Travel Advisors are Bridging the Gap, Taking on Consumer Travel Shows

Consumer travel shows aren’t just for suppliers and consumers anymore. Just ask the trend-setting travel advisors who are forging connections by exhibiting at these events — and reaping the rewards the exposure has given them. 

Whether partnering with fellow agents or preferred suppliers to offset the cost, travel advisors have realized the worth of participating in consumer travel shows — and more importantly, they have identified where they can add their own value.

Travel Market Report spoke with travel advisors and suppliers who have succeeded in the consumer travel show space and many of them shared their advice for fellow agents. 

Being all things to all people is definitely not the strategy to employ at consumer travel shows, according to industry experts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as Lisa Wood Rossmeissl, owner of Boomerang Escapes, confirmed when she first exhibited along with three other agents at The New York Times Travel Show last year. Rossmeissl, who has been an Aussie specialist for ten years, said she was happy to be filling the void of representatives from the South Pacific market. 

“Australia Tourism does not come to the show,” Rossmeissl said. “Knowing this, I saw it as an opportunity to come in and be an expert to consumers and provide them with information. As it turns out, I was so busy talking with people that I could not leave the booth.” 

This year, Rossmeissl is returning but with a new partner, Qantas, which is exhibiting for the very first time, thanks to her suggestion. “I am one of their top sellers and I pitched the idea when I was participating on a fam in Australia with them. It wasn’t on their radar. And now, of course, any new sales I receive from the show I will book through Qantas.” 

Rossmeissl has also secured a speaker spot at the Meet the Expert pavilion, giving her even more influence as an expert in her market. 

Diane Bean, owner of Luxury Travel Advisor in Bangor, Maine, couldn’t agree more with Rossmeissl’s strategy to focus: “The biggest thing with [consumer trade shows] is you have to have a niche. You can’t go there and be a generalist, because often the people who are attending these shows are top-of-the-line ‘do-it-yourselfers’ who are well-read and already experts, so to speak. They are there because they are looking for something very specific, and you have to be at the top of your game and know what you’re doing.” 

Veteran suppliers also offered their opinions. “If you have a core specialty, it helps a lot with building business. For example, most of the attendees are high-end travelers, and if an agent knows how to present themselves, it’s a great networking opportunity,” said Supinder Singh, president of Palace Tours, who is marking his fifteenth year participating at The New York Times Travel Show. The results are clearly what keep him and his company coming back.

“One year, I participated in 28 trade shows, and The New York Times Travel Show has given me the best results I’ve ever seen from all of them,” Singh said. “It’s a trend-setter because it’s at the right place at the right time. I know of at least 20 clients and agents who have called to say they want to visit me there. And, I have had clients who have spent between $50,000 to $80,000 on bookings that came from meeting at the show.” 

Lure them in
With over 610 exhibitors (35 percent of which will be new this year), enticing consumers to your booth also needs to be strategic. Some are looking for a deal; some are seeking to learn more about new and unique vacation options; and the rest are hoping to hob-nob with famous travel influencers. But whatever their purpose, it’s how you present yourself that can make all the difference.

“Make sure your booth is exciting and naturally attracts people to it,” advised Andrea Giraldo, director of training and events at Dream Vacations, which this year is partnering with Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and GOGO Vacations. Giraldo’s secret to success is offering exclusive promotions that are only available to show attendees, and having her travel agents work the booth alongside supplier representatives. 

“You need the right people working your booth — those who are outgoing team players and are ready to hustle. They must be knowledgeable about the products you are highlighting, as they are not only selling cruises, for example, but also their expertise and the value of using a travel agent. We try to get attendees in the vacation state-of-mind at our booth. Last year, our bold signage offering the best deals of the show coupled with a steel drummer and a $10,000 vacation giveaway attracted attendees to our booth.” 

Follow up
The bottom line is that participation in consumer travel shows is a true lead generator and one travel advisors can’t afford to pass up. But follow-up is key to solidifying the connections that are made at them. Fortunately, when you exhibit at the show, you are entitled to scan the attendee tags of those consumers who visit your booth, thus creating a contact list that can include hundreds of new leads. From there, travel advisors that Travel Market Report spoke with said they are able to add new subscribers to their database, newsletters and social media channels. And while the turnaround may not always be immediate, they agree the investment is worth waiting for.

“At the end of the day, the trade show acts as a storefront because it gets us in front of the consumer. You have to think about the long-term investment. Marketing in the travel industry is not a linear progression. What we do today is about building the business,” said Rossmeissl. 

FROM THE SPONSOR: The New York Times Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, Meet The Experts Pavilion and an Exhibition including more than 600 exhibitors representing travel to all seven continents, positioned within 16 pavilions (including Adventure, Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, Caribbean, Cruise, Europe, Family, Global, Latin America, L.G.B.T.Q., Mexico, River Cruise, Travel Products, and U.S.A. Pavilions). 
The New York Times Travel Show takes place Friday, Jan. 25 to Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Over 36,000 people are expected to attend, including more than 12,000 travel trade professionals and over 24,000 consumer travelers from the most affluent market in the U.S.

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