DOT Welcomes Inaugural Air Canada Flight from Toronto to St. Thomas

DOT officials greeted Air Canada employees at the airline’s first St. Thomas landing last month.

Visitors from Canada were greeted with a warm USVI welcome last week when the inaugural Air Canada flight from Toronto touched down in St. Thomas.

The sold-out flight was the first of new weekly Air Canada service that will increase visitor arrivals from the territory’s second largest international market.

Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty and Assistant Commissioner Monique Sibilly Hodge met the passengers aboard the inaugural flight on Monday, December 26, which included Air Canada representative Louise Le Beau, Vice President of Product Development and Revenue Management.

In true USVI style, passengers received a taste of Virgin Islands culture upon arrival including live steel pan music, greeters dressed in traditional Madras, samples of Cruzan Rum and welcome bags.

With a dedicated presence in Canada for over two years, DOT has implemented marketing initiatives designed to grow awareness and interest in travel to the territory, including travel agent outreach, industry trade shows and media relations efforts. Based on DOT’s research, the Canadian market continues to demonstrate strong demand, despite the recent economic recession.

“We are extremely thrilled to welcome the passengers on this first Air Canada flight to St. Thomas,” said Nicholson-Doty. “We also look forward to showcasing the destination to the 2,000 inbound passengers expected to visit during the winter months, as result of this new service.”

“Annually, we receive approximately 7,000 visitors from Canada and with this new airlift we anticipate growth of at least 20 percent from the territory’s second largest international market,” she said.

The flight, AC1796, departed Toronto’s Pearson International (YYZ) at 9:45 a.m. and arrived at Cyril E. King airport (STT) at 3:54 p.m. — a little later than its scheduled 3:15 p.m. arrival.

Returning flights depart St. Thomas at 4:15 p.m. and arrive in Toronto at 9:25 p.m. This added airlift will offer Canadians non-stop service once every Saturday between Toronto and St. Thomas, through April 14, 2012. These flights are serviced by Air Canada’s Airbus 319-100 aircraft featuring a new cabin interior, 14 executive seats and 106 economy seats.

In anticipation of the new service, and to increase awareness and bookings to the territory in time for holiday and winter travel, DOT activated a series of activities and events across Canada this fall, targeting travel agents, meeting planners, media and consumers.

In October, representatives participated in a number of activities including a presentation to top retail travel agents and partners of Air Canada Vacations (the vacation package division of Air Canada), and presentations to a group of well-respected travel agents at New Wave Travel Agency — a member of the prestigious Virtuoso network.

The DOT also hosted a VIP reception with Air Canada Vacations, which was attended by more than 120 travel industry members, including consumer and trade media.

The sales team also attended a variety of trade shows to share the news about the service and new developments throughout the territory.

To keep the momentum going, Air Canada Vacations executed a USVI-focused national sales blitz across Canada last month with 13 of the company’s sales representatives, who promoted the new service to travel agents across the country.

To augment these efforts, DOT will be running ongoing trade and consumer advertisements in leading Canadian outlets, including Travel Courier, Dreamscapes Magazine and Travelweek, to further promote travel to the territory this winter.