The return to face-to-face conferences continues.
To the sound of the Welcome Back Kotter theme song, more than three hundred travel agents and supplier partners gathered this week at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto Airport & Conference Center to participate in Travel Market Place 2021.
The conference, produced by TMR in partnership with the Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA), was one of the first in-person events that many agents have attended since the onset of the pandemic, and was the first show produced by TMR since March 2020.
“We felt the need to come back to Toronto as soon as we could,” said Anne Marie Moebes, editor of TMR, “and we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who joins us this week. It really is a gift to be able to see everyone again in person.
“It’s really a pleasure to see so many old faces and so many new faces. The demand for travel is not only there, but consumers need you more than ever.
The show opened on Tuesday morning with a few words from ACTA’s Wendy Paradis, who spoke about the rerun.
“I really believe that the recovery is in sight and that we are going to go through this very dark tunnel together,” she said, acknowledging that last week’s news may have halted the recovery, but things will continue to grow. ‘to advance.
“We will continue over the coming weeks and months to take three steps forward and two steps back but the recovery is coming and the recovery is near,” she added.
Tuesday’s program included talks by John Diorio of Virgin Travel and a panel moderated by Dan McCarthy of TMR with Louise Gardner of Travel Agent Next Door, David Harris of Ensemble, Mike Foster of Nexion and Steve Phillips of TRAVELSAVERS.
This panel focused on leading teams and agents out of the pandemic, including how to handle news like the headlines that came out on Friday on the omicron variant. The message was simple: stay calm, gather the facts, and educate your customers about their options knowing that the decision to travel is ultimately theirs.
“It’s an industry that I love because of the people, because of the places and because of the planet,” said Stephanie Bishop of Globus, who also presented on Tuesday.
Tuesday also featured a sold-out showroom, one of the premier travel trade shows since March 2020 across Canada.
During an afternoon panel moderated by Richard Vanderlubbe of tripcentral.ca, cruise line executives spoke to advisors about what their best partners are doing to raise awareness and achieve sales.
“The most successful accounts are just the constant contact with their guests and really letting them know that the trips are taking place right now,” said Shane Buksh, senior director of national and strategic accounts at Seabourn. “That message kind of gets lost between us and the advisors and doesn’t get from the advisers to the clients. The most successful take the message and make it their own and really show the journey is back, even though people might not be traveling now, they are booking now. “
Buksh added that many Seabourn guests are drawn to the bucket list items which are now selling further than ever before. Katie Gerhard, Associate Vice President of Azamara Sales, agrees, adding that it’s important to know where your customers want to go and to focus on that as well.
“Just follow where your people want to go. Our books are open until 2024 and we are seeing very aggressive bookings coming in. You can’t be everything for everyone, so I advise you to choose your destinations.
The same goes with Thomas Lennartz, the vice president of sales at Quark.
“We find that our average reservation time is a year and a half. We are already kicking off the 2024 season. There is a capacity issue, not a demand issue. The coming seasons are already filling up. Part of the advice for planning something for the future – if you want to book for 23/24, do so shortly before it’s gone, “
“We are seeing a lot of success for travel partners who plan further and form groups. If you’re thinking of an escorted group, it’s comfortable to travel with a group of people you know, ”said Derek Lloyd, vice president of Norwegian Cruise Line.