Role Reversal: Attending a Press Trip as a Guest By Kate Wark

KateBlog2 .jpg

This past August, I experienced one of the great treats of my career to date -- instead of planning and escorting a press trip, I was invited to attend…as a guest.  Despite racking up more years in travel PR than I'd like to count, I have never received such an invitation.  I've taken many trips to places all across the globe, and consider myself incredibly lucky to have done so.  Whether to the pink sandy shores of Bermuda for a meeting, or to Austria to host a press trip, I think you are getting the idea that while the beauty and people around me were astonishing in every sense of the word – I was, in fact, working on each of these far-flung journeys.  

Prior to receiving this incredible invite, CIIC was tapped to handle a project for the Azuridge Estate, a stunning Canadian property in Priddis, Alberta.  The Azuridge team wanted to introduce itself to the U.S. market and, with a little matchmaking by our Canadian PR partners Anstice Communications, selected CIIC to help make that happen.  We hosted an intimate media event at the Plaza Hotel and at the end of the luncheon, the lovely Azuridge General Manager Clarence McLeod presented each of the attendees - me included - with an invitation to visit Azuridge with their complements in August.  

I was floored at this offer: three days of frolicking in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies with my husband — in one of the most beautiful estates I have ever seen?  Needless to say I didn't ask but told my husband Jeff to clear his schedule.  We quickly made arrangements for Grammy to come to town to take care of our two little girls and packed our bags.  Despite having never both left home without our girls before, we brushed away the worry to take advantage of this incredible offer.

The tone was set as soon as we landed.  We were greeted by the lovely Natasha, our trained butler (!) who quickly ushered us to our Maserati (!!) to be chauffeured to the estate.  When we arrived, Clarence and many of the staffers on-site were standing in wait for us, opened the doors with their white gloved hands, and ushered us into the cozy, wood-paneled Tiger’s Den to enjoy the Azuridge signature drink, the Dangerous Diamond, a blue Curacao and champagne cocktail with bubbles that are the estate’s signature color, turquoise.   

While we were there, Jeff and I enjoyed too many incredible experiences to count.  A few of the highlights: a bath drawn for us at bedtime, with our choice of aromatherapy bath salts presented to us by our butler before we retired for the night.  Another - the incredible, multi-course tasting dinner prepared for us by Master Chef Yoshi in the estate’s kitchen, with a tablescape set and created by General Manager Clarence, who also happens to be Canada’s only guided butler.  There was also the martini tasting, horseback riding in the Canadian Rockies and the simple joy of being at the estate in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen.  

And despite all of those experience, which can best be classified in the “bucket list” variety, the true highlight for me was the people.  From Clarence on down, each staffer at Azuridge is a master of hospitality, providing true white-gloved, luxury service that rivaled any five-star hotel I’ve visited or represented in the past. And while you knew that their goal was to ensure each guest’s satisfaction, the Azuridge team also strived to get to know us and make us feel at home. And if they could make a joke or tell a story that made us smile - or better yet - laugh from the depths of our bellies, then that’s what they did.  It’s hard to image a more beautiful place, but the heart and soul of any hotel is in its staff, and Azuridge has that in spades.  

As publicists we are required to be storytellers and spread news and excitement about our clients to the media…we quiz our clients, we study their backgrounds and unique selling points, we craft key messages and story angles that we know can sell them.  Often, we even do solo familiarization trips to get to know the destination in question, which of course is helpful.  But to visit a resort as a true guest, and participate in the same itinerary as journalists, I truly saw the property through the eyes of guests and the media I work with.  It was eye-opening and an experience I won’t soon forget. 

Until we meet again, Azuridge, I will be daydreaming of my frolics in the foothills...

Randy Herbertson