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Luxury tour operator Carrier reports excellent 2016, strong peak period sales and early travel trends for 2017 

Luxury tailor-made tour operator, Carrier, has reported January 2017 as one of its best ever booking months, with sales for 2017 having increased by 9% on a particularly strong 2016. The travel specialist ended 2016 on a high note with sales to all product areas having increased year on year – the Caribbean, Europe and Africa programmes performing especially well.

Caribbean | Barbados and Antigua’s popularity showed no sign of waning. Business to Barbados was nearly 30% up – the renovations at The Sandpiper proving popular with sales to the hotel 63% up; room nights at Sandy Lane are up by 50%. Antigua has also seen growth of nearly 25% – the extra flight a week with British Airways, renovations and updates at a number of hotels, a proactive tourist board and the fact that Carrier’s Caribbean team have all visited the island recently have largely contributed to this. The Grenadines too is increasing in popularity, with Cotton House and Bequia Beach Hotel doing especially well.  

2017 early trend // Growth is being seen most strongly at boutique/independent hotels. Of particular note are Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort in Anguilla; Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is leading the way in St Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica Inn, Jamaica is showing good growth. Turks & Caicos is the most improved destination with sales having more than doubled; Grace Bay Club and COMO Parrot Cay are the top sellers here.  

Indian Ocean & Arabia | The Maldives was Carrier’s second best-selling destination after Barbados and sales here continued to strengthen with a 26% increase year on year. The most notable growth was with Six Senses Laamu and Constance Moofushi. The Constance properties overall are doing well, with Constance Le Prince Maurice on Mauritius also up by over a third; though Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok and One&Only Le Saint Géran vying for the top spot (the latter will be closing this month for a renovation).  

2017 early trend // An increased demand for all-inclusive options in the Maldives – business to Constance Moofushi has already tripled year on year. Six Senses Zighy Bay (up 57%) is also selling well in Oman.  

Europe | Spain, Greece and Italy remain the most dominant countries, with the majority of the top ten hotels made up of those most popular with families. Croatia and Montenegro has seen the most growth and was 80% up year on year; it’s outside the Eurozone, perceived as being very safe and of course attractive for its characterful Old Towns and scenic coastline.  

2017 early trend // Italy’s continued growth maintains its position as one of the best selling destinations in this part of the world. Rome, Florence and Venice are doing particularly well, along with Villa Cortine Palace on Lake Garda and Villa d’Este on Lake Como. In addition, Il Sereno is a new opening on Lake Como and Carrier is one of only two tour operators featuring the hotel in its first year. It brings a new offering to the area as it is more contemporary than other properties found on the lake.  

Africa | Bookings to Africa ended 20% up in 2016 owing in part to the favourable exchange rate. South Africa has long been Carrier’s top performing destination here with a 15% increase in bookings year on year. Cape Grace, Belmond Mount Nelson and Shamwari Private Game Reserve were the top sellers. Kenya saw the largest growth with bookings more than doubled.  

2017 early trend // This year is the UN’s Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and Carrier predicts holiday experiences contributing to aiding a country’s development, giving back to local communities and incorporating cultural experiences will be high on travellers’ agendas. Carrier continues to be a supporter of Uthando (Love) South Africa, with a donation made to the community projects carried out by the charity on every Carrier holiday booked to Africa.  

Indian Subcontinent & Australasia | Thailand, Malaysia and Australia maintained their positions as best-selling destinations here. A renewed interest was also seen for Malaysia, which was 32% up – The Datai Langkawi and Four Seasons Langkawi being the most popular accommodation choices.  

2017 early trend // In the current uncertain climate many have assumed travellers are opting to holiday close to home however Carrier has in fact witnessed the opposite, with an increase in forward bookings for long haul, soft adventure holidays. Thailand is up 43% (with well-known resort groups performing favourably i.e. Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental), Australia is up by 42%, forward bookings to Bali have doubled and revenue for Vietnam this year has already surpassed the total for 2015.  

USA & Canada | In North America the states of Florida and California are by far the biggest selling destinations for Carrier. Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort is the top selling hotel and has seen significant growth with sales almost doubled. Business to Mexico grew by 15%, with Riviera Maya currently the most popular area. Gran Velas Riviera Maya is the top selling property, however with the recent opening of Grand Velas Los Cabos, Carrier predicts an increased interest in Los Cabos from the group’s fans.  

2017 early trend // Bookings to Canada continue to go from strength to strength. Rocky Mountaineer passenger numbers have doubled since last year (the most popular route is Vancouver to Banff). Families have been attracted to British Columbia, taking in either a wilderness resort (e.g. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort) or Sonora and Whistler. To meet demand, Carrier has expanded the Canada product, with the introduction of Toronto and Knight Inlet Lodge (world premier destination for grizzly bear watching) into its latest 2017/18 programme. There is also an increasing interest in the Southern states of America, possibly due to the imminent March launch of British Airways direct flight to New Orleans (a destination new to the Carrier portfolio for this year).  

Commenting on the successful start of the year, Steve Kimber, Managing Director said, “We’re delighted with the strong early season booking performance Carrier has achieved. Although it’s been a year of change and uncertainty with the likes of Brexit and the ‘Trump Effect’, travellers are able to seek the support, protection and convenience of packages with tour operators like Carrier and, with the volume of enquiries we can see coming in daily, we have every indication of further success ahead.”

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