Agents Race To Discover Portugal’s UNESCO City

Air Canada and United Airlines recently joined forces with Visit Portugal to create and operate a challenging, clue-filled contest giving selected travel advisors the opportunity to discover the world heritage city of Evora, in the region of Alentejo, Portugal.

Teams of travel agents from Canada and the U.S. employed the best of their detective skills and other talents in attempts to win the Air Canada-United Airlines Race. Talents that were employed ran the gamut from taste and scent tests to illustrating, writing and video production challenges. On hand to witness the race and participate was Baxter western Canada editor Ted Davis.

Six teams of five advisors each (four in a few cases) took to the streets of Evora on the morning of April 18 and quickly began navigating the hilly, cobblestoned lanes to find cryptic, hidden sites.

They then tackled difficult challenges that were scored by the operators of venues like a fresh fish shop, an ice-creamery, a wine seller, a cafe and many others. The temperatures were high and by day’s end the participants were clearly tired but elated with their intense learning experience in Evora.

The winning team was announced that evening at a gala dinner and the champs took home two round trip air tickets to Portugal each, plus extensive land programs.

Travellers who are keen to experience relatively unknown destinations may want to consider a trip to Evora and the Alentejo region – especially when they learn that Evora is a future Cultural Capital of Europe. Evora will start its year as cultural capital in 2027.

Those who want to go sooner than that should also know that this compact and very walkable historic gem is a UNESCO world heritage site, owing to its preservation of important architectural sites that date back to Roman administration of the city. These include a classic Roman aquaduct and the still-standing pillars of the Templo Romano.

But maybe most importantly, they will need to know that direct, non-stop flights to Lisbon, Portugal are available from Air Canada and United Airlines. It is about 1.5 hours by car from Lisbon to Evora.

Air Canada has operated the Race – roughly based on the amazing race model – since 2006, starting with U.S. only destinations, including Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle and Orlando.

In 2015, the first international destinations were selected as race destinations, including London/Edinburgh and France in 2016, back to Florida (Kissimmee) in 2018, and then Basel, Switzerland in 2021, with a lull during the pandemic.

But this year’s Portugal race was the first in which Air Canada partnered with another airline. The fact that it was an American carrier meant that half the advisors were chosen from a pool of U.S.-based advisors, with the other half hailing from Canada. Teams were made up of a mix of Americans and Canadians.

Following the race, agents fanned out across Alentejo, to discover about the region on a selection of fam trips. The three trip themes offered were Culture & Heritage, Active & Nature, Gastronomy & Wine. The advisors are now on the road expanding on their knowledge of Alentejo.

PHOTO Caption

Travel advisors on the recent Air Canada-United Airlines Race spent the day seeking clues to puzzles about the city of Evora and meeting locals. Here, agents (l. to r.) Stella Olaso, Suzanne Calhoun and Kim Renouf chat with an Evora resident.