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Cover Stars: Amy McCulloch enjoys ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’

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The former Hays Travel agent tells Juliet Dennis she would not recommend visitors to Florida go anywhere but Walt Disney World Resort

Q. What did you think of the experience?
A. Cover Stars was the best trip I’ve been on – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’d been to Walt Disney World Resort in 2017 and fell in love with it. When I went on this trip in October 2019, I was overwhelmed by how much effort was made to ensure we had the best time. Before this trip, when customers wanted to go to Florida, I would not always have recommended Disney. I would now: it’s so much more than theme parks. The hotels and restaurants are phenomenal.

Q. What was the highlight?
A. The Happily Ever After fireworks on our last night at the California Grill restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort. I was so overwhelmed, and felt so lucky to have been given the opportunity to experience it, I cried.



Q. What were your favourite attractions and parks?
A. My favourite attraction was Pandora – The World of AVATAR located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I felt as if I was inside their world. AVATAR Flight of Passage was amazing. It’s a ride I’d recommend to anyone. My two favourite parks offer different experiences. Magic Kingdom takes you back to being a child. As soon as you see the castle on Main Street, all your worries in the real world disappear. At Epcot, I loved the ‘world showcase’ area, especially trying foods from different countries.

Q. What did you think of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and other attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
A. Before the trip, Star Wars was not my cup of tea. But Galaxy’s Edge drew me in, and when I got home, I binge watched the films. Oga’s Cantina served weird and wonderful cocktails, and it was fun being a passenger on the Millennium Falcon. Disney covered every detail – which I fully appreciated only after watching the movies.

My favourite attraction was Pandora – The World of AVATAR located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I felt as if I was inside their world

Q. What about Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park?
A. We visited Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon on a day when the weather was hit and miss. It was one of the funniest moments of the trip: we got out of the taxi and the heavens opened. It was like being in a typhoon lagoon. We had a great afternoon. I am not a massive water park fan, but as far as water parks go, it had everything, including a beach and a lazy river.

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Q. What was your photoshoot like?
A. It was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done. I was made to feel at ease, but I was so far out of my comfort zone. It was strange and amazing all at the same time; going to the park before it opened and finding out my photoshoot was in Epcot was the icing on the cake.

Q. What was the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party like?
A. I loved seeing the park dressed up for Halloween. Seeing the Sanderson sisters, and the Hocus Pocus show, topped it, as it is one of my favourite films. We were all in fancy dress. I was Sally from A Nightmare before Christmas.

Q. Which hotel did you stay in?
A. We stayed in Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Colorado Springs resort. It was breathtaking, from pulling up outside to the high ceilings and ‘hidden’ Mickeys in the lobby. It was perfect for accessing the park – it was 10 to 15 minutes by bus – and it had a picturesque lake setting and an outdoor pool.

It was strange and amazing all at the same time; going to the park before it opened and finding out my photoshoot was in Epcot was the icing on the cake

Q. How did the trip help your bookings?
A. I had never stayed at a Disney hotel before, but now I wouldn’t stay anywhere else. The trip also gave me more of an insight into what Disney offered outside the parks, and instilled me with confidence to sell it.

Q. Any sales tips?
A. Sell the benefits of Disney hotels – the main one being access to the parks. It costs more to stay on site, but the difference could be outweighed by how much clients would pay on transport to and from the parks from an offsite hotel.

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Amy on… returning to the industry one day

I started at Hays travel in 2013 as an apprentice.

I worked at the Linthorpe Road branch in Middlesbrough, before being promoted to assistant manager at the Darlington central branch. I stayed with Hays until 2021.

During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to work from home. But adapting to working on my own, and over the phone, was challenging at times.

Working from home made me think travel wasn’t for me at that moment in time.

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I just thought the time had come to try something different, especially with the future of the industry so uncertain.

Now I work as a transport operator for Universal Tankers, which specialises in the removal of effluent waste and water refills. I work closely with drivers and book in jobs with suppliers.

Adapting to working on my own, and over the phone, was challenging at times

I love the travel industry and would never say never about returning. I’m enjoying embracing the new challenge at the moment but I have no idea what will happen in future.

I don’t think it will be long before I’m back in travel.

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