Last weekend, Delta Vacations University — formerly known as MLT University — was held in Atlanta, drawing a record crowd of over 2,000 agents, over half of whom were new to the event.

For the past 22 years, MLT University was held in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region of Minnesota. But this year, the event’s 23rd, along with the name change came a location change.

Earlier this year, Delta Vacations announced the name change. It came as a result of consultations with its advisory board of travel agents, who said the MLT name was less important to them.

“What was more important was the alignment with Delta Airlines and the brand, and the message that Delta was taking to the marketplace,” said Delta Vacations president John Caldwell. Delta also had a further-reaching brand name than MLT, which had its roots in the Midwest.

Atlanta was chosen as this year’s host because Delta’s headquarters are in the city, Caldwell said. One evening event was held at Delta Flight Museum.

“It really just brought home the alignment with Delta and Delta Airlines,” he said.

Atlanta also drew in a record number of agents, over 2,000 over the course of two days, who partook in general sessions, classroom sessions and a tradeshow with 187 supplier partners.

Of the total agents in attendance, Caldwell said 51% were new to the event.

“It’s materially higher, although as we have grown the brand from outside our Midwest routes to the East Coast and West Coast where Delta is growing, we’ve seen a lot more interest from places like New York, the Southeast, Los Angeles, Seattle,” he said.

By comparison, about 40% of agents at last year’s event in Minneapolis-St. Paul were new to the event.

Agents attending this year were given the opportunity to sign up for dozens of educational sessions focused on destinations and technology.

One of the courses offered focused on the Delta Vacations Marketing Hub, according to Tina Iglio, senior vice president of marketing. The Marketing Hub was launched several years ago and includes a variety of materials agents can personalize with their logos and distribute to clients.

Version No. 2 of the hub recently launched, Iglio said, and it features a new design and more capabilities and content, including videos.

This year, Delta Vacations has been tracking two major trends, said Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president of product — romance and luxury.

Romance continues to be a popular sector, and Delta Vacations has worked to add European locations — Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris and London — to its roster of honeymoon destinations. By the end of the year, some U.S. destinations will be offered, as well.

Luxury is also a growing segment, according to Moriarty.

“For this year, we’ve seen more than 83% of our overall revenue is being driven by four-star hotels and above, and that’s continuing to grow,” she said.

As such, Delta Vacations is working to add more upscale hotels to its portfolio.

Next year, Delta Vacations University will again be held in Atlanta. Then, Caldwell said the location will be reviewed to see if it will return to Atlanta in 2018 or travel to a different hub market to potentially draw in more agents. 

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