AAA: Travel Is Back and Stronger Than Ever

AAA Travel hosted its first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic on October 23-25 in Orlando, FL. With a theme of “Ready for Departure,” the event focused on the renewed love affair people are having with travel and how the industry is responding. The conference brought together leaders from the industry, as well as speakers including futurist and innovation specialist Gil Haddi, chief economist Wayne Best, future-of-work thought leader, research and author Heather McGowan, leadership expert, author and coach, Dr. Ivan Joseph, and more.

“Travel is experiencing a rebirth as it emerges from the pandemic. And we felt this electricity at our conference as industry leaders, top suppliers, and travel agents came together for the first time in over two years,” said Paula Twidale, AAA Travel’s senior vice president. “AAA views itself as a bridge, connecting travelers to the best the industry offers in lodging, experiences, service, and expertise. Whether that’s on land or at sea—here or internationally.”

During the conference, industry speakers shared insights into the future of travel, including:

  • All-inclusive resorts are gaining popularity as people look to unpack once and make the most of their travel budget
  • Customization and personalization are key as travelers look to have unique, once-in-a-lifetime vacations
  • Travel advisors are an essential piece of the planning process—providing education, expertise, and guidance to create curated and one-of-a-kind experiences
  • AAA and the travel industry are placing a strong emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG)—both in their business practices as well as what is available to travelers.

“People first—was the overarching message we heard throughout the conference,” continued Twidale. “Travel connects us to one another, and it only makes sense, especially after the last few years, that we as an industry are even more focused on the human side of those experiences.”

AAA’s top-performing advisors were honored with Travel Agent Superlative Awards for sales performance. Additionally, AAA also also presented leading travel industry suppliers with its AAA Partner of the Year Awards. These awards recognize the partners’ commitment to providing AAA travel advisors and members with exemplary travel services in their respective product categories and for marketing, member service, and travel agency support. In 2022, the AAA Champion Award was added to recognize the travel partner that went above and beyond in servicing AAA members and travel agents.

The Partner of the Year Award selection process included surveys and evaluations from the association’s club travel agency executives. Superlative Awards are based on advisors’ leisure travel productivity and leisure group sales from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Thousands of advisors were eligible for the awards, and AAA clubs nominated their top achievers.

2022 AAA Travel Agent Superlatives

  • Highest Revenue: Rhonda Bartnikowski, Auto Club Enterprises
  • Highest Overall Sales: Joanna Kuo, AAA Club Alliance
  • Highest Preferred Cruise Sales: Joanna Kuo, AAA Club Alliance
  • Highest Preferred Tour Sales: Colin Robinson, The Auto Club Group

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