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What Happens at a Travel Agent Conference?

I recently returned from my annual CoNexion  (aka – Conference).  This year we were fortunate to sail on the amazing Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas for a seven-day Western Caribbean itinerary.

That was preceded by our full Canada Day training, focused on Canadian content with Canadian agents.

So, here’s a little structural breakdown of the Host Company I belong to.  Nexion LLC is based in Irvine, Texas and is one of the largest Host Agencies in North America.  Nexion Canada is an off-shoot of that and is based in London, Ontario, and just announced at CoNexion, there will also be a Nexion Mexico!  So exciting!

As an independent, home based agent in Canada, I need to “belong” to a host agency of some kind in order to have access to those amazing Travel Agent portals that everyone who comes and sits with me envies!  From that I have access to all the suppliers out there that sell every kind of travel to the general public.  Because the Travel Agent world has so much clout with suppliers, we have access to amazing offers, deals, packages and so much more that the general public just won’t find “on line” by themselves.

CoNexion offers me the opportunity to meet one on one with those suppliers, take training with them to better understand their product and bring all of that to you, my valued clients.  I am able to establish real relationships with the suppliers, so should I need just a little something extra, a better package deal, a savings here and there – I can turn to them and ask them if they are able to provide it for me.  On top of that, I am backed by Nexion Canada and its far reaching relationships they have too.


Cruises – Most people know I love to cruise.  How about you?  Have you ever been on one and loved it or decided cruising wasn’t for you?  There are so many options to choose from – from small ships to “cities on the water”, from ocean cruising to river cruising to yacht cruising.  Which cruise is right for you and your Wishbook?  Imagine trying to sift through all the options on your own.  Well, you don’t have to!  During this CoNexion alone, I met with Presidents, Vice Presidents and Business Development Managers from all of the major cruise lines and spent some time in training with many of them.  It’s very hard to run away from each other when you are on a seven-day cruise together!

All Inclusive Vacations – Well not well represented at CoNexion this year, All Inclusive Vacations are a very large part of what I do.  Just type “all inclusive in Mexico” in your favourite search engine and see what comes up!  I have met personally with representatives from WestJet Vacations, Air Canada Vacations, Sunwing, Transat and Sunquest.  They offer yearly product updates which I attend so I can keep up on what’s new, old, coming and going when it comes to those wonderful get a ways called All Inclusive Vacations!  Talking about a relationships with suppliers, I recently held a promotion at a restaurant in Quesnel where WestJet Vacations and Air Canada Vacations generously donated prizes to be given away.  It’s because of this personal touch that I am able to help you find the perfect hotel tailored just for you.

World Wide Guided Tours – Guided tour suppliers were absolutely in attendance at CoNexion!  Guided tours can be exactly what someone is looking for, but isn’t always the best fit for some travelers.  That’s where it’s a very good idea to speak to a travel professional.  I can help discern the perfect tour to match not only your budget, but much more importantly, your vision, your dream, your Wishbook and have it come to life.  Guided tours cover the world from top to bottom (literally).  There is something for everyone if you are a guided tour type of traveler.

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Luxury Travel – Ready to take your Wishbook to the next level?  Luxury Travel is one of the fastest growing travel markets.  Travel Professionals, such as myself, love to spend the time bringing to life what you dream!  Luxury suppliers were on board sharing hands on experiences and training just for us!

Family Travel – Yes, you can travel with your kids!  And it’s not just to Disneyland!  There are amazing experiences out there that can open the world to your children and challenge them to respect this amazing beautiful world we all share.  There are companies who only deal with family travel and many suppliers have family only segments built into their itineraries.  Looking for more when traveling with your children?  Ask them what is in their Wishbook!

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After Grad Travel –  Not all 18-30 year olds are looking for All Inclusive getaways.  They are looking to travel the world on their own, but with others their age, to experience the world in the safety of a group, but on their own terms.  There are three specific companies I work with that do just that, but there are so many more I can reach out to as well!  These vacations range from backpacking to first class travel, range from 1 week to 1 month (and beyond) and touch every corner of the globe!  It’s amazing to work these suppliers!

Go As You Please Travel – Also known as FIT Tours  are my favourite type of vacation to put together for you.  The challenge when someone calls in and says “I want to go to “Europe” for example, but I don’t want a tour! Can you make it happen?  There are a myriad of  suppliers available to help me find the perfect combination to create your perfectly crafted vacation.

Group Travel – Multi-generational families, reunions, friends, graduations, anniversaries, weddings, business, bachelor parties, wine and food experiences, sporting events, religious travel pilgrimages, seniors travel, and so much more!  Another of my favourite vacation types to put together!  This is also a growing market and you’ll be really happy you contacted an agent to gather all the necessary information needed for this type of travel!  I actually have fun gathering passports, credit cards, personal information, putting together air and tour, taking care of payments … the list continues!  Contact me for your next group.  Most suppliers – air – hotel – tours – ocean cruise – river cruise all offer agents amazing dedicated group desks!

Rail Vacations – Want to cross Canada, the USA or Europe by rail!  It can seem like a daunting planning experience as they stop there, but not there!  What class of service do I book?  Is 15 minutes enough time to transfer from this train to that train?  Can you help with hotels should I need to stay in a city overnight before moving on?  Rail Vacations are an amazing way to experience a destination if you have the time to do so!  Distances can be vast, so planning is essential!  Several rail companies were also on board.  (PS – I love first class travel in case you were wondering!)  I have had the joy of experiencing travel on board the Rocky Mountaineer, Rail Europe and VIA Rail.

Hotel Reservations – yes, I really do get people that call me to confirm a hotel only for them, and it’s my absolute pleasure to do just that.  Oh boy, the Hotel representatives were also present at CoNexion, sharing so many updates with us.  I’m also specialized in the sales of several hotels brands.

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Car Rentals – Ever just want to go for a drive or rent a vehicle when you are away from your home?  Yes, I can help you and major car rental companies were also present at CoNexion!

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Airline Reservations – Can you fly me from here to there?  Seems simple, doesn’t it?  It’s really not that simple.  There are so many departures from so many airports that finding the perfect combination really can consume a lot of time.  I love the challenge!

Travel Insurance – Never leave home without it!  Insurance suppliers were on board with us as well.  This is an extremely important component of your travel planning.  I am fully licensed to sell Manulife Travel Insurance in the Province of BC, and if you live outside the province, I have colleagues that will work with you to ensure you are covered – it really is that important!


So, let’s take a look at this CoNexion 2018!

Of course, every journey starts somewhere and my journey to CoNexion  started with my flights from Kelowna to Seattle and then the next day off to Fort Lauderdale, for our two night stay at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel.  Arriving two days early afforded me the luxury to take advance of some down time.  One full day to enjoy the hotel, pool, facilities and as the day progressed, to enjoy time with  my fellow Canadian agents!  

Day 1 – Friday – We began our Canada Day on Friday bright and early with breakfast being served at 7:30 am.  Our day of training ended at 5:00 pm with all of us looking forward to enjoy each other’s company over a beverage and dinner! So, what happened from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm?  Well, all the Senior Executives of Nexion came for a visit!

Kevin our Technology genius covered topics such as new technologies coming to better enhance and optimize my time and efficiency.

Robbi Hamida, Sr Vice President of Agency Operations for Nexion, took time from his very busy schedule and shared ways in which I can ensure that when I do confirm a vacation for you, it is done professionally and with you as my focus at all times.

Jackie Friedman, President of Nexion spent 1.5 hours hosting idea exchanges  on how to engage with our clients..

Next I was inspired by two of our own agents, Dorothy and Melissa.  They shared their personal stories, struggles and accomplishments in their own home based business.  Listening to them was very encouraging.

Social Media!  Need I say more?  Cris De Souza, Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Nexion, Caroline Belgrave and Christina Castillo, Social Media Gurus , opened the doors wide and introduced me through a hands on training, how to work with social media platforms more efficiently.

Next we were all honored to have Caitlan from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau join us.  She shared “all things Fort Lauderdale”  and it was wonderful to get a first hand look at all that this seaside community has to offer beyond just being a cruise port.  Do you want to know what to do while you are visiting Fort Lauderdale?  Boy, do I have suggestions and ideas I would love to share with you!

Mike Foster, President of Nexion Canada shared what’s new and exciting with Nexion and how to communicate more efficiently.

I was honored to be invited to share my expertise, along with Nicole, how we first encounter a client – one that we have never spoken to before, or an existing client one that we’ve been working with for awhile.  I know your time is valuable and if you have reached out to an agent, you are looking for something special – that one on one personal experience that an informed agent can offer you – outside the box ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and a positive booking experience from the very beginning of your first contact.  From there I hope to establish a real relationship with you so that the vacation you confirm with us is memorable and special.

Whew! And that was just Day 1!


Day 2 – Saturday – began with loading us onto our bus transfer to the pier.  Check in for the cruise was a breeze and I was on board by 11:00 am, plenty of time to find a great Mexican lunch, then off to my room to pick up my delegates bag, then off to the Opening General Session at 1:45 pm.  No ship sails until everyone gathers at their Muster Station for the Safety Briefing, and after that we relaxed until we gathered together again for our Welcome Reception hosted by Royal Caribbean and the  Harmony of the Seas.  We had a very warm welcome from the Officers!  

Day 3 – Sunday –  was a day at sea, and for agents at a conference, that means a full day of workshops!  And who was present at our General Session?  Norwegian Cruise Lines, GOGO Vacations, MSC Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Delta Airlines, Avalon Waterways, Globus Family of Brands, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line and Regent Seven Seas!  All of them shared updates on their products with us – an invaluable opportunity! Needless to say, I took lots of notes!  After General Session for personal enrichment, I opted for Workshops that centered on using storytelling  for selling luxury products, the business of being  social for Travel Professionals, and Family Vacation planning.  I spent time with CIE Tours, a powerhouse for travel throughout  the United Kingdom.

Day 4 – Monday – LAND!  But, first General Sessions.  It was inspiring to listen to Savannah – an agent who in one short year, propelled her agency to incredible success!  And another agent, Melissa spoke of her rising success to working closing with suppliers and spending as much time in training as she could spare.

11:00 am – feet on sand in Labadee, Haiti.  We were all waiting for this one stop.  It’s a long story, but it’s ending is amazing and truly humbling and inspiring.  A Nexion Agent has a dear friend that once lived in Haiti and experienced first hand the devastation this country experiences.  Her heart led her to asking the President of Nexion, if we could all do something very special – bring a backpack filled with school supplies to give to the children of Haiti.  I did, along with the other 700 travel professional at CoNexion.  Initially it was hoped we could help three schools – the response was so amazing that, through the simple plea of help, the agents of Nexion and Nexion Canada came together and donated enough school supplies to help the children of nine schools!  Our lives are truly blessed.  There wasn’t a dry eye at the presentation to the 10 school children that came and represented their country.  After the exchange, we had the afternoon and evening off to eat, drink and be merry (again)!

Day 5 – Tuesday – Jamaica!  Oh wait – first – General Session, of course!  Agent Danny, shared his insights on working with groups – something I love doing and I truly enjoyed his presentation.  Suppliers on stage for this session were Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways, and Michael Heflin, Sr Vice President of Hotel Relations for the Travel Leaders Group.

11:00 am – feet on sand and body in ocean!

Day 6 – Wednesday – Day at sea – and you know what that means!  Can you imagine receiving “The Best Advice I’ve Ever Heard” from the travel industries best?  Well, it truly was the best advice I’ve ever received!  Agent Bill, shared his thoughts on succession planning.  What happens if I retire?  Good question and Bill had amazing answers!  My focus for the day – Celebrity Cruises!

Following workshops was our trade show!

Imagine an room full of travel suppliers, all wanting to meet you!  Well, I had the opportunity to do just that and I took advantage of it.  Luxury sales with Abercrombie & Kent, all the cruise lines, Avanti Destinations,  CIE Tours, Classic Vacations, Club Med, all the major airlines, G Adventures, Globus Family of Brands, GOGO Vacations, all the major hotels, Insight Vacations, Ntaba African Safaris, Rocky Mountaineer, Special Needs Group, Universal Resort, Disney Destinations, and more!

If you ever wonder why you should book your next vacation with a travel professional – this is one of those reasons!  I have direct access to the suppliers and I absolutely develop a one on one relationship with them.

Day 7 – Thursday – ahh…Cozumel…but first – yes…General Sessions!  This one was short and sweet and it didn’t take long for me to change from my business casual attire to my bathing suit.  Since I’ve been here before, I opted to stay on board – well, I did have lunch on land at Margaritaville !  Super tender Calamari and guacamole made to order!

Day 8 – Friday – Day at sea, although this was our last day working, so it wasn’t a full day.  The General Session, as usual, began at 8:00 am and it was awards day!  I am honored to be the recipient of the Gateway to Excellence Award, and I thank each of you for entrusting me with your very valuable vacation planning.  For my last workshop of CoNexion I opted to join the President of Nexion and the President of Royal Caribbean in one hour of idea exchanges, where agents had the opportunity to share their best practices and learn from each other – a fantastic way to close off an outstanding CoNexion.  Later that evening, just as we began in celebration, so we ended – a fantastic send-off from Royal Caribbean for our Farewell Reception.

Day 9 – Saturday – homeward bound….it was a long haul, but I arrived home safely on Day 10 – Sunday!


Of course it wasn’t all work!  We did have some downtime to enjoy the ship, the company and the ports of call.  I’ll be writing a separate Chronicle on that very soon!  Come back and read all about it!

I often get asked why you should book with a Travel Professional.  This is why.  My passion, my training, my expertise, my contacts in the industry, my personal interest and true desire to create for you a wonderful vacation experience.  I’m with you from the moment you first make contact with me.


Next year, we’ll be spending 4 days at Universal Orlando.  I can’t wait to share my experiences from there with you!

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