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After two years of hard work, lots of cancellations and rebookings, not to mention pandemic stress, travel advisors partied like rock stars this past week as AIC Hotel Group celebrated top travel advisors from 2019-2021. The Showstoppers Awards event, honoring top-producing travel partners, took place at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.

The awards had been put on hold for two years due to the pandemic, but that didn’t mean that AIC was going to let these top advisors go uncelebrated. This past week, May1-4, AIC Hotel Group executives and staff and about 500 travel advisors came together for the first time in two years to recognize their success and hard work.

“This weekend was all about showing our love and appreciation to our top producers who stuck with us and supported us through our industry’s most challenging years yet,” said Ash Tembe, v.p. of sales at AIC Hotel Group.

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Impromptu YMCA performance by travel advisors at the welcome dinner. (Photo Credit: Michelle Marie Arean.)

The celebration started with a welcome dinner and lip sync battle where BDMs and travel advisors united on stage with performances showcasing Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Brittany Spears and more. All in attendance wore outfits showcasing their favorite artist. The ambiance was joyful, as even a group imitating the Village People, made up of six female travel advisors, performed an impromptu rendition of “YMCA” for the crowd.

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The Lip Sync Battle with MC extraordinaire, Ash Tembe, v.p. of sales at AIC Hotel Group. (Photo courtesy of AIC Hotel Group.)

The following day, BDMs and travel advisors had a chance to catch up with a pool party complete with a rum bar and poolside lunch. Later that evening, it was all about honoring the top producers at the Showstopper Awards. The crowd dressed in their best nightclub attire for an awards celebration at ORO, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana’s nightclub. It was a night of jubilee, recognition, fun and coming together with advisors sipping Champagne as the winners were announced. There was also a lot more dancing by the BDMs on stage throughout the presentation, plus bedazzled dancers on stilts halfway through the awards presentation. From my vantage point, it was evident that a celebration of this magnitude was much appreciated after the 2-year hiatus.

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Showstopper awards ceremony at ORO. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean.)

“Finally having the opportunity to see our travel advisor and tour operator partners face-to-face after such a long break made the celebration that much more special. Our company heavily relies on their business and it’s important for us to have these chances to show them how appreciated they are,” added Tembe.

This year, AIC Hotel Group added a new award, the Game Changer Award, awarded to Cherie Peninger, a Michigan-based advisor with Island Vows, “who has always been a top-selling travel advisor even through the pandemic,” said Carilis Di Donato, field sales director for AIC Hotel Group. She hit Triple Platinum Level (that’s 151-200 rooms booked) and was also the first ever travel advisor to achieve Black Diamond Status, booking a whopping 500+ rooms.

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Emma Karnes, AIC Hotel Group BDM; Cherie Peninger, travel advisor with Island Vows; and Carilis Di Donato, field sales director, AIC Hotel Group. (Photo courtesy of AIC Hotel Group.)

“Cherie has consistently been our top agent even in the pandemic she hit Triple Platinum and was the first individual agent to hit Black Diamond,” added Di Donato.

“It is an honor to receive this award and it means a lot to me that AIC recognizes how hard I have worked to reach my goals,” said Peninger. “Being recognized for this award makes me feel very appreciated as a partner with AIC and motivates me to continue exceeding my goals. AIC deserves a huge thank you for all they do to support agents,” she says.

After the awards were distributed it was all about reveling, dancing and having a good time. But, that’s not all, advisors were treated to a live performance by 90s American hip-hop artist, Mase.

“It was such a fun weekend with friends and colleagues. AIC always has awesome events and I am thankful to partner with them and be invited to their events,” said Peninger.

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Dark side of the moon beach party. (Photo Credit: Michelle Marie Arean.)

The last day, BDMs and travel advisors joined forces for a beach volleyball game. The activities culminated that evening beachside for a “Dark Side of the Moon” beach party, which was hosted by ALG Vacations. Neon lights and vibrant music filled the night sky, as the crowd enjoyed delicious eats such as grilled lobster—a perfect way to end the 3-day event. And, as Brian Ehlers, senior brand manager at Apple Leisure Group, noted during his welcome at the beach party, “Travel is back.”

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