The Event That Continues to Cater to Travel Professionals
Written By: Andy Ogg, Editor and Marketing Director – Travel Professional NEWS®
Three years ago, I attended my first CruiseWorld event and every single year since then, I leave this event in awe. Whether it’s the high quality experience cultivated by the CruiseWorld team or the massive collection of successful Travel Professionals, it’s a powerful event to say the least.
This year was no different. CruiseWorld took place November 7th – 9th, 2018 at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center and what started as a great event quickly turned into an absolutely phenomenal event.
While leaving your family is never easy, I departed our home in San Diego, leaving my beautiful wife, awesome 4 1/2 year old and newly added 5 month old girls for the first time since we became a family of four. It was harder than I had imagined, however, as I never doubted, my wife stepped up to the plate and hit home runs all week long while Dad was away. My mother, Joanie Ogg, and I headed to the San Diego airport and grabbed our flight just in time to see the sun rising from the Eastern horizon.
As we made our way across the country at 30,000 feet, I prepared myself for a busy 3 days. Full of collaboration, new relationships and laughter with friends that have grown into family. Our Tuesday night started just that way by running into our good friend Beth Kitzman of VAX VacationAccess at the hotel bar. After a few drinks and a very fulfilling meal, I was down for the count to prepare for a busy Day 1 of CruiseWorld 2018.
With Day 1 upon us, the intensity and excitement manifested into an absolutely infectious spirit. The hall of the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center was booming with cheers, music and the sound of education. Making my way through the crowds, I was able to stop by to see Beth on stage presenting her VAX VacationAccess Training, showcasing all of the new features, abilities and resources that are available for Travel Professionals on this powerful and growing platform.
The General Session soon began and with the increased attendees of CruiseWorld this year, the session had been moved from previous years to a gigantic room, which was full of Travel Professionals. As the session began, lunch was served and the eager audience was greeted by a wealth of professionals. Michelle Fee, Co-Founder and CEO, Cruise Planners shared an amazing presentation on the power of technology and how it is re-shaping our world, especially in the Travel Industry.
Then, Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion Travel Group shared some amazing insight into the power of focus and it’s ability to cultivate success. Lastly, Jenn Lee, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Travel Planners International took the stage with a very impactful presentation about the power of what Travel Professionals do. Not only do they plan the trip, they facilitate the life experiences for their clients. The crowd was fired up and so was I, and I don’t even sell Travel!
At a brief break, I had the opportunity to visit with Alexander and Annabelle Valdes, based in Boca City, Florida. This years CruiseWorld was their first event after joining the travel industry in June. “In the first few months, we’re actually quite doing well!” shared Annabelle. After just a few months in the industry, in combination with the support of Dream Vacations, their chosen Host Agency, this power couple is already off to a great start and sure to do amazing things. “in the short time we’ve been doing this, my advice is to know your market, be open to anything and to always say YES!” shared Alexander.
As the session continued, Joanie Ogg and Mary Pat Sullivan moderated the Mastermind Sales & Marketing Secrets of Success panel. On stage, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support & Service, Royal Caribbean International, Eva Jenner, Vice President, Sales, Holland America Line and Seabourn, Josh Leibowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnival Corporation and Senior Vice President, Cunard NA, Camille Olivere, Senior Vice President, Norwegian Cruise Line, Adolfo Perez, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Marketing, Carnival Cruise Line, Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President, Sales and Trade Support and Service, UK & APAC, Celebrity Cruises and lastly Lori Sheller, Senior Vice President of Groups & Strategic Sales, MSC Cruises (USA) Inc.
Each year the Mastermind Panel, not only brings comedy and laughter, but also some fantastic insight from the very well established executives on the stage. From brand advice to business advice, the information was very useful to Travel Professionals and the crowd was busy soaking in the overwhelming knowledge being presented.
As the day progressed, so did the energy. After the culmination of educational sessions, the annual Think Tank sponsored by The Scenic Group began. Rob Huffman took the floor and while Joanie Ogg and Mary Pat Sullivan removed their shoes for the running around, the conversation kicked into high gear. Whether it was inquiries to the water levels in Europe or how to sell high end groups, Rob delivered some fantastic insights to the audience that undoubtedly helped Agent’s grow their business if applied.
On Tuesday night, Norwegian Cruise Lines brought entertainment to the next level and brought the Godfather of the Norwegian Escape, Pitbull to the stage. Now, with my visual impairment, flashing lights in a dark room just make me absolutely unable to see so I did sit out the performance. However, the massive and overwhelming consensus was that Pitbull ROCKED the CruiseWorld family and brought forth a fantastic performance. In fact, I shared an Uber to the airport on my way home with an agent attendee who said that was the best concert she had ever attended. Huge kudos to Norwegian Cruise Lines for the fantastic entertainment for CruiseWorld attendees.
The following day kicked off quickly and with the Exhibitor Showcase taking place in the early afternoon, I unfortunately was unable to partake in many of the sessions and had to miss the lunch. However, I heard nothing but great things while at the Exhibitor Showcase.
Although I wasn’t able to make it to some of the sessions, I was able to speak with Kate Nelson, based in Boise, Idaho. Kate has been in the industry for over 5 years and found success in her specialty of Ireland. “After running FIT’s to Ireland and UK, it was just so physically demanding and I wanted to have a change.” When moving to the role of a Travel Professional, Kate chose Travel Planners International as her Host Agency, “I love them! They have great resources and great people and their commission structure is great.” shared Kate. We wish Kate the best and hope to see her again at her 3rd CruiseWorld next year!
As the time ticked, the doors open and over 1,500 Travel Professionals began walking the huge room showcasing the best brands, suppliers, host agencies, tools and resources for Travel Professionals.
We were able to speak to several Agents and their feedback of the CruiseWorld show thus far was superb. We had our booth and shared some of the new books we have released, also available on www.HomeBasedTravelAgent.com. While the Agents began to tucker themselves out, I was able to go say hi to some colleagues and friendly faces through the huge room.
We enjoyed a delightful dinner with our friends from The Travel Institute before getting to the room early to prepare for my session the following morning. Day 3 arrived much quicker than I had hoped and while I felt unprepared, I got ready and headed over to the final day of CruiseWorld and the day holding my presentation “Sales & Marketing: The 80/20 Rule of Social Media — Pick Your Platform and Rock It!”
As the time approached, I readied myself as much as possible and hoped for a positive attendance and was created with more than expected. Speaking to a nearly full room, agents from all over the world attended my session and from the feedback I received, enjoyed it. There is no better feeling than delivering tools and helpful information to Travel Professionals who want to better their business. While the hour went by too fast, I concluded with a great sense of accomplishment for the session and look forward to presenting it as a Webinar in the coming weeks. If you’d like to participate, visit https://www.travelprofessionalnews.com/webinars/
While making my way to another session, I had the opportunity to chat with Miriam Mercado. With over 20 years in the industry, this was her 2nd CruiseWorld event. Miriam has been an agent for a long time but has also worked in the back office for Cruises Inc. before starting her own agency, also affiliated with Cruises Inc. “Learning how to maximize the travel before, during, and after the cruise is the biggest benefit for me at CruiseWorld. It continues to grow my sales with my clients.” shared Miriam. When asked what other conventions or travel shows she attends, Miriam shared, “CruiseWorld is the only show I attend all year and it’s absolutely amazing!”
Before my departure to the Fort Lauderdale airport, I was able to enjoy some of our great friends session “Sales and Marketing: What is a website anyway?” hosted by Geoff Millar. Geoff not only shared some insight into the goal of our website but also how to successfully design and lay out a website to drive sales, engagement and leads. My last stop of the day was Joanie Ogg’s “Business Operations: The Host Agency Conundrum.” As always, Joanie commands attention on stage and delivered hard hitting truths about the Host Agency market and the decisions that every Travel Professional faces when considering partnering with a Host Agency.
Now, back at home, I find myself thinking about CruiseWorld and how it’s changed in the past 3 years. How it’s grown, improved and become more in depth, because it has. The show itself, including the staff have done an amazing job with this show and if you haven’t attended, you should. CruiseWorld offers the opportunity to not only learn but to engage with other like minded Travel Professionals, just like you. It advocates the ability to shake the hands of some of the most powerful people in the Travel Industry and to not only introduce yourself, but to learn directly from them.
CruiseWorld is a fantastic event and if you have never been, I highly encourage you to attend the next years event taking place November 13th – November 15th, 2019. I look forward to seeing you there and I hope you’ve enjoyed my experience at CruiseWorld 2018.