The Return of Royalty

Classic Vacations spends a weekend honoring agents

By: By Monica Poling

The Details

Classic Vacations

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Big Island Adventure Package
Five nights at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, a Big Island adventure tour to the Kilauea Volcano or Kohala Waterfall, admission to The Fairmont’s Gathering of the Kings Polynesian Feast and more. From $489 per night, through Dec. 20, 2009.

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This year, the Big Island’s dramatic black-and-white landscape set the stage for Classic Vacations’ Marketing Partners Weekend, honoring the wholesaler’s top-selling travel agents. The first-class weekend extravaganza, which has grown into a much-anticipated event among travel agents, brings together Classic’s staff, top partners — including about 75 agents — and their guests.

“Elvis” entertained guests during the Classic Vacations Marketing Partners Weekend. // (c) Monica Poling
“Elvis” entertained guests during the
Classic Vacations Marketing Partners
Weekend. // (c) Monica Poling

Classic Vacations, a luxury FIT tour operator, selected the theme “The Return of Royalty” to convey the gratitude the organization feels toward its travel agent partners, but the feeling appears mutual. The tour operator, which consistently ranks high in travel surveys on customer service, reservations staff, product offerings and sales and marketing initiatives, has also been voted as Virtuoso’s top FIT tour operator and was selected as the top tour operator by Ensemble Travel Group.

With a long line of luxury travel product offerings around the world, and a staff committed to excellent customer service, Classic Vacations continues to strive to raise the bar. The company has unveiled a new branding campaign, highlighted by a series of new brochures that the company hopes will serve as a travel wish list of sorts. Classic Vacations is also developing a series of new initiatives for 2009.

President Tim MacDonald outlined these new initiatives, including an extension of this year’s popular $500 Airfare Credit campaign, which has already proven to be the company’s most successful promotion to date. Early next year, Classic will roll out a much requested online booking engine for travel agents. Also in 2009, Classic will once again begin accepting group travel reservations from agents.

MacDonald said that these new developments have been the two items most requested by agents. Further, he believes that the increased efficiency provided by the booking engine, as well as the additional sales generated by group business, should help Classic Vacations weather some of the turbulent times that the travel industry is predicting for next year.

As travel agents in attendance learned of Classic’s new campaigns for 2009, they were also feted by some of the leading properties on the Big Island. Host hotel, The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, organized a first-class series of events that demonstrated just how dedicated the property is to the travel agent community. So valued were the agencies in attendance that The Fairmont invited sales staff from their corporate office in Toronto to be part of the festivities. Attendees were greeted in a private Classic Vacations reception room, and once the check-in formalities were completed, guests could enjoy local entertainment, select from a variety of snacks at the welcome buffet or indulge in 15-minute chair massages.

The weekend’s jam-packed events schedule began early each day. The Fairmont staff organized a variety of optional 6 a.m. programs, including hula lessons, yoga classes and water aerobics. Daily excursions around the Big Island included snorkeling adventures, hiking and island jeep tours.

The Mauna Lani Resort hosted Thursday’s welcome dinner, allowing guests to wander through the property’s award-winning bungalows while sampling Hawaiian cuisine. The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, which hosted Friday’s dinner, flew in chefs from Marriott properties around the islands, providing guests with a who’s who of Marriott’s signature cuisine.

The event’s closing ceremony, at The Fairmont Orchid, included performance excerpts from the hotel’s “Gathering of the Kings” production. Performers from Island Breeze Productions recreated Polynesia’s early history using both traditional and contemporary choreography.

Additionally, Classic used the final dinner to honor its elite agencies, bestowing awards for highest gross sales, highest sales percentage increase and highest dollar sales increase. Single-location agencies taking home top honors were, Highlands Ranch Travel and Travel Design International. In the category of Agencies with Multiple Locations, Tzell Travel Group and Carson Wagonlit Travel/Your Travel Center took top honors. Virtuoso swept the consortia/franchise awards, winning honors in three categories.

Nearly half of the agencies in attendance were recognized for selling in excess of $1 million worth of Classic Vacations packages, while four agencies — Altour International; American Express Travel, Lawrenceville, Ga.; TravelStore, Inc.; and Tzell Travel Group — placed in Classic’s $5 million club.

Agencies invited to this year’s Marketing Partners weekend were selected based upon their sales between Aug. 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008. Looking ahead, there is still time for agents hoping to attend next year’s event, which will be held at The Cove Atlantis on the Bahamas’ Paradise Island.

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