Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter were some of the characters featured at Visit Orlando’s Smile Maker Event, which saw 50 of Visit Orlando’s top travel agents and tour operators spend an overnight at Toronto’s Hyatt Regency on Nov. 24, leading to the main event on Nov. 25.
“We've hosted this event annually for five years now. This year it’s in Toronto and on opposite years it’s in Orlando,” said Anita Walker, manager, travel trade for Visit Orlando. “It’s the cream of the crop - our very best agents - we invite.”
The morning commenced with a Round Table Discussion that involved input from both sides of the industry.
“It’s our opportunity to engage and wonder with them,” said Walker. “It's sort of informal research to ask how bookings are and what’s happening.” Walker said this event is a chance to get feedback from agents. “They’re really an advisory committee for us. We always learn things and we always go after these sessions, ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’ We take what they tell us and put it into action. It really helps our programs.”
Some of what Visit Orlando wanted to share with agents were the tools available on their website, as well as their online training academy.
Having these conversations with Canadian travel agents is very important, said Cheryl Jones, travel industry marketing manager, Visit Orlando. “Canada is our number one international market with over a million visitors annually. Canadians have an affinity for Orlando, whether it’s warm weather or the product itself.”
Partners from Disney Parks and Hotels, Universal Orlando Resort, Legoland Florida and Seaworld also gave presentations about what tools and new features Canadian travel agents can be utilizing to sell Orlando to their clients.
Matt Djorsev, district sales manager parks and resorts, The Walt Disney Company Canada Ltd., focused his presentation on the “Magic Band,” the replacement tool for the former “Key To The World,” which allows guests a fast and simple tool for anything from charging a purchase to using this band as a room key. Djorsev also talked about FastPass+, where guests can choose FastPass options before leaving home and change these options onsite via an app, kiosk or cast member. The app also includes wait times and more options than ever, including attractions, parades and more.
“There is no more waiting in line for four hours so Molly and Suzy can meet a character,” said Djorsev.
Newly opened in summer 2014 for Universal Studios was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, where guests can enter Diagon Alley from the streets of London, dine at the Leaky Cauldron, choose a wand at Ollivanders wand shop and experience the excitement of a multidimensional new thrill ride inside Gringotts bank. Universal also offers an exclusive vacation package in conjunction with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
LEGOLAND Florida, the largest LEGOLAND Park in the world, is a 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, restaurants, shopping, a botanical garden and the LEGOLAND Water Park - all geared to families with children ages 2 to 12. The park recently announced its largest expansion to date - The LEGOLAND Hotel - which is set to open in 2015 and will feature 152 themed rooms and suites, LEGO décor, interactive play areas, a pool and a restaurant.
SeaWorld Orlando is offering the return of its popular “Blue Friday” deals on many exclusive park experiences, including special pricing on admission and packages. Blue Friday deals complement the holiday shopping season by providing the best value to experience SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, which features everything from Santa to Shamu to presents to penguins and is included with park admission.
Walker said Orlando offers these attractions and more, with vacations available for those also interested in nature, shopping, arts and culture, nightlife and numerous types of cuisine. The Smile Maker Event concluded with an evening cocktail reception.
For more information, please visit www.visitorlando.com/trade
PHOTO: Of Visit Orlando: Melanie Dickey, manager, travel trade; Anita Walker, manager, travel trade; Cheryl Jones, travel industry marketing manager.