Association and Events Features

Event: Travel Advisors Discuss Challenges, Opportunities During CruiseWorld Conference

Travel Advisors Discuss Challenges, Opportunities During CruiseWorld Conference

During CruiseWorld’s Think Tank, travel advisors had an open-forum discussion.


Travel advisors got candid about the challenges facing their businesses during this week’s Think Tank at the 14th-annual CruiseWorld conference, an event produced by Northstar Travel Group from Nov. 1-3 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


The advisor-only session, which took place on the first day of the event, was an open-forum discussion for advisors to share best practices, reflect on the travel landscape and offer peer-to-peer solutions. (Note: Northstar Travel Group is the parent company of TravelAge West).


Joanie Ogg, owner of Travel Professional News and co-Think Tank Moderator, opened up the hour with a simple question: “What keeps you up at night?”



Many advisors lamented the role that flight cancellations and delays play in ruining a client’s trip, noting that there’s often a “disconnect” between the airlines and the clients and their advisors when it comes to timely communication, all for a booking component that often isn’t commissionable.


Using an air consolidator, adding a fee for booking airfare and pushing a travel insurance policy for trip interruptions were offered as possible solutions.


To get ahead of potential problems, travel advisors should educate clients on potential outcomes — both at the airport and beyond — before they ever leave home, one advisor noted.


“A lot of people don’t know how to travel,” she said. “[We need to say], ‘This is what you do when you miss your transfer.’ You’re educating them to be smart travelers, and they’re not calling you at 2 a.m. asking you to hold their hand.”


When it comes to setting boundaries with clients — and preventing those 2 a.m. phone calls — one advisor says he purposely announces his agency’s closures ahead of time, and takes them every four months, in April, August and December.


“As travel advisors, we are always working,” he said. “On my birthday, I literally told my clients I was closed. And I realized something: People respect when you tell them you’re closed for a specific reason. We all need to unplug.”


The discussion also tackled the topics of technology and education.


Travel Advisors Discuss Challenges, Opportunities During CruiseWorld Conference


Travefy was a preferred product for most travel advisors in the room when it comes to itinerary building and trip management, and TravelJoy and Travel esolutions (TESS) were also mentioned as useful tools.


“With Travefy, you can send proposals, you can send credit card authorizations, and it’s all very secure,” one agent said. “It’s a huge game-changer for me. My clients rave about it. Clients can download it as an app on their phone, and they don’t have to connect to Wi-Fi, but the documents are all in there.


And if you aren’t using Travefy, it’s a good idea to check with your host agency or consortium to see if they have a subscription or are a preferred partner, another advisor pointed out.


Travel Advisors Discuss Challenges, Opportunities During CruiseWorld Conference


ChatGBT and artificial intelligence (AI) also play a role in these advisors workflows, although they use generative AI for different purposes. Some use the tech to create emails or blog post templates, or ask it how to broach sensitive topics for clients.


“If you put in certain rules, it will speak more to you,” one advisor said. “I’ll say, ‘I’m a travel agent, I love doing my nails, Christmas is my favorite holiday, I’m 6 feet tall.’ And with everything I’ve asked it to do, it’s been very specific to who I am. Something I have learned is not to be afraid of what’s out there, because fear is our biggest enemy. Don’t be afraid to use [AI] because you’re afraid you’re cheating,” one advisor noted. “Use it like it’s your assistant. That’s what you need to think about AI tools. They are there to make your life easier, not replace you. It’s to get us through the day.”