Over the last four years, Sunwing Travel Group’s expansion into hotel ownership and management has helped grow the family-owned, Toronto-based company’s position as one of the largest integrated travel businesses in North America.
Comprised of Sunwing Vacations, Sunwing Airlines, Signature Vacations, SellOffVacations.com, Luxe Destination Weddings as well as Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts — a management company that operates Royalton, Memories, Grand Lido and Chic resorts — the Sunwing group has since 2011 purchased or established more than 4,500 rooms spread over several hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Like all companies, Sunwing constantly adapts and evolves to maintain its position, including dealing with fluctuations in the price of oil as well as the value of the Canadian dollar.
“It’s a crap shoot,” said Colin Hunter, Sunwing’s founding president and owner. “The price of oil goes down but our dollar goes down as well. So whatever we get on one side we lose on the other.”
In the end, no matter the situation, Hunter said the client always gets good value. “It’s a competitive arena that we work in so the client gets a good deal all the time.”
As a result, Sunwing’s growth in the Quebec market has been nothing less than astonishing.
“From November 2006, our first flight to Punta Cana, we had 33,000 seats sold that winter and 11,000 seats in the summer. Today, we have almost a half million seats,” said Sam Char, executive director for Sunwing Travel Group in Quebec. “That gives you and idea of how we grew in nine years.”
Today, that Quebec market also represents between 25-30 per cent of Sunwing’s business, a number that Char said can still be improved. “Honestly, my wish is 35 per cent and more.”
Next April, the Sunwing will celebrate its 10th year in this province and in all likelihood will also celebrate its 12th consecutive year on PROFIT Magazine’s list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, the result, Char said, of the high standards and dedication to quality held by founder Colin Hunter — which are also present in his eldest son, Stephen Hunter, who since January 2010 has been Sunwing’s president and CEO.
It was Stephen who oversaw the joining of forces five years ago with TUI Travel PLC, the biggest travel company in the world, which brought the RIU Hotels product line to their stable.
“Now we have 34 RIU Hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico in exclusivity,” said Char, adding, “We’re very lucky and privileged. It’s a good product line.”