FOT_TW_StoryA

Insight, info and optimism: Travelweek’s conference draws 8,000 viewers

TORONTO — Travelweek’s virtual conference, ’The Future of Travel: Back to Business?’, was a resounding success, with viewership that far surpassed the original number of registered participants.

Close to 8,000 travel agents, industry professionals and interested parties tuned in for the conference, which took place online yesterday from 1 – 3:30 p.m.

The conference can be seen in its entirety here:

Viewers included registered participants and those watching on the live webcast, as well as everyone who checked out the show via Travelweek’s Facebook Live and sister publication Profession Voyages’ Facebook Live:

Total Unique Webcast Views – 3,228

(Max. Concurrent Webcast Views – 1,182)

Travelweek Facebook Live – 2,656

Profession Voyages Facebook Live – 2,077

TOTAL VIEWERSHIP – 7,961

Travelweek’s Publisher, Devin Kinasz, as well as Travelweek’s Editor, Kathryn Folliott, and Deputy Editor, Cindy Sosroutomo, led Q&A interviews with the event’s keynote speakers, including:

. Joseph Adamo, Chief Distribution Officer, Transat and President, TDC, who spoke about the proposed Air Canada – Transat deal as well as refunds vs. vouchers and why he’s confident the federal government will be there for Canada’s airline industry.

. Chuck Crowder, VP Sales & Distribution, WestJet, who talked about WestJet’s network, safety protocols and how his past experience as a travel agent has been an advantage as he works to help agents get through the coronavirus crisis.

. Lisa Pierce, Managing Director of Canada & USA Sales, Air Canada with a look at Air Canada CleanCare+, lessons learned, how Air Canada has refunded $1 billion to its customers since Jan. 1 and where she’s finding reason for optimism going forward.

. Deana Murphy, VP Retail Sales, Sunwing, who spoke about the new ‘Safe with Sunwing’ program, opportunities for upselling and how quickly Sunwing could get operations back into full swing with a winter sun program should Canada’s travel restrictions lift in the coming months.

. Gary Sadler, Senior VP, Unique Vacations, who talked about possible reopening dates for Sandals and Beaches Resorts, and why travel agents are the company’s best and most loyal ally through the COVID-19 pandemic.

. Michelle Palma, VP Field Sales, Uniworld, on why now, more than ever, travellers are appreciating the knowledge and expertise of a travel agent. Michelle talks about Uniworld amid the pandemic in this separate story in today’s Travelweek Daily and on travelweek.ca.

. Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures, in a wide-ranging interview, looks at everything from the impact of mass-scale refunds on small family-run businesses worldwide, to sustainable travel in the age of COVID-19, to the importance of G Adventures’ travel agent partners.

REFUNDS VS. VOUCHERS AND MORE

While the Q&A interviews covered a wide range of topics, the same goal prevailed: to provide insight and inspiration for the Canadian travel industry as it navigates an unprecedented near-shutdown of global travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several executives, including Transat’s Joe Adamo, Air Canada’s Lisa Pierce and G Adventures’ Bruce Poon Tip, spoke to Travelweek’s team about the refunds vs. vouchers debate.

It’s been a high-profile issue for the travel industry and shows no sign of slowing down as the lockdown and travel restrictions continue. Airlines and other travel companies need to conserve cash, consumers are largely satisfied with vouchers but many are still asking for refunds, and agents are caught in the middle.

“We took an early stance that the issuance of vouchers and credits was reasonable in the face of such catastrophic collapse in demand and the grounding of aircraft around the world,” says Transat’s Adamo. “Would we prefer to refund the travelling public? Of course.”

Transat has been “comforted by the CTA’s position on the matter,” Adamo added. The CTA posted a statement in late March saying that while specific cases may get further analysis, in general, vouchers are appropriate in these extraordinary circumstances.

Air Canada’s Lisa Pierce pointed out that Air Canada passengers with refundable tickets continue to have the option of refunds, adding that since Jan. 1, 2020 Air Canada has refunded close $1 billion to its customers. Last week Air Canada also announced new options for passengers with cancelled flights due to COVID-19.

Closing keynote speaker Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures, noted that refunds don’t just impact travel companies here at home, but travel partners around the world that work with the company. “It would have a massive impact,” he said, when asked about the far-reaching knock-on effect of refunds on such a huge scale. “We never could have anticipated that the world would completely shut down. We deal with very small businesses, family-run operations. It would be extremely disruptive for them. Customers say ‘I want my money back’. It’s just not as easy as that. It’s not a simple solution.”

PANEL DISCUSSIONS WITH TOURIST BOARDS & TOUR OPERATORS

Yesterday’s virtual conference also featured two panel discussions. The first focused on ‘The Future of Destinations’ and included insights from Donavan White, Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board; Lynda Falcone, Travel Trade Manager, VisitBritain; and Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director, Los Cabos Tourism Board.

The second panel looked at ‘The Future of Group Touring’ with panelists Wolf Paunic, President, Trafalgar Canada; Sheralyn Berry, President, Contiki Canada; and Adam Hodge, VP Marketing, Goway.

THE WAY FORWARD

“We are at a unique crossroads in the travel industry,” said Kinasz as she welcomed viewers to yesterday’s event. “Have we turned the corner? Is there a second wave to come? Nobody knows. What we do know is that it will be time to come out of lockdown soon and we can slowly start the rebuilding process, and to switch back on the travel industry and get people travelling again.”

She added that Travelweek presented yesterday’s virtual conference to talk about how to turn the corner together, as an industry. “Travel will come back again. The love for travel and the benefits of travel to the heart, mind and soul are priceless.”

The Travelweek Team wants to thank everyone who took part in yesterday’s virtual conference, from the keynote speakers and panelists who generously gave their time and insights, to everyone who tuned in, including thousands of travel agents across the country.

To re-watch the conference, please click here.