Rich Thomaselli | October 05, 2015 12:32 PM ET
Agent@Home Summit Was For More Than Just Agents
Ostensibly, the Agent@Home Travel Summit held last week at the Atlantic City Convention Center was a three-day event designed to give travel agents access to some of the best minds in the industry.
From the keynote speakers to the breakout sessions to the interaction and networking among the agents themselves, the Summit – hosted by our parent company, travAlliancemedia – gave attendees the chance to practice the age-old mantra of learning something new every day.
The beauty of it, of course, was that we all learned something new, every day, even travel writers like myself – including the fact that my CEO should be on that Lip Sync Battle show. More on that in a moment.
I found the Summit to be fascinating, and I say that not just because I work for the company, but because I work in the industry. Regardless of whether we hosted it or not, it is my job to be just as informed about industry trends and issues as agents are.
So here are just a few takeaways from my own experience at the Summit.
• My wife and I want to go to Italy for our 20th wedding anniversary next year. Did you know there are hospitals throughout the world that won’t admit you – or won’t release you – without payment up front? I learned all that in a terrific presentation about the merits of travel insurance from Carlos Cividanes of TravelSafe. Yes, yes, I know, you hear the word "insurance" and you automatically think "boring." Trust me, it was hardly the case.
• I loved the level of engagement from the agents. Quite often you go to something like this and there is a sense that the attendees are there because they have to be. In this instance, they were there because they wanted to be, and it showed in their enthusiasm and participation.
• I absolutely loved the philosophy of Melissa Alexander, director of leisure sales for Atlantis, Paradise Island. Her presentation was more than just the requisite slideshow. She was unabashed about telling agents that, yeah, our destination is expensive. She wasn’t afraid to say it, and agents shouldn’t be afraid to pitch it as such to their clients. You get what you pay for.
• Mike Going is a rock star in this industry. The president of Funjet Vacations, his keynote address on Day 1 was humorous and energetic. But the one message that he left that should resonate with all agents – be focused on your clients, because “where else can (consumers) buy travel? Everywhere.”
• Friday morning’s town hall/Q&A with Melissa Alexander and Avoya Travel's Scott Koepf was fascinating, especially a good give-and-take segment with agents on the subject of insurance. Not travel insurance, mind you, but business insurance, and the kind of legal obligation agents and agencies have.
• Friday’s town hall was where I also learned that my boss, travAlliancemedia CEO Mark Murphy, is a wannabe hip-hop artist. When the subject of motivation came up, Murphy – not exactly a recluse to begin with – whipped out his phone, held it close to the microphone, and then gave the audience about a minute’s worth of lip sync to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which he said he plays every day on the ride to work. Yes, it was an impressive performance, not gonna lie.
• Finally, I love Atlantic City. I always have, especially since I live in New York and the town has always been accessible. Not as close anymore, however, with the advent of such casinos as Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, and even Empire City in Yonkers, N.Y., but it still reminds me of Las Vegas Lite. The town has fallen on hard times, however, with the closing of four of its 12 casinos last year, including the very Vegas-like Revel. I don’t quite know what the solution is, but here’s a start. Last month I was in Vegas and, driving in from McCarran, saw nothing but billboards for the hottest DJs, the return of Celine Dion, even for celebrity chef restaurants. The first billboard I saw after getting off the Garden State Parkway onto the Atlantic City Expressway? Dion. NOT Celine Dion, but Dion from Dion and the Belmonts. Sigh.
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