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Magic in the making

by Jessica Pook | 05 December 2018

It is, without a doubt, the most magical place on earth. But combine Disney World with Christmas and it's almost too much excitement to take - hysteria sets in! I was visiting Orlando as part of The Global Travel Group’s annual conference last week (November 25-29) and at the top of the business agenda was meeting Micky Mouse - something told me this was going to be my kind of conference...

The Global Travel Group took its annual conference to the next level by gathering agents and suppliers in Florida to celebrate its 25th year, with appearances from Katy Hill (ex Blue Peter), Erin Brockovich and other big characters, both real and fictional.

Raymond, our personal tour guide for the day and fellow Disney enthusiast, was kind enough to escort us on a fast-track tour of the four parks (Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios). We soon became aware of Raymond’s ninja-like navigational powers as he zipped us through secret corridors and cut queues in the most nonchalant way. Our guilt towards our fast-track privileges soon subsided and we readily cut in front of small children who shot us envious expressions framed by giant mouse ears.

We embraced a new 3D world from the back of a banshee in Avatar’s Flight of Passage, marvelling at the floating mountains in Pandora – The World of Avatar; we explored the boundaries of Andy’s bedroom aboard Toy Story’s Slinky Dog; and we tested ourselves on the Tower of Terror, which I later fond out was the 284th ride for Raymond. “I once had to ride the Tower of Terror 14 times in a row with one group,” he admitted.

It may cost well into the hundreds to have Raymond for the day, but it certainly seems worth it when you are whizzing through hours of queues and achieving what would usually take a week in a few days, allowing more time in Florida beyond the parks.

But all the magic of Disney could not prepare me for what came next, which was by far the highlight of the trip.

Walk up this cobbled street in darkness and you may not notice anything out of the ordinary, but pay close attention to the shop windows and you might just catch something moving – unless you’re a muggle, of course.

As Universal Studios shut its gate on another day of movie magic, delegates of the Global Travel Conference found themselves dining in Harry Potter's Diagon Alley!

Meandering amongst wizarding wonders such as Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, the Leaky Caldron, Gringotts, Hogwarts and a snow-covered Hogsmead brought to life many hours spent sitting with my nose in a book as a child, wondering when my letter would arrive through the post inviting me to join a world of broomsticks and magical beasts.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, but that didn’t stop me from heading to Olivanders to choose a wand – sorry, I mean the wand chose me (true Potter fans will understand). Full of excitement I paced the shelves adorned with hundreds of boxes, each holding a uniquely crafted wand. It was only when I started chanting “Wingardium Leviosa” in full character, that Olivander himself whispered “great enthusiasm, but you’re holding it the wrong way round.”

I may have missed my chance to weave magic but the Global Travel Group did its best to inspire all its members to make the magic happen for their clients and I couldn't help but be motivated by speakers like Erin Brockovich, who fought the establishment to bring justice to a small town and showed that anything's possible if you believe in yourself.

Global Travel Group continues to work closely with independent agents providing the tools they need to enable businesses to develop, which includes the recently announced buddy mentoring scheme. Now in its 25th year and with over 200 members, the consortium is always looking to help grow independent travel agencies or even help to start new ones. To find out more visit: globaltravelgroup.com

Read the full show report in the January issue of Selling Travel magazine.

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