From Left to Right: Paulina Salen, Celebrity Coaches of America; Mel Nobel, The Travel Guy; Angela Brown, Dugans Travel; Pamela Russo, Travel Reports; Patricia Whitmire, LeisureNet Travel; Robin Sylvester, US Airways Vacations; Janon Bourgeois, MGM MIRAGE; Linda DeMarsh, US Airways Vacations.
// (c) 2010 Lisette Mejia
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and most visitors to the so-called City of Sin, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — that is, unless you are one of the four travel agents who took home their share of $25,000 in gift cards for travel on US Airways Vacations. The prize was possible thanks to a Las Vegas scavenger hunt that took place for the fourth year in a row on Feb. 16. US Airways Vacations and the LVCVA jointly sponsored the event.
Twenty-four qualifying travel agents — representatives from the agencies that booked the most vacation packages to Las Vegas through US Airways Vacations between July and November 2009 — gathered to compete for their stake in the reward.
As a writer I wasn’t eligible to receive any of the earnings, but I was still excited to tag along throughout the quest and vowed to give it my all.
Four agents were assigned to each team, and teams were identified by the hotels that were hosting them. The six teams, then, were: Flamingo Las Vegas, Las Vegas Hilton, MGM Grand, Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
The night before the hunt, participants from several teams met for dinner, giving us the chance to meet both our teammates and competition. Whispers floated throughout the evening, with agents saying, “Oh, he’s the veteran who won a couple of years ago,” and, “I did a Web search on last year’s event, and I still have no idea what to expect.”
With a sense of rivalry beginning to brew, most vowed to get a good night’s rest for the big day ahead.
At 10:30 a.m. the next morning, we gathered at our individual buses and received the 10 clues that would guide us throughout the next three hours. We were given rules to follow, including a rule that dictated a 30-minute deduction from each team’s final time — incorrect answers or items.
We had been warned that the scavenger hunt was designed to be extremely difficult, and the caveat proved more than accurate. Even those who thought they knew Las Vegas well were forced to think again.
Here is one of the clues: “In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree — unfortunately, it never got built in 1975 as it was planned! It would have been cool, kind of a Logan’s Run ultra-modern place. Instead, in 1990, this place opened to much fanfare as the largest hotel in the world! Now that you are here, it’s time to find where the kids like to play. Enclosed is 50 cents for a game of Claim Jumper. Try your luck and bring back as many tickets as you can with just these four bits.”
The answer: Excalibur Hotel & Casino.
In a similar manner, the rest of the hints threw us for a loop, sending us scurrying through hotel lobbies on the Las Vegas Strip as well as to landmarks in the city’s downtown area.
We reached our final destination by solving a word-search puzzle. Words like “clown” and “children” led us to the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, where US Airways Vacations team members collected our answers and rushed us out of the room in an effort to conceal the contest winners.
A few hours later, we all came together for a dinner to hear the announcement of the winning team. We held our breaths as they started from the last-place team and worked their way backward. My team — the Paris crew — let out a collective sigh as we heard that we came in fourth place. Ultimately, the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino team took home the grand prize at $6,250 in travel gift cards per agent.
With the consolation that the agents were able to enjoy a thrilling trip to Las Vegas (and bring along a guest), I think it’s safe to say that no one went home empty handed.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority