Head of the Class in Vegas

What happens in Las Vegas should stay in Las Vegas—but not if you were one of the nearly 700 travel agents who attended the Travel Marketing University (TMU) 2008 conference April 22-24. Lee Rosen, president of TRAMS and TMU’s sponsor, urged attending agents to take as much information as possible home with them and to share what they learned with colleagues.

Rosen believes that the value of the TMU 2008 conference rests not only in the networking and one-on-one exchanges between agents onsite, but the value of sharing information and expertise. “Our agents are amazing about sharing best business practices with colleagues, and we encourage it,” he says. “They take home updates on new programs and sales opportunities, as well as new skills.”

This year’s TMU was special for Rosen and for the agents. In 14 years, TMU has grown from what was primarily a TRAMS subscriber conference to a premier industry wide showcase for all of TRAMS’ and Sabre Travel Network’s diverse brands and services, such as TripTailor Vacations. Today, TRAMS serves 45,000 agents in more than 11,000 locations. TMU attracts top-producing travel agents committed to learning and adopting state-of-the-art approaches to marketing and technology. It was also the first such conference for Rosen, who serves both as TRAMS Inc. president and as general manager of Sabre Travel Network’s Leisure unit.

Evidence of the vitality of the new alliance between Sabre and TRAMS was abundant. TRAMS Back Office, ClientBase and TRAMS Marketing Alliance (TMA) all hit record sales levels last year and took center stage at this year’s meeting. But the spotlight was shared by a host of innovative Sabre Leisure brands, including Sabre Cruises, Trip Tailor Vacations, Sabre Vacations, MySabre and Sabre Travel Protection.

The Conference
Travel agents had more than 80 breakout sessions from which to choose. Each session offered outstanding trainers as well as general sessions where suppliers updated agents on new products, programs, ships and sales incentives. More than 40 suppliers were in the trade show, including agency consortia such as Signature Travel, Vacation.com and WESTA.

Uniquely, TMU 2008 saw the participation of Nexion, the 2,100-member host agency led by General Manager Jackie Friedman. In addition to the stand-alone CoNexion 2008 Conference that preceded TMU 2008, many Nexion agents stayed over for the TMU conference. Both benefited from the array of talent on display and the emphasis on “Better Together” integrated business-building technology and marketing.

“The conference offered agents the opportunity to interact with their peers, suppliers and skilled TRAMS and Sabre trainers. They could and did network face to face and learn new approaches to their businesses,” says Rosen. “Our agents ‘get it.’ They see the extraordinary importance of integrated marketing and technology—and using new approaches to help them build sales, profitability and a competitive edge.”

From Rosen’s perspective, today’s travel agent faces ever more complex challenges with more information and more options than ever before. The combination of state-of-the-art technology such as ClientBase and cost-effective marketing such as the TRAMS Marketing Alliance is a win-win-win for agents, clients and suppliers.

The Agents
As impressive as the performance of Nexion, TRAMS and Sabre was at TMU 2008, the attending travel agents stole the show. Their willingness to learn, share, interact and question was amazing, as was their dedication to professional growth. Both CoNexion 2008 and TMU 2008 enhanced well-earned reputations for attracting travel agents who are savvy marketers and adept users of technology. Hopefully, the energy and professionalism agents displayed in Las Vegas will not stay in Vegas, but be taken back to their agencies and shared. If so, the net result will be stronger agencies and a stronger industry.

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