“People are going to Europe. It’s one of those destinations people dream of going to,” said Scott Nisbet, president and CEO of Globus family of brands, speaking to a room full of travel professionals at last week’s Travel Market 2016 conference.
The state of travel in Europe was one of many topics discussed in a morning panel held Friday (June 10) at American Marketing Group’s (AMG) bi-yearly travel symposium, held June 9-12 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, California.
Nisbet admitted that while some consumers may be “a little reluctant” to travel Europe after the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, agents can still sell the destination by properly educating their clients.
“When you’re selling to a person, reassure them that key suppliers wouldn’t [run the risk] of letting people go. Give them the comfort of knowing they’re booking with a travel partner and that they have security,” said Nisbet, speaking to approximately 800 conference attendees, which consisted mostly of travel agents, agency owners and suppliers.
Joining Nisbet on the eight-person panel was John Caldwell, president of Delta Vacations; Jeff Clarke, president and CEO of Travel Impressions; Wolf Paunic, president of Trafalgar Tours Canada; Lois Bradfield, owner of LB Tours, LLC; Connie Corbett, president of Ambassador Travel; Phil Papa, president of Papa Travel Store; and Scott Stone, chief operating office of Universal Travel.
Agents and suppliers exchange points of view on the Travel Market panel
John Caldwell of Delta Vacations said the demand for European destinations are “shifting,” with Italy and the U.K. standing out as top choices among consumers.
Wolf Paunic of Trafalgar Tours Canada cited Spain and Portugal as “destinations that have really emerged with merit,” in addition to Croatia and the Balkans and the countries of Scandinavia. “This is the best time to go to those countries,” Paunic told the audience.
Later, at the conference’s trade show, Paunic said this year’s Travel Market was “incredibly organized,” citing the weekend’s line-up of high-calibre speakers.
Researcher and author Jason Dorsey was one speaker who stood out as a conference favourite, captivating attendees with a presentation about the misinformation around generational differences, and how certain strategies that work for one generation can be a turn-off for another.
Travel Market 2016 drew attendees from all points of the U.S., Canada, as well as China, Turkey, Dubai, the U.K., Italy, Israel and India.
The well-rounded weekend featured workshops, panel discussions, keynote speeches and brainstorming sessions that encouraged delegates to network and grow business.
“It’s an opportunity to bring everybody together on a global basis, make business decisions, see what’s around the corner and do what’s best for their agency,” Cathie Lewis-Hardy of Travelsavers Vancouver told PAX.
Travelsavers, an international travel marketing organization with a retail chain of more than 3,000 independently-owned full-service travel agencies in more than 35 countries, is one of AMG’s 18 brands (and biggest one).
“People leave [the conference] pumped,” Lewis-Hardy said.
Nicole Bursey, commercial director for Transat, praised the event for providing effective one-on-one time with agents, who had the chance on Friday to circulate the trade show, talk to suppliers and ask questions.
“Agents are very resilient. They have an important role [in a profession] that’s going to be around for a long time,” Bursey told PAX.
Federico Berardinucci, account executive of agency sales at Porter Airlines
Federico Berardinucci, account executive of agency sales at Porter Airlines said, “This is the busiest I’ve ever been at a conference,” citing the good mix of leisure and corporate agents who visited his table at the trade show.
Agency owner David Jacob of Markham Cruise and Travel Centre said the conference was a great way to build business and find marketing money. When asked about today’s travel trends, Jacob echoed the day’s panelists concerning European travel.
“Europe has not slowed down for us at all this year,” Jacob told PAX, adding that river cruising is “huge” and that there’s interest among consumers to try new destinations, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
Nightly dinner and dance receptions were held for attendees and WestJet and Manulife hosted their own parties for the weekend's Canadian contingent.
Of WestJet: Jane Clementino, director, agency sales and Kimberly Tobias, business development, manager
“Canadians are very good to each other. We want to support each other,” Jane Clementino, director, agency sales at WestJet told PAX at the airline’s private soiree.
The conference, which was briefly rattled by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in the early morning of June 10, wrapped with a formal dinner reminiscent of the Rat Pack era and featured live performances by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. impersonators.
AMG raised $82,000 for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, by hosting a walk-a-thon, a live painting auction and silent auction.
Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. impersonators croon for conference attendees.
The closing gala also served as an award ceremony to recognize AMG’s top partners. The 2015 Canadian award winners included:
Soaring Eagle Award, Travelsavers Canada – The Travel Agent Next Door
Chairman’s Award, Travelsavers Canada – TTI Travel, Toronto
Canadian Package Partner of the Year – Transat
Canadian Insurance Partner of the Year – Manulife
Canadian Partner of the Year (sales and service) – Air Canada Vacations
Canadian Partner of the Year (education program) – Globus family of brands
Canadian Chairman’s Award– WestJet
For more on Travelsavers Canada, visit travelsaverscanada.com.