Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“You gotta love what you do and you can’t be afraid of success,” Gregory Luciani, president and CEO of TravelOnly, told PAX Saturday night (Nov 10) in Miami, Florida.
That is one of the key takeaways Luciani wants for guests participating in Symposium at Sea, TravelOnly’s annual conference, which is currently unfolding at sea in the Caribbean aboard Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess ship.
10 days, 100+ attendees
The 10-day training and networking event, which PAX is covering exclusively, has brought together more than 100 attendees – a mix of home-based travel agents and TravelOnly’s preferred suppliers – for a jam-packed week of cruising, workshops, professional development services, one-on-one sessions, and land excursions in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
“More and more Canadians are cruising. It’s the fastest-growing travel segment,” Ian Elliott, VP of retail sales and business at TravelOnly, told PAX. “A lot of these agents have never been on a cruise, so it’s about teaching them the tricks of the trade. For us, this is all about engagement.”
TravelOnly’s home-based travel agents don’t necessarily interact with other employees all day, Elliott added, so the conference is a “great opportunity to talk about best practices” and secure valuable face time with important suppliers.
A family affair
On a personal level, Symposium at Sea is a family affair for Gregory Luciani, who oversees TravelOnly alongside his father Patrick (who founded the Brantford, ON-based company, originally called Luciani World Travel, in 1974), and his mother Ann, who serves as the company’s CFO.
Speaking to PAX Saturday night at the conference’s kick-off party at the Eden Roc Miami Beach, the conference’s official pre-cruise host hotel, Gregory Luciani called the event “a combination of hard work, friendship, family and having a good time with the people that I love.”
“I get to spend time with my family, my extended family, and my associate family. I’m literally the luckiest person the world,” Gregory Luciani told PAX at the outdoor, beachfront-facing cocktail bash, which gave conference attendees an opportunity to hang out with the Luciani family and meet their fellow TravelOnly cruise passengers prior to embarkation.
That same night, the Eden Roc Hotel Miami Beach presented the Luciani family with their coveted Showstopper Award, which acknowledges agencies that produce 75 to 150 bookings in a calendar year. The “trophy” was a Bluetooth speaker instead of the traditional plaque.
An appropriate choice
Jeorge Zepeda, associate director of leisure sales at Eden Roc and Nobu Hotel Miami Beach (which share the same address) encouraged TravelOnly agents to embrace the “beachy, cosmopolitan vibe” offered by the hotel, which opened in 1956 and, most recently, has undergone a stylish renovation.
It was a fitting location to launch a conference designed for travel agents as the Eden Roc Miami Beach is one of the few hotels in the area that pay agents bonus commissions as part of its amplified rewards program, AIC Hotel Group’s Sarah Smith, regional director of business development for Central Canada, told PAX.
Symposium at Sea arrives in the Bahamas today (Nov 12) at Princess Cays, an exclusive port of call and private beach on the southern portion of the island of Eleuthera, aboard the Regal Princess.
The 3,560 passenger, 141,000-gross tonne vessel is one that Karen McColl, business development manager for Princess Cruises and Cunard Line, calls “the new generation of ships” that launched Princess’ Ocean Medallion Class.
“We’re super excited to have TravelOnly here,” McColl told PAX at the conference’s “Welcome Aboard Party” in the Regal Princess’ posh Club 6 lounge last night (Nov. 11). “From a supplier’s perspective, it’s great to be able to connect with the agents, showcase our product and spend time with them.”
Having the Luciani family on board to engage with attendees has also given the conference a unique and special vibe, McColl said. “You get a sense of that family atmosphere,” she said.
TravelOnly, which will celebrate its 45th anniversary this September, is one of the largest host agencies in Canada that specializes in training business professionals to become travel agents through educational courses, supplier training and by providing marketing tools.
“Many of our agents didn’t start in travel,” Ian Elliott told PAX. “They come from business backgrounds and we train them to become agents using their sales and marketing skills. It breeds a unique type of travel agent that can service every type of person.”
TravelOnly’s Symposium at Sea runs till’ Nov. 18. Stay tuned for more of PAX's exclusive coverage.