Association and Events Features Host Agency

Event: The Avoya Travel 2023 Conference

  Focused on the Future with Collaboration, Support and Empowerment of the Travel Professional


Attended By; Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC, Co-Founder and Co-Owner – 

Avoya Travel 2023

The Avoya Travel 2023 Conference was a 4-day virtual event that took place  August 28-31, 2023. This was the virtual educational event which will be followed by the in-person Alaska Cruise on board the Discovery Princess cruising Alaska in September. The theme of the virtual conference was “Reach New Heights”. The conference was jam-packed with educational opportunities for the attendees which included, 7 General Sessions, supplier workshops, supplier 1:1 appointments, supplier speed dating and a virtual exhibitor showcase, Zoom cocktail receptions, celebrations and so much more.


We attended several of the virtual General Sessions, Cocktail Receptions as well as checking in on the exhibitor showcase. Following are some of the highlights of each General Session.


The first General Session began with a welcome from Avoya’s SVP of Partnerships, Ashley Hunter and SVP of Sales Steve Hirshan. They shared their gratitude and appreciation to all of the Avoya independent agencies as well as the supplier partners. Congratulations were shared to the network for the spectacular sales numbers. They spoke about the upcoming agenda and encouraged the attendees to be sure and join in on all of the events to get engaged and participate with other affiliates, suppliers and the Avoya team.



During this first session we heard from Selina Luketic, National Accounts Manager for Princess Cruises and she was followed by Richard Hickey, Senior Director of Key Accounts for Globus Family of Brands. Both speakers shared a wealth of information and offerings for the attendees.


Next on the agenda was the Inside Scoop where Co-CEO, Jeff Anderson spoke to the following items:

  1. Staying True to Ourselves
  2. Avoya’s Unrivaled Support
  3. The Growth Spurt
  4. Unlimited Potential
  5. History on the Horizon


One of the slides he shared featured a definition about Collaboration and I found it to be so insightful. “We pursue teamwork through brilliant communication contribution, and chemistry to deliver above-market performance.”


Jeff also shared statistics on the support that Avoya gives their independent agencies. On a comparison with three other host agencies / competitors of Avoya, the following were the numbers which validate the unrivaled support offered by Avoya:


Competitor 1 138:1

Competitor 2   80:1

Competitor 3   23:1

Avoya   12:1

He also spoke about the phenomenal growth spurt. From January – July 2023 bookings are up 78% over last year’s January – July. Avoya is adding new technologies all of the time as well as new suppliers. He shared the importance of being profitability focused for the Avoya IA’s. A new traveler loyalty program will also be announced as well. In 2024 Avoya will be sharing new IA incentives for increasing retention and growing repeat business.


Jeff also commemorated his grandparents Pat and Pal Anderson who started their family legacy in travel 60 years ago in Oahu, Hawaii. I was honored to know both of these amazing people and I am certain they are smiling down on the entire Anderson clan and Avoya team with so much pride for all of their success.


General Session 2 began with a welcome by Laura Burk, Senior Manager of the Avoya Early Success Program. We heard from Jessica Mooney, National Accounts Manager for Celebrity Cruises followed by Kevin Carter, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Collette. Both speakers shared all that is new and exciting with their respective companies.


Up next was a supplier panel presentation moderated by Celeste Koutavas, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager with Avoya. The panelists who shared their insight were Dave Hoshin, Director of Sales, West for Exotica, Omar Solis, Business Development Manager for Club Med and Jim Tedesco, VP of Sales for ALG Vacations. Topics discussed were training opportunities for agents and other programs offered to the Avoya IA’s.


AmaWaterways’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Alex Pinelo joined this General Session and shared the AMA Difference with all of the agents. Alex is always such a great presenter and his message to the travel agents was timely and on point. Several prizes were awarded at the end of this session and agents were encouraged to attend the upcoming Allianz Partners Workshop. 


This first day of the conference ended with a “Wigged Out” Welcome Cocktail Party virtually, via Zoom. It was an information-packed day.


The next day began with an information-packed General Session hosted by Steve Hirshan, SVP of Sales at Ayoya. We heard from Lisette Thurman, Strategic Accounts Director at Regent Seven Seas Cruises who was followed by Allianz Partners and then the ever-hilarious John Chernesky, SVP North American Sales at Norwegian Cruise Line.



General Session 4 began with a welcome from Ed Henderson, Early Success Sales Development Coach at Avoya. On this session’s agenda we would hear from several speakers and enjoy a supplier panel discussion.


First on the agenda we learned all about what is new with Oceania Cruises from Joe Eastep, Senior Director, Strategic Accounts. Enhancing the Avoya Experience was next on the agenda and we heard from two luminaries at Avoya, Jeff Anderson, Co-CEO and Ian Woodward, Senior Director of Product Development at Avoya.They shared some new and innovative products and programs for the Avoya IA’s. One of the new and very innovative projects is a tool to help the agents sell and complete travel insurance transactions with their clients, which is called Travel Insurance Self-Service Edition v1.0, now available in Agent Power.


Next up attendees heard from Sandra Lalk, Senior Business Development Manager with Sandals. Sarah Saunders, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager with Avoya led the supplier panel. Panel Participants included Lisa Gourdine with Paul Gaugin, Jason Douglas Harris with Silversea Cruises and Jeff Bond with Tauck. Following this panel we heard from my friend Kris Endreson, VP of Strategic Sales with MSC Cruises. She updated us on all of the exciting new offerings at MSC. MSC is currently the fastest growing cruise line in the world with 23 ships and over 250 destinations. This concluded this General Session and after a quick break the IA’s participated in the Virtual Speed Dating, followed by a Norwegian Cruise Line Workshop.


General Session 5 began with a welcome from Mickey McBride, AVP of Strategic Partnerships with Avoya. The first presentation was from Scott Sloan, Southwest Regional Sales Director with Atlas Ocean Voyages.


Miguel Cardiel, Strategic Partnerships Specialist with Avoya moderated the supplier panel which included panelists from American Queen Voyages, Hurtigruten, Holland America Cruise Line and Scenic Group. This panel was followed by a presentation by Mark Gazdik, Business Development Manager for National Accounts at Cunard. The final General Session speaker for the day was Kelly Ross, Key Accounts Manager at Azamara. This was followed by 1:1 supplier appointments.


The next day we began with General Session 6 and were again welcomed by Mickey McBride of Avoya. A packed agenda of supplier presentations featured speakers from Carnival Cruise Line, Viking Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Windstar Cruises. Each presenter shared their thanks to Avoya for the amazing partnership and support. They also shared all that is new and exciting with their respective lines. It was an information-packed session and enjoyed by all.


After a break we joined in on General Session 7, the closing session of the Avoya Travel 2023 Virtual Conference for 2023. First up we were welcomed by Jeff Anderson, Ashley Hunter and Steve Hirshan of the Avoya executive team. Jeff shared an Agent Power update with the attendees. 



We enjoyed presentations from Ponant’s Director of Business Development – SW, David Shoenburg, Eva Damato, Sr. Manager of National & Strategic Accounts at Seabourn and the final presentation by Rosalynn Domdom, Head of Field Sales for Virgin Voyages. Several more prizes were awarded and this concluded the final session. After a brief break the attendees, staff and supplier partners enjoyed a much-earned Farewell Cocktail for the conclusion to the conference.


The 2023 Avoya Travel Conference was a huge success. We were thrilled to be able to cover the virtual event and are looking forward to cruising with Avoya in a few short weeks on the Discovery Princess in Alaska for the 2023 in-person event.