700 Attended ASTA’s Puerto Rico IDE

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) praised the success of its recent International Destination Expo (IDE), which was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico from April 14 to17. More than 700 travel professionals from around the world gathered for unique in-depth exposure to the culture, attractions and travel business of Puerto Rico itself and Puerto Rico as a gateway to the


, ASTA said. Tom Cates, COO of Amadeus, and Chris Austin, vice president, Global Leisure Sales of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., were among the speakers at the event.

“This year’s event in San Juan was exceptional, offering attendees top-notch education and networking opportunities not available through standard industry learning. This masters level education, bringing together the most knowledgeable instructors with highly motivated agent-“students”—travel agents seeking deep knowledge of the Puerto Rico travel experience. The agents who attended went home with new insights into profit opportunities and an edge over their competition,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair.

“Attendees go home armed with first-hand accounts and insider knowledge to help them better market specific and important tourism markets. No other conference brings agents into the field and offers immersion in local culture and training seminars that take them beyond the classroom into real-life experiences to share with their clients,” Russo said.

“This event is of tremendous importance for our main objective, which is to promote the strengths and virtues of Puerto Rico as a truly unique destination,” said Mario Gonzalez La Fuente, executive director the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.

The IDE trade show hosted suppliers representing regions of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and included cruise lines, hotels and tour operators. The chance to interact with select suppliers continued via speed-dating-style sessions, when exhibitors presented their products to an intimate group of agents. This gave agents the opportunity to grow and enrich their business network outside the trade show floor. Every participating agent left this experience with personal contacts and follow-up information with local suppliers that they would not reach otherwise. These agents will then offer truly unique travel opportunities to their clients. Data collected at IDE’s shows that 96 percent of attendees used suppliers that they have met at the event, ASTA said.

Specialization courses provided travel agent attendees with in-depth classroom training. Learning also continued beyond the classroom, offering delegates a chance to explore the wonders of Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands, through sightseeing and pre- and post-tours.

The event ended with a dinner and cultural entertainment produced by Peru, the site of the 2012 International Destination Expo.