Kissimmee is as popular as ever with Canadians, and while Experience Kissimmee – represented in Canada by VoX International – works hard to keep the momentum going, it has a little help from its friends in the industry. “We have fantastic partners in the Canadian market who are dedicated to help us promote Kissimmee,” says Denise Graham, Account Manager, Canada for Experience Kissimmee, in this edition of Take 5.
1. The Canadian travel industry loves it when the snow flies here at home, and this winter is no exception. Are more Canadians making their way to Kissimmee in winter 2018/19?
“After starting our last fiscal year off with double-digit growth in Canada in the first two months respectively, we certainly had our work cut out for us to keep the momentum going when starting off this year fiscal year however, I’m very pleased to say that we are continuing to see positive growth into the destination.
“We have fantastic partners in the Canadian market who are dedicated to help us promote Kissimmee and continue to send business our way. We also have new properties coming and even more vacation home rentals which offer amazing value for families of all sizes as well as new attractions at the world famous theme parks which continue to bring business into Kissimmee from Canada.
“This winter season is shaping up to be another successful season for us. Air service is estimated to grow at 7% into Central Florida this winter and we are very excited with the new Swoop flights direct from Hamilton as well as Flair Airlines from Winnipeg and Edmonton. Porter Airlines has also been growing their packaged holidays into Kissimmee with flights from Toronto’s Island Airport as well as Windsor and Ottawa into Melbourne, Florida which is about an hour’s drive away from Kissimmee.
2. What’s new in Kissimmee?
“Well, we are very excited to have just welcomed in January one of our biggest accommodation openings of the year which is Margaritville! This island-inspired resort from the famed Jimmy Buffett brand is a waterside destination featuring over 300 acres of accommodations and amenities. It includes the 184-room Margaritaville Hotel, 300 timeshare units and 1,000 Margaritaville Cottages ranging from one to nine bedrooms and in May of 2019, the 14-acre water park will open up here as well, so plenty for visitors to enjoy there.
“The Red Lion Orlando Lake Buena Vista South Hotel is another exciting one as it recently re-opened following a $20 million renovation. It features 410 rooms and state-of-the-art amenities, including a stunning pool area, lazy river, two onsite restaurants and bars, meeting space, tennis and basketball courts, a children’s playground, free transfers to area theme parks and more.
“In terms of attractions, last spring we saw the opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and over at Universal Studios Florida, the Fast & Furious – Supercharged ride was the newest opening for 2018.
“Looking ahead, the parks continually have new projects on the horizon to be thrilled by. At Universal Orlando Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade will unveil a new rollercoaster to open later in 2019. For Disney, the very highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is expected to open in Fall 2019 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with two new attractions.
“Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park will also unveil a major expansion with the addition of a drive-through safari park coming in summer 2019. Plus, this outdoor adventure park will add a high-flying zipline through the safari that spans across untouched cypress swamp, animal exhibits, and scenic landscapes.”
3. Kissimmee is known as a magnet for families. What other demographics are you seeing strong numbers from and why?
“Yes, family travel is a huge segment for Canada and it is only forecasted to grow. In fact, of the 36 million people in Canada, 6.9 million travelled for leisure purposes as a family in 2017 and this is estimated to rise by 4.6% each year for the next five years.
“I’ll also note that multigenerational travel is a major part of this. According to our recent research, we know that millennial Canadians are starting to have children and the grandparents of these children are retiring younger than ever before, making up 20% of the population. With this increase of retired grandparents seeking ways to spend their time, along with new, young families looking to create memories, there has been a significant rise in multigenerational travel with Canadians placing a high value on “shared enrichment” experiences for the whole family, which is something we know that Kissimmee can deliver on!
“Aside from families, snowbirds (age 55+) are another big segment for us. This comes as no surprise as there are now more people in Canada over the age of 55 than there are under the age of 14.”
4. What are some of the advantages to staying in Kissimmee that agents might not know about?
“Of course one of the biggest advantages to staying in Kissimmee is that the accommodation options here are simply unrivalled, in fact! It’s the Vacation Home Capital of the World® with more than 45,000 accommodation options, including luxury resorts, family-friendly hotels and over 22,000 vacation homes, making it the ideal choice for multigenerational families or big group bookings. The vacation homes are also a great option for business travel as many of them have theatres perfect for presentations along with meeting space and the option for a personal chef to cater throughout.
“Staying in a vacation home will allow your clients to take advantage of the extra space and amenities only a home can offer. Many people worry that a vacation home rental will cost a pretty penny, but if you’re travelling in a group of three or more, it is usually a much more economical option, so value-for-money is a huge advantage of staying in a Kissimmee vacation home.
“Aside from the accommodation options, location is also one of Kissimmee’s greatest advantages. Offering world famous theme parks, sandy beaches, the Kennedy Space Center and the Florida everglades no more than a few hours’ drive, the destination makes for an all-around great base for a family vacation.
5. How do you work with travel agents to educate them about Kissimmee and everything it has to offer?
“I work closely with tour operator partners and OTA’s on strategic marketing campaigns and participate in a number of product launches geared towards retail travel agents as well as webinars, sales missions, in house trainings and familiarization trips. Alongside myself in Canada is Hannah Choat, our Canadian PR Representative who works to keep the industry informed on what’s new and exciting in Kissimmee. The entire Experience Kissimmee team was so very honoured to host the prestigious Air Canada Race this past August which welcomed close to 50 agents from across Canada to experience our wonderful destination.”