Expert Advice at CruiseWorld & Home Based Agent Show

CruiseWorld & Home Based Agent show a success in the Pacific Northwest By: Janeen Christoff
General session panelists provided agents with expert advice. // © 2012 Travel Weekly
General session panelists provided agents with expert advice. // © 2012 Travel Weekly

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Travel Weekly held its CruiseWorld & Home Based Agent Show at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, June 18-20. The interactive show provided attendees with a combination of seminars, panel discussions, training sessions, networking opportunities and more. (Note: Travel Weekly and TravelAge West are both owned by Northstar Travel Media.)

Included in the show were three general sessions that focused on a range of topics including insights from Tony Gonchar, CEO of ASTA, a panel of cruise industry presidents and a travel agent panel focused on agency success stories.

Gonchar told attendees that he was bullish about the travel industry and noted that the media momentum was swinging back in favor of using a travel agent.

“We are moving the conversation to ‘where can I find an agent?” he said.

Gonchar noted that industry analysis predicts that travel will be a $100 billion industry by next year.

“Travel agents are set up for greatness,” he said. “The media is on your side. People need your help to plan complex travel.”

Gonchar also provided travel agents with several tips for success. He advised attendees to get engaged, embrace technology and to “give clients something that they can’t Google.”

At the second general session, Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises; Ellen Bettridge, president of the Americas, Silversea Cruises; and Hans Birkholz, president and CEO of Windstar Cruises and its parent company Ambassadors International, spoke about the state of the cruise industry.

Hanrahan noted that the cruise industry is resilient and that, while 2012 started off well, sales slowed after the Costa Concordia incident on Jan. 13.

“While we don’t care for the prices, we are filling ships,” said Hanrahan.

Panelists also gave advice about how to broach airfare objections and the importance of finding the right promotion and package for each individual client.

“Agents need to get educated and make sure that they know the product they are selling,” said Bettridge.

During the third general session, attendees participated in the first Arnie’s Challenge. Agents competed to win travel prizes by being the first table to answer a travel question correctly. Winners received $50 gift cards from Discover.

Following the challenge, a panel of travel agents spoke about how to be successful in today’s travel market.

One of the liveliest events at the show was the Think Tank, which took place on Monday, June 18. The Think Tank, an open forum where attendees can exchange ideas and interact with one another, included topics such as staying motivated, tech tools and conquering problems.

Outside of the general sessions, travel agents participated in a variety of business sessions that ranged from strategic planning sessions to shorter “learning bursts.” Topics included best practices, selling groups, social media messaging and more.

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