Canadian travel advisors are in sunny Central Florida this week, opening doors in the “Vacation Home Capital of the World.”
Experience Kissimmee, along with partners from Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations (ACV), is hosting ten travel pros on an exclusive FAM that explores Kissimmee’s vacation home market, which has seen a boom in development in recent years, as well as Florida’s top theme parks and attractions.
The fun-filled trip from Sept. 5-9, which PAX is covering on location, exclusively, kicked off Monday with a deep dive into some of Kissimmee’s leading “purpose-built” communities – suburban-like, gated neighbourhoods that specifically cater to travelling families or groups.
With some 60,000 rentable homes, Kissimmee, located in Florida's Osceola County, just south of Orlando, minutes away from Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and Legoland Florida Resort, is set up for a range of audiences.
From small to large families (multigenerational bookings are big business) to corporate groups, visitors can stay in a variety of high-end homes, many of which are located on championship golf courses and come equipped audio/video fixings.
Agents have been learning about the value in booking clients in a vacation home (compared to a traditional hotel).
For example, at Encore at Reunion, one Kissimmee-based rental community, guests can rent a three to four-bedroom house for roughly $300 to $400 (USD) a night (depending on the season, of course).
Which is what a family, for instance, might pay for a hotel room in nearby Lake Buena Vista in Orange County.
Except with vacation homes, clients get separate bedrooms, their own pool, a barbecue, enhanced security and, in the “mansion segment” (homes with 10 to 18 bedrooms), other fun amenities, like in-house bowling alleys, movie theatres, arcade rooms and themed bedrooms (like Star Wars).
Vacation homes, which are professionally managed and travel agent-friendly, are not resorts.
But they’re like resorts, as PAX learned yesterday while touring the main club house at Encore, where we, like an episode of Big Brother, are sharing an eight-bedroom home with agents and partners for the week.
Located in the neighbourhood’s centre, Encore’s club house, like a traditional resort, has a main pool, waterslides, restaurant, bar, gym and concierge desk.
The brand also offers complimentary shuttle service to all the major theme parks, eliminating the need to rent a car.
Yesterday included a visit to Solara, another community where Global Resort Homes offers vacation homes, from two-bedroom condos to luxurious nine-bedroom houses, that have numerous bathrooms, fully-furnished kitchens, spacious living areas, game rooms and private screened-in pools and spas.
Then, attendees got into a “flip-flop state of mind” as the group headed to Margaritaville Resort Orlando and Cottages, where upscale rooms and residences, infused with laid-back island and parrot imagery, reflective of the iconic Jimmy Buffett franchise, awaited.
The property’s pastel lime, blue, peach and aqua-painted cottages, reminiscent of the colourful buildings seen on the shoreline of Willemstad, Curaçao, range from one to eight bedrooms and, of course, come equipped with a margarita maker (blender) because it’s always five o’clock somewhere.
The cottages are in addition to two towers (one of which is a new addition) that form the main hotel building, which now offers up to 235 suites.
The “License to Chill” resort has a lagoon-style pool, sandy beach areas, dining options, and complimentary shuttle service to Disney, Universal and SeaWorld.
It’s also steps away from Island H20 water park, where families can get their splash on.
Last night, agents got to sample Margaritaville’s culinary offering at the upscale restaurant Euphoria, which takes its name from Jimmy Buffett’s beloved yacht, where dishes like Florida grouper, filet mignon and shrimp scampi are served.
Let’s just say there were lots of “mmms” at the table.
The meal gave everyone the energy they needed to go shopping afterwards at The Promenade, where U.S. retailers like Target and Ross offer deep discounts.
Everything's just getting started.
Today (Sept 6), the exciting tour – led by Denise Graham, account director for Experience Kissimmee at VoX International, which represents the destination in Canada – continues with an action-packed day at Walt Disney World Resort, which is located on Kissimmee’s doorstep.
The week will then unfold with visits to Universal Orlando Resort, more site inspections, a bike tour through the town of Celebration, a stop at Disney Springs and tickets to see Cirque du Soleil - Drawn to Life, which transport guests into the world of Disney animation in Cirque’s signature style.
Kissimmee is calling. Stay tuned for more!