Continental Airlines Vacations’ SelectEscapes

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Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the downturn in the travel industry? If not a full illumination, there seems to be a glow, indicates Michael Warnken, v.p. of marketing and distribution for MLT Vacations, which is positioning its Continental Airlines Vacations partner for the industry’s economic recovery with the introduction of two new vacation products: SelectEscapes Luxury and SelectEscapes Romance.

“We are finding that both the concept of one-stop shopping for luxury vacations and its timing seem to be right,” says Warnken. “At the beginning of the year, everything was down—from middle- to high-end bookings. But then by mid-summer, we began to see movement in inquiries and bookings, and without doubt, luxury travel bookings were coming back at a faster pace. For the moment, I do believe that agents would do well to focus on the upscale client, and I think—no, we are finding—that the SelectEscapes vacations, introduced last May, are going to be the right products for come-back times.”

Warnken points out why SelectEscapes differs from packages in other Continental Airlines Vacations product. “Whereas other programs focus on just the deluxe hotel component, SelectEscapes delivers the whole deluxe experience of being pampered: from first class or BusinessFirst air (at discounted prices), to private car transfers between airport and hotel, accommodations at luxurious hotels (including hotel taxes and service charges) and private tours. We want to make a SelectEscapes vacation indeed deluxe in every aspect of the traveler’s vacation.”

Clients have a wide choice of vacation destinations under the SelectEscapes Luxury packages, available in Mexico—Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, and Riviera Nayarit; in Jamaica—Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios; in Hawaii—Oahu/Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai and Hawaii’s Big Island; in mainland U.S.—Las Vegas, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Sedona, Tucson, San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma, Marco Island, Naples and Orlando; and in Great Britain, with London.

Luxury clients heading for Wynn Las Vegas, for instance, have private elevator access to their Tower Suites accommodations, as well as VIP services and the Tower Suites’ private pool. Luxury clients heading for London, meanwhile, have a choice of a half-dozen all five-star properties, from the Grosvenor House and The Ritz London to the InterContinental London Park Lane. Individual hotels at all destinations add their complimentary extras, from wine and a fruit basket on arrival to room upgrades or discounts on spa treatments.

The SelectEscapes Romance program divides into two parts: Destination Weddings and Honeymoons, linked, of course, to a luxurious celebration of marriage. The hotels and resorts included have full-time wedding planners to arrange every aspect of the most special of days. Additionally, the program includes not only custom-designed weddings, but a special offer for family and friends attending the destination wedding. When the bride and groom purchase their air, hotel and wedding package, they receive a destination wedding promotion code to share with their guests. Then each reservation/booking made using that promo code entitles the wedding couple to a $50 credit. With a good long guest list, that lucky couple may get a very specially priced honeymoon as almost a bonus wedding gift.

Honeymoon packages alone most often include a bottle of sparkling wine and flowers on arrival, champagne breakfast in bed, private candlelight dinner, and keepsake gifts, such as special T-shirts or embroidered bathrobes.

Romance destinations include Las Vegas; Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit in Mexico; Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, Antigua and Nassau in the Caribbean; and in North America, Oahu/Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai and Hawaii’s Big Island.

In the United States, MLT Vacations, one of the largest providers of vacation packages, manages multiple package vacation brands for Continental Airlines Vacations, as well as NWA World Vacations, and as of this past June, Delta Vacations. Also under the MLT umbrella is Worry-Free Vacations, whose focus is charter vacation packages from several U.S. cities to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.

According to Warnken, “Travel agents are the heart of our company’s business, and providing ongoing training opportunities—such as the annual MLT University [taking place this month Oct. 5-7]—is critical to everyone’s mutual success.”

Incidentally, the message at this year’s MLT University conference, Warnken says, is that, “Despite economy malaise, there are still customers, not as many as in earlier years of this decade, but they are there, particularly up-scale travelers who may not be going on long vacations, but they are going and they want to go in style.”