Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone | December 8, 2015 1:29 PM ET
An Evolution In Motion At An Epic Best Of The Best
PHOTO: Sunset cocktails, poolside parties and rousing entertainment are all part and parcel of this annual event. (Courtesy: Travel Impressions)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love my job.
As I sat drafting this in Cancun’s airport, the morning after dancing like I haven’t danced since college with more new friends than I can count to the sounds of Steve Augeri and his band thundering in my ears, I was struck anew by the many strokes of luck that allow me to have these kinds of amazing experiences—and the privilege I have to be able to tell the tale. Agent and fellow industry readers, think about it. The things we get to do, see and remember are things that our consumers can often only dream about … unless we make it happen for them.
That’s part of what makes Travel Impressions’ annual Best of the Best celebration so special. Our agents work hard all year long to make those dreams come true for their customers, and for an incredible few days each year, the team at TI gets to do it for them. Our supplier partners never stop thinking about how to make every stay at their properties feel extraordinary, and every fall, TI gets to make their stay something to remember.
This appreciation event is one that truly serves to give back to the communities of partners we are so fortunate to have, and bring a little bit of the magic of the travel industry to the people who make it so wonderful for everybody else. That’s always been a cornerstone for TI as an agent-only B2B tour operator, and on the 20th anniversary of Best of the Best, we put that “pay it forward” attitude front and center with one of 2015’s biggest announcements: Travel Impressions’ rebrand.
Kept under wraps for the better part of the year, our new look-and-feel was 100% inspired by the agents we serve, and it was with bated breath that I watched the creative concept animation (www.travimp.com/YourSuccessIsOurDestination) play on the big screen at the General Session. In this video, we share the thinking behind the logo and our new tagline, one that I’m proud to say boldly and unabashedly reaffirms our commitment to maintaining our agents-only distribution model and mission to support our travel partners above all else. Because when we say “Your success is our destination,” you better believe that we mean it.
To further illustrate that point, in that same video, we also announce the new LoyalTI First program our customers have told us they wanted. Registration for that begins in December, a month prior to its official launch, and from what I’ve seen of the prize folios, it will be precisely what agents have been demanding. Appliances, electronics, gift cards, and luxury goods are all in there, but, best of all, our leadership went out of their way to make sure the program we’re launching is simply above all. Like the video says, no redemption forms, nothing to submit.
These items were big deals on our side, but the main agenda was focused around making sure our agency owners, consortia members, and agents had FUN. TI took over the Red Piano Lounge as our registration center, making sure all guests were properly checked in … by which I mean they were handed an icy beverage, plenty of snacks, and greeted with warm welcomes as they received their documents and name tags.
The long weekend officially kicked off with a walk down a path arched by brightly lit stars, leading the way to the welcome cocktail party and dinner reception on the infinity pool terrace. An aerialist entertained the first night amid cool ocean breezes, but it really was the conversation that stole the show as old friends greeted one another and names were connected to faces with delight. I know I was pleased as punch to see many familiar faces in the crowd, and I wasn’t the only one flitting around gleefully, hashtagging #TIBOB2015 as high-powered lights flashed across the sky.
We jumped right into the General Session on Friday, where a big continental breakfast spread welcomed later risers who didn’t make it to the buffet (*ahem* me) and Jeff Clarke answered the tough questions before they were even asked. He daringly grabbed the bull by the horns on several contentious topics, then made the audience quickly forget about all of them with the cutting-edge concept animation that explained TI’s most significant news.
Jacqueline Kuehnel had some thrilling news of her own to share as she went through the product lineup, and Peter Bowler also addressed the attendees with his latest updates. They then passed the mic on to Carolyn McKimmon from Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, who sponsored our breakfast, for a little taste of aloha energy, before making way for our keynote speaker, Mike Rayburn, a comedic and talented guitarist and motivational speaker who encouraged agents to ask “what if …?” and approach obstacles and problems in ways they’d never considered.
Again in the interest of our agents having themselves some fun, a large chunk of free time was scheduled in for spa treatments, cooking classes, wine and tequila tastings, poolside lounging, and anything else they’d want to do at the luxurious Secrets The Vine.
A supplier cocktail party — the first ever at Best of the Best — had TI team members like myself spending valuable quality time with some people I’d only ever interacted with virtually, and sharing drinks and laughs with passionate individuals whose zest for life and travel is infectious. Jorge from Palace Resorts, Amanda and Lauren from Hard Rock’s All-Inclusive Collection, Juan from Barceló, Maira from Karisma, George from Hawaii’s tourism board, Anna at Ocean by H10 Hotels, and Lucien from Dominican Republic’s tourism board — our dinner host — are only a handful of the exceptional people we had the privilege to work and play with.
For dinner, the pool area was boldly festooned with Dominican Republic’s colors, but bolder still was the live band that inspired hours of dancing, and the raised pianist that sang and played above the food displays.
Atlantis, Paradise Island started Saturday off right with a hot breakfast buffet that accompanied a short presentation. Agent afternoons were again left to them to fill, unless they’d risen with the sun to play golf at Secrets Isla Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort. Nicely tanned, those players returned with plenty of time to get gussied up to honor — or be honored as — our Globe and Crystal Award-winners.
The grand gala, tables bedecked with our new brand colors, was elegant and stylish, but there was no doubt when the entertainment started that our event planner Ally Sookhu had outdone herself once again. The Steve Augeri Band, led by the eponymous former lead singer of the legendary band Journey, rocked the house with those beloved classics…a most fitting tribute to the journey TI is publicly embarking on as we see our agents to our mutual final destination: their success.
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