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Event – CoNexion 2022 – A Magical Event for Travel Professionals

The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!


Attended and Written By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC Co-Founder – FindaHostTravelAgency.com 

The Powerful Magic of Co-Nexion was felt and enjoyed by over 600 attendees at CoNexion 2022 located at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California September 20-23, 2022. I had an easy and short flight to Orange County from my home in Peoria, it was great to have the event on the left coast this year. Having attended last years event in Orlando, Florida I knew it was going to be an amazing event. Two years ago Nexion had plans to host the 2020 CoNexion Conference here at Disneyland, it was rescheduled for 2022. The weather was perfect and as always the energy of the travel professionals and suppliers in attendance was explosive.


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California! 1


I was experiencing some serious nostalgia at the Disneyland Hotel. Having stayed there many times during my childhood, it holds some priceless fun memories. However one stay at the hotel was a bit exciting and scary to say the least. In 1994, just a short 28 years ago, my son Andy Ogg and I were enjoying a Mother / Son overnight and Disneyland trip getaway trip from our home in San Diego. In the middle of the night as we slept we were awakened by a rolling and shaking hotel in our room on the 12 floor of the Disneyland Hotel. The famous Northridge, California Earthquake of 1994 was felt loud and strong in Anaheim. The hotel was evacuated and we spent a couple hours hanging out in the parking lot with other guests in our PJ’s. I have to say it was a bit difficult to fall back to sleep after that excitement. The Disneyland Park actually opened up as usual the next morning albeit a few of the rides were not available that day.

Now, back to CoNexion 2022

Day 1

The first general session began early on Tuesday morning with a sumptuous breakfast and the energy in the room was electric. As is CoNexion tradition, Robbie Hamida, Senior Vice President of Agency Operations entered the stage wearing one of his fun and crazy suits. This year suppliers actually sponsored his suits and each day he wore something new and fun. Robbi’s personality and stage presence are always so much fun and entertaining. Robbi also welcomed Mike Foster, President of Nexion Canada to the stage. Now that the Canadian Covid restrictions have lifted, Mike was again able to welcome Canadian Nexion members to be able to participate in CoNexion once again.

Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion opened the conference with a warm welcome to all of the attendees. She challenged the attendees to make at least 10 new connections with other suppliers and attendees. She also encouraged the attendees to make a list of the things they hoped to learn at the event and to plan and do something different in their business moving forward.

Jackie is such an amazing leader and her members just love her.The Nexion staff and the InterNova staff in attendance could not have been more supportive and engaged in the event. I have known Jackie for many, many years and I love to see her up there sharing herself with her members. She is so admired and loved by her team, the members, suppliers and friends like myself. I am so proud of her accomplishments and all that she has achieved during her career. It truly is an honor to call her my friend and colleague.

My friend and colleague Patti Noonan, Director of Sales for The Travel Institute was next on stage to share all that is new and exciting. Several new classes and options are available now at The Travel Institute and she encouraged everyone to take part in the many opportunities available to them. She shared that to date 27,186 travel professionals are graduates. The Travel Institute also made a generous donation to the Family Bonds Foundation and presented it to Jackie.

Next up was Todd Hamilton, Senior VP of Sales for Norwegian Cruise Line sharing all the new news with the attendees. He was followed by the first of many Fireside Chats that included Brennan Quesnele, VP of Strategic and National Accounts at Norwegian and Victoria Rios, Director of Industry Relations & Cruise Programs at Nexion Travel Group. He talked about Norwegian’s newest baby, the Prima and categorized it as Premium Contemporary cruising experience.

Jackie was next to award the prestigious Ambassador Award to Nexion Travel Group long-time member, Steve Lincoln of Lincoln Travel Inc. I was also able to interview Steve later in the event and enjoyed our conversation so much. Be sure to check that interview out!

The remainder of the morning session featured a great session by the team at Nexion entitled “The ABC’s of Marketing” which was a wonderful combination of entertainment along with great ideas. Nexion advisor Carol Rowland took the stage to share with her fellow members how to create profitable groups and then Diane Frish talked about her successes using Agent Profiler. This concluded the General Session and the agents went off to participate in a variety of workshops presented by both suppliers and Nexion staff members. Some of the topics included: Becoming a Fee-Based Agency & Getting Comfortable Charging Fees, Google Business Profile – Your Secret Advantage and a panel about immersing in local cultures and connecting all your senses. The second round of workshops featured titles such as: Business Improv Games, Creative Writing for Social Media and many more.

Everyone reconvened for a lovely lunch and the session continued with Jackie Friedman, Nexion President, speaking about the Family Bonds Foundation which was founded in 2015 to support suppliers and or agents in need. To date many grants have been awarded to those who are in need after events such as hurricanes, floods, financial hardships and medical challenges. She welcomed Natalee Fox, an advisor who shared her story with everyone about her struggles with health issues when she contracted typhoid fever a few years ago. She was a recipient of one of the grants and her story was simply amazing and her appreciation for being awarded the grant was so sincere and heartfelt.


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!3


Alicia Steuart, Senior Director of Sales for Carnival Cruise Lines was on stage to share all that is new and exciting with Carnival. She shared that “Small Changes = Big Results”. Her presentation was great and so heartfelt. Her energy when presenting is always so much fun to see.

United Airlines was on stage next and was followed by a Fireside Chat with Kelly Ferrigno, National Account Manager with United Airlines and Robbi Hamida with Nexion. ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby followed with an update on what ASTA has been doing to lobby and support the travel agency community.

My friend and colleague Camille Olivere the Chief Sales Officer for Globus Family of Brands was up next and shared her insight and thoughts on how agents can move beyond the last couple of years and build their respective businesses. She asked the question “You Survived – Now, how will you Thrive”? Two ways she shared were to simplify your life and to stick with those companies that stuck with you during the pandemic. I could not agree with her more.

Robbi Hamida shared some of the new programs and updates to the Internova Travel Group Hotel Programs that all of the Nexion members have the opportunity to tap into and utilize for their business. Heather Kindred, Vice President of Nexion Travel Group joined the stage and shared her thoughts and suggestions for the agents on building and growing their businesses using the power that Nexion and Internova Travel Group make available to all Nexion members. The final General Session for Tuesday ended with a terrific and fun presentation by CoNexion 2022’s host, Disney Destinations.

The day was not over yet though. More breakouts were next with the Supplier Round Robins from 3:45pm to 5:45pm. There were a total of 7 tracks broken into 7 different meeting rooms. Suppliers and agents had an amazing afternoon of learning and sharing. While they were busy learning, I attended the Press Conference with Jackie and her key staff. As always, Berit Griffin, Manager, Public Relations & Communications at Travel Leaders Group set up a great event for the press and all our questions were answered and we all learned new initiatives that Nexion Travel Group will be bringing to the members. To say it was a busy learning day would be an understatement!


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!4


The day ended on a very celebratory note with the Opening Party (Co-Hosted by Disney Destinations). It took place on the Adventure Lawn and the weather and setting could not have been more perfect. There was a beautiful array of food and a healthy open-bar for all to enjoy. Apparently the food options were all favorites of the late Walt Disney. Entertainment and music added the perfect flair to a magical evening.


Day 2

Wednesday morning’s General Session began at 7:45 with a sumptuous breakfast and a round of terrific speakers and presentations. Several awards were presented and we heard from a variety of Nexion agents who shared their success stories and offered their thoughts on business strategies to build one’s travel business. Throughout the entire Nexion conference NEXtalks were given by travel agents and these were not only inspirational, but also very thought provoking. I think that these short presentations by the agents is one of my favorite parts of the CoNexion event. I love hearing their success stories and am inspired by their enthusiasm and their delight being a part of this great industry.

Today kicked off with a great presentation given by the ever-fun and lively Carmen Roig, Vice President of Sales for Princess Cruises. She talked about the Medallion Class and it’s power of personalization. She also introduced the next generation of Princess ships “The Sphere Class”. Cal Almaguer, Sr. Vice President, Sales & Service Strategy and Operations with Princess shared the stage with Jackie Friedman for another informative and fun “Fireside Chat”. He talked about the new reality TV series that is soon to be released in October “The Real Love Boat”. This certainly sounds like it will be a fun and very entertaining program and needless to say fantastic press for Princess Cruises!

Delta Airlines, Scott Jordan, Managing Director of Global Sales was up next and shared some insight into the happenings and changes taking place at Delta. He then was joined by Robbi Hamida of Nexion for an up close and personal “Fireside Chat”.



Next up was Kristin Karst, Co-Owner and Executive Vice President of AmaWaterways. Kristin is a dear friend and colleague and I always enjoy her refreshing and positive spirit when she speaks. She and Rudy are good friends of Tom and I and we congratulate them on their celebration of 20 years of AmaWaterways. We remember sailing with her and Rudy and have such fond memories. To see the amazing success that they share warms my heart. She updated everyone on all that is new and exciting with AmaWaterways. In April of 2024 there will have a Seven River Journey where the 49-night itinerary will sail aboard the AmaMora. Now, if I could just find someone to babysit my St. Bernard dog Cali for that long. I would love to do that cruise!

More awards where presented to Nexion advisors and the pride and support for their fellow member winners was felt by the entire audience. The Nexion agents really do support one another in their success and it is wonderful to be a part of their celebration.

Our morning session ending with an amazing presentation by our friend Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President of Sales at Celebrity Cruises. She delighted the audience with her words of encouragement and support. She came on stage wearing a full flight suit and she had the audience in tears of laughter. Her theme was based around the new “Maverick” film starring non-other than Tom Cruise. She looked better in her flight suit though. Her words “We need Mavericks in our industry! Jackie Friedman is a Maverick.” Her Top Gun themed presentation was a delight and she ended it with making everyone stand up to sing along with “You’ve Got That Loving Feeling” and the audience sang and loved it. Her final words were “Positive Mindset = Positive Outcomes which is so very true. She is seriously a Rock Star.


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!6


The first general session of the day was over and everyone moved on to the 3rd Workshop Rotations. Just a few of the great options to attend included: Best Practices for Identifying and Avoiding Fraud Tactics, Emerging Trends on Facebook, Making Your Agency More Referable and more.The following Rotation 4 included Apple Leisure Group Vacations, AmaWaterways, Idea Exchange – Creating New Business and Travel Industry Solutions.

Everyone reconvened for the lunch and second General Session. The ever energetic and great friend of travel agents, Vicki Freed, Senior VP of Sales, Trade Support and Service with Royal Caribbean joined the stage and shared some terrific insight and ideas with the audience. Her presentation encouraged the agents to “Be the Director in Your Movie (Your Business). Vicky shared her thoughts and ideas on how agents can build their business ideas and insightful suggestions for sales and marketing plans that bring results. She also updated everyone about the new Wonder of the Seas and the Utopia of the Seas followed by the Icon of the Seas. These ships sound like they will be amazing.

Her presentation was followed by another great “Fireside Chat” with Disney Destinations Director of Travel Agency Sales Judi Bainter and Mai Da Pro, Senior Director of Marketing with Nexion. This was followed by more well-deserved awards presented to many of the Nexion advisors in attendance. This was followed by the supplier awards session where the Nexion members have voted on their favorites for Best Escorted Vacations, Best Luxury Tour Operator, Best Resort Partner, Best Ground Transportation and more.

One of my favorite presentations was up next. Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion gave her keynote for CoNexion 2022 themed around “Writing Your Own Success Story”. It really hit home with the entire audience and you could have heard a pin drop while she was presenting. Here is the list of Chapters for your book.

Chapter 1 – Have a Vision
Chapter 2 – Have a Plan
Chapter 3 – Get Tactical
Chapter 4 – Retain Customers
Chapter 5 – Qualify Customers
Chapter 6 – Build Partnerships
Chapter 7 – Work in Your Business
Chapter 8 – Keep Learning
Chapter 9 – Time to Engage
Chapter 10 – Have Fun

On the heels of Jackie’s great presentation we were blessed with yet another fantastic speaker Michelle Sutter , VP of Sales North America with Holland America Line. Michelle never fails to give a heartfelt and thought provoking presentation and this one did not disappoint. The theme was Attitude of Gratitude and she had the audience mesmerized with her style, grace and words of inspiration. She topped it off with a gift to the entire audience of Nexion advisors of a free Holland America Cruise to every single agent attendee. You can only imagine the roar in the audience when that was announced. This was the conclusion of the Lunch General Session for Wednesday and next on the agenda was the Trade Show from 3:15pm to 5:45pm. The Trade Show bustled with enthusiasm and excitement and the crowds of agents remained busy and involved all the way to the end of the show. It was a terrific afternoon. The evening was free to enjoy down time or time with friends and suppliers.

Day 3

The breakfast and General Session on our last day at CoNexion was again a great event and more terrific information and insight was shared by speakers from Marriott International, AIG Travel, Enterprise Holdings, Virgin Voyages, CHUBB, Azamara, MSC Cruises and Roadtrips. More awards were presented to the travel advisors as well.


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!7


Agents broke for Workshop Rotation 5 featuring such topics as: Accounting & Return on Investment, Agent Profiler – Get the Business You Want, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, United Airlines and Virgin Voyages. One of the topics was The Unreasonable and Irate – Handling Yourself Under Pressure. This was certainly a well attended workshop, as this past year has challenged many an agent to bite their tongues when dealing with frustrated and irate clients due to things beyond any agents control.

Workshop Rotation 6 followed with panel presentations, Atlas Ocean Voyages, Photography for Travel Advisors, Financial Reports, Norwegian Cruise Line, Sandals & Beaches Resorts and a Nexion Canada Member Update.

The Lunch General Session kicked off with a presentation by Sandals & Beaches. This was followed by another great Nexion agent NEXtalk presented by Rosie Dietrich about implementing service fees and how it has changed her business for the better. Other presentations followed featuring speakers for Viking Cruises, AM Resorts, Allianz, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and ALG Vacations.

Up next was yet another of my favorites at CoNexion events. Robbi Hamida, Senior Vice President, Agency Operations at Nexion Travel Group who we all know and love once again gave us a thoughtful and uplifting keynote presentation. Robbi shared some fun and enlightening historical information with us all about the evolution of Nexion. I was one of those who remember the very beginnings of Nexion over 27 years ago. It was fun to remember the history and see how far Nexion has come. I am truly honored to have watched their success and growth over these many years. Talk about success!

Robbi Hamida and Jackie Friedman closed the final session with their words of praise for the members and words of encouragement and pride for all of the members of Nexion. Prizes were drawn for some incredible cruises and other fabulous travel experiences and there were some very delighted winners.

Now, mind you the agents in the audience had been waiting for three days to find out the dates and location of the upcoming 2023 CoNexion Conference. The tension was high with anticipation when they saw our friend Dondra Ritzenthaler with Celebrity Cruises return to the stage at this final session. The members of Nexion were simply ecstatic to learn that next year’s event will be on the Celebrity Equinox for an 8-night cruises 8/19 – 8/27, 2023. The crowd went wild and the energy in the room was electrifying.

But that was not the end of the day. Disney Destinations gave each attendee (including suppliers and press) a complimentary pass to visit Disneyland that evening. What at day it was!


The Magic is with us here at Nexion Travel Group’s 2022 In-Person Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California!8


This fantastic conference was such a testament to the success of the amazing events team and everyone at Nexion Travel Group and Internova Travel Group. Having arranged events in our industry several times over my years in this business, I can honestly say this was truly one of the most impressive and well-orchestrated conferences I have attended. The feeling of camaraderie and the networking vibe that permeated this group was inspiring. I cannot wait till CoNexion in 2023 onboard the Celebrity Equinox! I hope to see many of you there as we celebrate Nexion’s success. Oh, did I say I love my job?


Exclusive: President Interview During CoNexion

Interviewing: Jackie Friedman, President – Nexion Travel Group

Can you take our readers on a brief journey about yourself and how you arrived where you are today at Nexion?

I graduated with a degree in music composition and a minor in theater production. You may wonder how did I ended up in my current role? I realized early on that I did not have the needed talent or the patience to pursue it. I did not have a clear path, but I had an Aunt and Uncle who were in the travel business and I reached out to them. They put me in touch with someone they knew in the business and she steered me in the direction of a travel school. In those days there were a good number of travel schools versus today. I completed the course and worked afternoons volunteering in her agency and when I got out of school she hired me full time. I was a frontline agent for about 5 years.

I was intrigued with a position I heard about at Sabre where they worked with travel agencies setting up their businesses with the Sabre system. It was so fun and I was able to work with and see so many different types of travel agency models. That job relocated me to the United States where I continued with Sabre and worked with sales teams all over the United States, Latin America and other international markets teaching marketing.

Sabre acquired Nexion in 2003 and I started with Nexion in 2004. We were acquired by Travel Leaders in 2010 which allowed our business to really flourish and grow. All of these experiences I have had really helped to prepare me for where I am today with Nexion.


Nexion is a part of InterNova Travel Group. Can you share what that means for the Nexion Travel Group Advisors?

First and foremost it is size, strength and experience. We are well backed and collectively we can take advantage of programs that benefit multiple business units. Our hotel program for example is available to all business units of InterNova as are the air programs. The shear volume produced by all the InterNova brands really opens doors for more commissions for our advisors that are really not available through most host agencies.

We are a sister company of TravelLeaders Group and they have a great marketing foundation and platform that is made available to all Nexion travel advisors. Then we build those programs and tailor this to our members.


Can you describe the qualities and characteristics you feel makes a successful travel advisor in today’s travel landscape?

They must have a passion for travel. Often they are well traveled and they may have planned trips for friends and family long before they became agents. They also like working with people. An introvert might not be as successful in this field. They need to be a good listener and a good sales person with attention to detail. They will also need the qualities it takes to run their own business successfully. Another attribute is to have strong research skills and a quest for knowledge and exploration. Another important trait is the ability to build strong and loyal relationships with customers, colleagues and the supplier.


I keep hearing that the growth of new agents entering the industry is exploding. I know our book sales are fantastic so the trend to start a home based agency is certainly again on the rise. Are you seeing this trend at Nexion?

In talking to a number of folks here at the event who are new and entered this business in the last couple years, I realized they actually had a tremendous advantage. They did not have to deal with a lot of the cancellations and changes from existing bookings and instead they could focus on learning and the future and not deal with the past.

We are also seeing a surge of younger travel advisors entering the business which is so encouraging. Our growth with new advisors has been amazing and we now have over 5,100 advisors in the United States and Canada.


Nexion offers so many different in person and online travel learning experiences for its members. What is your favorite?

I like them all but I do have two favorites. The first would be anything we do that revolves around marketing. Whether it is our Marketing Symposium or Marketing Immersive Journeys, you see the advisor walk away with clear plans and a path to take their business to the next level.

The second would be our Luxury Travel Sales Summit. After coming through the pandemic we are seeing a shift in travel advisors building their luxury portfolio and focusing on more high yielding business. These luxury programs have really developed some very strong luxury sellers of travel.


Looking in the rear view mirror now that the pandemic is behind us, what have you learned personally from that tumultuous period in our industry and how will that benefit your leadership moving forward?

We learned how much we needed honesty and clarity in all our communications. We did not know what we did not know. We had to come up with creative ways to communicate and connect with our advisors. We became proficient at virtual connections and our weekly Town Hall calls became a beacon of light for all of us to connect, share and support one another. We did something called Chime and Chat and we did Virtual Scavenger Hunts and other fun events to keep everyone energized. The common bond is strong and the support has helped all of us to grow and flourish.

The power of partnerships was also so important. I learned to distinguish between intent and execution within the supplier community. No one was prepared or knew how to deal with the uncertainty and change that occurred. However, those that were open, honest and forthright came out of this stronger than ever with the support of the advisor community.


Agent Interview During CoNexion

Interviewing: Steve Lincoln, Owner – Lincoln Travel Inc.

Can you share how long you’ve been working with our friends at Nexion Travel Group?

I have been working with Nexion for 19 years. Before joining Nexion I worked for 21 years with two other agencies in Virginia. I started my own agency in 2003 when I joined Nexion. I have always worked in store-front agencies and my agency is also a storefront agency in Bridgewater, VA. I have two independent contractors that also work with me. We are open Monday – Friday from 9am to 5pm.


Do you have a specialty or niche?

Back when I started in the travel industry in 1982 there really was no such thing as a niche. Agents really did it all and were full-service. We had to cross train in every segment of travel. I really do enjoy selling River Cruises, so I guess that has become my niche or speciality, however we are a full-service agency and also sell airline tickets.


Has that changed over the years and morphed into any other areas of focus?

I was actually born on a river in Germany so I have those roots. I have always had an interest in European history. When I was young I was fortunate to spend a year in London in high school and received college credits for that and I graduated from college a year early. I was then invited to participate in another study abroad program where we visited four European campuses of the period of four semesters. It was an incredible experience. My business primarily is that I arrange study abroad programs. I started with one many years ago and I currently have 106 study abroad programs that I contract for throughout the year. It is a fascinating business.


I am sure you have attended several Nexion Travel Group conferences and other events over the years. What do you feel is the most valuable take-a-way from them and why?

I have been to every CoNexion conference. For me the most valuable piece is establishing relationships. Relationships with our clients is foremost, but it is equally important to have a relationship with your host agency, suppliers and your peers. At Nexion so many of us have become wonderful friends and we look forward to reconnecting each year at CoNexion. I have to say that many of my friends at Nexion have become my chosen family.


We all know that 2022 was a very busy and somewhat unique year for travel professionals. How has Nexion stood by you and helped you and your Travel Business?

There is something that Nexion has done weekly with their Town Hall Meetings on Zoom.
Jackie and her team had to address the problems we were facing during our Town Hall weekly meetings. Instead of focusing on the negative things taking place, they focused on the positive things and gave us encouragement and motivation to forge ahead. They said would get better and they were right, thing have gotten better. While we still have a ways to go we are on getting there.

AmaWaterways started a Wednesday evening weekly call and I have attended almost all of them. I so looked forward to Wednesdays during Covid and to the Nexion Town Hall calls. If you look at the definition of introvert and extrovert, I am a very extroverted person and I try to surround myself with positive people and positive thinking people. Their attitude of positivity really is inspiring and that helped me cope and stay focused on the future.


Have you seen an increase in demand for travel these past 12-months? What are some of the trends in travel requests that you are seeing from your clients?

I have seen a tremendous increase in the interest in travel. My business has changed and I am seeing trips being booked closer in. I have booked longer and more expensive trips. People are certainly ready to travel, as they have set money aside for their dreams and they want to make their dreams even bigger now that they can finally take that trip. I have seen people book more exotic destinations and have had requests for destinations that are far off the typical vacation path such as places I have never heard of. It has been exciting to see this enthusiasm for travel again. I believe people are ready to experience their “Revenge Travel” now because they can!


What travel experiences this past year have you embarked upon and how was the experience different, better or maybe more challenging than in years past?

I was fortunate to take a large group on the Ama Dahlia to Egypt. I was amazed how many people took an interest in such an exotic trip. I wound up with 38 paid passengers and it was the largest commission check I have received in my career. What was different about the trip that I did not expect was the amazing amount of information we learned and experienced on this trip. The entire group is ready to go again as we could not take it all in on just one visit.


What tool(s) offered by Nexion Travel Group do you find most helpful in your business and why?

For me it is Nexion Town our in-house Facebook page for lack of a better phrase. It is my favorite tool. It is a wonderful tool regardless of your experience level. There is always going to be something you don’t know and or something you want to ask about and Nexion Town is the place you can go to do this. I love Nexion Town because if there is something I can help someone with I am always happy to share. There are 5000 member in Nexion Town and the wealth of knowledge and experience is wonderful.


If someone was considering partnering with Nexion Travel Group as a Host Travel Agency, what advice or insight would you offer them?

I think the best advise you can give anyone joining Nexion is you have to participate. I am a horribly shy person but I made myself go to my first CoNexion. I made myself get involved in the organization as a whole. By doing that I have reaped more rewards than I have ever imagined. The process of participating takes effort. You have to participate and get involved and become a part of the success.

Nexion from day one has been my host agency. It is a family of friends, colleagues and people that are your chosen family. We are all here to help each other succeed. Yes, we may be competitors but we are friends first. I say to myself all the time… “There is enough success to go around”.


Agent Interview During CoNexion

Interviewing: Krista Schroeder, Owner – Rae of Sunshine Travel



Tell me a little about yourself for our readers?

I was born and raised and still live in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. Before joining in the travel world I was a claims adjuster. I went from working with people with lots of depressing issues such as having their house damaged in a storm, or a fire to being able to help people plan their dream vacations. It was a very healthy change and I love what I am doing now.

I am married and have a 3-year old daughter, Raegan who is the inspiration for my business name, Rae of Sunshine Travel. My husband owns his own business and is a welder / fabricator, so we are both entrepreneurs.


Can you share how long you’ve been working with our friends at Nexion Travel Group?

I have been with Nexion just over a year now. I am a full-time Mom and my business allows me to not miss anything as she grows up. That is the primary reason why I left my other profession to work from home and have the flexibility to work and still be a stay-at-home Mom.


What made you decide to be a travel agent?

I have always planned our personal trips, but I started finding myself designing trips I wanted to take in the future on a notepad and I pretty much would plan the entire thing from start to finish. This was my way of collecting what I needed for our bucket list of travel adventures. I really enjoyed that process, so I thought being a travel agent would be really a great choice for me.


What made you choose Nexion as your host agency?

I started doing some research online and I found it all to be really overwhelming. I narrowed it down to three or four hosts and Nexion just stood out for me as the one that would be a good fit for me. The Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program and the mentoring through Nexion really spoke to me. I felt that Nexion could offer me the support I needed, as I was getting started and they really have.


Have you attended a previous Nexion Travel Group conference or event?

This is actually my first Nexion event and I am loving it. It is just amazing and while I am a bit overwhelmed with all of the information, I know I have already and will continue to learn so much. I was able to connect here with a fellow Nexion member who is also from Wisconsin. He has been a mentor to me over these last months and it was really great to meet him here in Anaheim. He has taken me under his wing during the conference and helped me to meet suppliers and others from Nexion. I so appreciate his friendship and support.


What has been the most valuable takeaway from the event?

It has to be the relationships. I have not been to an industry event before and having the opportunity to meet both other agents as well as supplier has been invaluable. I have made some fantastic contacts here.


What tool(s) offered by Nexion Travel Group do you find most helpful in your business?

I really appreciate Nexion University and all of the information that is available there. I am able to go back and search for exactly what I need and it helps to walk me through situations that arise. I have found Agent Profiler to be great and I have already received several leads from it. Additionally, the website provided is great because I would have not been able to design one on my own. It has been invaluable.


Congratulations on being named a Rising Star this year. Can you tell us why you feel you have received this recognition?

I think it is a combination of my sales and reaching my goals to date. It has really only been a year and I feel really good about my success so far. Martin has been a terrific coach and I am so excited about 2023 and what I have in store for me.


If someone was considering partnering with Nexion Travel Group as a Host Travel Agency, what advice or insight would you offer them?

Take the leap and just do it! Before I had my daughter I had looked into possibly being an agent but I never thought the time was right. I am so glad I made the decision to just jump in and make it happen. When you are older and you look back and even if it does not work out, at least you tried. I really believe in that statement and it is what helped me make this fantastic decision for my career.


Agent Interview During CoNexion

Interviewing: Danny Genung, Owner – Harr Travel


We spoke back in 2017 and I’m thrilled to have some time with you today to see how your
business has grown and evolved. During our last chat back in 2017 you talked about your focus of expertise was escorted groups to Europe. Has that changed or evolved into any other areas of expertise?

It has been an interesting journey. In May of 2016 I went full time selling travel and we had just hired our first full-time employee. On one of our escorted trips in 2018 Taylor who works with me said we need to capture what you are saying to these groups. What you are sharing with them is important and would be so useful to folks looking to take a trip like this. The plan became that we would use that vehicle to promote our next groups and so on.

Kristin Karst with AmaWaterways and I had talked about filming on their ships so that really did launch the success that we are seeing now. The larger ships were being filmed but not the smaller ones. We felt we could paint a beautiful picture of all that AmaWaterways offers. She invited us on and we filmed in Amsterdam. This was our first and six months later we were on the Norwegian Joy inaugural and filmed again. Inaugurals are great for filming because you have access to everything.

Right away we began to see success and immediately started seeing requests for suites and upper end accommodations that we had really never sold before. We realized the videos were really working to build our business substantially. One thing that we are really focused on is longevity of watch of our videos and many of ours are over 45 minutes long and have a phenomenal number of views. I am not looking to sell advertising but I am looking to connect with customers and grow my sales. It is working very well. We want to establish trust and a relationship with people and when they have watched several hours of our videos they are ready and knowledgeable about what they want in their cruise vacation. The average view time with over 1.7 million views on the Norwegian Encore video is 40 minutes. The video is 45 minutes total and over 45% of the viewers have watched the entire 45 minutes. We are really experiencing exponential growth and now have over 20 full time employees who work remotely in 7 States.


Do you consider yourself an influencer?

When I look at the big picture, absolutely but on the flip side what sets us apart is the way we fulfill it. We don’t just feature a product and move on as most influencers do, instead we offer the full service of selling the vacation and supporting our customers through the entire process. That makes our model very different then a typical influencer, as we actually sell and service the customer through each step of the experience.


In terms of your sales successes, what percentage of your sales can you attribute to the influencer side?

We will do 12 times the cruise business that we did in 2019. Almost all of our business now comes from either our former clientele or from YouTube. The YouTube presence we had during the pandemic allowed us to reach out to more people interested in traveling than just our customer base. Our business grew substantially with new clientele planning their trip as soon as they could travel again. We did live streams from places like Turks and Caicos, Mexico and other places as soon as we could get there and people who were watching these live streams really appreciated that the information we were sharing was in real life and current information.


We all know that 2022 was a very busy and somewhat unique year for travel professionals. How has Nexion stood by you and helped you and your Travel Business? 

December this year will be 18 years that I have been with Nexion. It is clear and simple answering this question. It is the people. During the pandemic and in this last busy year, Nexion staff and the other advisors are always coming up with ways to keep us all connected and learning from one another. Nexion has been my family and sometimes I feel like I grew up in Nexion. The rock that has been there for everyone has and always will be Jackie Friedman. She has been my friend, mentor and colleague for 18 years. If everybody benefits and you lift everyone up together, you have the ultimate success.

Looking in the rear view mirror now that the pandemic is behind us, what have you learned personally from that tumultuous period in our industry and how will that benefit your business moving forward?

One thing we learned was that we had to live life a day at a time. I think we have all learned valuable lessons about ourselves and how we wanted to live our lives. We realized how important family is and how spending more time with them was such a blessing that we may have taken for granted in the past. Travel allows us to enjoy that sense of wanderlust and we missed that so much. Just the ability to go is a blessing. The pandemic gave people a minute to reflect and forced reflection taught us lessons about ourselves and how we want to live our lives.

In closing, I think I could have spent hours with Danny listening to him share his phenomenal success and to just see the happiness that he radiates when he talks about his family, his work and his life. Sometimes you have the privilege to know someone who inspires you and simply makes you proud and honored to know them. This young man at 40 years old is wise beyond his years. I cannot wait to watch him continue to soar in his career. Thank you Danny!