We salute you … all of you
The industry celebrates at the 2020 Agents’ Choice Awards Virtual Gala
IAN STALKER and BOB MOWAT
No one will argue with the assertion that the travel industry in Canada needs a reason to celebrate. Certainly, no on here at Baxter Media will argue with that.
So, while a global pandemic may have prevented an inperson, hugs and cheek-kissing gala, it didn’t prevent Baxter Media from taking the high-tech route and hosting the 2020 Agents’ Choice Awards Virtual Gala – a first for the industry – to celebrate the favourites in the 21st edition of the annual Agents’ Choice Awards Readership Survey.
And by all accounts, it was a great way to pay tribute to those in the travel industry who are truly deserving of tributes.
Now while the required social distancing and rules about group gatherings due to the coronavirus global pandemic may have paused the physical event, the virtual gala – held on Oct. 1 and attracting 700 registered party-makers – had all the glamour and glitz of the real thing.
Emcee Tim Law and host Wendy McClung both used this year’s gala to praise those working in the industry during these beyond difficult times, encouraging them to remain upbeat.
“Somehow, you continually amaze us,” Law told viewers.
McClung in turn invited those in the industry to “watch our industry come out even stronger next year,” while urging industry members to speak with a “strong united voice …”
“This is your voice. You have spoken,” McClung added of those who voted in Agents’ Choice Awards Readership Survey.
The innovative affair quickly received kudos from appreciative viewers and participants alike.
“Thanks to Baxter Media for hosting today’s gala. I am very happy to have this medium to continue spreading the word on Oasis Hotels & Resorts, all located in Cancun, Mexico. Continue the good work,” said Pam Bassett, Oasis’ business development
Bassett added that she truly misses “being on the road to visit the agents” and was thankful for the gala “so I can still connect, albeit virtually.”
Staying Strong Together
Wolf Paunic, who oversees Trafalgar’s Canadian operation, was quick to voice his appreciation for agents who showed Trafalgar appreciation.
“The Trafalgar Canada team takes enormous pride in being voted for the Favourite Motorcoach Tour Operator for 19 years in a row, and Favourite Operator to Europe for three consecutive years at Baxter Media’s Agents’ Choice Awards 2020,” he said.
And Paunic said pointedly: “What makes this award special, is that it was earned in the most challenging year in the global travel industry. The vote of confidence inspires us to keep working on the restart of travel, and to keep reaching out to our valued partners and our guests with positive and inspiring messages.”
He also made it clear: “We are here to stay, and to continue supporting our travel advisor partners. Canadian travel agents and our guests during these difficult times. A sincere thank you to all of you and we will continue to stay stronger together.”
“Another reason which makes this year’s award special, is that it falls on the 100th anniversary of The Travel Corporation, Trafalgar’s parent company, and the year our Chairman, Mr. Stanley Tollman, celebrates his 90th birthday,” Paunic noted.
Goway’s Shirley Rourke said that she’s grateful for the support her company received from travel agents across the country.
“We very much appreciate the great partnerships we have. I would like to thank everyone for their continued support. At Goway, we strive to deliver exceptional customer service with true destination expertise,” Rourke said.
And she added: “During this time we continue to work on initiatives that will allow us to work together even better in the future becoming stronger together.”
Christopher Stubbs, president of Caribbean Castles Resort & Villa Collection, said he was pleased with the “whole format” of the event, telling CTP: “I think it is something we can build on in today’s market. I like that we can reach agents from across the nation in one venue.”
And Trafalgar and Costsaver Tours’ vice president, Anita Emilio observed: “It was a well-executed event for a first time virtual gala and guests were learning how to navigate around the exhibit hall for the first time and not knowing what to expect. Nice to hear from people and great way to connect after such a long time apart.”
Reaction from the Favourites
Transat was the favourite is three categories in this year’s Agents Choice Awards Readership Survey.
“The entire Transat team is deeply moved by all the recognition that the travel professionals have given us at the Agents’ Choice Awards, most notably by naming us Favourite Tour Operator for the seventh consecutive year,” said Joseph Adamo, Transat’s vice-president and chief distribution officer.
Adamo also made it clear that: “More than ever, the travel professionals have shown us unwavering support, and we are tremendously grateful for that. Together, we will reach new heights and continue to brighten travellers’ every day with the joy of vacations.”
TravelBrands was also celebrating as a favourite of agents in this year’s survey.
Frank DeMarinis, CEO of TravelBrands, observed that: “Our goal now more than ever is to help the travel agent community work smarter, not harder and I am happy to see that our efforts have been recognized.”
And DeMarinis added: “I would like to thank everyone who voted for us! We will continue to support our agents to the best of our abilities and look for new ways to help adapt in the ever-changing industry.”
AmaWaterways also earned the favourite spot in the Favourite River Cruise category and Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways, said: “Since founding AmaWaterways in 2002, the Canadian travel agency community has been very close to my heart. We are truly humbled and thrilled to receive this high recognition as their Favourite River Cruise Company.”
Karst also made it clear that: “Our travel partners are such an essential part of our AmaFamily, and our teams have worked especially hard this year to ensure that they feel supported, connected and informed as together we navigate through the current challenges and prepare for a brighter future.”
Agents speak and more
As for agents attending the gala, Travelonly’s Barbara Morrison observed that: “This year has been a challenge to say the least and this was a refreshing change.”
While Raymond Surette of New Wave Travel said: “Such a fun and unique way to connect with our industry.”
As for suppliers on hand for the virtual trade show, Michele Martinson, director of sales, Canada, Aeromexico, said of the event: “I enjoyed the gala awards and seeing the achievements of both the agencies and sup-pliers. Next year, I hope to one of the winning recipients. I had the opportunity to connect with key clients and even video chat with one. I used all the time of the tradeshow schedule allocated and a bit more to have conversations, so I would consider this a valuable use of time and very relevant.”
Thanks to all our Sponsors
The Agents Choice Awards were sponsored by Manulife and WestJet, while Gala Sponsors were Air Canada, Goway, G Adventures, SkyLink Travel Inc., softvoyage, Trafalgar and Transat.
Survey Sponsors were Collette, Manulife, Trafalgar, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and WestJet.
Exhibitors at the virtual trade show included: Aeromexico, Air Canada, AmaWaterways, Anderson Vacations, Baxter Media, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Celebrity Cruises, Club Med, Collette, CORRIDORCANADA.CA, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental, G Adventures, Goway, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, Manulife, Niagara Falls Tourism, Oasis Hotels & Resorts, Rocky Mountaineer, Royal Caribbean International, Sandals Resorts International, SkyLink Travel Inc., softvoyage, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Saskatchewan, Tourism Office of Spain, Trafalgar, Transat, TravelBrands, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Utah Office of Tourism, VoX International, and WestJet and WestJet Vacations.
Lots of Winners
Gala prize winners included: Mary De Almeida of TravelOnly and Karen Banjar of Sell Off Vacations ($50 Amazon Gift Cards provided by Manu-life); Lisa Bond of Go With Hippo Travel and Graham Pardoe of Flight Centre ($100 Visa Gift Cards provided by Baxter Media); Betsey Williams (carry-on luggage provided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand); and Paul Chin-Aleong of New Wave Travel (seven-night trip for two to Dreams Natura Resort Spa in Cancun and return air travel provided by WestJet).
If you missed the 2020 Agents’ Choice Awards Virtual Gala, simply go to https://youtu.be/xwxRF7l3jXE to watch it.