Event – Avoya Travel Land Forum Conference 2023
The 2023 Avoya Travel Land Forum Conference Gives Travel Professionals Advice, Insight and Tools for Success
Attended By: Joanie Ogg, Co-Founder and Co-Owner – FindaHostTravelAgency.com
May 23 – 25, 2023 marked the Avoya Travel Virtual Land Forum where attendees heard from Avoya’s Preferred Sponsors, experienced a virtual expo, speed dating and other innovative virtual experiences as well as virtual cocktail parties. It was a great gathering of suppliers, staff and Avoya Independent Agents. June 20 – 24, 2023 will be the live in-person Avoya Travel Land Forum where attendees will enjoy the beautiful Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This overview will highlight some of the sessions and events that took place during the virtual event.
The first General Session speakers included Barbara Hearn, District Director at Allianz Partners and Jim Tedesco, VP of Sales at ALG Vacations.
Jim shared a very thoughtful presentation focused on ALGV’s Kindness Vision Statement with the three pillars, Kindness to Ourselves, Kindness to Others and Kindness in Travel. He encouraged attendees to look to professional development, wellness and self-care. The key principles included:
- Kindness to others
- Paying it forward
- Giving back to the people and places who need it most
- Kindness in Travel Passion and responsibility for destinations and different cultures.
Following his presentation was a preferred supplier panel and
panelists on the virtual stage were Jim Marini, SVP of Strategic Partnerships at Amtrak Vacations & Railbookers; Pascale Beard, Regional Sales Director – WEST at Avanti Destinations; Nancy Kirner with Exotica and Karen Olson, Business Development Manager at Rocky Mountaineer.
Mickey McBride, Avoya’s Associate Vice President of Partnerships returned to the session and introduced Allianz Partners to the virtual stage. The speaker was Sharon Maag, Regional Director at Allianz Partners. Allianz Partners is the #1 insurance provider and Avoya’s exclusive partner for travel insurance services.
The General Session ended with an overview of what’s next on the agenda for later in the day. Some prizes were also awarded courtesy of CIE Tours, Railbookers and RIU Hotels and Resorts.
The afternoon General Session kicked off with a welcome from Ed Henderson, Avoya Early Success Sales Development Coach and an introduction about what we could look forward to in the session.
First on the virtual stage was Stephanie Brooks, VP of Operations for Globus Family of Brands. She spoke about the Global Travel Trends that we have all seen in 2023 thus far and what to look to in 2024. Some key takeaways are that travelers are seeking out ‘hidden’ gems or lesser-known locations to visit and are also looking to connect with, learn and experience different cultures. Trending destinations off the beaten track were also pointed out which included Egypt, Antarctica, Croatia and South Africa.
The Preferred Supplier Panel was again moderated by Mickey McBride with Avoya. Panelists included Marianne Sequeria with Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Carmen Gashnikov with Europe Express, Dian Holland with the Jamaica Tourist Board, Willie Fernandez with Rental Escapes and Joe Shomperlen, Vice President at VAX VacationAccess.
Next up was a presentation by Keetwanah Collingwood, Partner Channel Strategy with American Airlines Vacations. Then we heard from Ian Braun, Senior Regional Sales Manager with Sandals. This was followed by a break and then later in the afternoon the Avoya Independent Agents had the chance to learn from suppliers during the Appointment Time. This was followed by a break and then the Welcome Speed Dating Cocktail Party.
On Wednesday, May 24th the Avoya Land Forum began with a virtual Expo showcasing the participating suppliers. Attendees were encouraged to visit the various supplier booths during the 90 minute time slot. This was followed by a scheduled 15 minute break.
Wednesday morning’s General Session began with a welcome from Danny Dobrott, Director of Brand Sales with Avoya Travel.
The first speaker was Jenny Warren who is the Director of Host Accounts, USA & Canada at CIE Tours. Jenny presented on the unique offerings that travel advisors can offer their clients when selling CIE Tours.
The panel discussion that followed was moderated again by Mickey McBride with Avoya. Panelists included William Kauai with Palladium Hotel Group, Lucien Echarriva with Majestic Resorts, Vonda Keeler with Blue Diamond Resorts and Suzanne Rogers with Iberostar Group. Topics discussed were changes that have been seen this past year at the land resorts as well as booking suggestions for the Avoya advisors.
Omar Solis, Business Development Manager at Club Med shared an informative presentation about all the various Club Med resorts and opportunities available at their properties. Vince Marsala Host Accounts BDM for Delta Vacations was the final speaker on the morning’s General Session.
After a break for all attendees, everyone returned to the main stage for a Supplier Workshop hosted by ALG Vacations’s Dan Miller, Director of Group Sales. Attendees enjoyed a deep dive into all that ALG Vacations can offer to their clients. He also discussed some of the enhancements available when booking and managing group bookings.
The afternoon one-hour Speed Dating Program allowed for 7- minute 1:1 conversations where agents were randomly paired with a Preferred Supplier, another IA attendee, or Avoya Staff. They were then able to video chat, exchange information and ideas and chat about their brand.
Day 3, May 25th began with another energetic Speed Dating session and was followed by the final General Session sponsored by Karisma Hotels & Resorts. The first speaker was Cesar Briceno, the Director of Sales, National Accounts at Karisma.
Mickey McBride then introduced Monika Hopkins, Sales Business Development Manager at Disney Destinations who shared all that is new for Disney. Other speakers in this morning’s session included Patricia Pagoulatos, Business Development Manager with Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Lydia Torres, Business Development Manager at Pleasant Holidays.
Viola DeVelasco with Avoya travel presented an Avoya Travel Workshop focused on Land Groups. This is such a growing sector for agents to specialize in, so this information was very timely and useful for the attendees.
The Avoya Travel Virtual Land Forum concluded with a Farewell Cocktail Party where attendees could share their thoughts on the event and say their farewells to the Avoya Staff, Preferred Suppliers and colleagues.
Here are some thoughts shared by some of the attendees.
“Avoya Travel’s latest Virtual Land Forum is a travel agent’s dream. The virtual platform is easy to navigate, and Avoya gave us all plenty of time for one-on-one time with the vendors as well as time for vendors to present their product(s) and current offers. The vendors were open and helpful, and most had additional videos, PDF sheets, and contacts available directly through the platform.”
Valerie Harris, Owner of Amazing Travel 2Go LLC, a member of the Avoya Network
“The Avoya Travel Virtual Land Forum was a great opportunity for me. Being a fairly new Independent Agent, I am just starting my journey with land sales. The Virtual Land Forum allowed me to not only learn the names of some of the land vendors but gave me an understanding of which would fit well with my niche of multi-generational travel. Using the platform made it easy to learn about the vendors in small, bite-sized pieces during our speed dating rounds and during the one-on-one meetings that we scheduled.”
Gina Guerrero, Owner of Growing Legs Travel LLC, a member of the Avoya Network
“What can I say, Avoya Travel always delivers! Whether it’s one of their conferences in person or this week virtually – they never disappoint! Independent Agencies were super engaged, asking a ton of questions and finding ways they can book their clients on Independent/FIT trips locally with Amtrak Vacations and throughout Europe, Canada, Alaska, and Worldwide destinations with Railbookers. Their virtual platform makes it so easy for us as suppliers and for their own Independent Agencies to use. There were so many sessions…so many meetings and a ton of presentations were only just a click away. Avoya is truly ahead of their time when it comes to technology.
Jim Marini, SVP of Strategic Partnerships – Amtrak Vacations & Railbookers
I conclude by sharing that based on the feedback I was seeing in the chat between attendees and the enthusiasm of who were able to be a part of this event, the Avoya Virtual Land Forum was a resounding success. Congratulations to the entire team at Avoya and thank you for allowing us to participate and share this overview with our readers.