Travel MarketPlace West was held in Vancouver last week, presented by Travel Market Report and ACTA.
The two-day professional development conference featured workshops, panel discussions, and a trade show.
Here are five takeaways PAX learned from our attendance.
1) Travel professionals are irreplaceable
According to ACTA president Wendy Paradis, today’s travellers are time-crunched, overwhelmed by choice, and have no time to research vacations.
Furthermore, with travel trends heading towards experiential, multi-generational and luxury travel – all of which require expert planning and counselling – travel professionals will always play a prominent role in booking client vacations.
“The greatest strength you have is you," said Paradis. "You will never be replaced by a computer. The best thing that you can be is you.”
2) Develop your brand
Several speakers emphasized the importance of branding. These experts said it best:
“Your brand is your purpose, core belief and voice, delivered with intent and clarity to your audience.” - Ryan McElroy, Travel Agency Tribes.
“Create a clear and defined message to your clients to tell them who you are, and why they should do business with you.” - Glenda Beagle, Business Coach.
“Your brand is in every action you take, how you dress, how you answer the phone, and even the members of your team.“ - Chris Austin, Seabourn.
Branding extends to an agency’s business card, office décor, website, and the products it sells. Agencies should also consider specializing in a niche to differentiate and stand out from the crowd.
3) Choose your partners
Agencies should leverage relationships with suppliers they can trust, and take advantage of their supporting tools and resources.
Glenda Beagle, a business coach present, also suggested reviewing the supplier list on a quarterly basis and making changes where necessary.
“Work with the suppliers that give you the best support and commissions," Beagle offered. "Business decisions are hard, but not making the right decision costs even more.”
4) Focus on your business
In her presentation, Geraldine Ree of Travel Market Report illustrated that an agency's life starts from launch to growth, but will at one point “hit a wall” and plateau.
Ree emphasized the importance of shifting one’s mindset, accepting new ideas, and creating breakthrough moments to take their business to the next level.
The key to this success is also allotting the time to work on the business. Executives leading the business-building panel discussion advised that agencies need to proactively work on growing their business, instead of being reactive.
Agency owners are encouraged to “make an appointment” with themselves on a regular basis to create a plan, and commit to promoting the agency.
5) Embrace social media
Judging by the number of sessions dedicated to this topic, social media was clearly the hottest talk of the conference. While Facebook and Instagram best serve the travel industry, agencies should select the best platform for their target audience.
The following tips were offered up:
- The goal of social media is not to collect followers, it is to create buyers.
- Posts should capture attention with a call to action, but must be relevant to your target audience.
- Engage regularly with your audience – be courteous and humble.
- Resist the urge to sell – focus on building relationship and trust. Once accomplished, the sales will follow.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!