Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
When the word “amazing” is used in an event title, you know you’re going to be around some wonderfully prestigious peeps.
Some of Canada’s top travel advisors are finishing the week in the Dominican Republic right now at AMResorts’ 2022 “Amazing Agent Celebration,” which is taking place until Dec. 4.
Now in its third year, the invitation-only event is unfolding at the upscale all-inclusive Dreams Macao Beach Punta Cana, a 500-room property for families and couples with 16 room categories (12 of which are Preferred Club level) that opened in 2020 just before the pandemic hit.
PAX is on location covering the lively affair, which provides qualifying agents with travel and accommodations, as well as opportunities to become immersed in the Dreams experience, receive expert-led training, and rub shoulders with AMResorts’ executive and senior leadership teams.
“It’s exhilarating. It’s so amazing to be here,” said Stoney Creek, ON-based Laurie Keith, president of Romantic Planet Vacations, speaking with PAX at last night’s outdoor garden welcome cocktail, which featured a live band and blazing fire dancers.
Keith said the AMR Collection – a new-ish name that combines all of AMResorts’ properties under one master brand – is one of her top suppliers “because they offer everything for every type of group,” from families at “Dreams” to adults at “Secrets,” in multiple destinations.
“They always support us,” Keith told PAX. “So, it’s great to be reciprocal in that.”
Canada on the scene
Of the 260 Canada and U.S.-based participants attending this year’s celebration – the largest yet – there are 130 agents total (guests were allowed), and 15 are Canadian.
Spotted in the mix last night was Carlo Trinidad, business development manager for Western Canada, and Carolina Bellina, senior director, Canadian sales at AMResorts.
On Canada’s representation, Trinidad noted the event’s 80-20 rule (the ratio that dictates how many agents from the U.S. are invited (80 per cent of the guest list) versus Canada, which is less.
This year actually saw more invitations than usual sent to Canadian advisors – beyond the allotted 20 per cent, Trinidad pointed out.
Not everyone was able to attend due to scheduling conflicts, but that doesn’t take away from the party’s purpose.
“This event is a great way to get our top producers in Canada together to network. It’s a recognition program, and we celebrate them,” Trinidad said.
Bellina echoed that sentiment, describing the event as a way to “thank agents for all their support” during the year.
To qualify for a spot, agents had to register their bookings on the AM Rewards trade portal, which ranks the country’s top-producing partners.
“Winter is looking very strong”
It's been a big year for Apple Leisure Group, parent company of AMResorts, after Hyatt Hotels Corporation finalized its acquisition of the company in November 2021.
As far as how the winter bookings are looking, Canadian sales are “amazing” and surpassing 2019 levels, Bellina said.
“Winter is looking very strong,” she said, noting how Punta Cana and Cancun are, as usual, driving sales, but so are other destinations, like Liberia (Costa Rica), Panama, Curaçao and resorts in Europe.
She said there’s more interest in booking luxury-level trips that are packed with excursions and wellness experiences.
And “groups are leading the pack,” Trinidad added.
“When everything opened up, the destination weddings that were cancelled or postponed began resuscitating. We're getting groups right up until 2024,” he said. “It’s the largest segment in travel and leisure.”
Trinidad said corporate groups from Canada are also bouncing back, and the brand is tracking an influx of wellness seekers.
“We’re seeing more yoga groups,” Trinidad continued. “We were promoting yoga pre-pandemic, but it hadn’t caught on. I think the pandemic brought them out of the woodwork as [more people] focus on mind, body and soul.”
Groups keen on playing pickleball, a racket/paddle sport that has gained popularity for several years now, is also driving sales, the team said.
This year’s “Amazing Agent” agenda includes an open session, happening today (Dec. 2), led by AMResort’s leadership team, where company updates will be shared.
There will also be planned activities on property, from surfing lessons to cigar and rum tastings to bowling and arcade experiences.
On Saturday (Dec. 3), a workshop on selling luxury travel will take place (Canada’s own Shalene Dudley of Latitude Concierge Travels is a panelist).
And, of course, there’ll be parties galore, including a 1960s-themed afternoon beach bash and the elegant “Be Amazing” farewell gala, where special awards will be presented.
Unlocking Dreams Macao Beach
In the meantime, travel pros like Laurie Keith will be soaking up the breezy “Unlimited Luxury” vibes of Dreams Macao Beach (a property that PAX profiled back in November 2020 when most travel was paused).
Located about 40 minutes from Punta Cana International Airport, the boutique-like, U-shaped resort with four pools, two waterparks, a lazy river, rock climbing wall, arcade, nine dining options and seven bars checks a lot of boxes.
There’s even 18 tropically-decorated, two-bedroom villas, all of which have their own plunge pools, providing an option for guests who prefer vacationing around those within their bubble.
The Cosmic Lanes and Arcade is truly out of this world with modern games, a virtual reality room and bowling alley (which cost extra).
The Core Zone Teens Club is a cool spot for teens ages 13-17 to relax and enjoy activities in a supervised setting.
But it’s the fully-supervised Explorer’s Club for kids aged 3-12 that will likely make parental guardians sing hallelujah.
With a “No Parents Allowed!” rule, the program provides youngsters with their own space – a sprawling clubhouse with game tables, beanbags, climbing walls, and even a theatrical stage – during the day, blessing Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie, Uncle (whoever) with a little break.
Because parents need social distancing time too.
“I love how everything is central. You don't get lost,” Keith said of the intimate property, praising the “expansive” UNESCO-blessed beach that also incorporates local culture.
“And the food is really good.”
Stay tuned as PAX brings you more on-location coverage from AMResort’s “Amazing Agent Celebration” at Dreams Macao Beach Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
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