Taking what it called a “fresh approach to travel trade shows,” ASTA will focus on enhancing agents’ business skills and productivity, along with in-depth destination education, at this year’s Travel Retailing & Destination Expo. The event takes place in Los Angeles, Sept. 7 to 9.
Objectives for business training
ASTA is focusing the conference tightly around three outcomes for travel agents, spokeswoman Kristina Rundquist told Travel Market Report. They are:
• enhancing sales and marketing skills
• honing business skills in terms of streamlining processes for increased efficiencies
• leveraging office technology to better manage expenses and balance the bottom line.
Other new twists
This year’s ASTA conference, or ASTA-LA, also introduces several other twists. These include in-depth destination training about the host city Los Angeles and opportunities to test for all three of the Travel Institute’s certifications and to attend the Business Travel Coalition meeting.
“Everyone can agree that it’s an increasingly competitive landscape for travel agents,” said Rundquist.
Despite the increased media attention on the value of using a professional travel agent, travel sellers are still “up against a host of travel technology tools that compete for consumers’ attention, let alone their agency competitors,” she noted.
“As the leading association for travel agents, it’s our job to see that they are educated in all aspects of running a successful business – and that includes business and operational solutions.”
Four tracks for training
The program (detailed in the sidebar) is grouped into four tracks. They include a new leadership theme focused on managing a travel business for better results.
The leadership track, said Rundquist, “is a new approach and provides agents with the inside track from a broad spectrum of industry leaders.”
The industry leaders will “share their take on what it means not only to be a leader but also how to translate those qualities and skills into a productive management style that inspires employees and drives new business,” she said.
Showcasing Los Angeles
Better reflecting the show’s billing as a “destination expo,” the 2012 program introduces a marketing track that showcases the sightseeing and events that Los Angeles offers.
“Not only does it provide the host city with a chance to showcase what makes it special, but destination-specific training will teach agents how to turn current client demand into profit,” Rundquist said.
This track, which ASTA plans to continue at future conferences, provides attendees “with firsthand knowledge of what makes different destinations tick and allows them to expand destination knowledge so they are better able to assess customers’ travel tastes and needs and sell more travel,” Rundquist said.
ROI for attendees
So what can travel agents expect to get by attending ASTA-LA?
“Agents who attend this year’s event will find a combination of top-notch speakers, some of whom you can’t hear at other industry events, combined with high-level courses,” Rundquist said.
The result will be what she called “the ideal forum for the industry’s highest profile members to expand their education, advance their professional career and exchange ideas and network with the industry’s top agents to build their business.”