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Event – FindaHostTravelAgency.com Attends the 2023 PATH Symposium

Event: The 2023 PATH Symposium

PATH Symposium – Bigger is Better

 

Written by: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC, Co-Founder and Co-Owner – FindaHostTravelAgency.com

 

This year PATH, The Professional Association of Travel Hosts celebrated their 14th Annual Symposium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This Symposium enjoyed the highest attendance to date and the positive energy in the room was almost electric. Thus, my title for this piece “Bigger is Better”.

We have had the pleasure of attending the PATH Symposium for many years now representing TravelProfessionalNEWS.com and FindaHostTravelAgency.com. This years event was held over a period of two days.

The first day this year was a bit different than in years past. During last year’s Symposium there was some discussion of having suppliers and hosts meet independently of one another for the first day. Typically the suppliers were only invited for the social events and the second day when the entire group met. This year was the first time for the new format and it was a tremendous success. The PATH Member Host Agencies met for 3 hours on the morning of April 30th and the Suppliers met for 3 1/2 hours in the afternoon. The Host Agencies discussed different issues and opportunities facing their business models and the Suppliers discussed issues and opportunities that they face while working with Host Agencies and their Independent Agents.

 

Event: The 2023 PATH Symposium

 

After a busy day, everyone reconvened for an evening dinner reception at the Sheraton Roof Bella Vista Terrace. The weather was perfect for a beautiful outdoor event and the evening was enjoyed by all.

On Monday, breakfast began the day for all registered Host Agencies and the Suppliers as well as those of us representing the Press. It is always such fun to enjoy conversations and catching up with our friends and colleagues. The event began with a warm and heartfelt welcome from the President of PATH, Anita Pagliasso. Anita always brings the group together with her words of encouragement and sage advice on how to make the most of everyone’s time at the Symposium. She emphasized that our industry is one of relationships and the collaboration that the day was sure to bring new connections and new ideas on working together.

 

Event: The 2023 PATH Symposium

 

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 CEO of Duglin Travel Group, Jen Cochrane, Secretary of PATH and Co-Founder & CEO at Gifted Travel Network. Other Board Members include Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion Travel Group, Drew Daly, SVP/GM of Dream Vacations and Cruise One and Kristen Little, VP of Andavo Travel. Two new board members have joined the ranks and they are Skip Fortier, VP of Network Expansion at Avoya Travel and Joshua Harrell, Chief Revenue Officer of WorldVia/Travel Quest Network.

First on the day’s agenda was an ASTA Update presented by Mark Meader and Peter Labasso, Pam Bonnie and Alvin Adriano from ASTA. They discussed various legal initiatives and other regulations that affect the agency community.

 

Event: The 2023 PATH Symposium

 

Drew Daly offered accolades to Anita Pagliasso for her passion over the many years and for serving at the helm of PATH. He spoke about the focus of the Symposium which is connection and collaboration and encouraged everyone to share strategies and ideas they may have implemented from last year’s event. Several supplier shared changes they had made to better serve the agency community.

The morning continued with an overview from both the suppliers and the hosts as to what they discussed in their meetings the previous day. The plan for today would be to dig deeper into each of these subjects and come together with our findings later in afternoon.

 

Some of the topics from the Host Agency contingency included:

  • Fraud and the various ways it is affecting agencies
  • Changes made to the supplier’s host agency profiles by independent agents
  • Slow turn around time for proposals and confirmations from suppliers to agents
  • Concern for an uptick in direct bookings from consumers being encouraged by suppliers
  • Direct mail promotional materials and offers being sent to consumers from the suppliers
  • The process of netting commission recalls
  • Lack of verification of an agent that registers directly with the supplier
  • Group contracts concerns
  • Secondary phone fields

The topics the Supplier contingency felt needed be addressed included:

  • Training and education
  • Vetting new travel advisors
  • Professionalism and code of conduct for travel advisors
  • Fam Trip Etiquette
  • How to get more face-time with agents at Host Agency events
  • Co-op dollar guidelines
  • Host agency dual affiliation with more then one host
  • What technologies are beneficial
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) and it’s impacts

As you can guess by this very in-depth list of discussion topics, the afternoon session was a busy one. We were all assigned table numbers to move to after the lunch break where we would spend the rest of the day going into the topics in more detail and working to come up with solutions, suggestions and new ideas. The topics that I felt were the most prevalent in terms of their importance to both Host Agencies and Suppliers included Fraud, Supplier Registration and Agency Profiles, Code of Conduct, AI, Fam Trip Etiquette and Email confirmations and communication.

 

Event: The 2023 PATH Symposium

 

Needless to say this amazing travel industry is stronger and more vibrant than ever before. It has been yet another year of more changes and challenges for the 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 than ever before. If you operate a Host Travel Agency and are not yet a member of PATH, I encourage you to look into membership. There are of course qualifications to be a member and a strong Code of Ethics to follow. You can visit https://path4hosts.com for more information.

In closing, I would like to share my sincere thanks to Anita and the PATH Board for the opportunity to be a part of this year’s Symposium. I appreciated the chance to have represented FindaHostTravelAgency.com and TravelProfessionalNEWS.com at this outstanding event and look forward to the 2024 PATH Symposium.