The innovative event’s over 50 sessions focused on revenue-generating niche segments, including certification programs in luxury, cruise and romance travel, as well as concentrated educational programming in technology, trends, destinations and Millennial travel.
John McMahon, Questex Travel Group executive vice president, said specialization is “the next great wave of opportunity” for travel professionals, based on the company’s research and consumer trends and feedback. Countless websites and metadata search engines, he said, put travel planning at consumers’ fingertips, precluding agents from making a living simply by booking hotel and flights.
“The dynamic way consumers are planning their vacations today, compounded by the emergence of the millennial traveler and the impact of technology, means agents no longer just can be generalists if they expect to survive and thrive,” he said. “Consumers want to know how to experience a destination like a local. Specialization allows travel professionals to focus their efforts and gain intimate knowledge and expertise that will make them invaluable partners to clients looking for authentic experiences.”
Leaders of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) took the stage together for the first time in recent memory to kick off the event’s general session and share their vision for the future of the travel agent community, the importance of professional development and the unique needs of Millennial agents and travelers.
Ruthanne Terrero, Questex Travel Group vice president of content and editorial director, moderated the panel, Raise the Bar Now: Step Up Your Business for the Next Wave of Travelers, which featured Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO; Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA acting CEO; and Joshua Bush, Avenue Two Travel CEO.
Meredith Hill, travel industry trailblazer and founder and chief executive officer of Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE), delivered the event’s keynote address, “The Path to Limitless Opportunities Begins with Specialization.” Hill’s empowering message drew upon her extensive travel career, entrepreneurial journey and success turning her failing business around to achieve record sales through specialization.
The event is supported by a prestigious advisory board composed of travel agents and suppliers as well as 12 industry associations including the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA), Africa Travel Association (ATA), ASTA, Caribbean Tourism Association, CLIA, Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA), Family Travel Association, Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE), The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), Meetings Mean Business, Millennials in Travel and Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
Sponsors included Apple Vacations, Bermuda Tourism Authority, Disney Destinations, Dominican Republic Tourism Board, Emirates, Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau, India Tourism, The Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Namibia Tourism Board, Palace Resorts, Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., Tourism Australia and The Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Travel Industry Exchange brings travel professionals and lifestyle specialists together with international suppliers, including destinations, hoteliers, cruise lines, tour operators, transportation providers, technology companies, spas and resorts. The event includes over eight hours of one-to-one meetings, comprehensive education including agent specialty training and networking events and receptions. For more information or to register, visit www.travelindustryexchange.com.