After a two-year hiatus from live events, Romantic Planet Vacations hosted its fifth annual conference and destination wedding FAM last week in Puerto Vallarta.
The seven-day trip included a two-day conference with training sessions, two days of post-wedding site inspections, and one day of an optional excursion or volunteer activity.
The conference theme was appropriately entitled "Build Back Better" by Canada's romance travel wholesaler and boutique-style host travel agency, which emphasized taking back ownership of the independent travel and wedding businesses and rekindling the passion for what they do and for the overall industry following the aftermath of the pandemic.
During the training session, attendees swapped out their name badges for titles like "CEO", "Accountant", "Marketing Director" and "Professional Travel Advisor" to align with the training and also to represent the various roles independent agents play in their travel businesses.
Attendees were also reminded of the importance of their physical and mental well-being as they prepare for a busy season ahead.
All in attendance received a branded insulated water tumbler, a "wellness timer" with instructions to set the timer every 40 minutes as a reminder to stretch, and a "Travel Agent Wellness Recovery Kit" with spa items such as the "Travel Agent Epsom Salt Bath" that claims to "wash away two years of h*ll" among other cheeky gifts to lighten the mood after a very challenging couple of years.
Industry partners show support
Also shown were inspirational video montages from various industry partners including Brian Joseph and Carlo Trinidad from AMR Collection, Darcie Guarderas from Anderson Vacations, Erminia Nigro from Air Canada Vacations, Michele Rauzon from 5Continent, Shelley Kopys from Manulife Insurance, Gavin Jimenez from Sirenis Hotels & Resorts, Jodine Clement from The Travel Corporation, Freddie Marsh and Amanda Morris from Playa Hotels & Resorts, Maureen Barnes Smith from Sandals and Beaches, Martina Mairhofer from Sandos Hotels & Resorts, David Wright from Sunwing Vacations, Susan Kooiman from Transat, Neville Spence from Island Dream Transportation, and Juan Carlos Hernandez from The Fives Resorts.
Site inspections and giving back
A post-wedding FAM was organized for the destination wedding specialists to explore Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit while staying at the Dreams Vallarta Bay and Spa Resort, Iberostar Selection Playa Mita, and the new Dreams Bahia Mita Surf and Spa Resort with transportation provided by Pacific BaySide DMC.
Specialists were pampered with luxurious accommodations and private wedding ceremony and reception experiences including the exclusive and private chef's table in the back kitchen of the Secrets Vallarta Bay Resort.
The team visited the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, the Hilton Puerto Vallarta, La Palapa Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta's Romantic Zone, then ventured north to the Riviera Nayarit to visit the Marival Armony, Sayulinda Boutique Hotel, and two off-property wedding venues of Tierra Tropical Beach Club and Brisa Mar Palapa.
Attendees then had the option to either take a day off or go zip-lining at Vista Paraiso or help out at Entreamigos, a community center in the oceanfront surf town of San Pancho.
Volunteers assisted local children with their reading and writing or arts and crafts skills as well as empowered adults who were in need of a fresh start by teaching them new computer skills or guiding them to start small businesses revolving around jewelry making, beauty products, or participating in recycling and organic farming.
Laurie Keith, owner of Romantic Planet Vacations and organizer of this fifth annual event, says the volunteer opportunities during its conferences and wedding FAMs are her favorite part of the trip.
"It always brings you back to your core and puts everything back into perspective. No matter how challenging life or business can get, there's always someone with bigger struggles. As humankind, we are in this together and need to be there for each other,” Keith said.
In previous years the team has helped repaint a kindergarten classroom in Costa Rica, supported an industry colleague who lost their home to a fire in St. Lucia, and provided purses filled with goods for impoverished girls and women of the Dominican Republic.
2023 conference in the works
Romantic Planet Vacations is already considering destination options for their upcoming 2023 conference and wedding FAM including Merida, Mexico, Panama, and Aruba, and has opened the event to any Canadian travel advisor who specializes, or wants to specialize, in destination weddings and honeymoons. Applications can be submitted here.
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