Carlson Wagonlit is challenging its members to “be daring and think outside the box” this year, as the agency chain hosts a number of owners, managers and agents along with supplier partners at its 2018 conference this week.
The conference kicking things off in style in Beverly Hills before boarding the Ruby Princess en route to Vancouver for three days of training, networking and insights. According to Una O’Leary, CWT’s senior director of marketing and supplier management for North American Leisure, the theme of this year’s conference, ‘I’m Possible,’ is a continuation of the company’s recent conference themes.
“Last year, it was all about storytelling and how the clients are superheroes,” O’Leary said. “But this year, you’re all the heroes – it’s about daring to think differently.”
Here’s some key takeaways from the conference so far:
Some adventurous advice
This year’s keynote address featured adventurers Colin and Julie Angus, a husband-and-wife team who travelled around the globe – starting and ending in Vancouver - using only people-powered vehicles including bicycles and an ocean row-boat, a feat which saw Julie become the first woman to row across the Atlantic.
Colin and Julie Angus at this year's CWT 2018 conference.
Needless to say, such a journey generates plenty of memorable moments - from being stuck in one hurricane and two tropical storms to improvising backpacks from available materials in a remote Russian village – which can be applied to business and day-to-day life.
“We don’t always have what we need – sometimes we have to make it,’” said Colin, paraphrasing a resident of the Russian village where he landed after crossing the Bering Strait. “You have to be flexible and work with what you have.”
Another point raised during the Angus’ address was turning negativity into a positive outcome; in their case, a letter from the Ocean Rowing Society was critical of their proposal to row across the Atlantic before even attempting it.
“You need to focus on your strengths, use constructive criticism positively and prove yourself through action,” Julie added.
Tami Martelli, trade manager, Los Angeles Tourism; Colin Skerritt, tourism director – Canada, Antigua & Barbuda Tourism; Ren West, trade manager, Tourism New Zealand.
Panel discussions: partners weigh in
A selection of CWT’s supplier and destination partners took part in a pair of panel discussions, featuring representatives from Tauck, Insight Vacations, G Adventures and Goway in a talk about curated selling amongst tour ops and Los Angeles Tourism, Antigua & Barbuda Tourism and Tourism New Zealand discussing how best to sell destinations.
Travellers are looking for authentic and unique experiences, said the four tour operators, adding that agents should diversify their product offering in terms of destination while at the same time, appeal to group travellers with product geared toward groups such as families or special interests. Education and training in regards to product offering also remains key, whether in the form of specialist programs, webinars or sales visits.
Una O’Leary, senior director of marketing and supplier management for North American Leisure; Mark Stubbert, senior director, operations, North American Leisure; Veronique Catteau - regional director - associate program, Quebec.
“People aren’t buying things anymore – it’s all about experiences and connections,” said Carla Brake, Insight Vacations’ vice-president of sales.
Similarly, the three destinations advised agents to utilize their available resources to inspire clients’ travel dreams; for example, each destination represented in the panel offers a specialist program for agents looking to increase their selling knowledge.
Stay tuned to PAX for more from the conference, and follow along on Facebook and Twitter!