Inquiring minds would like to know how Arizona-based DSA Vacations, a tour operator specializing in travel tours to the African continent, was able to snag a 5-year franchise contract with Emirates Holidays, the overseas travel arm of Emirates Airlines.
According to Terry von Guilleaume, president and CEO of the recently launched Emirates Vacations, Emirates Holidays’ first U.S. affiliate, it all started just one year ago.
“We realized that Emirates did not have a global vacation brand, although they existed as Emirates Holidays, which is based in Dubai,” says von Guilleaume. “It was surprising to me that they are such a recognizable brand but did not have a billing or sales office in North America, so we put the question to them and about six months ago they put out a contract and we bid on it, along with a few other companies. We were awarded the contract about three months ago.”
For the next few months, von Guilleaume will have his hands full operating both DSA Vacations and Emirates Vacations from his office in Tucson, but the native South African is no stranger to selling affordable luxury vacations with a prominent airline company.
In 2011, DSA Vacations was appointed by South African Airways to operate its vacation program—South African Airways Vacations—selling affordable luxury travel packages to the airline’s extensive route connecting destinations like South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. DSA was also one of three tour operators chosen by FIFA to sell packages to North American soccer fans for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa—an effort that awarded the company top accolades from South African Tourism.
The one main factor that separates the North American Emirates Vacations from the mother brand in Dubai is the air-plus-land packages that will be available for travelers.
“Officially we will use Emirates’ existing product, but we are offering some new product as well, and our packages will include international flights plus land tours,” says von Guilleaume. “We are also going to be flying from seven U.S. gateways: Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas because all seven hubs fly direct to Dubai on Emirates Airlines.”
Emirates Vacations is first launching with affordable luxury vacations to Dubai, Italy, the Maldives, the Seychelles and Mauritius islands before adding destinations like Sri Lanka, India, China, Thailand, and eastern and southern Africa into the mix.
“Our strategy is to roll product off slowly,” he adds. “We did not want to launch with a full gamut. Our main focus will be heavily on Dubai with vacation packages that offer three to seven days, plus vacations to Italy since Emirates Airlines is starting its direct flights from New York to Milan in October.”
For instance, Emirates Vacations is now offering a 6-day Best of Dubai tour ($2,499 pp, air included) with four nights in Dubai and a day tour of Abu Dhabi. Travelers will visit the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach and the Dubai Mall and see the desert city from the observation deck of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. Accommodations during the tour will be at the Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel, with one night at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.
The tour operator is also offering a 4-day Maldives Spa & Wellness Break tour (starting at 2,980 pp, with rates depending on accommodation choice). The itinerary gives travelers three luxury hotels to choose from during their stay: the Niyama Hotel, Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, and Vivanta by Taj-Coral Reef.
“There are a lot of North Americans that are now looking to Dubai as a staging point to get to other places in the world,” says von Guilleaume. “With Emirates Vacations, travel agents will start to see that some of the packages offer two nights in Dubai and then eight days in the Seychelles, for example.
“The family market,” he continues, “is one that we specialized on with our Africa tours. We believe that families with young kids, under the age of 12, will want to visit Dubai for a few days and then go on to their second destination, so they are essentially killing two birds with one stone. The biggest appeal in Dubai is that there are resorts that cater to children.”
A majority of Emirates Vacations’ tour offerings will include accommodations in four- and five-star properties, private guides and airport transfers.
emirates + agents
Travel agents can earn anywhere from 10 to 20 percent agent commission with Emirates wholesale packages, which will allow agents to add their own mark-ups. They also will have the option to brand any of Emirates Vacations’ packages with their own travel agency logo and brand name by simply logging into the tour operator’s website and downloading the necessary documents—an incentive that will roll out come the end of 2013.