Doing business amongst friends...and giving back.
The glamourous gala, held at the prestigious University Club of Toronto, gave Skål members and guests an opportunity to mix, mingle and bust a move to the sounds of a live band.
For Fred Azouz, president of Skål International Toronto, the festive affair was about putting business aside, celebrating the past year and, above all, giving back to the community.
“We have a number of meetings throughout the year where it's B2B and all about networking,” Azouz told PAX. “This one was purely social and fun, in the spirit of being able to give to the Daily Bread Food Bank.”
Doing business amongst friends
Skål is a non-profit organization for tourism professionals around the world. It is considered the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism sectors.
The organization has approximately 17,000 members in 400 Clubs (more than 15 clubs in Canada) throughout 80 nations. Members are from all walks of life in the travel and tourism industry, from executives, presidents and directors to tour operators, travel agents and consultants.
Skål is about “doing business amongst friends while also trying to be a trusted voice within travel,” Azouz said.
New ideas, passing the torch...
Azouz will serve as president of Skål Toronto for his second term until next month when he passes the torch over to VOX International’s Susan Webb at the organization’s annual AGM on Jan. 29th, 2019.
The move will mark Webb's third stint as president of Skål Toronto (Webb is currently acting president of Skål International Canada, the club's national body).
Reflecting back on his tenure, Azouz spoke proudly of the direction he’s taken the club’s events, which are designed to give members an opportunity to network and learn.
“We implemented a lot of new things this year,” Azouz told PAX.
One major initiative was inviting special guest speakers to present at every Skål Toronto event to discuss topics pertinent to the travel and tourism industry.
Speakers at Skål events this year have included Jennifer Hendry, a senior research associate with the Canadian Tourism Research Institute; Andrew Weir, executive vice president & chief marketing officer at Tourism Toronto and Mehmet Ekizoglu of the Commercial Consul of Turkey in Toronto.
Another new initiative this year was giving members the option of presenting a quick “elevator pitch” at meetings when submitting their online RSVP.
“Some members have been around for years and may not know what the other person at the end of the table does for a living,” Azouz told PAX. “[The new format] gives people an opportunity to talk about the services they provide for their company.”
A global community with open arms
While Skål serves members on a local level, the reach and benefits can extend far beyond that, Azouz said.
“When members travel abroad, other [Skål] clubs [around the world] open their arms for them,” Azouz said. “Clubs do whatever they can to assist with [a member’s] travel plans. There’s a lot of opportunities. It’s not just a club from a local perspective.”
Skål’s Toronto chapter will see a variety of events in store for 2019, from its regular speaker series to hallmark events, such as its annual gold tournament on Aug. 21st at the Lionhead Golf & Country Club in Brampton, ON.
Skål International’s 2019 World Congress – an annual general meeting for all members – will take place Sept. 14-21 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, starting in Miami with stops in Honduras, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Great prizes, greater cause
Skål Toronto’s holiday gala raised money for both charity and the club itself through silent and live auctions.
Four major grand prizes, supported by a line-up of major sponsors from the travel industry, were awarded in the live auction:
St. Lucia prize: two roundtrip tickets on Sunwing Airlines to St. Lucia, stay in a one-bedroom suite for three nights for two persons at the five star Marigot Bay Resort, one-week parking at the GTAA (Daily Park Garage), Toronto Pearson car care detailing package Toronto Pearson Car two Premium Plaza Lounge passes. Value: approx. $4,570 CAD. Winner: Klaus Theyer
London or Paris prize: two roundtrip tickets on Transat to either London Gatwick or Paris Charles de Gaulle (taxes are included), one-week parking at the GTAA (Daily Park Garage), Toronto Pearson Car Care Detailing Package, two Premium Plaza Lounge passes. Value: approx. $2,400 CAD. Winner: Thomas Vincent
Florida prize: a $700 voucher that can be used for airfare, car rental, hotel stays, etc, Universal Orlando Theme Park tickets, two passes for one-day (option of visiting two parks parks in the same day); Universal Studios & Universal Islands of Adventure, 100,000 Hilton Honors Points (applicable to USD $500), eight-day valet Park’N Fly voucher. Value: $2,080 CAD. Winner: Steven Lao
Fiesta Americana Punta Varadero Resort prize: a seven-night, all-inclusive stay for two people, adults-only section. Approx. value: $1,700 CAD. Winner: Kimberly Hartley
For more information on Skål International Toronto, including information on becoming a member, go to torontoskal.org.