Andrew Dawson, president of tour operations at Sunwing, says “our industry’s best days are ahead of us” as WestJet Airlines, on Wednesday (March 2) confirmed an agreement to acquire Sunwing Airlines.
WestJet released a statement on Wednesday confirming the news, saying that "the transaction will bring together two distinctly Canadian travel and tourism success stories."
The deal means WestJet Group will acquire Sunwing Vacations (inclusive of SellOffVacations and Vacation Express) and that Sunwing Airlines will create a new, combined tour operating business led by Sunwing’s CEO Stephen Hunter.
Following the close of the transaction, the new vacation division will include both Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations Inc.
“The combination of WestJet’s strong balance sheet and vibrant growing national airline with Sunwing’s established brand and expertise in creating differentiated vacation packages will ensure this new tour operating business thrives,” Dawson wrote in a letter to trade partners on Wednesday.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year pending regulatory approval.
“Like many Canadian businesses, the past two years have forced us to think long-term about what matters to us most, where we can manage costs and how we can expand our footprint while continuing to deliver on our purpose of making vacation dreams come true,” Dawson wrote. “It became abundantly clear that our reputation for innovative vacation packages would be strengthened by joining forces with a like-minded Canadian company with a well-established scheduled airline service. With WestJet, we have found that partner.”
What this means for travel advisors
Dawson said he is “tremendously grateful” for the role that valued travel partners have played in Sunwing’s journey to date.
“In our long history as a company, we have always been motivated, challenged and excited by our trade partners and the agent community’s enthusiasm for helping our mutual customers make life-lasting memories on dream vacations at affordable prices,” Dawson wrote. “I hope and expect this working relationship will only strengthen in this next chapter, as we bring together two Canadian powerhouse brands to drive scale and continued growth in the travel sector.”
Having a single purchase point for vacation packages from more gateways to more destinations, specifically, will simplify processes and help agent partners grow their businesses, Dawson wrote.
Dawson outlined additional benefits of the agreement, which he said includes:
- More jobs. WestJet and Sunwing employees will have access to greater opportunities, whether they are pilots, cabin crew or tour employees.
- More choice. “We plan to strengthen the partnerships we have built with local, regional and international airports across and will be able to offer customers vacations to more destinations than ever before, in addition to increasing capacity year-round,” Dawson wrote. “Cities where WestJet operates will gain access to a wider array of vacation packages and regional growth is expected in several of our existing markets, particularly in Quebec where we have a longstanding presence.”
- Lower prices. “The alignment between the two airline operations is essential to keep the business competitive as several low-cost carriers increase their presence in the Canadian market,” Dawson said.
Dawson added that “any existing plans customers have made with Sunwing will be honoured."
He also said that Sunwing will operate “business as usual” for the time being, given that the agreement is subject to regulatory approvals.
“Thank you for coming along on this journey with us, especially after weathering a difficult couple of years,” Dawson concluded. “Our industry’s best days are ahead of us.”