“The travel industry will double in the next decade, making it the second largest industry in the world, exceeded only by agriculture,” said Bill Todd, author of “Increase Sales Now,” to 400 travel agents at ETI, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s annual conference. “You couldn’t have picked a better career path.”
As noted in ETI, Part 1, this was an unusually agent-oriented Caribbean meeting. In addition to site inspections, it offered dozens of seminars for agents featuring A-list speakers. For example:
- Superstar agent Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, shared valuable advice on how to grow a business via strategic relationships. CD Weddings’ Chezelle Rodriguez taught attendees how to use social media to generate leads.
- Speakers who aren’t travel agents courted them. Norwegian Cruise Line v.p. Frank Medina invited attendees to take NCL FAMs, because “agents are the best sales people we have—and your sales will triple if you familiarize yourself with the product.” Matt Cooper, chief marketing officer for the Caribbean Hotel & Travel Association, announced that caribbeantravel.com is building a new travel agent portal. Bahamas Minister of Tourism Obediah Hercules said, “33 percent of our business now comes from travel agents. “We love you!” And Trevor Sadler, CEO of InterCaribbean Airways, reminded everyone that his airline pays commissions.
- Greg Furman, chairman of The Luxury Travel Council and an expert on out-of-the-box sales, explained how to keep a “hug your customers” book: “Know your clients’ kids birthdays, their charities, their bonus cycles,” he said. He also recommended partnerships with suppliers of other luxury goods and services. “Go to the best restaurant or the Mercedes dealership in your area, and tell them, ‘We have similar clients. Let’s do something together.'”
- Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, reported that 32 percent of American grandparents took a trip with grandchildren in 2015, 31 percent of leisure travel is multigenerational, and 12 million single parents are being underserved by the travel industry. Family travel, he said, is a growth industry. However, it’s been documented that families are cautious travelers, so agents must be prepared to discuss affordability, value, food, safety, and health.
- Among the other seminars (on selling wellness, romance, and LGBT travel, and even competing islands), the presentation by Simons Chase, editor of Cuba Journal, was especially timely. Among the takeaways: Although Cuba is changing—and quickly—it remains so hard to transfer money and enforce contracts that agents should still book through people-to-people tour operators.
Registration for ETI 2017 will open this winter. For more information, visit internationaltourismexpo.com. ETI 2016 cost agents $79 through April 8, including tours, sessions, meals, and parties. Participating hotels offered room discounts. For more on how ETI had addressed travel agents, click here, to read part 1 of our coverage.