Thumbs Up for ILTM Americas!
By Claudette Covey
October 11, 2012 11:45 PM
Last week I had the chance to attend the first-ever ILTM Americas, which, as a premier luxury conference, was fittingly held in Mayakoba on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The destination’s portfolio of hotels include the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba and the Fairmont Mayakoba, the latter of which served as the host resort for the conference.
Suffice it to say that, in my view, ILTM Americas was productive and enlightening. In just one hour’s time I learned about the Pikaia Lodge, set to open in the Galapagos in June, and featuring its own custom-built yacht, which provides each guest with its own cabin for daily daylong excursions. Another hotelier, Alila Hotels & Resorts, also is in the process of building a traditional Indonesian wooden boat, which will launch in December, sailing between the company’s ultra-luxury Balinese resorts (which are a favorite of actor Hugh Jackman, by the way). I also learned about the Royal Malewane in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the only such venue for full kosher safaris. Then I found out the Hotel Belle Rives in the South of France’s Cap d’ Antibes, the former home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. I thought the show was tremendous. I loved the time I was able to spend with suppliers in 15 minute sessions, which was just enough time to learn all the pertinent facts about any given company.
Nevertheless, what I thought about the show didn’t seem as relevant as what the travel agents attending it believed. After all, they were the buyers, viewing the vendors not as interview candidates, as I did, but as business partners. So I gave those agents some time to mull over their thoughts on the conference and interviewed them earlier this week to get their take on the show. Not surprisingly, the response was overwhelming positive.
“I thought it was great,” said Michael Holtz, owner of New York-based SmartFlyer. “We’ve already initiated business because of the show.” Noting that ILTM Cannes and ILTM Americas used the same appointment system to meet with suppliers, he said the smaller Mayakoba subset of suppliers enabled him to delve deeper into relationships. “In Mexico I made better relationships while in Cannes I made more,” he told me.
In fact, meeting with suppliers that you would not ordinarily cross paths with was a plus for many agents. “There were people there who I’d never met but who’d I’d been emailing with back and forth,” said Amy Furie, an independent contractor who also serves as the director of leisure for New Act Travel in Los Angeles. “I finally met someone who I’d been doing business with prior and wound up giving her more business as well. I found it extremely beneficial.”
Furie said she will again attend ILTM show in Cannes this December, adding that the Mayakoba show wasn’t on the “grand scale of Cannes.” Of course, the small size of ILTM Americas had its own benefits. “I believe there were vendors there who don’t come to Cannes who I got a chance to see,” Furie said.
Ginny Caragol, director of leisure development at Valerie Wilson Travel in New York, told me the conference was ideal for those agents who don’t get the chance to see vendors on a regular basis. “It was fantastic for them,” she said. For her part, Caragol was especially taken with the destination management companies and small hotels represented at Mayakoba, particularly since these types of companies rarely if ever make sales calls in New York. “You see suppliers you normally wouldn’t get to see – it’s always good to learn about new destinations and hotels,” she said. “It really helps you think out of the box.”
Caragol also loved the fact that the conference was set in Mexico on the Riviera Maya. “I thought it was great,” she said, adding that for many attendees flights to the destination are convenient and easy. Better yet, Caragol said a key selling point was the presence of so many Latin American travel agents, adding that she was able to spend quality time with them to exchange business ideas. “You learn from it and you come back with fresh ideas,” she said.
Jim Strong, president of Dallas-based Strong Travel, also thought the venue was great. “If you were a buyer seeking out new and different products there were quite a few there to make your time worthwhile.” He echoed other agents’ sentiments about ILTM Americas. “It was all in all a success and it can only grow from there.”
Claudette Covey is executive editor, hotels and resorts, Mexico and the North American East Coast for TravelPulse.com, Agent@Home magazine and Vacation Agent magazine.