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For more than 45 years, TravelAge West has kept the needs of Western travel agents top-of-mind, offering in-depth destination coverage, first-person insights, travel news and trend stories. Now, the publication celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Western Agents’ Vote of Excellence (WAVE) Awards, a program designed for travel agents in the Western U.S. to vote for their favorite travel-supplier partners.
The WAVE Awards, established in 2006 by Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Shapiro and former publisher Michelle Rosenberg, were created specifically with Western travel agents in mind. While there are other industry awards, TravelAge West’s WAVE awards are a unique opportunity for agents in the West to express their appreciation for suppliers and to recognize the very best in travel.
This year’s 10th annual awards will continue the tradition. Top agents from the Western U.S. will mingle with executives from leading destinations, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, tour operators and more on June 11 at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, Calif. The five-star luxury hotel, surrounded by views of the marina, is located just a few blocks from the famous Venice Beach and boardwalk.
“With its stunning marina views and luxurious surroundings, The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey is the perfect setting for the WAVE Awards,” said TravelAge West Marketing Manager Lisa Frobisher, who orchestrates and oversees the gala. “What could be better to kick off another wonderful event than sharing cocktails with old and new friends on the hotel’s waterfront terrace, cooled by the evening breeze?”
The WAVE Awards program begins with the Editor’s Picks nominations, which are selected by the entire TravelAge West editorial staff after months of research and analysis, as well as on-site visits and surveys of select groups of travel agents.
“We get a lot of questions about our method for choosing the Editor’s Picks,” Shapiro said. “Every year we collect information from a wide variety of sources — including a reader survey — and then we spend hours in closed-door sessions in a conference room passionately debating each category. It can be a grueling process, but we take it very seriously, so it’s worth it.”
Voting is open online at TravelAgeWest.com/WAVE throughout the month of April. Winners will be announced at the awards gala.
“From the moment we announce the Editor’s Picks, I receive emails from nominees about how excited they are for the WAVE Awards gala,” Frobisher said. “I believe our guests genuinely look forward to this event every year — I know I do!”
New categories have been added this year to include a wider variety of suppliers serving the travel industry. These include Best Tour Operator for Multigenerational Travel, Best Hotel Brand for Wellness, Best Hotel Brand for Destination Weddings, Best National Park in the West, Consortia Providing the Best Marketing Materials and Best GDS.
“The TravelAge West WAVE Awards recognize excellence in the travel industry across a variety of sectors and allow us to acknowledge outstanding performance and innovation,” said Scott Clifton, associate vice president of strategic market teams for Celebrity Cruises. “I look forward to the black-tie gala each year as a great way to network with other industry executives and travel professionals, as well as to meet new people in the industry.”
The annual festivities aren’t just for suppliers: Travel agents from the West will also take home awards for their accomplishments. The Trendsetter Award program will honor agents in this year’s categories of Upward Bound: Rock Star Agent Under 40; Best Use of Social Media; Best Group Booking Sales Effort; and Industry Activist.
“I have attended the WAVE Awards gala each of the past 10 years, and each year I look forward to the Trendsetter Awards,” Clifton said. “It’s a great way to recognize the outstanding efforts of travel agents who are the lifeblood of our industry. Great wins in past years include Marc Kassouf and Nathan DePetris from Pride Travel for their efforts in the LGBT community, Paula Mitchell for her support of home-based agents and Jason Coleman for his industry activism.”
The WAVE Awards also let agents spotlight standout sales representatives. Write-in categories include Favorite Hotel Sales Representative, Tour Operator Sales Representative, Cruise Line Sales Representative and River Cruise Line Sales Representative. These categories allow agents to recognize those who have gone above and beyond to help make clients’ trips that much better — and agents’ lives a little easier.
“It is always a pleasure to see industry colleagues recognizing and supporting one another,” said Robert W. Deuel, public relations director for Disney Destinations. “We’re a competitive lot by nature, but I love seeing the mutual respect and admiration we all have for the winners.”
Dian Holland, business development manager of the Western U.S. for Jamaica Tourist Board, shares Deuel’s sentiment.
“Everything has always been a first-class experience,” she said. “It is always such a pleasure to be among friends in the travel industry.”
A veteran attendee, Holland looks back fondly on previous WAVE Awards ceremonies.
“My favorite memory from past WAVE Awards is the pride I felt accepting the award for International Tourist Board Providing Best Travel Agent Support on behalf of all my colleagues, for four years in a row,” she said.
The elegant gala may be a formal affair, but above all, it invites fellow industry veterans to come together for a sublime evening of great food, fun cocktails and fabulous company.
“I recall being surprised at seeing folks all dressed up in evening gowns and tuxedos for the WAVE Awards,” Deuel said. “I work for Disney; I tend to be surrounded by folks with large yellow shoes and funny hats. It’s a nice change.”
Readers can cast their votes online, then join in the festivities in person or find out the winners on TravelAgeWest.com/WAVE and in the July 6 special WAVE/Trendsetters issue.