WESTA Plans Owner/Manager Conference

The Western Association of Travel Agencies (WESTA) reports it has opened registration for its 2011 Owners and Managers Conference, to be held the weekend of October 14th in San Diego, in partnership with Destinations Hotels and Resorts.

The conferences educational sessions will be held at the DHR Paradise Point Resort and Spa property. In addition, the conference will include off-site events at the other two DHR properties in the San Diego area, L'Auberge and Estancia.

"In 2004, our conference was held at the DHR Sunriver property and they did an outstanding job. The management of DHR and their member properties really understand the value of hosting this type of industry event and always seem to find unique ways to impress our agency owners. I am really looking forward to seeing what these three great properties have in store for us this year," said Mike Estill, WESTA’s chief operating officer. “We expect that San Diego as a destination and the unique nature of Paradise Point will deliver another record setting attendance."

The conference will feature small business owner education, Estill said. Past events have offered sessions such as maximizing your tax benefits from the new healthcare laws, the dos and don'ts of employee handbooks and how to write an independent contractor agreement. The event will also include networking opportunities.

"The networking aspect of the event seems to be one of the most important pieces of the event puzzle," said Ross Beatty, President of WESTA. "WESTA enjoys a uniquely cooperative membership which fosters a very open and collaborative environment within the organization."

In past years, attendees have contributed service charge policies, benefit package information and even outside agent commission split programs for analysis. This information is used to produce networking sessions where owners can discuss and compare their programs with norms for the industry as well as for their local region. "This kind of comparative information is critical to properly managing your office," notes Beatty.

WESTA will also debut its new preferred hotel program. "If the number of hotel inquires while the program was just a rumor is any indication, it appears we will have a very popular program," said Estill. This new class of preferred partner will allow hotels access to the wide array of educational and marketing options available in the WESTA preferred supplier program as well as a newly developed web application.

The application features both an agency resource tool to support the agent's sales process and a consumer module which members can plug into their web sites to allow clients to shop the program, Estill says.

WESTA will also be rolling out a significant upgraded to their member web site program. Taking a cue from the response to recently added customization options in their direct mail program, the new web site program will allow for a much higher level of member participation in creating content for the individual sites. Large parts of each site's content will be agency managed, allowing for a significantly increased level of flexibility and control for each office.

Marketing Committee chairperson Bev Zukow said, "The wide variety of ways agencies can customize our direct mail products is the most popular feature of our off-line marketing program. This is the level of customization we are now adding into our on-line marketing program."

The program drives individualized site content from an agent managed database allowing members to build and edit the information on their sites without any knowledge of HTML. By combining WESTA-staff developed supplier content with individualized agency materials managed by the members themselves, the program will produce sites that are truly unique to each agency without a huge investment in time or technology on their part, Estill said.

The conference will also include the group's annual business meeting; a host of supplier product and destination training sessions, a Saturday trade shows and time to enjoy the San Diego area. More information on the WESTA conference and WESTA visit www.joinwesta.com. Agents can also call 800-288-8191.


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