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SpecTAPular Features Great Gatsby Getaway

Travel Alliance Partners (TAP), the organization that pioneered the concept of a cross-selling tour operator consortium, has also created a travel concept that combines traditional tours and special events. The events are called SpecTAPular, and they have quickly become a signature part of the TAP product line.

The first SpecTAPular event took place in 2012 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It featured a patriotic theme, a USO-style show and a Bob Hope impersonator, and attracted more than 1,200 travelers. Since then, TAP has followed up with a number of other patriotic events around the country.

Based on the success of those programs, TAP tour operators and their tourism industry partners have begun to think creatively about new SpecTAPular events that could be held with a variety of themes in destinations around the country.

Evidence of this is the Great Gatsby Getaway, the organization’s 2015 SpecTAPular event.

“It’s going to be held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,” said Sue Biggs of Custom Holidays, the TAP partner that is spearheading the project. “It’s three nights, September 13-16, and we are going to have three lavish parties.”

The entire trip will be centered around a Roaring ’20s theme, with each evening celebrating a different element of the era. The opening night’s gala party, “Come To See and Be Seen,” will feature costumed interpreters roaming the room, playing the parts of famous 1920s figures. The second night will feature a cocktail party and a costume competition, with cash prizes awarded to the best-dressed gangsters and flappers in attendance.

“On the third night, we’ll have the Roaring ’20s dance and song competition,” Biggs said. “We’re going to have a dance instructor come in and teach people how to do the Charleston. Then we’ll have a ballroom dancing competition, and hope to have some people who will sing some 1920s songs.”

All attendees will stay overnight at the Grand Hotel, a venerable property set on the seemingly timeless Mackinac Island, where automobile traffic is not permitted. Each day will feature breakfast in the morning and tea and cookies in the afternoon. At dinnertime, guests will enjoy elaborate five-course meals, accompanied by music from the Grand Hotel’s resident orchestra.

During the day, participants will be free to explore Mackinac Island or take part in activities put on by the Grand Hotel staff, such as bocce ball, croquet and kitchen tours.


Looking Forward

The cooperation between TAP partners and the staff at the Grand Hotel is something that Nick Calderazzo, president of Twin Travel Concepts and the 2014 SpecTAPular chair, hopes will become a hallmark of future events.

“It just so happens that Sue Biggs was talking to the woman at the Grand Hotel, and they came up with this thing together,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s all it takes. So far, the ideas have come from our own heads and from great relationships with suppliers.”

Calderazzo said his committee is working on putting together a request for proposals that TAP could circulate to convention and visitors bureaus, and other travel industry companies. This would allow destination representatives to pitch ideas for future SpecTAPular events that would make the most of their cities’ strengths.

“It can really happen anywhere in the world,” he said. “We’ve had lots of options, and people are looking at a lot of different things. SpecTAPular is not boilerplate — you have to really think about it and get buy-in from the local destinations. When it happens, it’s quite an accomplishment for the destination and partners, and it’s very exciting.”

Previous SpecTAPular events have ranged in attendance from 600 to 1,200 guests, but Calderazzo said the organization is looking into putting together more boutique experiences that would be suitable for smaller groups as well. He anticipates that they will continue to do one or two each year for the next several years but encourages people to submit their own ideas for future events.

“Anyone who has an idea, give me or any TAP operator a call,” he said. “It has to be exclusive, and it has to have an entertainment component to it. As long as it’s truly spectacular, we can do it.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.