MAYAN RIVIERA — An elite group of travel agency owners and managers landed in Cancun recently for Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) annual symposium, which took place at the multi-property Barceló Maya Grand Resort. Over the course of four days, CWT showcased its vision for the future, which the company says focuses on three key factors.
“We have many owners and managers from both sides of the border, and there are so many key messages that resonate with everybody, so we talked about growth, engagement and accountability,” said Una O’Leary Senior Director, Marketing & Supplier Management, Carlson Wagonlit.
The theme of the symposium was ‘Making Travel Magical is No Illusion’, which was evident through the keynote, sessions and one-on-one meetings. The take-home message of the event was that the company has sharpened its focus on the travel experience of its clients, inspiring them to take that next trip with tools like engaging storytelling and sophisticated data collection.
“I am going to refer to data as the new oxygen – you can’t survive without it!” added O’Leary. “We are using data to engage with customers in more meaningful ways. It’s not about the client’s budget but what they want to do. Selling on experience, rather than price.”
Data presented from a recent CWT consumer survey shows some interesting trends. A consumer does 32 visits to 10 different sites before booking a single flight. Consumers believe travel agents can save a client an average $500 over other booking methods. More than six in 10 (64%) of those surveyed say travel agents can find them a better deal. And 66% said travel agents can save them time when booking travel.
The survey also showed that travellers believe expertise, ability to resolve an issue and being a trusted partner are most important to Canadian consumers when working with a travel agent.
What other trends are shaping CWT going forward? Digitization, hyper connectivity and personalization.
CWT is investing over $150 million in technology to create value and improve the booking experience and end-to-end travel experiences. This includes an app and many upgraded website features.
The company also invited Xplr VR to the conference to demonstrate virtual reality technology, which is in line with its strategy to embrace new technologies and stay on the cutting edge.
“CWT is a very forward looking company that is quick to embrace new technological trends. When agents see something exciting that can add to the client experience and potentially boost bookings, they are quick to pay attention,” said Devin Kinasz, President of Xplr VR. “The agency owners and managers at the show were very interested in seeing how virtual reality could work for them.”
CWT has also recently announced new branding that dropped its traditional teal colour in favour of a more ‘robust, vibrant’ colour scheme. This, according to the company, better aligns with its digital strategy and vision for the future alongside a new marketing theme, ‘Make the world work for you’.
Throughout the conference, CWT reiterated the importance of strong and supportive partnerships with preferred suppliers, many of who were in attendance. Manulife, WestJet and WestJet Vacations, Delta Air Lines / Delta Vacations, Globus family of brands, Air Transat, Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations and United Airlines hosted fun-filled events for agents in the evenings, with many other suppliers on hand for one-on-one networking sessions.
“This is a very good conference and a great mix of agency owners and managers, and U.S. and Canadian participants,” said Omar Josephs, National Manager Industry Relations, Unique Vacations Inc. (Canada). “We are excited about our preferred partnership with CWT and look forward to continued growth on both sides, with a key focus on added value for our mutual clients.”