TAW 2014 Trendsetter Award winners // © 2014 Volker Corell
Favorite Sales Representatives
For the past nine years, travel agents in the West have enthusiastically voted for their favorite travel suppliers as part of the TravelAge West WAVE Awards. This year, more than 5,000 votes were cast, showing once again that agents are passionate about the people and brands they do business with.
Our WAVE Awards also recognize select industry leaders with Trendsetter Awards. The following travel agents have shown exceptional success in four categories.
Best Use of Social Media
Winner, Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Founder, TripScope
Katelyn O’Shaughnessy has used her social media expertise to change the way travel agents generate new business. O’Shaughnessy’s mobile app and website, TripScope, capitalizes on clients’ heavy use of social media, helping market travel agents by linking their URLs with every picture posted by traveling clients. Through TripScope, travel agents get real-time credit for the vacations they create, in addition to greater online exposure and instant awareness of the value and services they provide.
“It’s a very exciting time to be in the travel industry. Travel agent bookings are on the rise, and incredible new technology is being developed every day,” said O’Shaughnessy. “With 85 percent of all travelers using mobile devices, TripScope created a platform that allows today’s travel agents to service the modern-day traveler.”
O’Shaughnessy sees TripScope and social media in general as a way to promote the overall value of travel agents.
“I want to ensure that all travel agents continue to thrive for years to come,” she said. “And I want to bring consumer awareness to the value that we, as travel agents, provide.”
Runner-Up, Gabriella T. Latini, Executive Coordinator, Plaza Travel
Gabriella Latini and her associates at Plaza Travel are generating new business and reigniting existing relationships with clients and vendors using unique videos, slideshows, blog entries and media posts. Themed weekly social media campaigns such as “Travel Tip Tuesday” and “Wishlist Wednesday” are engaging a broader audience, as are posts that highlight travel agents’ specializations and sales promotions.
This category was sponsored by The Globus Family of Brands. The winner received a six-night London and Edinburgh vacation for two from Monograms, and the runner-up won a six-night vacation for two in Costa Rica, including accommodations, daily breakfasts and the services of a Monograms Local Host.
Best Group Booking Effort
Winners, Aash Shravah and Andrew Wright, Montrose Travel Corporate Services
For more than 30 years, the Montrose Travel Meetings and Incentives team has helped large groups plan meetings, conferences and conventions from start to finish, including site and budget planning, marketing materials and guest registration. In 2013, the team organized Kenwood USA’s yearly trip to honor its top dealers, working from the early stages of negotiation to post-trip feedback surveys. Kenwood’s repeat business and numerous referrals, as well as dozens of positive testimonials, are evidence that the Montrose team is bringing group travel to another level.
“I am most proud of how we are constantly pushing the boundaries,” said Aash Shravah. “When we look at the programs that we manage and what we do, our focus is always on how we can improve the experience for our client. By definition, a trendsetter is someone who leads the way. To be selected means that we are doing something different and something original.”
Runner-Up, Daniela Harrison, Travel Consultant, Avenues of the World Travel
In 2010, Daniela Harrison teamed with local wineries in Arizona and proposed a wine cruise with AmaWaterways. With the help of her business development manager and agency owner, Harrison successfully negotiated with the river cruise company and booked about 80 wine club members on a seven-night cruise on Portugal’s Douro River onboard the AmaPrima. Harrison sold 17 of 53 cabins for the March 2015 itinerary while still on the first cruise and, four weeks later, the entire second cruise was sold out.
This category was sponsored by Royal Caribbean International. The winners received a six- to eight-night Caribbean cruise for two in an oceanview stateroom from Royal Caribbean International. The runner-up received a four- to five-night Caribbean cruise for two in an oceanview stateroom.
Industry Activist, Notable Achievements In Support of Travel Agents
Winner, Caitlin Murphy, Millennials in Travel
When Caitlin Murphy first became a travel agent, she was disheartened by the limited number of young professionals participating in important travel industry events. In order to create a forum through which her peers might build powerful business networks, Murphy helped found Millennials in Travel (MIT), which has grown to include more than 1,400 members. MIT aims to drive interest in, and awareness of, the travel agent community, in addition to supporting agent networking and education. Murphy has represented her peers and MIT in numerous forums, including the 2014 NTA Travel Exchange and the Young Leaders Conference in 2012.
“It felt really terrific to win a Trendsetter Award,” Murphy said. “I’m excited for the future of our industry. There are so many great things happening right now. Hopefully, I can help create a space for the younger generation to come together, network and learn from one another.”
Runner-Up, Paula Mitchell Manning, OSSN Los Angeles and Orange County Chapters
As the chapter director for Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN) Los Angeles and Orange County, Paula Mitchell Manning worked to successfully join four local chapters to form the OSSN SoCal Chapters organization. OSSN SoCal Chapters now hosts unique workshops throughout Southern California that strive to help members improve their skills as travel professionals.
This category was sponsored by Disney. The winner received a four-night vacation for two at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Oahu, as well as spa treatments and a Disney Character Breakfast. The runner-up won a three-day Disneyland Resort vacation for two, including a two-night stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, a Character Breakfast and a $250 Disney gift card.
Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40
Winner, Kristen Bentz, WMPH Vacations
In less than one year, cruise specialist Kristen Bentz booked over 300 cruises for more than $573,000 in revenue. In addition to setting top-notch sales goals — she hopes to surpass more than $1 million in cruise revenue in 2014 — Bentz is continuously learning. She recently completed her Accredited Cruise Counsellor certificate in record time, as well as her Luxury Cruise Specialist certificate. After just one more cruise, she will have earned her Master Cruise Counsellor title as well.
Bentz decided that she wanted to work in the travel industry after traveling in Europe when she was 18 years old. She appreciates that her job affords her the opportunity to see the world and experience unique cultures, and she loves the excitement and enthusiasm people exude when they talk about travel.
“I get up every day with one goal in mind: to make once-in-a-lifetime travel dreams come true,” Bentz said. “I truly feel blessed to be able to share my passion with the world. To be acknowledged for doing what I love is nothing short of amazing.”
Runners-Up, Andres Zuleta and Christina Soto, Boutique Japan Travel Company
Christina Soto and Andres Zuleta founded Boutique Japan in 2013, an accomplishment Zuleta credits partially to the support of fellow colleagues and last year’s WAVE Awards Gala. By providing fantastic information and visuals online, Boutique Japan has been able to attract clients from around the globe. In addition to educating fellow professionals on travel in Japan, Zuleta strives to help consumers understand the true value of working with a travel specialist.
The Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40 category was sponsored by AMResorts. The winner received a five-night Unlimited Luxury vacation for two at Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa and the runner-up won a five-night Unlimited Luxury vacation for two at a Secrets Resort & Spa.