PUNTA CANA — A great time was had by all who attended Independent by Flight Centre’s (IFC) conference in Punta Cana earlier this month.
Held at the Majestic Colonial, the annual conference welcomed over 50 suppliers and participating travel agents for five days of networking, learning and earning ‘Indie Bucks.’ This year’s theme was ‘A New Independent Era,’ which according to VP Anita Emilio, perfectly highlights the Independent business of Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) as well as the changing landscape of the travel industry.’
“There is no other host agency in Canada that provides its advisors access to a global ecosystem to grow their business and service their clients or the brand recognition. Our advisors are backed by a renowned travel company that operates all over the world,” says Emilio.
“The other era we acknowledge is the growth of the Independent sector in our industry. There will always be a need for retail establishments, but IFC gives advisors the ability to make the world their office. They book cruises while sailing the Mediterranean or flights at 35,000 feet. Their ability to work from anywhere not only makes them more accessible to their clients but allows them to live the life they love – one filled with travel,” she adds.
Highlights of the conference include one-on-one time between suppliers and agents in the Laptop Lounge, Breakout Sessions covering a wide variety of topics, and an Ask the Expert Panel featuring some of IFC’s top advisors and moderated by Business Leader Christal Bauer. A General Session also allowed suppliers to share updates and take part in a panel led by FCTG DEI Manager Emese Graham on sustainability, NDCs and ChatGPT. And garnering the biggest applause was Majestic Resorts’ surprise offer of a complimentary stay of all travel agents in attendance.
As with previous IFC conferences, travel agents were able to participate in the popular ‘Give Back’ session during which they packed over 200 backpacks with school suppliers for students, in partnership with Fundación NPH: Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos.
There were also plenty of networking opportunities, starting with a Happy Hour Trade Show and a Dine Around Evening, as well as time for play during a patriotic foam party and an ‘Indies Got Talent’ night at Margaritaville during which agents took to the stage to show off a wide array of talents.
The conference came to a roaring close with a 1920s Gatsby-themed gala held at the Dreams Macao. An auction was also held where agents were able to bid on prizes like a Viking River cruise using the Indie Bucks they had previously earned.
During the gala, Independent Awards were also handed out to winners in a variety of categories, including:
- Top Independent Cruise Supplier: Royal Caribbean
- Top Independent Sales: John Castell
- Top Team Sales: Travel Our World
- Kristin Anderson Inspirational Award: Sabine Bani Sadr
- Rising Star: Adam Taylor
- Top Cruise Sales: Up Up and Away Travel
- Top Tour Sales: Sarah Dayman
- Top Insurance Sales: Stephen Brunetta
- Top Ticket Sales: John Castell
- Myrtle Gordon Education Award: Carol Hornsby
- Most Improved Agent: Travel Our World
- Outstanding Business Ownership: Up Up and Away Travel
- Top Supplier Agent’s Choice Award: Playa Resorts