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Saturday,  July 13, 2024 12:53 PM 

“Spread the joy”: Industry unites at TravelOnly’s “Pursuit of Passion” conference

“Spread the joy”: Industry unites at TravelOnly’s “Pursuit of Passion” conference
From left: Ann Luciani, owner & CFO, TravelOnly; Gregory Luciani, president & CEO, TravelOnly; Amelie Dubois, Regent Seven Seas Cruises. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

TravelOnly’s 2023 national conference and sixth annual gala awards is well underway in Mexico as nearly 150 travel advisors and some 40 suppliers gather at Secrets The Vine Cancun for a jam-packed week of fun and learning.

Opening the event yesterday (June 19), Gregory Luciani, president and CEO of TravelOnly, took to the stage to welcome attendees, emphasizing the TravelOnly mission that originated from its humble beginnings.

“Our story began in 1974 as Luciani World Travel, fuelled by our unwavering passion for travel,” Luciani said. “Our mission was simple – to spread the joy and experience of quality travel to as many people as possible."

The CEO also touched upon the integration of new-age technology and artificial intelligence, which is revolutionizing the travel industry and creating even more possibilities for travellers.

TravelOnly's “Pursuit of Passion

As PAX first reported, TravelOnly is in the midst of developing its own “TravelGPT” natural language chatbot, built atop of the popular ChatGPT program, which debuted last November.

“This tool will help our associates manage their business better,” Luciani previously told PAX, referring to the new platform as something that can build itineraries and save agents time. “We're pretty excited about it.”

It’s one of many tech tools being discussed at the “Pursuit of Passion,” the theme of this year’s TravelOnly’s conference, which has seen its highest attendance yet.

This year, there are suppliers attending the annual event for the first time, including Exoticca, Celestyal Cruises, Club Med, Explora Journeys and Seabourn.

From left: TravelOnly's Sarah Boville, Sandos' Juan Ruiz; TravelOnly's Barbara Scrocco; Viking's Jordana Botting. (Supplied)

Throughout the week, there’s supplier presentations, but also useful workshops on digital marketing, training on internal systems, panel discussions, and one-on-one meetings where advisors connect not only with suppliers, but also with each other.

READ MORE: “Technology, full steam ahead”: TravelOnly conference kicks off in Cancun with focus on AI, pushing boundaries

TravelOnly has a mentorship program that connects its most experienced and successful agents with new and rising stars within its network – and those meetings are typically a highlight for many.

“I always feel like our associates walk away with tangible, actionable items to help them grow their business,” Luciani said.

No agent left behind

And business is going well. TravelOnly’s sales are up 120 per cent year-over-year with $12.5 million in commissions paid out so far in 2023. 

The host agency is also in the midst of a recruiting blitz, welcoming newcomers to the travel industry from all kinds of sectors, Luciani said.

From left: TravelOnly's Mary de Almeida & Pat Probert, Bob Family Travel. (Pat Probert)

Real-estate agents, teachers, accountants. There’s even chiropractors and personal wellness experts.

“These are professionals from other industries,” Luciani said. “They know they have a big database of customers, or a network, and they're looking at travel as a way to move over completely.”

Many will start off as part-time, but the goal is to become a full-time professional, Luciani said.

From left: Chris Posada and Cindy Girard, Norwegian Cruise Line; Brenda Slater, Beyond The Beach. (Supplied)

TravelOnly anticipates that it will soon pass the 800, 900-agent mark, but the promise of “no agent gets left behind” remains.

“We don't look at [success] in terms of, ‘Oh, let's get to a certain number.’ We're really focused on the agents we have,” Luciani said. “We want to be able to support every single agent in the company.”

“Push the boundaries”

Yesterday continued with presentations from TravelOnly’s hosts, Hyatt Inclusive Collection, while partners provided insights into the ever-evolving landscape of the travel industry.

The week also includes presentations led by TravelOnly advisors, including Pat Probert, who is discussing ways to increase profitability (and commissions), as well as Sarah Boville, Denise Taylor, Tammy Durocher and Holly Slater, who are unpacking strategies for niche and special interest groups.

“We’re proud to create a platform where industry professionals can come together, exchange ideas, and continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in travel,” Luciani said.

Yesterday concluded with exclusive Preferred Partner dinners by invitation.

The intimate gatherings allowed attendees to connect and engage with preferred partners, fostering valuable relationships and creating opportunities for collaboration.

From left: Amanda Beaver, Glow Travel & Events; Erminia Nigro, Air Canada Vacations; Brian Joseph, The Inclusive Collection by World of Hyatt. (Supplied)

There’s also a charitable angle to the week as donations are being collected for Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC), a non-profit, community-based organization that works to prevent child abuse and violence through awareness and education.

TravelOnly’s Achievement and Distinction Awards (“TADA” for short) this week includes awards for top producers and preferred partners, as well as the prestigious Patrick Luciani Award.

This special recognition honours individuals who exemplify the values of community, industry advocacy, and embody the traits that were cherished by Patrick Luciani, TravelOnly's late founder and chairman.

Stay tuned for more.

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