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On Site: US Airways Vacations Puts Agents to the TestFebruary 24, 2010 By: Lark Ellen Gould
Vegas aficionados unite! You’ve nothing but your hubris to lose!
US Airways Vacation agents check the view from Aria
I admit, I know Las Vegas more than many who actually live there, yet the fourth annual US AirwaysVacations agent appreciation Scavenger Hunt last week brought me to my knees.
Aria Leisure Sales Manager Audrey DiCocco demonstrates the new guestroom technology
The yearly no-holds-barred hunt is becoming a tradition among agents who sell the city for the airline tour company. Two dozen of the top selling agents assemble in Las Vegas in mid-February for a three-day fam that includes plenty of site inspections along with a not-for-the-meek contest that divides $25,000 in US Airways flight coupons among members of the winning team. This year’s pot would be divided equally, contrasting policies of year’s past when one lucky member would take all.
“If you thought last year was hard, this one is about four times worse!’ said Chris Ames, the director of product sales for the company who helped fashion the clues. He traditionally dispatches several staff members the day before the hunt to make sure all the clues are cogent and still workable – as, in Las Vegas, things change faster than a roll of hot dice.
This year six teams of four agents and a smattering of supporters from US Airways Vacations pared according to their hotel of residence. I was on the Monte Carlo Team, logo T-shirts and caps donned. The day started with a power breakfast, courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas, where we eyed our competition. Each team assembled at their table. Several familiar faces there told me that Vegas was still selling well and keeping agents on their toes. I had participated in this hunt two years ago – and even had some of the same people on my team.
Learning from past mistakes we immediately set about putting each other’s cell numbers into speed dial and laying down strategy:
1. Do not separate. Go en mass into the lobby and dispatch the fastest person to get the clue answers.
2. Try to solve or get a handle on all the clues first before directing the driver to go anywhere.
3. Do not take the Strip.
4. Read every clue a hundred times and underscore the key words
5. Do not be thrown by red herring puzzles or clues left in to throw hunters off course. Only solve what needs to be solved; only provide exactly what is required.
6. Use the Internet – hopefully through a battery of smartphones held by members of the team.
At 10:30 we were off and almost instantly, all that careful planning disappeared into chaos of traffic and excitement. Clue #1 was clearly about Luxor so off we went and upon arrival, hit the casino like a clowder of tomcats. Around 20 minutes later, and multiple unnecessary artifacts in hand, we came to a dead stop in the Luxor lobby, and took out our phones and writing pads.
“I know Vegas pretty well,” said Earl Elms, an agent from Dallas. “I book a lot of it and have to keep up with what goes on here. Been here plenty of times but I have no idea what they are talking about on this sheet!”
He pointed to woefully to Clue #2, which was throwing us all into a tizzy. The clue read: “For this experience, a trip down memory lane is needed. When you go, take a moment of silence to remember those who have passed. A lot of juice is needed to keep Andy going as he heads off to have a martini with the chief at the Aladdin. Once you get there, in the open air, find the horse and rider and list at least 6 of the legendary locales commemorated here.”
But that was nothing next to Clue #4, which read:
“This place reads like a novel. Your luck has not been as good as Jim Hawkins in the book though. There is no map to help you find your way around. So, think like the Captain to solve this adventure. Find the home of the largest private collection of jade antiquities in the United States. How much does each solid jade vessel weigh?” (see answers in “Vegas Gets a Clue”)
While some of the clues made sense, others did not. A lot of juice is needed to keep Andy going? Andy who? Andy Williams? Andy Griffith? What did they have to do with Vegas? Andy the cabana boy?
And while clue #4 was clearly about Treasure Island, what Jade Collection? What are these guys talking about?
And then we saw exactly what teamwork could do. Each clue had its possible options and each member had an added piece of information to contribute that helped crystallize the answer. Within 45 minutes we had all but two of the clues more or less solved. Now we simply had to grab the matchbooks, filch the napkins, snap the photos, whatever the directive might be – and make sure we executed each item exactly according to the sheet of orders. Only, our sudden confidence and newfound smugness quickly came back to bite us.
Choosing speed over accuracy, a clue asking for the name of the sculpture by Maya Lin that hangs above the reception desk at Aria, brought the answer The River, as noted by an onsite operator, rather than Silver River – a mistake that cost team Monte Carlo the championship. A similar mistake was made over an item at Harrah’s that needed to be seen and confirmed rather than trust others for the answer.
So the winning tickets went to team Planet Hollywood with Angela Brown from Dugans Travel in Michigan, Mel Nobel from The Travel Guy in Florida, Pamela Russo from Travel Reports in Massachusetts, and Patricia Whitmire from LeisureNet Travel in South Carolina sharing the joy.
“We keep moving it around to keep it fresh for agents,” adds Ames. “We’re the only travel company that works with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to put on a scavenger hunt like this and it’s a great incentive.”
Although Vegas has seen its share of recession woes and US Airways Vacations tour product to Las Vegas has been suffering a downturn with decreased lift to McCarran International Airport and decreased demand for travel to Las Vegas, Ames expects business to pick up all around for the city with the magnificent CityCenter complex now open and new and exciting product to sell in the form of luxury condosuites at Planet Hollywood’s new venture, the Westgate, all partnering up with US Airways Vacations to offer reasonable rates.
Planet Hollywood is in the process of completing its merger into Harrah’s as the latest property to come aboard.
Meanwhile, given the current economic climate US Airways Vacations’ top Vegas-selling agents secretly murmured their fears that this may be their last Las Vegas Scavenger Hunt. But John Meyer, leisure sales executive for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, shot back an assuring word that as long as there was a US Airways Vacations, Las Vegas would be behind them.
Cindy LaTaille, sales mgr Golden Nugget shows agents the new Rush Tower
Vegas Gets a Clue
Do you know the answers that solve these Las Vegas clues?
If you are on company business and take a flight from LAX and head north, you may get lucky and see the aurora borealis, the northern lights with certain liquidity only visible in the noir of night. Be sure not to play at the high bar too long or you will be in the dog house, or maybe that is cat house since your boss has cats, not dogs. All this travel is making you hungry! Find the restaurant where the steaks and seafood are “done just right.” Wait, your trip is not over yet. Stop by any watering whole for two logo items. * A cocktail napkin and one book of matches.
Name of restaurant: Tender
Item needed: One logo cocktail napkin and one logo book of matches.
For this experience, a trip down memory lane is needed. When you go, take a moment of silence to remember those who have passed. A lot of juice is needed to keep Andy going as he heads off to have a martini with the chief at the Aladdin. Once you get there, in the open air, find the horse and rider and list at least 6 of the legendary locales commemorated here.
Location: Neon Museum in Downtown Las Vegas
1. Andy Anderson
2. Chief Hotel Court
3. Aladdin’s Lamp
4. Hacienda Horse & Rider
5. Viva Vegas 2007
6. Oscars Martini 2007
7. Lucky Lady
8. Ruby Slipper
9. The Red Barn
10. The Flame
11. Nevada Hotel
12. Vegas Vickie
Ricky Ricardo sang “Babalu” at this club in New York City. Another entertainment icon sings “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” at a place with the same name. His name is synonymous with the city he calls home. This landmark was built in 1957 and is located at one of the busiest intersections in the nation. Stop by and see “The way Las Vegas was meant to be.” Bring back a brochure with all the important facts on how to see this historic show.
Item needed: Brochure
This place reads like a novel. Your luck has not been as good as Jim Hawkins in the book though. There is no map to help you find your way around. So, think like the Captain to solve this adventure. Find the home of the largest private collection of jade antiquities in the United States. How much does each solid jade vessel weigh?
Hotel: Treasure Island (under the new ownership of Phil Ruffin, who is a major collector of Asian art and artifacts)
Place: Khotan (new Pan-Asian restaurant)
Weight of each jade vessel: 1200 pounds each
Remember the movie Steel Magnolias? Think of the magnolias (M’Lynn, Truvy, Ouiser and Clairee) sitting on a veranda with their most regal of attire holding court with their beloved subjects. Well the four of them have a home in Las Vegas on such a veranda named after them.
Hotel: Four Queens, with its Magnolias Verandah 24-hour cafe
Item needed: Cards/Deck of cards (one per team member)
One could play the Top Chef board game by bouncing around the casino here. Find the likes of Michael Mina, Sean McClain, Julian Serrano and Sirio Maccioni scattered around. If food isn’t your thing, then the shopping will be with the likes of Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany right outside the front door. Your mission here is to find the sculpture inspired by the boundaries of a near-by body of water created by Maya Lin. Tell us the name of this piece, the material it’s made from, and the length.
Name of art work: Silver River
Material: Cast Reclaimed Silver
Length: 84 feet
Find the photograph enclosed in the envelope with this clue sheet. Who is this champion legend and which hotel does he call home? Wait, the referee says this round is not over. Don’t be knocked out – fight your way to the end. Stop and pick up a logo pen from this famous place!
Hotel: Caesars Palace
Legend: Statue of Joe Louis
Item needed: Logo pen
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree – unfortunately it never got built in 1975 as it was planned! It would have been cool, kind of a Logan’s Run ultra modern place. Instead in 1990 this place opened to much fanfare as the largest hotel in the world! Now that you are here – it’s time to find where the kids like to play. Enclosed is 50 cents for a game of Claim Jumper. Try your luck and bring back as many tickets as you can with just these four bits.
Item needed: Tickets from Claim Jumper game
In 1951, a certain crooner made his debut at what locals would have referred to as the DI. As the Chairman of the Board, he would feel the love in this spectacular room about which some say if you can “make it there, you can make it anywhere”. Find this room and name the four famous faces smiling on the wall outside.
1. Frank Sinatra
2. Steve Wynn
3. Audrey Hepburn
4. Dean Martin
At this carnival the jester holds court. Today’s defendants, The Greenbacks are on trial for flagrant and garish displays of money. Who knew they also live here year round. Find the Greenbacks and name them, including their little dog too!