Editor-in-Chief Ken Shapiro presents an award at the annual WAVE Awards for TravelAge West. // © 2014 Deborah Dimond
TravelAge West dedicates one night each year to honoring the very best of the travel industry. It’s when the top travel agents from the Western U.S. mingle with executives from leading tour operators, airlines, destinations, hotels and cruise lines. Without question, TravelAge West’s WAVE (Western Agents Votes of Excellence) Awards — held in Beverly Hills, Calif. — is the hot ticket in town, and this year’s event promises to be the biggest one yet.
On June 5th, for the first time ever, the WAVE Awards will be held at The Beverly Hills Hotel, which has served as the stomping ground for Hollywood legends from Charlie Chaplin to P. Diddy for the past 100 years. Located on Sunset Boulevard in the center of Beverly Hills, the “Pink Palace” is home to the Polo Lounge and is surrounded by 12 acres of lush gardens.
“The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles had been the home of the WAVE Awards Gala for the past seven years,” said TravelAge West Marketing Manager Lisa Frobisher, who orchestrates and oversees the WAVE Awards Gala. “However, our event has grown in prestige and popularity and, last year, we simply outgrew the ballroom. The Beverly Hills Hotel is an iconic and legendary venue, and its Crystal Ballroom, where the gala will be held, is spectacular. I know we’re all in for a special evening.”
A number of new award categories will be introduced this year as well. Among them are Best Shore Excursions, Best Tour Operator for Adventure, Best Luxury Hotel Brand, Best Destination for a Wellness Vacation, Best Beach Destination for a Romance Vacation and Best Economy Class, Domestic. In total, there are 62 categories, 13 more award categories than last year.
Back for the third year in a row is the TravelAge West Excellence in Leadership Award, which honors an individual who, in the course of his or her career in travel and tourism, has consistently demonstrated leadership and insight, effected change or innovation and made extraordinary contributions to travel organizations and the industry at large. The first recipient of the Excellence Leadership Award was Michelle Morgan, president of Signature Travel Network.
“I have many WAVE Awards memories over the years, but the introduction of Michelle Morgan by Tim Smith [of GlobalPoint Travel Solutions] was so well-crafted and so sincerely delivered, I am sure you could have heard a pin drop during his delivery,” said Paula Hayes, vice president of sales for Globus Family of Brands. “And Michelle Morgan’s heartfelt and humble acceptance speech was one that I will always remember.”
The 2013 Excellence in Leadership honoree was Susan Tanzman, owner and president of Martin’s Travel and Tours, Inc. and a longtime advocate for travel agents.
“It was very special to be recognized for my contributions to the industry I love and believe in so passionately,” said Tanzman on Facebook. “Forty-five years ago, I was at the Ambassador Hotel when Robert Kennedy was shot — while we were locked in and could not leave, I made a pact with myself that I would spend my life standing up for things I believed in and would dedicate my efforts to making this world a better place. Our industry brings people together, and [travel agents] make a difference every day because we create dreams and experiences for people all over the world.”
One of the reasons that receiving the Excellence in Leadership Award is such a major honor is because it is truly unique.
“As far as I know, there is no other major award that celebrates the people who made important contributions to the travel industry in the West,” said TravelAge West Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Shapiro. “And the West has such a rich history of innovation and creative thinking. So to stand out in that crowd is really an achievement.”
The WAVE Awards isn’t only an important industry event and networking opportunity, it’s also a rollicking good time. Over the years, WAVE Awards Gala attendees have learned to come prepared for a bit of humor, sometimes pointed directly at them. The annual spoof video, created by the TravelAge West editorial team, is one of the highlights of the evening and often incorporates satirical photos of audience members. Previous videos used the conceit of James Bond, TMZ or the 2012 presidential election to joke about the travel industry. As for this year’s video, TravelAge West’s Editor-in-Chief isn’t giving much away.
“I probably get more questions about what we’re planning for the next WAVE video than just about any other facet of the awards. But, I’m sorry, it’s top secret,” said Shapiro of this year’s plans. “We started the videos as a way to infuse the evening with a little more of our personality — which is less stuffy and more fun than some other trade publications. And we wanted to make the suppliers who were there feel like part of the family, so we poked some fun at them too. The overriding theme of the videos is ‘Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.’”
Indeed, for Hayes of Globus, the best part of the WAVE Awards Gala is connecting with her industry partners in a fun and celebratory environment.
“While it’s an industry event, the format of the WAVE Awards really allows us to connect as people,” she said. “It’s great that our industry stops to recognize the front-line agents that really drive innovation and growth. I always meet someone new and hear a story that inspires me.”
Amy Terada, Pleasant Holiday’s vice president of marketing, agrees.
“Attending the WAVE Awards Gala is a true celebration for the key players in the travel industry,” said Terada. “The combination of the industry’s most noteworthy suppliers, top-producing travel agents in the Western U.S. and the up-and-coming Trendsetters all make for a reason to celebrate our joint successes. It is truly a spectacular evening.”