FORT LAUDERDALE -- The exhibitor showcase at CruiseWorld was buzzing Thursday afternoon as travel advisors had a chance to interact with more than 250 suppliers and, just as importantly, their peers.
"I'm home-based, and these are my people," said Dawn Williams Crowe of Dawn Crowe Travel in Las Vegas.
Crowe, who specializes in vacations for active military members and veterans and has made cruise her primary focus, has attended CruiseWorld before. In recent weeks, she has booked cruises on Scenic, Crystal, Seabourn and several other lines she was looking forward to connecting with on the trade show floor.
Gail Perry, an advisor with Nexion Canada based in St. John's, Nowfoundland and Labrador, was at CruiseWorld for the first time this year. Like Crowe, she mainly sells cruises. "It's a nice way to get to a really big event that concentrates solely on cruises," Perry said.
She was enjoying the opportunity to network with both suppliers that she's sold before and new ones, as well as "learn a few new tips and tricks of the trade."
Exhibitors on Thursday said they appreciated the chance to meet with agents.
"After years and years of doing a lot of trade shows, we've really cut back on which ones we do, and we have found that CruiseWorld by far has the best quality of agents who attend," Betsy Geiser, vice president of Uniglobe Travel Center, said from her trade show booth. "It's great networking opportunities, it's great educational opportunities, and the trade show, it's a lot of good conversations."
Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president and COO of World Travel Holdings, which owns CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc., said it's important for a company like hers to exhibit and have a chance to tell its story. Even for some already in the industry, things like the differences between host agencies and franchises can be confusing, and it helps to have a physical presence at a show to talk to agents.
But the most important thing for advisors, Fiorino said, is networking with their peers.
"The most valuable time they get is with each other," she said. "They learn business ideas. It's really important for advisors to be here because it allows them to really learn, not just in the presentations -- it's the hallway conversations."