Taking Vegas by Storm

TAW's first-hand report from THETRADESHOW

By: By Ana Figueroa

ASTA’s second annual THETRADESHOW (Travel Retailing and Destination Expo) took place Sept. 9-11 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and TravelAge West was there in full force. The event brought together travel agents, suppliers, speakers and exhibitors for three days of educational seminars, networking, demonstrations and even a little fun at Vegas hotspots. THETRADESHOW program included guest speakers such as radio personality Rudy Maxa and The Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern. Throughout the event, attendees lined up to peruse the trade show floor or sit in on panel discussions on topics ranging from selling luxury travel to using technology in the home-based business.

The opening day cruise panel, entitled “You Already Have It, Use It: Utilizing Existing Cruise Line Resources to Sell More Cruises” was moderated by Travel Age West’s senior editor, Ana Figueroa. Panelists included Vicki Freed from Carnival Cruise Lines, Lisa Bauer from Royal Caribbean International, Dondra Ritzenthaler from Celebrity Cruises, Jim Baer from Princess Cruises and Rick Sasso from MSC Cruises. The informative discussion highlighted all the training, sales and marketing tools constantly being developed by the cruise industry to help agents. And, many of the panelists announced new initiatives. Royal Caribbean’s Bauer introduced the line’s new agent booking tool, cruisematch.com, and encouraged the audience to visit Royal Caribbean’s distinctive booth on the trade show floor: it featured the actual cruisematch.com “tour bus” used in training sessions across the country. A lively question and answer session followed the panel, and numerous agents took the opportunity to personally meet the cruise line executives.

After hours, agents were treated to a number of off-site events hosted by various suppliers at trendy Las Vegas locations such as Tao at the Venetian and Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn Las Vegas. Agents also received complimentary tickets to hot shows, such as Le Reve and Blue Man Group.

The fourth annual Advocacy Dinner held at Caesar’s Palace, featured performances by the cast of the Broadway musical, “The Sound of Music.” And, ASTA’s Young Professionals organization hosted a late-night event, YP Rocks, at the new LAX Nightclub at the Luxor.

ASTA officials were quite proud of the attendance at this year’s event. Those numbers include some 2,405 travel buyers, 1,240 exhibitors as well as 413 exhibiting companies (58 percent of which were new to THETRADESHOW) and 1,417 consumers.

Some 70 countries were represented on the trade show floor, giving agents the opportunity to meet with representatives from 77 tourist offices; 54 hotel brands; 28 cruise lines; 133 travel and tour companies; 37 technology firms; 14 publications and 36 transportation companies, among others.

“The fact that we have built on the success of last year to increase attendee numbers only is a testament to the importance of this event in terms of education and business development opportunities,” said William A. Maloney, ASTA executive vice president and COO. “It was a fantastic turnout and demonstrated that THETRADESHOW truly is the premier retail travel business event for travel industry in North America.”

A number of important awards were also announced during THETRADESHOW.

John Haskins was named 2007 Travel Agent of the Year. The award recognizes an active travel agent member who has made a great contribution to the travel industry and whose outstanding influence and professional activity have advanced the status of travel agents. Haskins is co-owner of Viking Travel Service in Naperville, Ill. He has served as chairman of One Voice, ASTA’s Political Action Committee and has raised more than $300,000 for the PAC; Dave Stockert was presented with ASTA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Stockert is director of sales and training for Holland America Line. He has worked for HAL since 1983, and has conducted numerous seminars for national organizations. He is the author of two popular books designed to help travel agents sell cruises; Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises was presented with the Allied Member of the Year Award for his outstanding contribution to the cruise industry. And, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of the Carlson Companies, was inducted into the ASTA Hall of Fame.

Other important announcements made during the show included the following: Premium Membership Continues to Expand-ASTA announced that travel agencies in search of top-level service and concierge-style benefits continue to join ASTA’s Premium Travel Agency membership category. Premium Members participate in networking and policy input that helps shape the ASTA agenda; have access to research reports and white papers and can customize articles from TravelSense.org for use on their web sites, among other benefits;
World Responsible Tourism Day Initiative-ASTA announced an initiative for a World Responsible Tourism Day, Nov. 14. In conjunction with Tourism Cares, ASTA Headquarters will work to beautify the grounds at Mount Vernon and several ASTA members will travel to Peru with ASTA partner, Global Volunteers, an organization that assists tourists in planning volunteer vacations.

2008 International Destination Expo

ASTA’s 2008 International Destination Expo (IDE) will take place April 12-16 in Lyon, France at the Lyon Convention Center. The expo will bring together travel agents and exhibitors for a week of educational courses, networking and sightseeing. The IDE will focus primarily on French and Western European niche travel. Sightseeing tours and topics will include a World Heritage Tour, Renaissance District of Lyon, Lyon from the Water and Lyon, Silk Capital.

New Web Site Created

ASTA’s new Web site will launch in mid-November. The new site will have improved features and a new look. Though the content will be the same, the site will provide a more personal experience for the user. New features include a buyer’s guide, which will make it easier for members to add information about their company; an electronic postcard service and interactive financial tools.