The decision to host the first-ever Travel MarketPlace in Vancouver proved successful when over 250 travel agents, 25 speakers and more than 50 exhibitors turned out yesterday to attend the educational and professional programming event. Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, addressed attendees in the opening session, noting how busy agents are right now.
“We know the valuable contribution that you make so we’re always promoting that you’re trusted advisors, destination specialists, customer-centric, and you’re human beings, which makes all the difference.”
Adding that “business is booming,” Paradis was happy to report she has seen a positive shift over the last couple of years in the perception from the media of the role of travel agents.
“We used to get calls from the media asking if travel agents were viable. Now when we get calls from the media, they are the ones saying the best advice they can give [their readers] is to work with a travel professional.”
Paradis took the opportunity to remind attendees of the ways in which ACTA advocates and promotes travel agents. “We try our very best to connect you to tools like Travel MarketPlace that can help you be your best. And we have a team that is working to cut through the red tape to make it easier for you to run your business,” said Paradis.
Some of the main issues ACTA is tackling include travel regulators, travel insurance sales, travel supplier relationships and PCI Compliance, noting that new measures for IATA Compliance came into effect yesterday, March 1, and agency owners and managers need to have this “on their radar.”
Equally important to advocacy is educating and elevating travel agents. In addition to partnering to host Travel MarketPlace in Vancouver and Toronto, ACTA also provides webinar training and 45-minute educational sessions called “Just in Time Learning” on topics such as Independent Contractors, Fraud, Travel Crisis Prevention & Intervention, and more.
Industry experts share their knowledge
Flemming Friisdahl, president of the Travel Agent Next Door, also addressed the general session Thursday morning on “Top Marketing Ideas on a Shoestring Budget,” sharing the secret of his own success by advising fellow agents on how to get the most out of social media, the importance of having a comprehensive database, and most importantly keeping in constant contact with clients.
“If you’re out of sight, then you’re out of mind,” said Friisdahl, who gave specific examples of ways in which travel agents can stay connected without breaking the bank.
Travel Market Report Publisher Anne Marie Moebes moderated a cruise panel in the opening session with top executives representing Norwegian Cruise Line, Celestyal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and AmaWaterways. Some trends executives are seeing include a strong desire among travelers for immersive and experiential travel, as well as an increased demand for culinary, wellness, active and personalized cruising experiences.
The panel stressed the continuing importance of the agency channel as the “bridge” to consumers. “You are advocates for your clients. You travel and experience the products. Clients need to use you as a resource because they want the hints you can share,” said Rachel Woodward, Senior Director of Expedition Sales for Silversea.
Labeling travel agents as “translators,” Dana Gain, National Senior Director of Sales Canada for Norwegian, concurred, “You have the power to reach far more consumers in far more places than we can and you’re translators of all of the information they are looking at, providing them with the experience they want.”
In other good news for Canadian agents, Silversea announced that guests residing in Canada can now book their voyages with the cruise line in Canadian dollars. The move is intended to protect clients from adverse currency fluctuations and foreign currency credit card fees. In a statement, Silversea said “this means your clients will enjoy the peace of mind knowing they can trust that the fare they book is the fare they pay, with no surprises with currency conversion on final payments.” Proof of Canadian residency is required when booking and these fares are available for all of Silversea’s voyages.