It was so real you’d think Daenerys Targaryen was moments away from swooping in on a fire-breathing dragon.
Thursday night (Nov. 7), Palace Resorts wrapped its week-long Megafam for Canadian travel agents by hosting a medieval-themed, Game of Thrones-inspired gala in the Crystal Ballroom of The Grand at Moon Palace in Cancun, Mexico.
The theatrical affair, called “Among Lords and Ladies, The Royal Wedding” – a nod to that unforgettable “Red Wedding” scene on HBO’s Game of Thrones – invited nearly 160 travel advisors to don their best Middle Age apparel and join the Palace family for a royal banquet.
A red-tinted dining room – complete with regal banner flags, guard knights, glowing chandeliers and long tables lined with goblets and golden candlestick holders – was prepared for Megafam delegates, who arrived as queens, kings, lords, ladies, witches, knights, squires, monks, milkmaids and even dragons (much to the amusement of other resort guests).
As royal subjects feasted on roasted short rib, smoked chicken, baked pork, salmon and the freshest veggies and bread in the land, a hooded electronic violin player sauntered around the royal ballroom, stringing melodies overtop a soundtrack of booming beats.
Shortly after a trio of castanet-tapping gypsies and chamber musicians entertained the masses, a full-blown war broke out on the dance floor as knights and rebels clashed in a sword-and-shield swinging rumble.
It might as well have been a full-scale Hollywood production, but the wild rumpus was, at heart, designed to show travel agents just what Palace Resorts can do when it comes to producing memorable experiences for guests in their kingdom.
“I want agents to understand that we’re capable of putting together any type of event for their clients. The limits are a client’s imagination and their budget,” Juan Carlos Calderon, corporate director of sales in Canada at Palace Resorts, told PAX, which covered the Megafam, exclusively, all week. “Any wedding, group, or corporate event – we can make it happen.”
Calderon, who held court that night as king, said his team starts planning their Megafam one year in advance, while Palace Productions, the hotel chain’s in-house production company, begins sourcing creatives for the closing gala six months out.
“Every year, when we finish a Megafam, our heads start spinning about what we want to do next,” Calderon said, noting that this year’s medieval-themed bash was about making travel agents “feel and be treated like royalty” on their final night in Cancun.
“It’s like a big family"
The travel advisors who attended this year’s Megafam – Palace Resorts’ fourth annual – were eager and enthusiastic to participate on all fronts.
After all, securing a spot on the highly-immersive trip, which was held from Nov. 1-8, is a feat in and of itself – the event reportedly maintains a waitlist of more than 600 people.
Diana Winters, business development manager for Ontario at Palace Resorts, told PAX that she invites travel advisors across Canada who are both familiar and new to selling Palace, and who support Palace Resorts based upon the clients they serve.
Palace Resorts, which is family-owned and operated, is comprised of 10 all-inclusive, oceanfront properties in both Mexico and Jamaica.
And while the Megafam allows agents to engage with the Palace brand first-hand, it’s about establishing lifelong memories and friendships, too.
“It’s like a big family,” said travel agent Martin Beauregard of Voyage Horizon in Sherbrooke, QC. “We’re all agents so we’re all talking the same language.”
Winters said “the relationships and camaraderie” agents build with each other on the trip is important to the Palace team.
“Even though many who attend are not from the same company, the way attendees bounce ideas off of each other and share tips on how to sell is really a testament to the product we have,” she said.
“...a great way to explore the brand.”
The week’s itinerary included a detailed training workshop (which had the production value to that of an Apple product launch) and site inspections in Cancun (Moon Palace Cancun, Beach Palace and Le Blanc Spa Resort – Palace’s ultra-luxe, adults-only brand; in Playa del Carmen (Playacar Palace); and even in Cozumel (Cozumel Palace).
Fun-filled theme nights were also organized, including a festive “Flavours of Mexico” party on the Sun Terrace of The Grand at Moon Palace (which just so happened to land on Nov 2nd, which is when Mexico celebrates its Day of the Dead holiday).
Some gatherings were held off-site, such as Monday night’s poolside, white-dress “Secret Garden” party at the chic Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun’s famous hotel zone.
Le Blanc, notably, is the only all-inclusive, adults-only resort in the world that has maintained a Five Diamond recognition for ten consecutive years.
All Megafam parties have themes, and the Secret Garden concept at Le Blanc was chosen for good reasons.
“For many agents that aren’t familiar with the brand, Le Blanc is a secret gem,” Calderon told PAX at the event, which unfolded beside a tranquil lagoon. “It’s something they get to discover, and once they experience it, it becomes their personal favourite.”
Having opportunities to truly absorb a Palace property is what Tannis Dyrland, a travel agent with The Travel Agent Next Door, loves about the experience.
“The Megafam is a great way to explore the brand,” Dyrland told PAX. “Palace is a large brand so it really gives us an opportunity to take in the different properties.”
Above all, presenting an accurate experience that agents can articulate to their clients is key to the Palace team.
“We want to make sure that everything the agents are experiencing is exactly what their clients will experience,” Winters said. “Often times, people go on FAM trips and get things that aren’t a true offering. We don’t do that here. We give agents a true and authentic experience so they know what their clients will get.”
And while the week was jam-packed with information, participates had plenty of free time to experience the Palace brand for themselves.
“Being fully immersed with the product and knowing the product intimately is what we’re looking for,” Winters said. “We want the takeaway to be that agents are comfortable and confident in selling the brand.”
WATCH exclusive video from the epic battle that unfolded at the Game of Thrones-inspired closing gala below!
And, oh, stay tuned as PAX brings you more exclusive coverage from Megafam Canda 2019!
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