The Buzz From LTX: Event Kicks Off With a Rocking General Session

 

The 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX) got kicked off in style Tuesday as attendees were welcomed by a rocking medley from performers of the hit musical, 'Rock of Ages.
The 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX) got kicked off in style Tuesday as attendees were welcomed by a rocking medley from performers of the hit musical, 'Rock of Ages.

 

The 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX) got kicked off in style at The Venetian Tuesday as many of the 900 agents and 300 suppliers in attendance were welcomed by a rocking medley from performers of the hit musical, "Rock of Ages."

After the opening musical performance, John McMahon, executive vice president of Questex Hospitality + Travel, and Marilyn McHugh hosted a talk show featuring some big players in the travel industry.

"In the last year, we have seen more positive press about travel advisors than we have seen in the last 10 years," says McMahon as he addressed the audience, noting that the format for the show was different this year in that all agents in attendance were hand selected.

"When you really think about Luxury Travel Expo about five or six years ago, there were thousands of people here, but they weren't giving us a good service, so we consolidated and we are even stronger," says McMahon, noting that there were about 1,500 applicants.

Marilyn McHugh, vice president of Global Events for Questex Hospitality + Travel, and John McMahon, executive vice president of Questex Hospitality + Travel, chat it up talk show style at the kick off general session of the 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX).
Marilyn McHugh, vice president of Global Events for Questex Hospitality + Travel, and John McMahon, executive vice president of Questex Hospitality + Travel, chat it up talk show style at the kick off general session of the 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX).

 

As one of the early recognizers of the importance of the youth of the industry, McMahon announced the debut of the Young Travel Leaders Alliance, an umbrella group that will pull together all the youth organizations in the industry to give them a common vehicle.

"It will encompass social media channels, we will have a website, there will be newsletters. It will be a place to connect," says McMahon.

One of the main groups that Young Travel Leaders Alliance looks to highlight is the Young Travel Professionals, who in just a short amount of time have accumulated more than 2,000 members. "They [young agents] are the future and we are the stewards for them."

It should be noted that the Young Travel Leaders Alliance has no real age cap. It is meant for those advisors who have a "young at heart" business approach and who are doing things differently with their business.

The first talk show guests of the day were Art Jiminez, senior director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Cynthia Guerrero, sales executive for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The two spoke about the early days of Las Vegas from stories about Bugsy Siegel to Howard Hughes to Elvis Presley's first concert in Las Vegas in 1951 to the year of 1931 when gaming was legalized and divorce was a possibility.

"Today, what has made Vegas so successful and what we are really famous for now is all of our implosions," says Guerrero. "We are constantly imploding old properties and building new ones. And all of the mega resorts have really helped us. Hoteliers are constantly investing money in renovations, in refurbishments."

Roughly 900 agents and 300 suppliers are currently in attendance for the 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX).
Roughly 900 agents and 300 suppliers are currently in attendance for the 2013 Luxury Travel Exchange International (LTX).

 

Next up on the agenda was perhaps the funniest portion of the show as a humorous top 10 list on reasons to use a travel agent was presented by Jim Strong of Strong Travel Services. Some of the better ones included, "Lonely planet is lonely for a reason," and "Google, 'Penthouse,' and see what happens."

Tony Gonchar, vice president of Consumer Travel Network, American Express, followed that up with a discussion on the evolution of the consumer. Gonchar says the main factor that has changed in the industry over the years is that the consumer is perhaps more educated than they ever were before simply because of all the technology available. And because the consumer is more educated and overwhelmed by all of this information, the need for an agent is even stronger.

"We sell dreams, we sell excitement, we make memories and that's what we do day in and day out," says Gonchar. "Travel is a big part of everyone's life today and we are really in the right place at the right time."

Gonchar then urged the attendees to be accountable and to make sure they know their product because their clients are more informed than they ever were.

Social media guru, Lane Douglas of Social Media Solutions, then took the stage to share the benefits of social media when it comes to booking travel.

"You have to get your feet wet, whether you want to do something as basic as creating a Facebook account or something more involved. The best part of the content side of it is that you don't have to generate it. Your followers are building your content. They are posting everything from their trips and that's the best content you can ever hope for."

Juliet Funt, owner of WhiteSpace, Inc. was the keynote speaker at the general session of the 2013 Luxury Travel International (LTX).
Juliet Funt, owner of WhiteSpace, Inc. was the keynote speaker at the general session of the 2013 Luxury Travel International (LTX).

 

The event closed with charismatic keynote speaker, Juliet Funt, owner of WhiteSpace, Inc., who told the attendees, "Our time is under attack."

Emails, smart phones, etc. are "gobbling our time up," she says, stressing the need to make some time for yourself and to stay calm in a frenzy environment.

"When talented people don't have time to think, business suffers," she says.

To avoid that, she recommends making sure we all have "white space," which she says is "time and thought for which you have no predetermined schedule and agendas."

Keep visiting www.luxurytraveladvisor.com for more updates from the 2013 LTX, which runs through Thursday.

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