Sailing from Amsterdam with Uniworld on the luxurious SS Antoinette along the River Rhine was the unique venue for this year’s Irish Travel Agents Association Annual Conference, entitled ‘TRAVEL 360’.
There were a number of firsts at this years ITAA conference ,it was the first time that the panel of speakers were all female,secondly it was also the first conference aboard a luxury river cruiser.
Opening the business sessions, ITAA President Cormac Meehan said: “Today we will look at social media management, marketing niche services and we will have the chance to network.
“I have a few maxims after over 30 years in business: never text, email or post social media likes, dislikes, loves or loathes after enjoying even one glass of wine. Even when sober, the post should rest overnight. The immediacy of the demand for both reactions and responses in social media should be eschewed.”
‘The Power of Now’ was the title for Tour America’s Mary McKenna, who outlined how it had taken her 30 years, 50 people, and a turnover of €20 million to get to where she is today. In a well researched paper, she outlined the steps she had to take to get on that pathway.
The address was thought provoking and delegates could learn a lot by implementing the steps that she outlined.
‘Good to Great’ was the topic from Yvonne Muldoon, Sales Director, Aer Lingus, who said that the expanded sales team are now are now on the road calling on all travel agents and this was already beginning to show results. There is now a dedicated trade desk on 01 886 6686 and she encouraged agents to get in touch with the team with any problems they encountered.
She illustrated her presentation with coverage of the 1983 ITAA conference from Irish Travel Trade News, which showed the close historical links between Aer Lingus and the ITAA.
Yvonne outlined the customer research project that the airline had carried out over the past 18 months, which showed a customer rating of 7 out of 10. This survey had enabled them to get a 4-star rating from Skytrax, which was a huge accolade for Aer Lingus. Add to this six new routes in six months, and the recent new route announcement to Miami, and this demonstrates that Aer Lingus is in good shape.
‘Blogging: What’s It All About’ was explained in depth by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert, who said: “There is a bit of vanity about blogging” and pointed out that 78% of consumers will believe a review.
Sarah also spoke about YouTube and showed the video on the success of the Dollar Shave Club, which had started in business in July 2011 and was bought by Unilever for $1 billion in July 2016. This video was viewed 25 million times and really brought home the power of YouTube in the world of social media.
ITAA Chief Executive Pat Dawson gave delegates an update on the upcoming revised EU Package Travel Directive due in early 2018. For example, it is proposed that once a travel agent is licensed in one state they can do business in any of the 27 member states in the EU.
Pat went on to point out that a licence to operate as a travel agent only costs one euro in Bulgaria.
After lunch a panel discussion, moderated by Past President Clare Dunne, ranged over current topics of relevance to all travel agents.
“I got a half a million euro worth of business from a contact I made on LinkedIn.” – Mary McKenna, Managing Director, Tour America
“Dublin Airport have done an amazing job on both T1 and T2.” – Yvonne Muldoon, Sales Director, Aer Lingus
“As owner managers we rarely have the chance to network in a secure, non-threatening environment. OK, we are offshore now in every sense of the word.” – Cormac Meehan, President, Irish Travel Agents Association
“The ITAA is calling for engagement with the regulatory bodies (CAR and DTTAS) to get some visibility on the shape of implementation.” – Pat Dawson, Chief Executive, Irish Travel Agents Association
“The biggest challenge facing our industry is the lack of staff.” – Mary McKenna, Managing Director, Tour America
“You have to interact with your customers.” Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert
“As the Monty Python gang put it,if you have enjoyed it half as much as me,I have enjoyed twice as much as you.”
Cormac Meehan,President,Irish Travel Agents Association
“Remember that after the Lowcostbeds debacle, two million people in the UK lost money. They only received £10 each in compensation.” – Pat Dawson, Chief Executive, Irish Travel Agents Association