It was a dazzling night for Gypsies, tramps and thieves...and valued travel partners.
Experience Kissimmee gave travel pros the shoop shoop treatment last night (April 22) at Scotiabank Arena, treating its partners to box seats at the Toronto stop of Cher’s Here We Go Again Tour.
The flashy and flamboyant show – Cher’s seventh solo tour – saw the 72-year-old Dark Lady push through a setlist of iconic songs (and wardrobe changes) spanning the past six decades, while throwing in a few ABBA covers from her latest album, Dancing Queen, for good measure.
“Tonight’s about saying thank-you to our top clients and media that support Kissimmee,” DT Minich, president and CEO at Experience Kissimmee, told PAX as the night’s opening act – the legendary Nile Rodgers & Chic – got the crowd hyped-up with a selection of iconic disco hits.
The night kicked off with a cocktail reception in a suite at the nearby Le Germain Hotel Toronto Maple Leaf Square, where local drag queen, Daytona Bitch, made a surprise appearance (donning Cher's iconic fishnet body stocking from the "If I Could Turn Back Time" music video, no less) and treated guests to an epic lip sync.
The night's guest list included reps from airlines, tour operators, theme parks and travel trade media.
“The travel business is all about relationships, especially international ones,” Minich told PAX. “Canada is our biggest market, so it’s very important we come up and do these things to say thank-you for everything you do for Experience Kissimmee.”
All eyes on Kissimmee
Kissimmee is located in central Florida's Osceola County, just south of Orlando, and is known for its close proximity to world-class theme parks – notably, Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Florida.
Kissimmee has more than 50,000 accommodation options, including luxury resorts, family-friendly hotels, and more than 25,000 vacation homes.
“There’s a lot going on in central Florida,” Minich said, noting the recent opening of Margaritaville Resort Orlando, which offers 184 upscale rooms and private residences known as the Margaritaville Cottages.
The building – packed with island-inspired themes synonymous with music legend Jimmy Buffett – is part of an $800 million (USD) hotel, entertainment and water park complex located on 300 acres just southwest of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
What’s more is Kissimmee’s investment in building vacation homes, an option that is becoming more and more popular with Florida-bound Canadians, Minich told PAX.
“We’ve added 22,000 vacation homes in the last four years,” Minich said. “They range from four to 18 bedrooms and they’re all within 15-20 minutes of the theme parks.”
Renting a vacation home holds tremendous value, Minich explained, given that many properties, such as the rentals at Encore Resort Homes at Reunion, have private swimming pools and cost-saving amenities, such as kitchens.
“Canadians are starting to discover these,” said Minich, noting that many properties are commissionable to travel agents. “[Canadians] are finding that they can rent a vacation home for what they would pay to rent a [hotel] room in Lake Buena Vista.”
Kissimmee is expected draw high numbers this summer as major theme parks debut exciting new attractions– such as the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a steel roller coaster opening at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“There’s a lot of buzz with that,” Minich said.
Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park is also set to unveil a new addition to their facility this summer – a 75 acre, drive-through safari park that lets guests drive their cars (or ride on a guided swamp buggy tour) through parkland, which includes more than 100 exotic animals and wildlife, such as wild boar, white-tailed deer and zebras.
A good time had by all
Kissimmee’s partner appreciation night left guests singing and dancing to Cher’s hits well past 10:30 p.m., with many remarking how the ageless singer, who turns 73 this May, “still has it.”
“What’s there not to love about Cher?” Minich said, enthusiastically, telling PAX that his favourite Cher song is ‘Half-Breed.”
“When I was a kid, the Sonny and Cher show was it. It was like what Game of Thrones is to me now. I could not miss the Sonny and Cher show. It was all about that.”
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