Bob Sullivan, CTC, has 20 years of travel-trade publishing experience. He currently serves as Executive Vice President & Group Publisher for Travel Weekly and Business Travel News. Prior to joining Northstar Travel Media in 2000, Bob was Publisher of Leisure Travel News. Bob and his wife have five children – four of which are in college – and currently live in Darien, Connecticut.
TRO: How do tradeshows fit into Travel Weekly’s strategic vision, and how do they complement the company’s print products?
Bob: As the industry’s leading business media platform, it is Travel Weekly’s mission to connect the travel agency community in every possible way. We provide daily and weekly editorial. We provide a complete portfolio of web-based training and trade show opportunities. This live trade show piece was the missing element in our platform of connectivity. We are, afterall, in the travel business. We all have to believe in the incredible value of face to face interaction. Through our live trade shows and events, we provide our industry readership with the best education, an opportunity to be part of a discussion of the most relevant industry trends, and access to the leading industry suppliers to help grow and shape their businesses.
TRO: Agents have a lot of choices these days in trade shows. How do you distinguish what Travel Weekly is offering?
Bob: We truly believe the industry needed the kind of content, business sessions and dialogue that only Travel Weekly could create. Our goal is to bring our editorial charter to life throughout our trade show and conference programming. We know that this industry is filled with bright minds and ambitious entrepreneurial spirit and we believe we gather the best mix of that talent at our events. There may be many good choices for a travel agent’s time, but we promise to deliver the best.
I hope the TRO community takes a look at our speaker roster. Among the more than 50 speakers are many successful fellow travel agents, joining their colleagues to share their stories and learn from each other.
TRO: Travel Weekly also hosts a number of virtual events during the year. How do you address the distinct advantages of one format over the other, or are they really two completely different animals?
Bob: To be honest, I think the answer is a bit of both. We bring our editorial charter into the development of all teh content for our virtual events. We are dedicated to the best in training and in industry dialogue. However, the virtual events are more free form in time demand. They are designed to fit into the calendars of all of our time starved industry colleagues. We all need to keep pace with the fast changing dynamics of the industry, but we also all need to be available to our customers 24.7. The virtual environment provides a platform for more “on demand” education, with all of our sessions both live and then archived for later viewing. The live element, with chat rooms and interactivity, really allows our readers to interact, from their desk, with the industry’s leadership. But it doesn’t time or expense. That said, we need to get away from our day to day at some point and immerse ourselves in some professional development. We cannot believe that a virtual environment can ever truly replace the ability to sit and chat with colleagues, participate in live discussion and idea exchange, and just simply stretch our brains. We have had great success with our virtual platform, but we truly believe we still need to be in the live space to complete our portfolio and to give our readers all the choices they need to build and grow their personal success. For more information on the show visit http://www.travelweekly.com/events/leisure-world/fall.aspx
TRO: The format has been two “co-located” shows with one being directed at home based and the other being directed at either leisure or cruise. Has this been a successful format?
Bob: This format has been quite successful. We know we have an industry leadership position, and we believe that we need to bring all travel professionals together for learning and development opportunities. The home-based marketplace is unique in some of its business challenges and some of its supplier relationships. In other areas, it really makes no difference where a person is working as to how they perform their jobs. We are right in the middle of this sea change in our industry’s dynamic and we still believe we need to provide discussion and opportunity unique to the home based market and discussion pertinent to all. We, as an industry, will see how the nomenclature evolves in the future and Travel Weekly will be part of that discussion all along the way!
TRO: Your first show in Ft. Lauderdale seems extremely well put together and organized. How did you manage to pull that off right out of the gates?
Bob: Thanks for the compliment! We rely on our strength, which has always been content, and on the support of our industry partners. We may be new to trade shows, but we are certainly not new to the cruise industry, the travel agency community, the leisure travel marketplace.
TRO: What did you learn from the Ft. Lauderdale show that will be tweaked at the upcoming show in Atlantic City?
Bob: This is only round two for us, but in all honesty, we really didn’t make many changes. We did upgrade our registration system, to guarantee a smooth first day of registrations. Beyond that, however, not much. Its funny. One thing our attendees told us was that we had too many sessions they wanted to attend and they would have preferred repetition. We considered it for the Atlantic City show, but in the end, we decided to opt for more is better. Our speaker lineup and session content is even more extensive. We’ll see how the response is in Atlantic City.
TRO: What do agents have to look forward to in the upcoming Atlantic City Show?
Bob: Content. Content. Content. Like I said, we have even more concurrent opportunities for agents to choose from. We also added a few new components this time around. On Wednesday evening we are hosting an Idea Think Tank. There will be laptops and screens set up around the room for travel agents to share and teach each other tricks for really maximizing many of the day to day business, marketing and social media tools they use today. This will be a chance for our attendees to be the teachers and we are truly looking forward to that evening. Also, thanks to the sponsorship of ARC Marketplace and CityPass, we are offering full day fam trips of New York City and Philadelphia, complete with roundtrip motorcoach transportation from Atlantic City. Attendees will get to truly experience the access and activities CityPass provides. Also, thanks to our partnership with Home Based Travel Agent Network, all full conference attendees to the Atlantic City co-located shows will receive a portfolio of e-books valued at $170 plus membership into the Home Based Agent Community.
TRO: What recommendations do you have for travel agents who attend tradeshows? How can they get the best possible benefit out of their investment in the show?
Bob: Talk to people. Make some new friends. The success of these events is as much about the exchange of ideas and the exchange of energy. Plan your time well and try to set a game plan so you accomplish as much as you want in the three days. And, if you need any assistance or have any comments, seek out a Travel Weekly team member and let us know.
TRO: First Ft. Lauderdale and then Atlantic City. What is the venue for your next tradeshow and when will it be?
Bob: We are just days away from a fabulous announcement for the location and dates of LeisureWorld 2011 and Home Based Agent Show. Check back at www.travelweekly.com or right here at Travel Research Online for the news, hopefully later this week. And for those wanting to join us for CruiseWorld, we’ll be back in Fort Lauderdale for CruiseWorld 2011 and the Home Based Agent show Nov 2-5.