
While rail and cruise, particularly Rocky Mountaineer, has been Canadian Affair’s bread and butter, Hedley said there had been significant interest in “soft adventure” – motorhoming, RVs and self-drive tours.
“They’re less popular with our standard 60+ demographic but we’ve got 45-pluses with families interested,” he said.
Canadian Affair will increase marketing support for agents over the next year, consolidating all its ad hoc trade marketing into a single “toolkit”.
“The plan was not just to stick adverts up all over the place,” said Hedley. “We’re not waiting for business to come to us, we’re going to find it.”
Canadian Affair will host three fam trips next year, each for 10 agents, at least one of which will be performance-based.
Hedley added he was happy with the spread of agents the operator had so far built relationships with, and the “traction” it had achieved with major consortia. “We’re open to conversation with any agents serious about selling Canada,” he stressed.
“It’s gone quickly; 2019 has been up and down. I feel fortunate that, with uncertain times ahead, we now have these relationships in place.”