PHOTO: You can acquire a wealth of knowledge and make important connections at travel agent conferences. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Successful travel agents are always interested in learning more about their industry, from new destinations to new products from vendors. They attend conferences geared to a travel agent and work hard to get as much information as they can from it.
“When you attend a travel agent conference you have to engage,” said Marianne DeIulio, Independent Consultant with Just Travelin' who attended Cruiseworld in 2015 and said it was a fabulous experience. “Don’t always sit with the same people. I met so many professionals from all over the country and learned so much. I met someone who only did group cruise sails, someone who was a destination wedding guru and another who had a very different approach to business than most do. Meeting all these travel agents that specialized in all different niches of travel gave me the boost that I needed.”
Beth Johnston attended her first travel agent conference at Delta Vacations University in September 2016. “I asked advice from my host on which breakout sessions to attend since she had attended previously,” said Johnston, Travel Designer, of Beth’s Beautiful Getaways. “She said to learn about specific resorts and destination areas. I signed up for sessions on places I had not visited personally that would fit well with my niche of destination weddings and honeymoons.”
She attended with a fellow agent whom she had met on a FAM trip. “She was more seasoned than I was and we would discuss session we had attended, so I learned a lot from her too,” said Johnston. “Soak it all up, meet new people, take copious notes and when attending the vendor shows get business cards to follow up with. It was a fun learning experience.”
Steve Griswold enjoys attending travel agent conferences and said that most conferences offer three great things that make it worth attending. “First, these conferences are usually at a travel destination that I have not been able to experience yet,” said Griswold of Pixie Honeymoons.
“So, it adds another feather in my cap for a new travel destination I can now share first hand with my clients. Second, the conferences usually have guest speakers that might cover topics that can help you with social media, running a business, or other business related topics. Finally, I really love these conferences because I get to meet other travel agents. I get more out of networking with other agents and sharing ideas than I do out of the endless buffets and beautiful conference rooms.”
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After attending 15 National Conferences and almost as many regional trainings which were offered by CruiseOne/Dream Vacation, as well as attending Cruise3Sixty several times, Al Richman says there are two benefits he always gets. “The camaraderie of spending time with fellow agents and making new friends and one will always get at least one pearl to take home and profit from if implemented the following year,” said Richman, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist.
“It could be a marketing idea, better or new supplier knowledge or a selling strategy. A better question might be ‘what does one lose out on by not going to conferences?”
Chris Caulfield gets up to date information from suppliers about their products and always comes away with ideas on growing his business. “My tip is to talk to as many other travel professionals you can,” said Caulfield, CruiseOne Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist. “One of the plusses about the business is that there is no set way to have success. Some do groups, some do honeymoons, and others do luxury. Conferences are great places to hear what works and what may not have worked for different professionals.”
Denise Lorentzen said that travel agent conferences me her feel a renewed sense of determination and passion for her business. “I love when they bring in motivational speakers and teach things like organizational habits and how to speak to a certain type of personality,” said Lorentzen, owner and travel consultant at Dreams Travel Consulting. “It's great to be around so many like-minded agents as well. I feel that the information you learn is valuable and I highly recommend it to new agents.”
She suggests that agents go to at least one per year. “Choose based on your needs,” she said. “If you specialize in a certain niche that offers a conference, I recommend starting with that. Also, something that speaks to the type of agent they are, home-based, cruise only, etc.”