I recently attended Travel Weekly’s Leisure World and Home Based Agent Show in Atlantic City, and wow, what an experience! It was a week chock full of fun, networking, and learning. It was terrific to meet so many TRO members there, and to meet many people who will become TRO members!
I have always found trade shows to be beneficial on many different levels. First, getting the chance to meet supplier representatives in person is very important. Often, these are the same representatives who become your point of contact for that supplier: having a face to face relationship with them cannot be valued highly enough. Understanding how a supplier’s product could fit into your product mix is vital to growing as a business and offering what your clients want from you. Hearing about new experiences and new suppliers is an important part of the trade show, too: in fact, Atlantic City marked the debut in the United States of Wendy Wu Tours, a tour operator specializing in China and well-known in the United Kingdom. Wendy Wu herself was present, and it was exciting to learn about her, her company, and explore the new options she presented.
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Networking with other agents is also a vital part of the trade show. I met and interacted with many people from different areas of the country on the trade show floor, at the hosted luncheons, and during dinner after the events were done for the day. We talked about things that concerned us in the business, our successes, our failures, and just had a really good time. Sure, online forums like the TRO Community provide an outlet for social interaction, but nothing can beat laughing about shared experiences over a glass of wine (Or two. Or three.). It’s hard to value running into Marc Mancini in the hotel lobby, and sitting down with him over some ice cream and hearing anecdotes from the travel industry history.
But, to me, some of the most important and valuable experiences from the show was from the educational sessions provided. I came away from that week in Atlantic City with a new vigor, a new purpose for my business, and fresh ideas to make 2011 and beyond better than the years before it. One of the most memorable sessions for me was a session on group cruises presented by Captain Lou Edwards of the Little Shop of Cruises in Brooklyn, New York. I had admired Captain Lou for a couple of years, and had tried to understand his methods but never could until I attended this session. Having him explain things in detail made so many light bulbs turn on in my head that the energy from them could have sent Marty McFly’s DeLorean back to 1985.
I heard from Jack Mannix on the importance of selling myself, rather than selling a supplier. Stuart Cohen explored the benefits of specializing in a niche (along with a very healthy “No” therapy session!).
TRO’s own Laura Frazier shared her basics of romance travel to a well tuned in audience. Travel Weekly produced several important panel discussions, including one involving major cruise line executives and another highlighting successful travel professionals. I could go on about each of these, and there are many more I am leaving out.
Simply put, there is a cost involved in attending trade shows of this caliber in time, hotel costs, and transportation. Yet, the benefits far out weigh those costs in the end. Do what you possibly can to attend at least one major industry trade show each year, and you will see a payoff in so many ways. I cannot stress enough the benefits I have reaped from attending the trade shows. Not only have I learned new business methods and new supplier products, but I have created friendships that have helped my own business, and have helped others in their business as well.
Travel Weekly’s LeisureWorld 2011 and Home Based Travel Agent Show will be held in Las Vegas at the Aria Resort & Casino City Center from February 15-18, 2011! Registration is now open, click here to reserve your spot.
The early bird rate for full conference registration is $75 but as a special offer, TRO members who register before November 30 will only pay $50!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a four-year industry veteran and owner of Journeys By Steve, an affiliate of Sunnyland Travel Center in Springfield, MO. He specializes in cruises, escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com