Following its strategic partnership with Travelsavers last January, Worldchoice Ireland chose ‘Stronger Together’ as the theme for a well-organised, fun-packed annual conference at the Lyrath Estate resort hotel in Kilkenny on Saturday 3rd November, reports Neil Steedman.
While some delegates arrived on Friday evening to avail of drinks, tapas and entertainment with the Spanish Tourist Board, others arrived early on Saturday morning to enjoy a Grab & Go breakfast of egg&bacon or vegetarian rolls with ATTS Travel Representation Solutions.
Welcoming the delegates, Carol Anne O’Neill, Commercial Manager, Worldchoice Ireland, revealed that membership had grown from 37 last year to 68 locations, employing more than 550 people, and with turnover exceeding €300 million.
Brief video interviews with members in their offices and as they arrived at the conference provided an informative introduction to many of the Worldchoice ‘family’ around the country.
Riona McGrath, Country Manager, Travelport, a conference sponsor, emphasised that recent evolutions in technology can easily be added on to travel agencies’ existing social media activities. “It doesn’t cost and we can advise you,” she said. “It is bespoke, so you can choose what you want.”
Declan Power, Head of Aviation Development, Shannon Airport, the main conference sponsor, highlighted that more than €40 million had been spent on developing the airport’s facilities, including the introduction of facial recognition at US Immigration.
“It now takes just eight minutes to pass through US Immigration at Shannon Airport, compared with two hours in New York or two and a half hours in Dublin,” he said. “If you haven’t been to Shannon Airport in a while, come down and see us!”
Michael English, Head of Sales, Celebrity Cruises, emphasised the personal service provided by and the knowledge of Celebrity people and highlighted the forthcoming debut of Celebrity Edge, which sailed from the Saint-Nazaire shipyard on Sunday 4th November to reach Port Everglades on Friday 16th November and begin its maiden seven-night voyages to the Western Caribbean and Eastern Caribbean on 9th December and 16th December 2018, respectively. Then in spring 2019 Edge will cross the Atlantic again to embark on a series of seven to 11-night trips to iconic cities including Barcelona and Rome.
“New features include the Magic Carpet, which provides an over-sea restaurant on deck 16 in the evening and an extension to the pool deck in the daytime, as well as the Rooftop Garden and Oculus Theatre, which is the first without a curtain, so performers are delivered to the stage from below or from above,” he said.
“Four more Edge-class ships are on order – Celebrity Apex will sail from Southampton in April 2020 (and will be available to book from 29th November 2018), while three more are scheduled for delivery in 2021, 2022, and 2024.
“Meanwhile, May 2019 will bring the launch of Celebrity Flora, our new all-suite, all-inclusive ship for the Galapagos Islands with occupancy for 100 guests to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Headline speaker David Meade provided entertaining and funny ‘motivational’ presentations, including how best to present options to clients, while Jennifer Callister of Royal Caribbean International highlighted Perfect Day at CocoCay (see separate story), and Josephine O’Reilly and Gavin Lyons of the Commission for Aviation Regulation provided an informative update on the new EU Package Travel Directive (see separate story).
A wide variety of suppliers took part in networking sessions, with a highlight being the Hertz ‘Karaoke Car’, with Keller Travel, led by the irrepressible Pearse Keller, eventually winning the prize of bottles of champagne.
An entertaining Gala Dinner, sponsored by Air Canada and United Airlines and professionally MC’d by Brian Ormond, saw 15 prizes awarded and 16 awards presented (see below), followed by dancing to the Pop Gods, sponsored by BookaBed, and an MSC Rocks after party.
“I am optimistic for next year – but with some trepidation.” – Richard Cullen, Killiney Travel
“This is the moment I fear, because I have no idea what is going to happen over the next five minutes.” – Carol Anne O’Neill, Worldchoice Ireland, when introducing Declan Power of main conference sponsor Shannon Airport.
“After last night, I think Minister Ross, apart from banning drinking and driving, should ban all alcohol at travel trade conferences.” – Declan Power, Shannon Airport
“We had an absentee landlord living in Dublin for many years.” – Declan Power, Shannon Airport
“I didn’t know who David Meade was, so I Google Searched, and it seems he provides fitted kitchens and bedrooms in Limerick.” – Declan Power, Shannon Airport
“Does that mean I have to give away a cruise?” – Michael English, Celebrity Cruises, speaking just after Declan Power gave away two tickets to PortAventura and two to Ibiza
“Liam O’Connor is the Jimmy Magee of the travel industry.” – Josephine O’Reilly, Commission for Aviation Regulation
Worldchoice Award Winners 2018
Cruise Agent of the Year (5 Staff and Under): Donabate Travel
Cruise Agent of the Year (6 Staff and Over): Fahy Travel
Accommodation Only Agent of the Year (5 Staff and Under): Killiney Travel
Accommodation Only Agent of the Year (6 Staff and Over): Shandon Travel
Tour Operations Agent of the Year (5 Staff and Under): O’Donohoe Travel
Tour Operations Agent of the Year (6 Staff and Over): Abbey Travel
Newcomer of the Year: JustSplit.com
Manager of the Year (Sponsored by Shannon Airport): Katrina McMullan, Navan Travel
Travel Consultant of the Year (Sponsored by Travelport): Annette Hynes, Corrib Travel
Unsung Hero (Sponsored by United Airlines): Moya McCrossan, Atlantic Travel
Person That You Would Most Like To Do Business With: Susan Kiernan, Ask Susan
Blogger of the Year: Samantha Gavigan, Kanes Travel
Trade Partner Representative of the Year: Martin Penrose, If Only…
Trade Partner Company of the Year: Sunway
Agent of the Year (5 Staff and Under): Arrow Tours
Agent of the Year (6 Staff and Over): Fahy Travel