FAM Trip: Puerto Rico
FAM Trips, also known as Familiarization Trips, are a type of trip provided by suppliers or travel operators as a way for travel agents to gain an understanding of the benefits of different experiences they can offer to their clients.
From August 10th – 13th, Xplor team members Renata Bookram and Kathleen Sanders were invited to join the sales team of The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar in beautiful Puerto Rico to rediscover the renovated property since the devastation of hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Photo Credit: www.wyndhamriomar.com
Upon arrival into Puerto Rico’s San Juan Airport the Wyndham arranged for transportation services to their property. A 45-minute drive to the resort gave them a great opportunity to see the surrounding areas and get a feel for the terrain. Once arriving at the hotel, Renata and Kathleen were greeted with a big smile by National Sales Manager, Andres Ortiz and the Assistant Director of Sales, Scott Robinson. Andres escorted them to their rooms and gave them their “room keys,” which were waterproof bracelets! The keys come in a variety of colors and can be customized with the client’s logo to add another personalized touch to the overall experience. Not to mention, it’s extremely convenient if you don’t have pockets!
Walking into their room, one of the first things they noticed was some Rio Mar swag on the beds – golf club polos and hats! After settling into the room and taking tons of pictures from the balcony of the breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean, Renata and Kathleen visited the hospitality suite (The Governor’s Suite) where they met Scott, Andres, and several other attendees. In total, there were 19 guests from all over the US, the furthest being California! They sipped on some cocktails and got to know more about their colleagues before heading down to the Marbella Gardens for a beautiful beachside welcome dinner.
The evening began with a beer tasting from the local brewery Ocean Lab Brewing Co. They tried the American Wheat, Blonde Ale, Pale Ale, Sunset Amber, and Stout. Each were truly unique and very refreshing in the 85-degree sunshine! After the beer tasting the dinner buffet opened, and it was truly a gastronomic experience. From seafood paella to lobster empanadas and a delectable dessert spread, everyone found themselves raving and craving more – although all stomachs were pleasantly stuffed! After dinner the guests were treated to a professional salsa performance and even had the opportunity to learn salsa, merengue, and cha-cha- everyone was up and dancing in the sweet summer night! They ended the evening back in the hospitality suite enjoying more cocktails and great conversation.The next morning the group met in the ballroom for breakfast and a presentation about the property and local activity offering from their preferred DMC – GSI. Breakfast included things like fresh squeezed orange juice, lox on toast with crème fraiche, cucumbers, and red onion, French toast with berries, and poached eggs with microgreens and an amazing sauce that topped it off! The presentation outlined all the renovations to the meeting space in the hotel and then they took them on an actual site inspection of the property. They went behind the scenes to the ballrooms, kitchen designated solely to events (they even got to taste some pastries!) outdoor venues with gorgeous views of the Marbella Gardens and the Atlantic Ocean, and finally back inside to see two room products. The view from the guestroom was of the Atlantic, however the other view is of the lush El Yunque Rainforest. Apparently, it’s the preferred view at night when it’s lit by the lights of the town!
Photo Credit: www.wyndhamriomar.com
After the site inspection, Kathleen and Renata had time for a quick lunch at the lobby bar – Caicu Bar & Tapas – before heading off for an adventure to El Yunque National Rainforest! Fun fact: El Yunque National Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest in the National Forest System. The tour, hosted by GSI, started at the Yokahu Tower, one of two observation towers in the park with 98 steps to the top! After taking in the view from the top, they went down to La Coca Falls for a great photo op. The last stop on the adventure took the guests on a brief ½ mile hike through the Angelito Trail to a refreshing, crystal-clear pool called Las Damas. The water was crisp and inviting and the perfect way beat the heat of the afternoon. This trail is not on normal trail maps, so it felt like an exclusive experience – but, this is a place where locals love to come and relax or have BBQ’s!
After their adventure in the rainforest (the highlight of the trip for Renata and Kathleen!) they headed back to the Wyndham. The ladies had about an hour to relax in one of the poolside cabanas before getting ready to join their colleagues again for another delectable dinner. This evening got rained out, so dinner was moved from the beachside boardwalk to a permanent tent set up on the greens. A steel drum player welcomed all the guests with familiar Caribbean tunes and the open bar was in full-swing. Dinner this evening included carving stations, ceviche, couscous, veggies and all the seafood you can imagine! After dinner, several people headed back to the hospitality suite for a night cap, while others went back to their rooms to prepare for their departure the next day.
Sunday was another day filled with exploration of Puerto Rico. While some of the attendees departed earlier this day, a portion of them did not leave until Monday, so Kathleen and Renata were able to enjoy the day on their own and venture out to experience San Juan as a local. They were able to site-see throughout the beautiful land and get a taste of what island life would be like all the time! The Wyndham sales team treated them to yet another amazing dinner, but this time off property at Amare Seafood & Bar Restaurant located in the Serafina Beach Hotel. Dinner was nothing short of phenomenal and the conversation was warm with everyone’s experiences of the day. Although at this point everyone was exhausted, they returned to the Wyndham with a cheerful sing-a-long to old show tunes. It was a lovely way to end the night new friends.
Departure day came and saying good bye was certainly difficult! Waking up in paradise the last three days was nothing short of amazing for them. Renata and Kathleen both agree that it was a refreshing experience that “opened our eyes to the reality of Puerto Rico’s progress since hurricane Maria - these hotels are ready to welcome us back and they need us now more than ever to help rebuild the economy”. The people of Puerto Rico are humble and grateful for the visit and hopeful that we’ll be back soon!