Uniglobe Travel Center (UTC) was set to go to Walt Disney
World for its annual conference from May 31 to June 2 at the Coronado Springs
Resort. But like nearly every other event, the conference was canceled in light
of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some have opted to refocus their efforts on 2021
conferences. Others have set new dates for this year’s events. UTC, however,
took a different tactic: It moved its event online.
“This was not the conference we had been preparing for, but
when life gives you lemons, well, you know the story,” UTC vice president Betsy
From April 28 to 30, some 200 attendees joined in via Zoom
for general sessions and supplier sessions, receptions and social hours and
even a game night gala. Its theme, “Looking to the Future,” was apt, as content
focused on preparing for what the industry — and
the travel agency community — will look like once the pandemic has passed.
“Now is the time to revisit who you are and how you operate
your business, which suppliers you choose to partner with and how to ensure an
income outside of commissions,” Geiser said. “Let’s make sure our toolbox is
filled with everything we need to be successful in our new world.”
Camille Olivere, Norwegian Cruise Line’s senior vice
president of strategic sales and trade partnerships, was April 28’s keynote
Suppliers and agents alike are in pain, she said, but
Norwegian’s sales team meets daily on Zoom to discuss ways to better support
She encouraged advisors to use this time for education and
client connection as well as to have some fun with Zoom parties and the like.
Stay positive, she said, but acknowledge the stress of the situation.
“After we get through these times, we are going to be tough,
and those of us that persevere are going to be stronger than ever,” Olivere
David Slivken and Tom Carpenter, the owners of Huckleberry
Travel, a UTC agency in New York, also offered advisors a practical game plan
of preparing for the future.
“We can’t really see how things are all going to work out
and what the new normal is going to be,” Slivken said.
He encouraged advisors to determine what their strengths
are, the kind of travel they sell and where it makes sense to look for
business. That will help determine their value proposition, which they can use
to communicate their value and expertise to clients.
Carpenter also encouraged agents to reflect on their
personal strengths so they can focus on what they do well.
The purpose, Slivken said, is “to be able to take the time
knowing what your value proposition is, what your personal strengths are, and
then spending the time to build your business workflow to play to those
They recommended creating or revisiting workflow from a
prospective client’s first contact through the post-trip follow-up and creating
or rewriting scripts for frequently asked questions. For instance, they have a
script for talking to clients about what they do, touching on subjects such as
their value proposition and their fee structure. It ends by asking the prospect
if they can send them their new client information form.
“When we say ‘script,’ we’re not talking about memorizing
what to say,” Slivken said. “It’s really about practicing, even to yourself,
how to talk about these things, so when people ask you’re not having to pull
out information from nowhere. It’s stuff that you’ve thought about.”
While most every facet of the conference touched on the
pandemic and what Olivere called the resulting “grand pause” in travel, the
presenters were all optimistic about the future.
U. Gary Charlwood, founder of Uniglobe and UTC, kicked off
the conference, saying, “When we overcome the current challenges that so many
face, including ourselves, we should look back on this chapter with a
resounding ‘Well done,’ all of us together.”
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