TORONTO — What a great thing to see, after so many months of COVID-19 travel restrictions: a roomful of travel industry colleagues enjoying camaraderie, new connections and most of all, the excitement and wonder of international travel.
That was the scene at the grand finale of the Air Canada Race, where dozens of Canadian and U.S. travel agents and suppliers gathered to celebrate a race well run – and the start of much-anticipated post-race-tours.
Hosted this year in Basel by Switzerland Tourism, the 2021 Air Canada Race, in partnership with Air Canada and ACV, will be memorable for so many reasons, not least of which is the fact that organizers were able to make the trip happen at all, almost 18 months after ever-changing international travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted the travel industry.
Some 36 agents took part, including 33 from Canada and 3 from the U.S. Qualification for participation, over many weeks in May and June 2021, included an Air Canada training program, booking incentive and social media qualifier and contest. The race in Basel took part Aug. 29 and will be followed by a workshop Aug. 30. Participants then fly home or head for post-race touring in Swiss favourites including Lucerne / Engelberg or Gstaad.
This is the first time Switzerland has hosted the Air Canada Race. First run in 2006, the race – styled after TV’s popular The Amazing Race – has popped up in destinations around the world, from Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Orlando and Kissimmee, to London, Edinburgh and France.
Switzerland’s borders reopened to fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on June 26. Switzerland is also now fully integrated with the EU’s Digital COVID Certification system. And travel restrictions from Canada have eased in recent months with the elimination of the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians returning to Canada.
For this 2021 race, six teams (all named for Swiss or Basel themes, naturally) fanned out across Basel, with challenges at six locations. Their Swiss Travel Passes came in handy for getting around the city, and teamwork and creativity were in play at all times.
The six teams were:
- Art Basel: Debra Barnes; Dana Sokoloski; Brenda Pinsky; Juan Alatorre; Andrew Novo; and Debbie Poisson
- Mässmogge: Mark Greenwood; Christine Satre-Addessi; Manon Drouard; Edward Goyzman; Catherine Stockdale; and Lindsay Pearlman
- Leckerly: Yolanda Tkachyk; Heather Wihak; Terence Dunn; Renaud Lavoie; and Tara Sparshu
- Roger Federer: Mark Chin; Neal Chark; Lori Zacher; Breanna Bray; Alexandra Rice; and Ian Henderson
- Waggis: Roger Villiers; Serge Coutu; Colleen Maxwell; Malisa Miletich; Anna Buchnea; and Stacy Gargin
- Wickelfisch: Monique Caron; Adam Burn; Leo Capece; Anne Bird; Kate Neufeld; and Christine Moore
And the winners were … Roger Villiers; Serge Coutu; Colleen Maxwell; Malisa Miletich; Anna Buchnea; and Stacy Gargin with the Waggis team.
Watch for more coverage of the post-tours in Switzerland following the Air Canada Race in an upcoming edition of Travelweek Daily.