Packed Luxury Travel Expo Begins with General Session

A packed house of agents left the conference center of the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino armed with knowledge to help them sell luxury travel as the first of two general sessions of the eighth annual Luxury Travel Expo concluded Wednesday morning. John McMahon, group publisher of Luxury Travel Advisor, one of the producers of the show, led off the crash course in selling luxury travel. Proclaiming "We're all here under one roof," McMahon told the gathering of all major luxury agencies and network members, many of which attended the first LTE nearly a decade ago, to keep the positive momentum of the industry ongoing. "We went through a lot as an industry," McMahon says. "We went through some good times and some bad times, but we're all happy we are still here." After officially announcing the Mexico Luxury Travel Expo next year, McMahon passed the microphone to Nancy Murphy, vice president of sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, one of three primary speakers, including Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and keynote speaker Lynne Biggar, senior vice president for American Express Consumer Travel Network. Murphy says the industry has grown, and more importantly, changed, offering more opportunities to a broader demographic and larger base of clientele. "Keep it going," she says, "and keep changing." Dale compared the evolution of the luxury cruise business to that of movie character James Bond, in that, although the cruise industry has been around for a long time, it continues to evolve and grow in popularity. Dale says 77 percent of luxury cruise travelers book through agents. Biggar focused her speech on stressing the importance of knowing, experiencing and loving a destination before pitching it to clients. In a sit-down with Travel Agent following the session, Biggar says that piece of advice is the best way to combat the Internet. "We all know that clients can go online and find out about a destination," she told the magazine, "but only through an agent can they get that on-the-ground perspective, the small, personal details of a place that makes it worth visiting."