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The Summer Fun panel was focused on destinations around North America. Suppliers discussed how to add culture, history, education and entertainment to itineraries in their areas so that they can maximize their clients’ summer travel plans.
Panelists included Tania Hancock, sales manager for Visit Anchorage; Sus Beltran, director of sales for South Beach Group Hotels, a collection of 10 boutique hotels in the heart of South Beach; Erich Hess, the senior sales manager of travel industry sales at Vail Resorts; Rob Price, senior sales manager for the leisure travel department of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater; and Juan Carlos Del Rio, managing director Epic Ground Destination Management Company.
During the panel discussion, each panelist provided tips regarding what the best two or three attractions were in their area as well as activities that agents should be aware of in each destination.
According to Price, the downtown area of St. Petersburg is a must-see with attractions that include the Salvador Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Hancock recommended visitors check out glacier dog mushing, day boat cruising, bear-viewing and more in Anchorage, Alaska.
Beltran acknowledged South Beach’s fantastic shopping and emphasized sporting events, cruising, gambling and exploring the Florida Everglades.
Hess noted that Vail is known for its adventure activities – both in the summer and the winter. He pointed out that clients can partake in a range of adventures such as rafting, ziplining, biking, hiking, horseback riding and even golf.
“Golf is very important,” said Hess. “The ball goes much farther at 9,000 feet.”
While discussing each region’s highlights, panelists also had the opportunity to build an ideal itinerary for a two-night stay in their destination. With so many things to do in each destination, this did prove hard for panelists but each one managed to compile some highlights for visitors.
Price recommended using St. Petersburg’s downtown area as a hub for sightseeing on the first night and heading out to see the Salvador Dali Museum as well as the area’s other cultural attractions. In the evening, he suggested clients explore downtown’s many outdoor cafes, bars and bistros.
In the morning, Price recommended heading to Fort De Soto Park where visitors can see a variety of wildlife including pelicans, herons, egrets and plovers. There is a seven-mile-long paved trail where clients can walk or bike. They can also explore the mangroves by canoe or kayak. Kids will enjoy exploring the fort’s old canons and jail cells.
After exploring the park, begin the journey north up the coast by car. Along the way to Tarpon Springs, visitors can stop at any of smaller communities along the way including Dunedin, Saftey Harbor, Palm Harbor and more. Suggest that clients pack a picnic lunch and stop in Philippe Park. The park has more than an acre of trees as well as an old ceremonial mound that was part of an ancient Indian settlement.
Clients can also partake in any number of watersports along the way such as jet skiing.
To end the day, Price suggested agents book their clients for a stay in Tarpon Springs. Children will love the famous Sponge Docks and adults will enjoy delicious Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, country shops and beaches.
Hancock suggests agents build an itinerary that begins in downtown Anchorage. Two attractions she recommends starting with are the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. She also noted that purchasing the Alaska Culture Pass, which allows clients entrance to both attractions as well as a shuttle for one price, will save money.
On day two, Hancock suggests agents find out what clients would like to do and have them choose.
“Qualify clients and find out what they prefer,” she said. “They can golf under the midnight sun after 10 p.m., go and see the glaciers, go salmon or halibut fishing and more.”
Hess pointed out that Breckenridge and Vail may be best-known for winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding, but there is also a range of things to do in the summer – and at a discount. Summertime is the off-season in Vail, so hotels such as the Four Seasons can be booked at a lower rate than during the winter.
Clients can spend the morning playing golf on the area’s Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at the Breckenridge Golf Club. The 27-hole course is the only municipal course designed by Nicklaus. At an elevation of more than 9,000 feet, golfers will also have the added advantage of having their balls fly straighter and higher than at lower elevations.
Families can check out Peak 8 Fun Park. Accessible by the BreckConnect Gondola, visitors can park for free at the base and head up to the park for mountain biking, roller coaster rides, four-by-four tours and more. An adult day pass to the park costs $72 and a kids’ pass is $38.
In addition to hotel prices being discounted for the summer, many spas also offer discounted rates. Clients can wind down their day of adrenaline with a spa treatment at any of the numerous hotel and day spas in the area.
Like Vail and Breckenridge, summer is also the off-season in Miami/South Beach. Beltran suggests heading to South Beach and starting the afternoon with brunch at Maxine’s Bistro & Bar located at the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club. The restaurant is known for its Challah French toast and mojitos. Brunch is served until 3 p.m.
After brunch, suggest that clients head to Collins Avenue for shopping, relax on the beach or head out for a boat tour of Biscayne Bay.
Beltran noted that one of the best things about South Beach is that visitors do not need a car to get around.
Del Rio told attendees that, “in Cabo, anything is possible,” and suggested that agents combine an appropriate amount of relaxation with adventure.
Epic can arrange numerous tours for clients, including a desert camel ride, unique scuba diving experiences, swimming with whale sharks, hammerhead shark experiences, visits to an underwater sand fall and more. The company can also assist with wedding planning, airport transfers and event catering.
Del Rio noted that any of these adventures can be combined with a great hotel stay at hotels such as the Melia Cabo Real, Las Ventanas and more. He also suggested that, if agents needed more information on Los Cabos, they visit his website, Epic.com.mx.