Jim Cloonan of Travel Show Marketing Group
TRO: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the travel industry.
JC: I have nearly 17 years of experience in the trade show industry and 11 years of experience in the travel show industry. At Travel Show Marketing Group, my business partner, Eric Cooper and I work exclusively in the travel agent arena, strictly with the Home Based Travel Agent Forum; one in the Spring in Las Vegas at the Venetian and one in the Fall at the Chicago Hilton from November 10-12 later this year. We’ve been exclusively producing these shows as Travel Show Marketing Group for 5 years. We recently started a new brand, Specialty Travel Forums focusing mainly on niche markets. Our first event under this brand is the Romance Travel Forum which educates travel agents on the how to increase their sales and network within the destination wedding, honeymoon and romantic vacation markets. That event is taking place this May 12-15 at the Paradisus Cancun in Mexico, allowing travel agents to experience one destination they’re selling to romance clients. This will be part of the Specialty Travel Forums model moving forward.
TRO: What motivates you as a travel professional?
JC: Same as everyone – the fear of failure! We are a very small and flexible organization and that allows us to stick to the basics of what really matters. We are always striving to better support the travel agent community, and provide all the tools needed to run a success travel agency business.
TRO: Your shows are incredibly successful, what would you say is the leading attribute to their success?
JC: I would say first and foremost, our relationship with OSSN. We have always believed in the value of this important distribution channel, and the growth and potential this community represents. Working with Gary and Melody Fee, along with Anita Pagliasso (who also serves as our conference manager) has really played a critical role in helping us establish these shows and our brand. As an independent event company, we have the luxury of working with various travel publications and marketing partners. Not being “tied” so to speak, to any one entity, allows us to broaden our pool of potential prospects and grow our relationships.
We also offer educational opportunities to help this audience run an efficient home based travel business. Whether it’s using social media to turn leads into sales, or how to streamline your accounting practices, we bring in specialists and experts to every Forum, allowing us to stay on top of what’s new or most relevant to our agents.
TRO: In what ways have your shows grown or changed over the years?
JC: Year to year the shows grow and evolve. We’ve noticed almost everyone nowadays is connected – whether they’re on their laptops, tablets or smartphones, they’re staying in touch with their customers while they’re at these shows. We realize everyone is ‘on’ 24/7 now, whereas that wasn’t the case in 2009, 2010, even 2011. We’ve tried to adapt to accommodate these changes to keep everyone interested in the face-to-face side of things despite how things have shifted to digital.
TRO: How do your shows differ from others in the industry?
JC: Our shows are less focused on one particular area of the travel industry and more focused on the industry as a whole. We like to be able to offer everything to make it worth the while – from sales and marketing to technology, to database management, to social media. We offer workshops on niche travel such as destination weddings, honeymoons, babymoons and in the future, family travel, river cruising, etc.
TRO: What do you have planned for the future? Anything exciting on the horizon?
JC: Again, we have launched the Specialty Travel Forums next month for pre-qualified travel agents. Rather than 1,000 – 1,500 agents, these shows will be for around 100-250 agents. Instead of having 45 different seminars, we’ll have 8-10 one-hour sessions on taking the next step in specializing in an area. These are designed to be more exclusive and more concentrated so the agents can get as much out of them as they can.
We’ll also offer events focused on family and group travel, and are currently in contact with a few different locales, which we’ll be announcing those shortly.