Off to the races in Kissimmee
Travel agents come out on top in The Air Canada Race 2018
No one remembers second place.
It started as an inside joke, but it’s a motto that may have helped one team successfully come out on top in the 2018 edition of The Air Canada Race held in partnership with Experience Kissimmee.
Travel agents from coast to coast – quite literally from Prince Rupert, BC, all the way to Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador – recently gathered in Kissimmee, Florida to go head-to-head in the eighth instalment of the competition inspired by the reality TV show The Amazing Race.
“It is a very prestigious event, and it is a well sought-after event, so congratulations to all of you,” said Steve Goodfellow, director of sales, Eastern Canada at Air Canada, as he first greeted this year’s crop of participants, which included 34 agents, six Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations staff members, and three travel trade media. “What I really want to do is thank all of you. Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations couldn’t be as successful without all of you. You are such a truly important part of our distribution.”
With Canada being Kissimmee’s No. 1 international market for almost 50 years, DT Minich, president/CEO of Experience Kissimmee said playing host to this year’s race was a win-win situation.
“Since day one, Canada has always been our number one international market, so it’s really important, and Air Canada has been a tremendous partner through the years,” he said. “So when we heard of the opportunity, we jumped at it because it seemed like the perfect partnership to promote the Kissimmee area to Canadians.”
And the winner is…
After three days of intense competition, which saw participants embark on a FootGolf tournament, an aerial obstacle course, a scavenger hunt at Universal Orlando Resort and a series of challenges at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there could only be one winner.
In the end, it was Team Federico, made up of Air Canada Vacation’s Federico Berardinucci, Amanda Lindsay of The Travel Store, Jesica Faur of Canada One Travel, Tatiana Rheaume of Egencia Canada, and Harriet Palaypayon of Nexion Canada ULC, who came out on top and claimed the grand prize.
“On the first night when we all met, we knew we had a fun team. Of course, we all wanted to win, but we were excited to have a lot of fun together and we did,” said Amanda Lindsay, a professional travel consultant at The Travel Store in Charlottetown, PEI. “We were all ecstatic to win, as we had each pushed so hard at different points of the race. We are all eager to go back, as there was so much more to see that we couldn’t cover in just a few days. Kissimmee really offers something for everyone.”
As a travel agent for just over a year and a half, fellow team member Harriet Palaypayon of Nexion Canada ULC in Toronto, says she’s excited to get her next Disney inquiry now that she has first-hand experience at the resort, as well as in the destination.
“Being part of the race was amazing,” she said. “Experiencing it for myself really makes a big difference, I can now tell my clients how beautiful and colourful it is.”
Each team member won two return tickets on Air Canada Rouge to Orlando, a vacation home rental stay, and two tickets per winner courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
“Universal was by far my highlight, especially walking into Hogsmeade,” added Lindsay. “I am very excited to go back with my husband and see his excitement experiencing it for the first time.”
Since team leader Federico Berardinucci works for Air Canada Vacations, his prize was awarded to Kristina Dyk, account manager for Corporate Traveller in Vancouver, BC, for having the best social media presence over the course of the race.
“I was really rooting for our team to win the race, of course, but Team Federico were strong competitors in every event, so they deservedly took first place and I thought that was that,” she said. “Once they awarded that prize, I was totally surprised to find out that not only did I take the win for the social award, but that it also came with the grand prize trip!”
Dyk, who tweeted during the competition about how she had to bring her niece along next time to experience the water park at Universal’s Volcano Bay, said she’s excited to come back.
“Ellie, almost four years old, is obsessed with all things volcano right now, so when I won, I knew it would be her I’d be bringing with me, and I can’t wait to walk through the gates and see the look on her face when she sees the giant volcano for the first time,” she said. “She’s going to be thrilled.”
On hand to give out the prizes, Bonnie Walker, director of sales for Western Canada at Air Canada, said travel agents take away so much more than the fact that Air Canada flies to the destination by taking part in the race.
“This is a really fun way to say thank you to the people who are actually sitting there and dealing with the passengers and selling the tickets and doing all of the groundwork, and it’s great to get around and meet them all,” she noted, adding the airline has up to 67 weekly flights into Orlando at peak season. “It just puts a face to the name as well, they know there are people at Air Canada that they can reach out to, and it’s a two-way street.”
And we do remember second place, so honourable mention goes out to Team Jamie, comprised of Jamie Fox of Air Canada, Julia Yashku of YYZ Travel, Hannah Parker of HRG, Tommy Tereshyn of 5 10 Travel, and Karlie Reinberger of Merit Travel.
Here’s the lowdown on what went down during The Air Canada Race in Kissimmee, Florida.
The competition kicked-off with teams battling it out on the links with a FootGolf tournament held at the award-winning Watson Course at Reunion Resort. As the sport is a combination of soccer and golf, the objective was to make it through the 18-hole course with the fewest amount of kicks possible.
Next up, participants were off to Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park, a progressively challenging aerial obstacle course set high atop a canopy of trees. Participants swung on ropes, crossed wobbly suspended bridges and swinging logs, leaped onto hanging nets, and soared on zip-lines, as they raced against the clock to be the fastest to complete the courses.
It was a scavenger hunt of epic proportions as participants headed to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort to search high and low for visual clues, creative photo requirements, and answers to 38 questions and riddles.
Contestants went to infinity and beyond for the final leg of the race, decoding clues and embarking on a series of challenges and photo opportunities through Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and ended up among the likes of Woody, Buzz and Jessie at the recently opened Toy Story Land.
Travel agents share what they learned during the competition and offer tips on what may help other consultants increase their bookings:
“This wasn’t my first time to central Florida, but what this trip really demonstrated was how much Kissimmee has to offer in addition to the incredible theme parks – there really is something for everyone: sun seekers, thrill seekers, golfers, families, wine-lovers, etc. While we were able to get a good taste of it all in three days at race-pace, I definitely learned you could use at least a week in Kissimmee to take in the attractions allowing for a little extra ‘down-time’ or pool time to refuel. Regardless of how long you are there though, Disney Fast Passes and Universal Express passes are well worth the investment to ensure you maximize the time you do have. I work in corporate travel so, when I came back, the first thing I did was recommend my team suggests Kissimmee to our clients seeking destinations to host annual meetings and conferences.”
– Kristina Dyk, account manager for Corporate Traveller in Vancouver, BC
“Kissimmee is only a few minutes away from main attractions: Walt Disney World, Sea World, Discovery Cove and Universal Studios. There are a lot of things you can do in Kissimmee such as golf, FootGolf, spas, water park, shopping, dining, and outdoor adventures. It’s a great place for families, couples, corporate and even honeymooners. If you have clients interested in playing golf and staying at a resort in Kissimmee with a water park, delicious food and wonderful vacation rental homes and villas, I recommend Reunion Resort: this place offers the whole package and more.”
– Jesica Faur, travel specialist, Canada One Travel in Winnipeg, Man.
“Having never visited this area of Florida before, just seeing some of the sights and the layout of the area and, of course, beautiful areas like Reunion Resort will certainly help in selling Kissimmee. One of the most important parts of our job is having that first-hand knowledge for our clients, and trips like this are a fun way to gain that insight.”
– Amanda Lindsay, professional travel consultant at The Travel Store in Charlottetown, PEI