Event: 2020 PATH Symposium – A Virtual Success
ritten by: Joanie Ogg, Co-Founder – FindaHostTravelAgency.com
This year PATH, The Professional Association of Travel Hosts celebrated their 11th Annual Symposium “virtually” with over 83 industry professionals in attendance logged in via ZOOM. With today’s travel challenges, operating the event virtually was a perfect way to connect everyone and share. Our COVID19 travel industry challenges were top of mind and everyone was geared up and ready to learn and share with one another.
The yearly event typically takes place over two days with one of those events open to PATH member hosts agencies and the other open to host agencies, suppliers and some media and this years event was handled the same albeit virtually. There was not doubt we all missed the in-person camaraderie and socializing that takes place each year, however the virtual option worked very well and allowed many of us to connect in the personal chat areas of ZOOM and in the breakout meeting rooms that were set up.
The event began at 9:00am PT with a welcome from the President of PATH, Anita Pagliasso and her heartfelt message was touching and appreciated by all. This year has been one like no other in our industry and while everyone is reeling from the business challenges we are all facing, the compassion and friendship that we share was certainly felt by all. Other PATH Board Members in attendance were Betsy Geiser, VIce President of PATH and VP of Uniglobe Travel Center, Kelly Bergin, Treasurer of PATH and President of OASIS Travel Network, Kirsten Little, Secretary of PATH and Vice President of Andavo Travel, Jackie Friedman, Director of PATH and President of Nexion Travel Group and Drew Daly, Director of PATH and SVP/GM of Dream Vacation, Cruise One and Cruises, Inc.
Anita’s welcome was followed by an update presented by Eben Peck, Executive VP, Advocacy at the American Society of Travel Advisors. This year 80% of the PATH Symposium registration fees was donated to ASTA PAC. The total of $3,600 was certainly appreciated by ASTA and will be put to good use to continue advocacy on behalf of travel professionals. Eben spoke about the recent government loans and the need to get the maximum relief for this current crisis that the travel industry is experiencing financially.
Jackie Friedman spoke next and shared the days agenda and how the “virtual” process would take place. The software ZOOM really did enable everyone in attendance to participate efficiently. My hat is off to whomever planned the timing of this program as it really was a perfect mix of sharing and learning. At 9:45am we all were all taken virtually to our assigned breakout rooms to discuss a variety of topics. We reported back at 10:15 to the general session area for a review of the topics. There was a 30 min break and we repeated the above process again for a second round of topics and review followed by a 3:00pm Closing.
To add to the coordination of the note taking and information sharing, a Facebook Group was created and notes and information was posted there for everyone to view, comment on and read at a later time if needed. That turned out to be a great way to make sure everyone had access to the ideas and thoughts that were made available to all the attendees.
Some of the topics discussed virtually included:
- What areas of travel have been doing well?
- How do advisors present new safety protocols to their clients?
- What are some best practices to getting the travel business back on track?
- How can host agencies keep agents engaged and positive about being travel advisors?
- What resources can hosts and suppliers make available to travel advisors?
- What operational challenges have been identified around cancellation, commission recall and rebooking processes?
- How can suppliers assist with consumer communications to ensure that advisors are sharing mutually realistic expectation for customers?
- What actions would be needed to reassure advisors and consumers that they should consider booking travel in 2021?
- How can agencies and suppliers create efficiencies to disseminate Covid related policy and market changes?
The exchange between the suppliers and the host agencies and the desire to work side by side to build this great business back to pre-Covid success was so positive and forward-thinking. This has been a year of so many changes and challenges for the travel industry, but like every challenge or obstacle faced before us, we persevere and grow and build upon change to make our industry better and stronger then ever before. 2021 will be here soon and we welcome it. This event was amazing and I for one look forward to the 2021 PATH Symposium in person. It’s time for some real-life hugs!