03 OCT 2019: As a lead-in to the busy winter booking season Experience Kissimmee with VoX International, the destination's PR company in Canada, hosted a media event last week in a private suite at One King West Hotel in Toronto. The atmosphere held a homey ‘stay longer’ vibe evident in the spacious luxe interiors with rap around balcony and waterfront facing views as seven trade partners showcased the many reasons to book a trip there.

The big take away message: Stay longer.

On your way to Kissimmee's neighbouring theme parks there are other reasons to extend your stays: the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World Resort, thrilling air boat rides, plus a vacation rental market that continues to skyrocket.

Juliana Leveroni, senior communications manager at Experience Kissimmee, relays that Kissimmee ranks as the “Vacation Home Capital of the World.” Over 22,000 vacation homes are in the inventory. “No other destination in the world has as many vacation homes as Kissimmee,” she told media guests.

Vacation rentals range in accommodation sizes from 2 to 15 bedrooms. Experience Kissimmee reports vacation home bookings represent nearly 50 percent of bookings, a good segment for the snow birders.

“It shows you how many people are travelling with friends and families,” adds Denise Graham, VoX International rep for Experience Kissimmee, on the accommodation booking preference popular with the multi-gen market.

Canada remains the top international market.

There is regular air service via Air Canada Rouge, Sunwing, Air Transat, and WestJet from Toronto in this under 3-hour gate-to-gate sun vacation. Swoop, a new low cost carrier out of Hamilton, offers direct service three times a week as well as from Edmonton. For savings, see Friday FlyDay Fares, a last minute getaway promotion available on Fridays.

“Without our partners we say there would be no Kissimmee,” says Graham describing the surge of tourists evident in the parking lots with the destination's rich collection of attractions. “You realize the number of tourists coming to our destination,” she adds on this notable favourite Florida city, home to 36,000 year-round residents.

Graham further explains how multi-generational families and family attractions are key as is more emphasis toward experiences in driving successful bookings. She says,

“We're really looking at promoting everything there is to do in our destination whether theme parks or nature based activities in our backyard.”

Jimmy Buffet has brought a sandy beach to Central Florida.

Buffet’s newest resort from the acclaimed Margaritaville brand opened in January. Now while it's officially known as “Margaritaville Orlando Resort,” it's in Kissimmee.

The music impresario best known for the Margarativille song has channeled his trademark escapism vibe in this new 184-room hotel that's less than 5-minutes from the main Disney World gates.

“You feel like you are in Key West. The pool area has sand around the rim,” laughs Edith Ferguson, sales manager in North America with Experience Kissimmee. “Who needs to go to the coast? We have our own sand,” she further adds describing the pool with its straight line zero entrance that gets deeper and deeper.

To boot, colourful cottages in various room configurations have open concept backyards. No fences. It's a backyard party atmosphere, great for all ages.

Theme Parks

Thought you checked off Kissimmee and its surrounding area? Think again.

Hotels along the main drag I-92 have free shuttle service to the various theme parks.

On August 29 Walt Disney World opened the highly anticipated Starwars Galaxy's Edge while last year the big news was the opening of toy-inspired Toy Story Land. “It's been a really big expansion and we have doubled the size of our park,” says Jennifer Rivard, Sales Manager in Canada, who has worked selling Disney products since 1997. On the expansion she notes, “We have a lot of room to play with at Disney World.”

The Millennial Falcon is the first attraction to open at Starwars Galaxy's Edge. Watch for the Rise of the Resistance opening in early December. All Disney World attraction passes and 28+ resorts in Disney World can be booked through travel agents. “Agents can really help consumers figure out where they are going to stay,” she says and adds the relationship of travel agents with Disney World is extremely important. “They can help consumers navigate booking their vacations.”

For details on becoming a Disney specialist see the College of Disney Knowledge, a free agent program available at www.disneytravelagents.ca.

Located at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, Kissimmee morphs into a natural outdoor adventure land giving clients personal encounters with critters. The area is popular for hikers, kayakers along the creeks while high in the tree-tops and other high spots, zip-lining over alligators is a game changer.

For other out-of-this-world encounters, get your cameras ready as you soar in a hot air balloon during a sunrise over an undeveloped tract of thick forest. “This area is carved out like Mickey Mouse ears,” notes Edwards. So, when you are high up in the air and look down you know that there is land that is still Disney's land.

Enjoy thrilling airboat rides like Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures and Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park.

SeaWorld

Making its debut in spring in 2020 at SeaWorld Orlando, Ice Breaker will feature four launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida — a 93-foot tall spike with 100-degree angle.

Meanwhile, families wanting calmer pursuits, can visit a real life Sesame Street. The new attraction which opened in spring has six themed rides including Elmo's ChooChoo Train plus an array of other surprises you only discover as you walk through the Land of Sesame Street. For instance, families can help Elmo find some of his favourite things. You can step inside Abby Cadabby's garden, see Big Bird's nest or Mr. Hooper's store and all the Sesame Street characters. In this children's classic the emphasis is on fun as you hop on exciting rides and immerse in wet and dry play areas.

The popular theme park has added new seasonal events to its play calendar. In November watch out for the first ever Craft Beer Festival (November 3 – 11, 2019) with over 100 brews on draft from breweries across Florida.

SeaWorld's Christmas Celebrations returns. The park will be strewn in over 3 million sparkling lights, more lights than ever before. Dates: November 17-December 31, 2019.

Accommodation

Properties run the gamut with varying price points from quaint independent hotels to luxury resorts. In addition Kissimmee has time share properties throughout the area as well as campsites.

Reunion Resort and Golf Club

For luxury seeking clients Mariela Perre, of Reunion Resort and Golf Club, says the property was built with the pro golfer in mind. In fact, adds Perre it's the only place where you will find Signature Design courses by three of golf's greatest legends: Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer.

Clients typically stay 2-weeks up to a month. “It's a great fit for the mansions and vacation homes we have,” she says and adds the product portfolio includes 4-bedroom vacation homes up to 13-bedroom vacation homes with prices starting from US $100 a night. Travel agents get a 10 percent commission.

On the luxury front, the 13-room Reunion Resort vacation home rental is a three floor mansion featuring a bowling alley, gym, and bar.

Tuscana Resort

Only two exits from Walt Disney World Resort the vacation homes of Tuscana Resort feature spacious fully furnished condos with large balconies, good for families and the multi-generational market. These rentals are available as 2-3 bedrooms and is fun for all ages.

Westgate Vacation Villas Resort and Spa

With three properties located in Kissimmee, (Westgate Towers Resort, Westgate Vacation Villas Resort and Westgate Town Center Resort) this vacation home rental company boasts a total of 3,000 units in a spacious apartment villa style. Each location is distinct and unique.

For instance, the company's largest property known as the Westgate Town Center Resort with over 2,000 units has 14 pools and a water park. You don't have to leave the resort to get your amenities either. “We have a mini market, spa, movie theatre, and we provide complimentary transportation to Disney World,” says Rossy Valerio, Wholesale Sales Manager, on the free shuttle service available at each location.

It's ‘stay and play ‘here as guests staying at Westgate Vacation Villas Resort and Spa have access to all three properties.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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