A group of Florida agencies earlier this month connected the dots between client, agency, supplier and consortium at an in-person event, the As the World Reopens Travel Forum.
The event left clients with both a deeper appreciation of the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry and greater awareness of the role of travel advisors in the travel ecosystem, said Ange Wallace, CEO of Wallace Pierson Travel in Amelia Island, Fla.
Three Virtuoso agencies invited clients to join the forum, held at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes: Gerling Travel in Flagler Beach, Fla.; Wallace Pierson Travel; and St. Armand's Travel in Sarasota, Fla. The event was the brainchild of Gerling owner Mark Gerling and Tom Pfordresher, director of travel industry sales at the Ritz.
In total, 20 top clients, eight agency owners, two Virtuoso staff members, Pfordresher and six supplier executives attended. Five suppliers and Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch joined in virtually.
"The clients left the two-day event with a deeper appreciation of what the travel industry had experienced, from CEOs and agency owners, to the men and women working in positions at resorts, transportation, guiding services and all the ancillary services as the world went from the challenges of overtourism being addressed in 2019 to a world suffering greatly in the throes of undertourism," Wallace said.
Speakers discussed travel's role in local economies as well as the ever-changing landscape of varied Covid-19 rules and protocols.
Notably, Wallace said, the event highlighted the importance of travel advisors.
"Travel advisors have been educating their clients for years now on how each trip is a collaboration," she said. "Now these clients realize that the collaboration is a triangle involving the client, the advisor and the supplier in the act of creating something meaningful and enjoyable."
Clients paid for their own rooms at the Virtuoso rate, Wallace said, plus an additional $150 per person for the forum. The Ritz-Carlton's Pfordresher eliminated resort fees for attendees. All meals and one activity were included to enable attendees to enjoy social time together.
Both Zoom and live portions of the forum were recorded so the agencies can share them via social media sites and with clients who couldn't attend.