TravelPulse Executive Editor Eric Bowman reports from the 2022 Global Travel Marketplace
Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Global Travel Marketplace (GTM) took place Thursday, July 28 through Saturday, July 30 at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida.
This event brings together elite-level travel advisors and top suppliers from all over the world. It’s a gathering of over 300 industry professionals that many here called “powerful,” “life-changing,” and “the best event ever.”
To be eligible to attend travel advisors must meet specific criteria – the biggest being that they must have annual individual sales of at least $1 million or be an owner of a multi-million dollar agency.
The GTM event, which is put on Northstar Travel Group, provides two days of one-on-one appointments where suppliers come to the travel advisor’s table for a six-minute meeting. It’s designed for both parties to get straight to the point of helping each other grow their businesses.
Additionally, suppliers buy into hosting board room presentations where they get 30 minutes to showcase their brand and answer any questions from advisors.
“For a decade we have seen instant return on investment for our participating suppliers and advisors, and once again this year, business was booked onsite during our more than 7,000 face-to-face appointments,” said Alicia Evanko-Lewis, Executive Vice President, Travel Group Global Events, Northstar Travel Group. “GTM is professionals, meeting with professionals, and moving their businesses forward. We are so happy to be celebrating this GTM milestone in conjunction with the travel boom that our industry is currently experiencing.”
To help break the ice and get the attendees to meet new people, everyone was given half of a photo and tasked with finding their match. The matchmaker game, which was sponsored by Tourism Australia, brought advisors and suppliers together in a fun way.
The incentive to win a case of wine from Australia by finding your match and posting a photo to social media had attendees hustling to find their match before time ran out.
Relationships are everything in the travel industry.
Advisors and suppliers here understand the importance of coming together, especially given the circumstances over the last two years.
“Whether it’s networking with my peers, which I love because you learn so much from people [or] the relationships you build with some of the suppliers, it’s great,” said Phyllis Evenson of Travel Experience. “And in this climate, how things have changed, it’s nice to re-connect with the suppliers that you have already met. So, there’s just so many levels, it’s the networking [and] it’s the relationship building.”
Michael Gelber, CEO of IWorld of Travel, noted how important GTM is for making new, meaningful connections for him and his business.
“In this industry, one of the things I learned about from my father is that you want to have relationships first and then do business second, and I think that’s the greatest value of what you get here [at GTM]. You meet people that you want to have relationships with. These are friends, and from there those friendships turn into business, and it’s about good business and good relationships. It’s not about selling the most, being the most [or] being the biggest, it’s about doing the right thing and not always being focused about you, but about us together. It’s really, very rewarding.”
Growing the Brand
The one-on-one appointments coupled with the boardroom presentations help both advisors and suppliers reach new heights for their brands.
“I actually just started my business during COVID,” said Shannon Kittner, owner of Main Street and Beyond Travel Company. “I promoted what was open, which was Disney World. Now that everything else is open, I am so excited to be working with all these clients I have built over the last couple of years to promote all these other incredible destinations and suppliers that I am learning about. So just all this knowledge that I’m gaining has been incredible.”
Monday Evans, owner of Such a Time as This, a Travel Agency, and a member of the GTM Advisory Board, credits this event for the inspiration for her to grow from selling mostly one type of travel to now selling the world.
“It’s the best event in the industry,” Evans said. “It provides everything that I need to grow my business, to diversify, and as a matter of fact this is my third GTM and it has just been the catalyst for change in my business. I changed my business name because of GTM, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right here, right now.”
Prior to attending GTM years ago, Evans said nearly 80% of her business was selling Disney. Following the event and re-branding her agency to be able to sell more of the world, Evans said Disney is just under 40% of her business. “I’m selling even more of Disney now than I was before, but growing everywhere else,” Evans said.
Stephanie Pickles took her business of Pickles Vacations and recently launched her own host agency, Pickles Travel Network, adding over 80 advisors in just two months.
“This is helping immensely,” Pickles said when asked how attending GTM will benefit her new endeavor into owning a host agency. “Just getting here and talking to [suppliers], half the people I’ve spoken to so far they’re going to do live trainings with us on a regular basis. I think it’s really going to help with relationships between each of the suppliers and all Pickles Travel Network agents. I’m looking forward to working with these people. I think I’ve found some suppliers that we’ll work with for many, many years to come.”
For the suppliers who sponsor a boardroom, it allows them to dive deeper with the advisors on what they have to offer.
“It gives you the opportunity to go more in-depth on your policies, updates, changes,” said Shelly Williams, Business Development Manager at ALG Vacations. “Everything has changed since the pandemic so it’s really great to be able to have that little extra time than just that one-on-one. The agents have been great here.”
Travel advisors ready to learn in Global Travel Marketplace boardroom (photo by Eric Bowman
Advisors felt the same way, as Angela Jennings of Travel Clique noted having her peers with her helped lead to a better environment for all.
“The boardroom presentations were great as well,” Jennings said. “I like that there are multiple advisors in the room…sometimes they think of questions that I may not have thought of or vice versa, so it’s great that you’re getting different perspectives from the agents in the room on the same presentation. A lot of the advisors in the room have experience with the suppliers so they’re also giving their feedback and saying, ‘yes work with this supplier they’re awesome, I’ve had a great experience’ and so on and so forth, so that’s also a plus.”
The welcome reception on Thursday was sponsored by Visit Lauderdale. It was hosted at the Diplomat Landing across the street.
The gorgeous outdoor setting kicked off a weekend of great networking.
Breakfast was sponsored by Virgin Voyages on Friday, which ended with children crashing the presentation to protest the fact they can’t sail on the exclusive to adults cruise line.
Lunch on Friday was sponsored by Seabourn, which featured a presentation on the new Seabourn Venture ship. The video of Seabourn’s first purpose-built ultra-luxury expedition ship left the advisors amazed and many continued talking about it through the weekend.
The reception on Friday was sponsored by Princess Cruises. The travel industry loves a good party, and the team at Princess Cruises put on an epic evening. (editor’s note: let it be known I was the first to dance!)
Breakfast on Saturday was sponsored by Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand, which included T-shirt tosses from the stage to all around the dining room.
Lunch on Saturday was sponsored by Visit Anchorage and Alaska Railroad, where one lucky advisor won a FAM trip to Anchorage, Alaska!
GTM 2023 will be held May 4-6, 2023 back at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. To learn more about attending GTM in 2023, or its sister event GTM West, click here.
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