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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 6:54 PM 

Strategies, suggestions & scams: takeaways from Travel Market Place in Vancouver

  • Buzz
  •   03-07-2024  11:05 am
  •   Christina Newberry

Strategies, suggestions & scams: takeaways from Travel Market Place in Vancouver
From left: Geraldine Ree, author & performance strategist; Wendy Paradis, president, ACTA; Claire Newell, founder & president, Travel Best Bets at Travel Market Place in Vancouver. (Pax Global Media/supplied)
Christina Newberry

A sold-out Travel Market Place wrapped up in Vancouver on Wednesday (March 6) after a packed two days of knowledge sharing and networking.

With around 300 travel advisors and 100 suppliers in attendance, this year’s conference featured more advisors presenting than ever before.

“It’s all about learning from those who walk in our shoes,” said master of ceremonies Geraldine Ree, an author and performance strategist with more than two decades of senior leadership experience in the travel industry.

A full conference room at Travel Market Place in Vancouver. (Pax Global Media)

Author and business coach Geraldine Ree. (Pax Global Media)

“You can never stop learning”

Advisors attending Travel Market Place universally told PAX that the opportunity to learn from their peers – through both presentations and simple networking – was the most valuable aspect of the event.

“I get pumped,” said Lory Fraser, an Expedia Cruises vacation consultant, while chatting with Sandy Drover of Expedia Cruises South Delta and Stephanie Vazquez of Princess Cruises.

From left: Stephanie Vazquez, Princess Cruises; Sandy Drover Expedia Cruises South Delta; Lory Fraser, Expedia Cruises vacation consultant. (Pax Global Media)

“Between the three of us, we probably have more than 100 years in the travel industry,” Vazquez said. “But you can never stop learning. That’s why we’re here.”

From left: Moderator Brian Israel, SVP & publisher, Travel Market Report discusses expedition cruising with Hurtigruten Expeditions’ Bob van Beers, project manager Alaska, and Sheralyn Berry, GM, Americas. (Pax Global Media)

Experts in the house

Speakers Claire Newell and Glenda Beagle both urged fellow advisors to ask a lot of focused questions to understand their clients’ needs and match the right travel experience to each client.

Glenda Beagle, travel sales strategist, Art of Selling Travel. (Pax Global Media)

“I do a consultation with every client every time,” Beagle said in a session on overcoming objections. 

Her key takeaway? “No is never no,” she told PAX, noting that clients may not always understand the root of their objections. “Try asking them to tell you what their vision is.”

President of Travel Best Bets Claire Newell. (Supplied)

Keep the Rhône on your radar

European destination experts McKenzie McMillan and Maitten Larpin-Chauvy, meanwhile, both highlighted the value in guiding clients to travel in the shoulder season when the weather is still good but crowds and costs are significantly reduced – and in taking advantage of Europe’s highly efficient train systems to travel beyond the main tourist centres.

READ MORE: What’s the plan for river cruises during the Paris Olympics?

McMillan said the upcoming Paris Olympics will make the city more busy than usual this July. However, the early fall season may present even greater value, as some people may decide to skip Paris altogether this year

McKenzie McMillan, luxury consultant & supplier relations manager, The Travel Group, talks to Daniel McCarthy, VP & editor-in-chief of Travel Market Report, about selling travel in France. (Pax Global Media)

However, the early fall season may present even greater value as some people may decide to skip Paris altogether this year.

Advisors should also keep river cruises on the Rhône on their radar, he said. “The Rhône is taking off incredibly and running a much longer season than other rivers in Europe, with fewer high and low water issues,” he said.

Darrio Prescod, business development officer, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., revealed the intricacies of Barbadian rum in a breakout tasting session. (Pax Global Media)

All eyes on AI

Destination and product expertise – and a true passion for travel – are the building blocks of the relationships that allow advisors to close more deals, Newell said.

They’re especially important for group sales, noted Patty Noonan, director of sales, The Travel Institute, in a breakout session on that topic.

Patty Noonan, director of sales, The Travel Institute. (Pax Global Media)

Those human touches are also key to proving the travel advisor’s value in the face of new artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

At an over-capacity breakout session on AI, advisors learned that artificial intelligence will soon become a critical tool in their day-to-day business – if it is not already.

Rather than fearing AI as the competition, advisors should embrace the technology as a “thinking partner,” said panel moderator Christine Vincent, director of online strategies and consumer engagement North America at TRAVELSAVERS.

Richard Earls, president, VoyagerSocial.ai; Wendy Underwood, managing director, Vancouver, Fever Pitch Marketing Communications; Marcela Guzman, marketing coordinator, Travel Masters; John Mast, sr. director, marketing & franchise development, Expedia; Christine Vincent, director of online strategies & consumer engagement North America, TRAVELSAVERS, discuss how AI will impact the travel industry. (Pax Global Media)

Audits & fraud

On the industry side, Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, highlighted newly-released consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board of Canada that indicate “outstanding” travel intention among Canadians.

“Business was really strong in 2023, and the research indicated 2024 will be another very strong year,” Paradis told PAX, noting that not all industries have recovered as quickly from pandemic lows as travel has.

Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA. (Pax Global Media)

Paradis flagged two important issues for travel agencies and advisors to watch for this year: CERB/CRB audits and fraud.

She said 90 per cent of ACTA members are getting through CERB and CRB audits without issue, but the other 10 per cent are “having some real challenges.”

She said that rent and wage subsidies will be the next round of audits, and agencies need to be prepared with all the relevant documentation.

Attendees network at Travel Market Place in Vancouver. (Pax Global Media)

While AI is a valuable tool for travel advisors, it’s also a valuable tool for fraudsters, who are using it to sound more authentic in their communications with travel agencies. 

Paradis said fraud has become the number one issue for travel agencies globally.

Credit card fraud and chargebacks are also issues that agencies need to stay on top of, she said.


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