Pleasant's Big Party

The annual Tournament of Centurions is an agent favorite

By: Marty Wentzel

Take one Hawaii luxury hotel, invite representatives from Pleasant Holidays’ 100 top-producing accounts and treat them to a weekend of pure indulgence. That’s the formula for Pleasant’s annual Tournament of Centurions, which, according to hosts and guests alike, simultaneously serves as a professional motivator and an unparalleled party.

This year’s TOC, which takes place on Maui, marks the 20th anniversary of the event, the brainchild of Pleasant Holidays founder Ed Hogan and vice president of sales Jerry Healy.

“We do this to say thank you to our agent partners,” said Healy. “There are no sponsors involved, and we have no sales pitch.”

And yet, the event pays off for Pleasant.

“A lot of people make sure to keep up their business with us so they’ll be invited back to TOC each year,” he said. “Some attendees give us over $1 million a year in business.”

Colin Weatherhead (CWT/Your Travel Center, Santa Barbara, Calif.) has attended TOC for 11 years.

“It’s the best event we get invited to because it’s all about appreciation,” he said. “There’s no work or seminars. Every year they put on a better party, and they treat the agents royally.”

No matter what island and hotel Pleasant chooses each year, TOC guests are guaranteed certain perks, including upscale accommodations, participation in golf and tennis tournaments, organized hiking excursions and spa treatments. Agents don crazy costumes for the Saturday night theme party, and dress to the nines for Sunday evening’s elegant sit-down dinner with live entertainment.

Then there’s the TOC croquet tournament, a two-day putt-fest presented with growing gusto.

“We include it because anyone can play croquet,” said Healy. “It’s a nice relaxing sport, and it brings out a lot of laughs.”

The game and gathering have become so intrinsically linked that hotels have actually created croquet lawns at Pleasant’s request.

It also brings out the competitive side of Teri Trettin (CWT/Travel Center, Tacoma, Wash.).

“The croquet game makes the Super Bowl look like child’s play,” said Trettin, who had never picked up a mallet before attending TOC. “The players are focused, and Jerry’s whistle rules. I should add that in the 17 years I’ve gone to TOC, I’ve never won the tournament. I even tried bribing the judges once to no avail.”

Larry Shallock (SIG/Lambourne Travel Partners, Bakersfield, Calif.) recalls the year that rain forced the croquet tournament into the host hotel’s grand ballroom.

“They put the wickets into little stands of Styrofoam, and we played on what was probably a million-dollar carpet,” he said.

This year’s TOC will be Shallock’s 18th.

“While I see the trip as a great incentive, it also allows me to check out the resort where we’re staying,” he said. “Whenever I can, I extend a day or two to look at other properties on the island as well.”

The first time 12-year TOC veteran Gary Silverstein (Mann Travel & Cruises, Charlotte, N.C.) played golf was at a Pleasant weekend on Kauai.

“I wasn’t even sure where to place my ball on the tee box,” he said. “At the end of the weekend, Jerry gave me a trophy for best effort.”

The TOC golf game had a profound professional effect on Ed Phillips (AMX/Ethan Allen Travel, San Mateo, Calif.), who has made the cut 18 times.

“While golfing with another guest, we discussed how to maximize relationships with our preferred vendor partners,” said Phillips. “He shared ideas that I immediately put into play on my return, and the result has paid dividends over many years.”

Tim Irwin has experienced TOC from both sides, first as Auto Club of Southern California’s travel products and services vice president and now as Pleasant Holidays’ president.

“When I was an agent, TOC gave me a chance to compare ideas with my counterparts from across the country,” said Irwin. “Everyone who attends is successful, so you’re talking with the best of the best. These are people who really know how to run a travel business.”

As a host, Irwin continues to use the gathering as a way to pick up industry tips.

“I get to hear our guests’ opinions on what Pleasant is doing right and where we need to change things,” he said. “TOC helps us run our company even better.”


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