A meeting of the minds

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I have a theory that the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is one of the most resource-rich parts of the U.S. when it comes to finding industry experts on subjects of significance to agents.

I came to this unscientific view based on my experience lining up presenters for seminars offered with the Star Tribune at its twice-yearly travel trade show.

Travel Weekly has been a cosponsor of the seminars for the last three of the Minneapolis paper's shows.

A sampling of our presenter list will make my point.

  • Minneapolis is home base for travel attorney Todd Wind. He appeared twice, discussing agency liability and, later, personnel-related legal issues.
  • It also is the home of a trade consortium, Aura (now part of Vacation.com), so I drew on Aura management, Gerald and Mary Hazzard, to talk about getting the most out of an affiliation.
  • Cynthia Messer, an assistant professor with the Tourism Center, University of Minnesota, presented a session on customer service. She is a former agent, too.
  • Her session was such a hit, she came back for a repeat at the spring show last month.

  • Gary Schmidt, an agent, author and publisher, appeared at last year's spring and fall shows with tips on selling and on working with consolidators.
  • He is the author of "101 Ways to Sell Travel" and "The Ultimate Guide to Fees" and publisher of a national directory of air travel consolidators.

  • We've welcomed another educator twice, Shelly Houser, owner of Travel Career Options and instructor at an ICTA-endorsed travel school.
  • She is the creator of "The Internet Address Book for Travel Professionals"; her session focused on mining the Internet as an information source.

  • Still another educator (and agent), Judith Sparrow, travel and tourism instructor, Dakota County Technical College, talked about using training and trade show opportunities well.
  • Dan McElroy, consultant, former agency operator, presenter at ASTA congresses and TrainingFests and a state legislator, talked about service fees. He is a principal in Travel Agency Management Systems and calls himself "head coach" for the TAMS' 20 agency owner peer groups.
  • I also called on representatives of Carlson, American Express and Bursch Travel; I invited niche specialist Karen Johnson of Preferred Adventures.

    I went out of state for Gerry Jung, Vacations Plus, New Berlin, Wis., and then for his partner, Dianne Moore.

    When I see the kind of faculty we can gather at these Upper Midwest events, I am astonished that the doomsayers get as much attention from any of us as they do!

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