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
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
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
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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