Kissimmee Can’t Wait for the Return of Its Canadian Friends

Travel colleagues Disney’s Jenny Rivard and Experience Kissimmee’s Denise Graham
Travel colleagues Disney’s Jenny Rivard and Experience Kissimmee’s Denise Graham

Lot of destinations have missed having Canadian tourists – perhaps none more than Kissimmee. The central Florida city is home to some of the world’s most iconic theme parks, including Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios. And lots to do in the great outdoors, as well.

Members of team VoX: Susan Webb, Samantha Carriera and Kerry Sharpe
Members of team VoX: Susan Webb, Samantha Carriera and Kerry Sharpe

And do they ever miss us. “Canada is a huge market for us,” DT Minich, President and CEO of Experience Kissimmee told Open Jaw at a cocktail reception earlier this week. Held on the terrace at the offices of VoX Travel Management, which handles Kissimmee for Canada, the event saw key retailers, airlines, tour operators and travel trade media enjoying the novelty and excitement of in-person socializing.

“Canadians know Florida so well and some families have been coming for generations,” Minich pointed out. And as travel restrictions remain in place and seem to be ever-changing, the destination (pronounced “kiss-SIMM-ee”) highlights that, in addition to theme parks, there are many outdoor activities for clients.

“We’ve got bike touring, airboat rides – because we’re located at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades – and Wild Florida Safari with its many rescue animals,” said Denise Graham, Account Manager for Experience Kissimmee at VoX. “Visitors can do hot air balloon rides at dawn, there’s 4 x 4 off roading – all in all a huge array for clients who love the outdoors.”

Enjoying the hospitality: New Wave Travel’s Isobel Mickiewica; Sheila Aune of TPI and Tamara Bokma of TAND.
Enjoying the hospitality: New Wave Travel’s Isobel Mickiewica; Sheila Aune of TPI and Tamara Bokma of TAND.

Both Minich and Graham emphasized the enormous inventory of vacation homes in the area, some 60,000 in all. “And these aren’t your typical AirBnB’s: they have been built expressly for visitors,” Minich pointed out. “They are professionally cleaned between visits, and you can arrange for pretty much anything from a chef to cook for you, dog groomers to visit, character breakfasts and even having the home completely decorated for Christmas.” Many of the homes are part of gated complexes complete with concierges, gyms and shuttle service to theme parks and shopping.

Kissimmee is also getting ready for a big event. On October 1st this year, Disney World turns 50. And as you can imagine, there will be lots of celebrations – 18 months’ worth!

Another sign that travel is coming back is the impressive lift now offered to the region:

MCO from YYZ, YUL, YQB, YQM and YHZ with AC, WS, TS, WG; and to nearby Sanford (SFB) with service from YEG, YKF, YHM, YYZ, YOW, YUL and YHZ with WO and F8. Frequency and operating dates very.

“Obviously things are changing every day, and we are doing our very best to keep agents engaged and up to date,” said Graham, who regards Kissimmee as her second home. “Our message is ‘When your clients are ready to book, Kissimmee is ready’.” And I bet countless Canadians can’t wait, either.

Martha Chapman

Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions series as well as special seasonal series. She can often be seen On The Town covering industry events. Known to all in the biz, Martha has worked her entire career in travel, beginning as a teenaged hotel receptionist in Bermuda.

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