Recently I have been thinking about all of the conferences that are held throughout the course of a year, because tomorrow, I am attending the International Destination Expo in Puerto Rico. At the beginning of each year, I start receiving email notifications from various organizations requesting my presence and extolling the value of attending their conference in order to check out all of the latest and greatest information that I can only hear about at their conference. While it would be wonderful to attend any and every conference that we felt was worthwhile; oftentimes it is not a realistic endeavor. Attending conferences can be a major expenditure for an agent because accommodations, transportation, and the registration fees need to be taken into consideration.
When I was working in corporate America, it was a bonus to be selected to attend a conference, because it was a time to get away from the office in order to learn more about the particular aspect that pertained to my job, as well as an opportunity to network with other industry professionals (and sometimes party), on the company’s dime. Well, now that “dime” is my own, and while I believe that conferences are not only fun (most of the time), I also believe they are necessary. It is a time to meet suppliers that you may want to build and foster relationships with; check out new technology, and spend time with your fellow travel agents to celebrate successes and also kvetch about those instances that leave us scratching our heads. Unfortunately, it’s not practical from a business standpoint to attend every conference that is being held, because the time you are away from your business is time that is taken away from potential clients. Being selective becomes crucial, and picking and choosing the right conference is imperative to ensure you are getting the most “bang for your buck.”
Every agent probably has their own selection process; for instance, I would imagine that those who sell cruises heavily would want to be at Cruise360, as well as any other cruise supplier conferences and lunches that are held throughout the year. There are a multitude of niche markets out there, so any conference that is specific to a travel agent’s niche market would likely rank high on the priority list of ones to attend. There are also the industry related conferences that are offered by OSSN, ASTA, Travel Weekly, etc. They tend to attract a diverse group of agents because they cater to just about everybody, and the content at these conferences can typically benefit all levels of agents from the new agent, to the more experienced agents.
I instituted my own set of criteria, and it is pretty basic. I will (typically) only attend two conferences that are out of my state, and I attend most of the mini-conferences/trade shows that are held in my state. I’ve found that some of the smaller conferences/trade shows give you more time to sit and actually talk with the suppliers; versus the larger shows that have to push to see as many people as possible. The two primary reasons I attend the larger shows are for the tech information, and to hear some of the popular industry speakers who are pioneers in the industry, as they tend to help reinvigorate me to keep pushing forward in this business. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to attend my first International Destination Expo (IDE) this year; especially since my agency specializes in Puerto Rico.
When you are selecting conferences to attend what is your criteria? Do you travel to other states and/or countries, or do you just keep it local? In your opinion, what is the best industry travel show that you would recommend a new agent attend if they could only chose one?
Chanté Owens is co-owner of Chicks That Trip, and is an independent affiliate of Incentive Connection Travel. Chicks That Trip specializes in group travel, culinary & wine experiences, and major sporting event packages to the UK, France, Italy, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and select Southern Caribbean Islands. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her website at www.chicksthattrip.com and her blog penned under the name, That Chick Té at http://chicksthattrip-lobbybarconfessions.blogspot.com/