Entrepreneurs-turned-agents rise at GTM West By Emma Weissmann / May 19, 2017 Share 1 -- LAS VEGAS -- The Global Travel Marketplace West (GTM West) kicked off here at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, where 100 top-producing advisers and 102 suppliers have convened for the fourth annual event, which takes place from May 18 to 20.This year's conference drew a record 803 applications from travel professionals based in the western U.S. and Canada, with 60% of the first-time attendees applying based on a referral, according to Jacquie Hurst, director of trade recruitment and engagement for Travel Weekly events. (To qualify, prospective attendees must have earned a minimum of $800,000 in individual sales or be an owner of a multimillion-dollar agency.)"We find we are reaching and attracting more qualified applicants," Hurst said. "Those who have been in the industry three years or less [are] our fastest growing segment. They are mostly entrepreneurs who have switched careers to join the travel industry, and their drive and determination have quickly grown their sales to the point where they qualify."Teresa Shields, co-owner of Austin, Texas-based Engage Vacations, is one such attendee. After a career at Charles Schwab, she joined forces with her husband three years ago and made the switch to travel."The possibilities to learn and grow over the next couple of days are endless," Shields said. "I know I'm going to walk away with a fresh outlook, new ideas and connections I wouldn't have otherwise." During the three-day event, Shields and her peers will meet with some of the most innovative supplier partners in the field, with up to 50 scheduled one-on-one meetings. Participating suppliers include destination tourism boards, tour operators, cruise lines, individual hotel properties and more.Additional networking events and boardroom presentations will also give agents a chance to boost their business."GTM West is absolute proof that the travel adviser community is strong, successful and poised for an amazing future," said Alicia Evanko-Lewis, senior vice president of events for Northstar Travel Group. "Travel Weekly and TravelAge West are so happy to be a conduit for industry progress."