An Event Dedicated to Travel Professionals
Written By: Andy Ogg, Editor and Marketing Director- Travel Professional NEWS®
With the holidays approaching, one thing is for certain and that is that it’s CruiseWorld time! One of our absolute favorite conferences just took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 13th – 15th, 2019. Joanie Ogg and I packed up our bags and headed on our way from a rather sunny San Diego, CA clear across this great country to the great state of Florida. While traveling west to east is never an easy task, we lucked out with some great flights, minor delays and a safe arrival.
Arriving at the Hilton to gather our rooms and find some dinner, we ran into countless friends, and colleagues, which is always such a treat. Finding a table with some colleagues, laughter filled the clear Florida sky, soon to be followed by a much needed rest from the adventures of the day.
After a great night of rest, we dove into Day 1 of the CruiseWorld show early, ensuring not to miss a thing. The day kicked off quickly with a fantastic session with our own Joanie Ogg and good friend Geoff Millar. These friends not only shared invaluable information about the best ways to create, build and run a successful Travel Agency as the new year approaches. While the team of Joanie and Geoff was informative, the crowd was also treated to some good laughs as the duo discussed Part 1: How do I set up my home-based travel business and Part 2: How do I build a business plan to move forward?
We were able to stop in on the VAX: Growing the Marketplace! session, presented by Beth Kitzman, who discussed all of the new work VAX has been busy at. From integrations, education and even more powerful booking tools, VAX VacationAccess is showing consistent growth and function as 2020 approaches.
After visiting several more sessions we were able to join all of the attending Travel Professionals in the grand ballroom for an exciting, inspiring and educational General Session and lunch. Our good friend Jenn Lee, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Travel Planners International took the stage and announced the team’s new #FiercelyForward initiative. With a flash of yellow and an awe inspiring presentation, there is no doubt that Travel Planners International continues to strive for innovation, and the overall empowerment of the Travel Professional.
With Mary Pat Sullivan and Joanie Ogg moderating the Mastermind Sales & Marketing panel, guests such as Katina Athanasiou, Chief Sales Officer, Norwegian Cruise Line, John Chernesky, Senior Vice President of North America Sales, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support & Service, Royal Caribbean International, Scott Knutson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Costa Cruises North America, Michelle Lardizabal, Senior Vice President & Commercial Sales Officer, MSC Cruises, Adolfo Perez, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Trade Marketing, Carnival Cruise Line, Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support and Service, UK & APAC, Celebrity Cruises and lastly, Doug Seagle, Vice President of Sales, North America, Seabourn joined the stage for a lively and entertaining discussion.
While the cruise line executives held the stage, many topics were discussed and the evolution of the cruising options for cruise passengers just continues to evolve. From technology to exciting itineraries, the cruise market is a hot place and every single Travel Professional has the opportunity to really find success with the fantastic offerings and tools available in today’s market.
One topic that was continuously brought up on stage was sustainability. This is of concern after recent findings, studies and weather anomalies. Hearing from these leaders of the Travel Industry share their plans of action was inspiring. In truth, nearly every single one of the major suppliers of cruises are actively taking steps to not only improve conditions, but actually reduce the emissions and waste that a ship can produce while at sea. Kudos to all of the participants in this evolutionary movement and thank you for the efforts.
Following the fantastic discussion, Michelle Fee, Co-Founder and CEO, Cruise Planners, Betsy Geiser, Vice President, Uniglobe Travel Center and Joe Jiffo, Vice President, Business Development, US, NEST – Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel took the stage to discuss some of the hot topics facing Travel Professionals today and as we move forward to the next year.
During a brief break, I was able to chat with Jackie Gordon of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Jackie was attending her first CruiseWorld event and after just 1 day, she was thrilled with her decision to participate. With 28 cumulative years as a Travel Professional and 10 years with her Host Agency, Cruise.com, I inquired if Jackie had been noticing any recent trends as a successful Travel Professional, “My clients are really looking to have their problems solved. They really want to have the entire trip planned out and I have even had some clients ask me to decide on the actual ship for them!”
“Taking pictures and promoting my own trips is one of my best lead generators. Not only does it get people looking at my name and business but it can also inspire them to get busy thinking about their next trip,” shared Jackie. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Jackie and we wish you the absolute best.
At the end of Day 1, the Think Tank takes place. This exciting and open format not only educates all in attendance, but also cultivates a lively and informative discussion between Travel Professionals. Each and every year, the conversations often starts on one topic and quickly turns into other discussions as Travel Professionals realize that the problems they are facing, are shared by the entire group.
Sponsored by Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, with the newly appointed Ann Chamberlin, Vice President of Sales, USA and Richard Hickey, Director of Key Accounts, taking the floor. Ann shared some very exciting updates from the Scenic group including more information about the all new Scenic Eclipse. As the Think Tank began, more and more agents shared recent experiences, both positive and negative, in regard to river cruising. While some of the challenges are out of human control, Ann and Richard did an absolutely fantastic job in addressing each and every topic that came forth.
The Think Tank continues to be an attendee favorite and while the discussions are fantastic, I have a feeling that many enjoy the friendly banter, laughs and humor that arises. Mary Pat Sullivan and our own Joanie Ogg provide a fun and interesting turn on this Think Tank and every single year, it just gets better.
As the hours grew late, the noises calmed and rest occurred for many looking forward to an exciting Day 2, sure to be filled with opportunity.
Day 2 kicked off early with breakfast, sponsored by MSC Cruises. While a great meal was delivered, the information shared by MSC Cruises continued to take the main focus. Of interest to many of the Travel Professionals was the information shared about MSC Cruises’ private Island which opened on November 9 and is named Ocean Cay. One of the focuses is on the surrounding nature and the restoration of the coral, an integral part of the marine ecosystem.
On the way to capture some more of the exciting happenings occurring, I spoke to Kathe Kraus, a 7 year career Travel Professional and franchise owner with Cruise Planners. “I’ve seen a huge upswing in my business lately with millennials. Luckily, my kids are helping my business by spreading the word and it’s working.” I inquired if Kathe had been experiencing a similar trend of increased inquires and business and she shared “Absolutely! I’ve seen a pretty large increase lately!”
Kathe also shared that her previous career as an Administrator for New York University is really what started her love for travel. “I worked internationally for the college and would often travel to Germany, Ireland, Sweden and a little bit of Brazil. Once we purchased and set up our franchise with Cruise Planners, I got to work and have been specializing in Ireland and more land travel.” Kathe continued “I have a lot of clients who love cruising but feel a bit of a been there and done that feeling regarding it. By focusing on land, as well as cruises, I’ve been able to increase our business by offering these options.”
After four CruiseWorld events, Kathe is a STAR Program participant and wanted to share “I get a lot of comments from my friends, colleagues and family about how great it must be to be a Travel Agent. I want to share that if you are a new Travel Professional, it isn’t all a vacation. It took a lot of hard work and determination to get to where we are.” Thank you so much Kathe for a wonderful discussion and we wish you the absolute best.
Before the set up of the Exhibitor Showcase, I was able to sit in for a bit of the TW Talk with Debbie Fiorino, Chief Operating Officer, Dream Vacations/CruiseOne & Cruises Inc., Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion Travel Group, and Vanessa McGovern, Co-Founder and CEO, Gifted Travel Network, presented by Uplift. While I wasn’t able to enjoy the full discussion, I was overjoyed to hear our good friend Jackie Friedman present her thoughts on the future of the Travel Professional. Jackie shared some fantastic insights in her discussion but the one that stuck with me was the power of positive thinking and outlook. Jackie continued with some great insights into that power and what removing negative wording and mindsets can do for a business owner. The fun twist with Dr. Jackie had the crowd chuckling and vigorously taking notes of the hard hitting facts being shared.
While our goal is always to attend every session and happening at CruiseWorld, sometimes the timing gets challenging, so after having to miss a few of the events, we were set up and ready at the 2019 Exhibitor Showcase. The doors opened at 2:00 pm and Travel Professionals quickly filled the aisles and booths. As a vendor, it’s always an absolute blast and joy to interact with the Travel Professional who utilize our tools and resources. Whether they enjoy this very publication, utilize our FindaHostTravelAgency.com, are an active member of TravelProfessionalCommunity.com or if HomeBasedTravelAgent.com helped start their career, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing that our work has helped so many Travel Professionals.
Once the rush calmed down, I was able to navigate through the expansive Showcase to connect with colleagues and friends. There is something magical about this industry and the people involved that is just inspiring. From all different walks of life, the love of this industry truly connects us all in a positive way. Thank you to all of those who took the time to stop by, speak with us and all of the support that is available.
After a long and exciting day, it’s always great to kick your feet up and relax and that is just what we did. While some rainy weather eliminated the option of being outside at the well visited G Bar, the hotel lobby of the Hilton was busy with connection. While I wish I had the steam to enjoy more of it, a quick stop by the Nexion Travel Group’s hosted cocktail party quickly lead me to my room for some much needed rest.
Friday kicked off with a bang with breakfast hosted by Hurtigruten. While enjoying the meal, Travel Professionals in attendance were treated to a visual treat, filled with information, about the amazing offerings that Hurtigruten has. From a journey to the coldest places in the world to an adventure in the tropics, Hurtigruten truly has created a true adventure for anyone who is looking for it. Make sure to check back in future issues of Travel Professional NEWS for more on Hurtigruten and all of the exciting things that are soon to come.
Following the Hurtigruten breakfast, the fabulous Jenn Lee shared some more of the exciting new plans for Travel Planners International after a very open, emotional and inspiring presentation about her life. Those in attendance were treated to a truly inspirational experience, which left many in tears. Not only is Jenn Lee the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Travel Planners International, she is an absolute motivation for being the best you can be. With my session beginning at 11:40 am, I hid in an empty room to review my notes and practice my presentation. Each and every year, I begin my preparations for this in July and each and every year, the time comes too quickly. While being in front of successful Travel Professionals has gotten a bit easier on the nerves, I still very much get that “oh boy” moment just as the lights dim for presentation time.
With a room fairly full of Travel Professionals, I was excited and eager to share my session on “You’ve Sent Mail… Did it Work?” Focused on the benefits of beginning and utilizing an email marketing plan for Travel Professionals, the audience and I had a great hour of discussion about the methods, processes, results and best practices needed to effectively create, manage and utilize email marketing in their business. If you are interested in hearing this presentation, I’ll be hosting a webinar in the new year on this topic which can be found at https://www.travelprofessionalnews.com/webinars/
With an impending flight home on Friday afternoon and a suitcase yet to be packed, we said our good byes to our amazing friends and colleagues and began our voyage back to San Diego. While flying across the country is never easy, I’m thankful for the nonstop flight and that I was able to join my girls for the weekend that awaited.
While leaving home is always a challenge, especially with two small kids, the CruiseWorld show continues to be worth it. Year after year, CruiseWorld grows and becomes more refined, focusing more and more on the Travel professionals in attendance with hard hitting education, tools and opportunities to cultivate success. We are extremely grateful to work with the CruiseWorld and Travel Weekly Events team and are excited for the next CruiseWorld taking place in an entirely new venue! Make sure to mark your calendars and stay tuned to Travel Professional NEWS for discounts and more information about the upcoming 2020 CruiseWorld taking place November 11th – 13th, 2020 in Miami, Florida. To learn more, please visit https://www.cruiseworldshow.com