Last Thursday, November 29, concluded the inaugural Luxury Travel Exchange International, a newly rebranded event spun off of the always popular Luxury Travel Expo. Luxury travel advisors met in Las Vegas to take part in one-on-one appointments with suppliers, educational seminars and networking events to further grow and shape their luxury travel businesses.
"We created Luxury Travel Exchange International in response to the changing needs of the luxury travel industry," said Group Show and Event Director Jennifer Fernandez. "By addressing the current space, we delivered a quantifiable experience that produced real business exchanges and networking opportunities for the entire delegation. We are pleased with the praise we have already received and look forward to building upon the success in 2013."
A sold-out appointment program was among the highlights at this year's conference. Jeff Paap, The Ritz-Carlton Company said, "I like the new appointment format as it gave us more one-on-one time. We had the opportunity to see our industry contacts and maintain relationships."
Harnessing the Internet
Popular seminars revolving around the issues that face the industry today, such as harnessing the Internet to drive sales, swimming the sea of social media and protecting your business through the use of fees were among the topics explored by panelists and speakers.
One of the first workshops of the morning was titled "Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan, or, How to be a Marketing Rockstar in 30 Seconds and 3 Easy Steps," hosted by Chelle Honiker-Yarbrough of The Travel Institute.
For years the Internet has been seen as the "enemy" for the travel professional, but Honiker-Yarbrough's most important point is that agents need to learn how to harness the Internet to make it work in their favor. "We used to just have demographic advertising through mail marketing," she says. "Those days are over. Now you as an agent have access to demographic information that's far beyond what you can expect." Now there are ways for agents to find, for example, brides that have been engaged less than six months within a 50-mile radius who like Grey's Anatomy and have been to Puerto Vallarta twice. "You can find those people and advertise to them cheaper than you ever dreamed possible," says Honiker-Yarbrough.
Agents need to create a plan for each endeavor, and having a niche is an extremely valid way to do business, which has been a common theme at the conference so far. "You can target people and find business to do with anyone, anywhere. That's the beauty of the Internet," she says.
From a strategy perspective, Honikier-Yarbrough believes that it is important to do two things. The first is to make sure that your points of differentiation are well defined. "You need to know who you are and what you sell," she says. The second is that you need to tell people about it. "What's important now is utilizing online technology to help you do that faster and smarter and more intuitively."
Social media is still extremely relevant, but it is important to stick to the goal of not getting "sucked into the vortex."
"Facebook is the most relevant marketing tool on the planet right now," she says. She asked the audience who in the room has a Facebook page, and almost the entire room raised its hands. However, when asked who knows what they are doing on Facebook, the number of raised hands dropped significantly.
"Everyone should use their personal Facebook page to market to your business, but you have to do it smartly," she says. One of the best ways to market on Facebook nowadays is to create a Facebook ad, which allows people to target their sales to a very specific demographic. "Facebook aggregates peoples' 'likes' and keeps it fresh," she says. This means that if as an agent you want to sell a Jazz Cruise, you can create an ad that targets fans of Harry Conick, Jr., or fans of the New Orleans Jazz Festival. "Facebook ads are repetitious and people are starting to click through to be directed to your page." To create a Facebook ad visit www.facebook.com/ads.
Anne Morgan-Scully, president of McCabe World Travel, hosted a seminar to share insider tips. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice Morgan-Sully shared during her presentation was to engage your client. Do not just be an "order taker," she says. Rather, get to know your clients. Learn about what they love to do and learn about their family's passions as well.
"Say this to them: 'I am concerned that your time is so important and I'm not sure I can give you what you need unless I get to know you,'" Morgan-Scully says, "Say, "I can give you so much more if I know you. When can we get together and talk? Or perhaps I can sit down and talk with your wife.'"
Morgan-Scully shared a story about booking a man to London. She learned about the client's family. She learned that the son loved sail boats and the daughter loved riding horses. She arranged to have the daughter see Winston Churchill's private horse gardens and set up a sailing trip for the son that took him under the Tower Bridge.
"He is now a client for life," she says, "because he had no idea he was able to do any of that."
Youth Shine at Young Leaders Conference
Young Leaders Conference returned to the program for the third year in a row, which was also a tremendous success. Travel agents under 40 years of age met with peers and suppliers to learn how best to navigate this ever-changing business and how best to rocket to the top. Hosted by Questex Media's Bernadette Mari and Joe Pike, the event was once again a sweeping success.
"It was good to see so many faces, new and old, that all equally share a passion for travel and a passion for business," says Mari.
"This event [Luxury Travel Exchange] surpasses the original Luxury Travel Expo," says Denise Canon, president and CEO of Travel Concepts. "LTX is organized, professional and allows like-minded travel professionals to connect and engage. The suppliers are amazing - a great assortment of destinations and fabulous experiences! The staff, without a doubt, is magical."
For more information on LTX, including photos, videos and the LTX Blog, visit LTXInternational.com.