Ship inspections, Vancouver fam part of experience at TW event

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2012CruiseWorldWestThis year, for the first time, Travel Weekly will stage its signature leisure trade show on the West Coast and, in another first, will offer delegates a destination fam trip.

Seattle will host the event from June 18 to 20, and Vancouver will be the fam site.

Alicia Evanko-Lewis, vice president of events for Travel Weekly, said planners selected Seattle for the next Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show to give retailers opportunities to inspect cruise ships that call in the Pacific Northwest and to offer “great destination” experiences.

Ship inspections are already scheduled for Holland America Line’s Oosterdam, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl, and Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess and Star Princess. More could be added as planning progresses.

The conference will focus on marketing, strategy, technology and the like, but the travel itself matters, too, Evanko-Lewis said.

“Travel is about experiences,” she said. “Clients pay for a memorable experience. If you can’t have those experiences yourself, how can you translate that?”

As for the program, she said the show, the fifth in a series that launched in early 2010, would include more peer-to-peer sessions than previous shows had, because delegates find them so useful.

Norwegian PearlMary Pat Sullivan, president of Sullivan Marketing Advisors and a consultant for the show’s programming, said Travel Weekly will offer delegates a chance during the event’s trade show hours to spend more time with the agents who participate in the program as speakers.

She said delegates often cluster around their peers after the sessions, which tends to delay the program while revealing eagerness for one-on-one exchanges. Therefore, she said, blocks of time will be set aside for each agent-speaker to be available at the Travel Weekly booth.

Another issue, Sullivan said, is that social media sessions have been so popular at previous conferences that they drained attendance from other presentations.

The solution, she said, will be a number of shorter tech sessions, in the form of how-to workshops devoted to a different aspect of social media — Facebook, online chats and YouTube — led by agents with relevant experience.

These 30-minute sessions will be repeated, and the subject matter will be taken to the next step in one-hour summary sessions on the last day of the Seattle show.

Meanwhile, selected topics focused on building the business and enhancing product knowledge will get more time, 90 minutes at a shot, Sullivan said.

For example, she said, a 90-minute session on river cruises will be longer than at previous shows “because there is lots of product, lots of growth and lots of change.”

Also, a 90-minute slot for sales of cruise-tours has been added because “this is the Pacific Northwest,” where cruise-tours are important.

In addition, opening day will be focused on strategic planning, with three 90-minute sessions, each geared toward a specific experience level, ranging from newcomers to evolving entrepreneurs and industry veterans.

The show isn’t about current events, but they will have a place on the agenda, too. In what has become a show tradition, Arnie Weissmann, Travel Weekly’s editor in chief, will moderate a panel of top cruise executives who face both his questions and those of the delegates. Sullivan described it as a “no-holds-barred” session.

Panel participants, confirmed to date, are Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises; and Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA.

Other cruise, tour, hotel and industry association executives will be announced as they are added to the program.

Panels designed specifically for home-based agents will provide a platform for several host agencies and trade consortia. ARC will participate, too, with a focus on the Verified Travel Consultant alternative for independent agents. Q&A sessions will be held with these presenters, as well.

Even as technology for virtual meetings improves, Evanko-Lewis said, there are good reasons for retailers to take time to attend out-of-town trade conferences.

“Generally, the key to good relationships is face-to-face meetings,” she said, and those relationships could come to include top executives.

For home-based or small retailers, the Travel Weekly show also can be a substitute for dwindling or nonexistent supplier sales calls, Evanko-Lewis said.

Travel Weekly previously hosted shows in Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and 2011, Atlantic City in 2010 and Las Vegas in 2011. A sixth show is slated for Fort Lauderdale in November.

Because the June event will take place on the West Coast, Evanko-Lewis said she expected it to attract more agents from the West than from other parts of the country, adding that there might be an uptick in the usually modest Canadian participation.

However, Evanko-Lewis said she did not regard this as a West Coast show. Although few agents attend two shows in a given year, each is a unique presentation, she said.

Agents can earn CLIA education credits in Seattle.

The event will be staged at the Washington State Convention Center. Travel agent early-bird registration is $100 through Feb. 29, after which preregistration will be $125. On-site registration will cost $150.

Two host hotels, the Crowne Plaza Seattle and Westin Seattle, are offering special delegate rates. Details for the Vancouver fam have not been finalized.

Delegates can register at www.travelweeklytradeshows.com.

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