Sharks, bumblebees and chickens on the run from jerk chicken chefs were just some of the spirited costumes spotted at the Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica for day 1 of the 26th annual Canadian Travel Industry Golf Tournament, which coincided with Halloween.
“It is so amazing to be here face-to-face for the first time since 2019,” Maureen Barnes-Smith, vice president of sales & marketing for Unique Vacations Canada, tells PressToday. “27 years ago was the inception of the tournament and it started with the great late Edith Baxter and our then director Donna Haynes who had a brainchild — why not bring people to Jamaica to golf? We were the first company in Canada to do that — bring travel professionals in Canada together in destination.”
Nearly 80 travel industry professionals from across Canada are taking part in the tournament, ranging from first timers all the way to a couple who has attended every single golf tournament over the years.
“In the first couple of years it was really seriously about the golf. As the golf tournament grew, it became so much more about the partnerships, the networking,” she added. “It’s become a signature event for the Canadian travel industry. They look forward to it.”
Along with two days of golfing, participants have the chance to experience Sandals Ochi Beach Resort and take part in events like a special dinner and awards presentation on the beach where prizes will be awarded to the top performing teams. The newly appointed Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Emina Tudakovic, was also on hand for the tournament dinner last night.
David McClung, president of Baxter Media, said, “26 years of doing this is just remarkable. Every time we come down to a Sandals event we’re just amazing at what they do and the new things they’re offering. We’re also celebrating 55 years of Canadian Travel Press so we’re very proud sponsors.”
Gary Sadler, executive vice president of Global Sales & Industry Relations for Unique Vacations Inc., joined the festivities last night and took to the stage to stress the company’s commitment to the Canadian travel trade.
“Our commitment to you, our travel advisors, to you our tour operator partners, to all of our travel industry partners in Canada, is very serious and very sincere. Any company, any hotel company can tell you that they love the travel advisors and they love Canada, but not one of them can ever say that over the past two years during the pandemic, they did what Unique Vacations Canada did — we never laid off one single business development manager in Canada during the most difficult time,” he said.
In attendance for a handful of times, Denise Heffron, managing director, Canada for Uplift Inc., said, “I love this tournament. I’m a huge fan of the Baxter publishing group and Sandals, and it’s great to be here again enjoying this beautiful weather. First time back post pandemic — what a wonderful way to spend a few days.”
“This is my first time here at the tournament and the weather, and the friends and the sponsors, everything’s been fantastic. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing right now,” noted Karen Brzozowicz, senior manager, payment products at Air Canada.
Colin Skerritt, account director for Sabre, added, “It’s been an absolutely fantastic event. After a few difficult years it’s great to see everyone in the industry getting together again and having such a good time.”