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On May 15-18, the fifth-annual Global Travel Marketplace West (GTM West) drew 108 agents — a record number of attendees — to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for three days of boardroom presentations, one-on-one appointments and networking receptions.
The Las Vegas event — hosted by Northstar Travel Group’s TravelAge West and Travel Weekly — was open to high-producing advisors located within the Western U.S. and Canada. To qualify, applicants must have earned a minimum of $800,000 in individual sales annually or own a multimillion-dollar business. They are then vetted even further via phone conversations and referral/reference checks by the GTM West staff.
Approximately 85 percent of the agents present this year were referrals from previous attendees, up from a 60 percent referral rate in 2017. The GTM West team hopes to get that figure to 100 percent soon, said Jacquie Hurst, director of trade recruitment and engagement for Travel Weekly events.
“Because referrals are coming from past attendees, we know we’re getting the right people,” said Hurst, who interviews applicants prior to the event. “A lot of people hear about GTM West and realize there’s potential to diversify their business. They get the opportunity to hear about new suppliers they may not be familiar with.”
Case in point: Several agents who came to GTM West this year own franchise agencies with Dream Vacations, formerly called CruiseOne. These attendees — who sell more than just cruises — are especially eager to get in front of new suppliers after the company’s recent name change.
“Even though they aren’t just selling cruises, that name [put them in a box],” Hurst said. “Then, they took on a new brand and needed to learn and find new suppliers; they’re coming to GTM for that reason. It’s also a win-win for the suppliers who can get in front of them as they rebrand.”
And although agents may have specializations or sell into niche markets, it’s imperative that they view new suppliers with an open mind, said Alicia Evanko-Lewis, senior vice president of Travel Group Events for Northstar Travel Group.
“We have seen so many success stories from the agent who said, ‘I’m never doing business with that supplier,’” she said. “But agents have to be able to book every supplier in the room. And they have to have an open mind.”
In addition to agents, 150 supplier representatives from 124 companies were in attendance; they had the opportunity to participate in speed-dating-style, six-minute appointments with the vetted advisors, and some also led small-group boardroom presentations that gave attendees a deeper look at their companies. Suppliers were vast and varied, spanning tourism boards, hotel properties, tour operators, cruise lines and more.
This year’s conference was the third GTM event for Sanjeev Ratra, a travel and cruise consultant with Vancouver-based Marlin Travel in British Columbia. He said there’s one thing that sets GTM events apart from other industry conferences he has attended: He feels respected.
“What stuck with me now is the sense of respect the suppliers and staff bring to the travel agent partners — it’s something I’ve noticed and started to value more,” he said. “And the content is outstanding.
Mary Pat Sullivan, president of Sullivan Marketing Advisors, also vets potential attendees for GTM events. She said she agrees with Ratra’s analysis, and feels that events such as GTM Flagship and GTM West “level the playing field between the travel agent and the supplier.
“Agents are [suppliers’] customers, and they should have that level of respect for each other,” she said. “But you literally have to turn the tables to make that happen — by making the agents own the appointments and making them own the boardroom presentations. Then, the supplier looks at them as a customer the whole time.”
The DetailsGlobal Travel Marketplace Westwww.gtmwest.com