“Travel agents, to us, mean everything,” said Rose Cosentino, vice-president of sales for Canada at Playa Hotels and Resorts, told PAX. “Without them, we wouldn’t been able to have the growth we’ve been enjoying.”
The fourth annual Spotlight Awards, hosted by Playa Hotels and Resorts, unfolded at the new Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara in Cap Cana – a luxurious gated community in the Dominican Republic – Friday night (Jan 10), and Canadian travel pros swooped up their fair share of hardware.
The awards, held from Jan. 9-12, recognize “our best and most powerful agents in the industry,” Kevin Froemming, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Playa Hotels & Resorts, told PAX, which is covering the event on location.
Just over 120 top-producing travel agents, from both Canada and the United States, were invited to the affair, which doubled as an opportunity for trade to tour and experience Playa’s Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara properties, which opened last November.
“We started with the trade, we’ve maintained an excellent relationship with travel agents. They’re important to us every day,” Froemming told PAX.
The Hyatt Ziva (all ages) and Hyatt Zilara (adults only) is one of Playa’s most ambitious projects to date after Playa bought the land in Cap Cana, which is located on the eastern shores of the D.R., and built it into a mirroring, oceanfront-facing, U-shaped property, from the ground up.
Located just a 15-minute drive from Punta Cana airport, the chic, game-changing resort (with 375 suites available in each section) offers nearly 100 yards of powdery, white sandy beachfront, 17 design-savvy restaurants (some of which could be Hollywood movie sets), a wow-worthy waterpark, a cave-like spa and the largest, most detailed fitness facility we have ever seen at an all-inclusive resort.
Froemming told PAX that some 10,000 people applied to work at the new resort – a pool of skilled workers that was narrowed down to around 1,000 employees. All of whom, at all times, will acknowledge guests with a friendly “hola,” followed by a kind hand-on-the-chest gesture and polite bow (a nod to Playa’s commitment to providing service, from the heart).
“We attract the best talent, locally, which translates into great service for our customers,” Froemming said.
Putting the spotlight on agents
This year’s Spotlight Awards, titled “The Greatest Show” – a play on the aesthetics seen in the 2017 movie musical The Greatest Showman – incorporated dazzling, circus-like production elements, including a big-top tent and roaming performers, from jugglers to unicycle riders to even a man carrying a boa constrictor.
Canada’s adored business development managers for Playa, notably Amanda Morris (who reps Ontario) and Christian Roussin (who oversees Quebec and Atlantic Canada) were seen mingling throughout the night, which included food tents modelled after Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara’s iconic restaurants.
“The Spotlight Awards are a great opportunity to spoil the agents who our supporting us,” Morris told PAX. “We get the majority of our business from the trade, and we’ll always support them. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Morris, who won an award herself Thursday night (“Highest Growth” for a Playa BDM), was seen hauling around a life-sized cut-out of Freddie Marsh, Playa’s BDM for Western Canada, who, unfortunately, couldn’t make it due to prior commitments.
Marsh, however, sent his congratulations to all his top-selling agents, saying in an emailed statement to PAX:
“It is a major accomplishment in terms of sales just to qualify to attend this incredible event. Thank-you for all of your hard work and your commitment to Playa Resorts. Western Canada once again exceeded sales goals and I have you to thank. You are the best of the best, and I really wish I was there with you to help celebrate your success. Cheers to you!!”
Roussin called the event “really awesome.”
“It’s a priority to invite our top accounts to thank them for the support,” Roussin told PAX. "We’re working so hard together to grow the business. It’s really important to us.”
Multiple awards were handed out throughout the evening to both Canadian and U.S-based travel advisors.
“These are agents that continuously support our hotels, all year long. They’re there to give us feedback, they’re there when we need them to sell wedding groups, or social groups, or FIT business,” Cosentino told PAX. “This is an opportunity for us to put the spotlight on them.”
Here’s a complete list of all the Canadians who took home awards.
Top Seller Western Canada – Filomena Punzo Dunn, Travel Masters
Top Seller – Eastern Canada – Vikas Malhotra, itravel
Top Seller for Mexico – Canada – Vikas Malhotra, itravel
Top Seller for Jamaica – Canada – Lois Barbour, TPI
Top Wedding Seller – Canada – Christine Turner, Escapes.ca
Top Wedding Agency – Canada – LUXE Destinations Weddings
Most Improved Agency – Canada – The Travel Agent Next Door
Social Media Award – Canada – Christine Turner, Escapes.ca
Rising Star – Canada – Jesse Eberts - Walnut Grove Cruise & Travel
Rising Star – Weddings & Groups – Canada – Mike Babiak, Now Destination Weddings
Top-selling home-based agency for Canada – The Travel Agent Next Door
Top Seller Overall – Canada – Filomena Punzo Dunn – TravelMasters
Top Selling Multi-Location Agency for Individual Sales – Canada – Flight Centre
Top Selling Agency – Canada – Red Label Vacations Retail
Most Improved Agent – Canada – Lois Barbour, TPI
Top Seller of Suite Categories – Canada – Cindy Gaudet, Fareconnect
Top Jewel Resorts – Canada – Lois Barbour, TPI
Top Hyatt Ziva & Zilara Resorts – Canada – Filomena Punzo-Dunn, Travel Masters
Ambassador Award – Canada – Christine Turner, Escapes.ca
BDM Highest Growth – USA & Canada – Amanda Morris
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