Mark Scrivener of Fred Olsen Travel in Bury St Edmunds is used to performing on stage but says Travel Weekly’s Cover Stars trip was like walking on to the set of a classic western .
Q. What were the key highlights of the Cover Stars trip?
A. As soon as we arrived in Fort Worth, it was like walking on to a film set. I was fascinated that the ‘cowboy’ lifestyle still existed for people and you could just step right into it. There were ‘no unholstered guns’ warning signs, and people literally rode their horses into the town and tied them up outside the stores or bars they were visiting.
Q. What were the hotels like?
A. The Gaylord Texan Resort hotel was my favourite – it was incredible to stay in. I go to Vegas regularly and the Gaylord transported me back there. The rooms were huge and amazing. It is so close to the airport, it would be the perfect stopover hotel. I will definitely be telling my customers about it.
Q. What is your best memory of Texas?
A. The rodeo show was like nothing I had seen before. You see these stunts on the screen but when you see them in person, it’s so different. It wasn’t just tourists in the crowd – there were locals cheering on their favourites. The rodeo is like a sport to people in Texas.
Q. How was the shopping experience at the Simon centres?
A. Organised shopping is now my favourite thing and I would do it all again. The maps were great, so you could plan where to go and how long you had there. I’m not much of a wandering shopper but I will definitely try more organised shopping trips. I spent a lot of money on jeans. The stores were amazing because they offered actual sizes to measure, not the generic sizes we have in the UK. I’m not used to having clothes picked for me, but the Simon Shopping ladies did a great job. When I saw the shirt, I didn’t think it would go with the jacket – but it did and I loved it.
Q. How did you find having your own photoshoot?
A. I wasn’t fazed, as we did it in the mall after picking my outfit. The photographer said he had the picture within about four shots. I’ve performed in more than 70 plays around Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Cambridge, so it wasn’t my first time in front of a camera. I think this meant I could really enjoy it. And I loved the outfit I had picked out for me.
Q. How was flying business class with British Airways and American Airlines?
A. They were great. The space gave you privacy and the food was fantastic. I had flown business class before, but the bar has now been set very high.
Q. How has going on the trip helped you sell the destination?
A. Since I have been back, I have sold business flights to Dallas – but I recommended they upgrade because the service was incredible. It is also about suggesting places for a customer’s holiday that are out of the ordinary. Texas offers an insight into a part of the US that a lot of people do not know still exists.
Q. What made you enter the Cover Stars competition?
A. I have always followed the competition, but I have been lucky enough to travel quite extensively during my 33 years in travel. This was the first year I had seen the competition was going to a place that I had never visited, so I knew I had to enter. Everyone should enter at least once. You never know whether you will win, and if you do, it is an experience of a lifetime.
Suave and sophisticated, Mark’s outfit, created from J-Crew, is the perfect balance of smart-casual finished with a sleek hairstyle, courtesy of Simon Shopping Destinations.
Mark’s look was created and shot at Grand Prairie Premium Outlets. Part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the Simon property offers spectacular discounts of 25%-65% every day at more than 110 outlet stores including Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store, Hugo Boss, J-Crew and Tommy Hilfiger.
Mark’s Texas tips
I recommend upgrading your flight, as it’s a long journey. The service in business class was great.
If you’re in Texas, visiting Fort Worth is a must, as it provides an authentic view of the state and its people.
It is a great destination
for winter, with a lot on offer at Christmas, especially in Grapevine.
Mark on . . . Texas
The flight to Dallas is about 10 hours, so upgrading to business or premium really makes a difference. Our flights were so relaxing, and you had so much space.
I wish I could fly business all the time.
The Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine was an incredible hotel – it reminded me of hotels in which I’ve stayed in Las Vegas. Even if customers are in Texas just on business, I think agents should suggest they treat themselves to a stay there.
You also don’t realise how big the state is until you’re there, so our chauffeured transfers were not only enjoyable but also essential.
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