If you want to become a successful independent travel agent, one of the first steps is to train for the job. College courses, online programs and more can help you prepare for success. Having a niche area of travel as your specialty can also set you apart from others in the industry and drive business to your door. In addition, successful travel agents who treat their independent agencies as full-time businesses, dedicating the necessary time and effort, can create a very lucrative business for themselves. Finally, finding a host agency allows you to focus on marketing and clients and less time on web design and other technical areas.
Months of planning have come and went. Last week, we held our fourth annual TPI Rocks. This year, we were graciously hosted by Universal Orlando at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. We excitedly welcomed close to 300 travel advisors plus over 380 of our Preferred Suppliers. It’s safe to say: TPI Rocks was a whirlwind. For those that didn’t have a chance to make it, we’re recapping our whole week. (Make sure to check out the recap video at the end of this blog.) And for those that went, here’s your chance to relive your week!
Pre- & Post Conference Activities
If we wanted up to 300 travel advisors to hang out with us in Orlando, we knew we had to make the whole week worth it. That’s why we scheduled three exclusive ship inspections and one exclusive resort site inspection before the conference officially began. On Monday, our rockstar agents could choose to check out Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, Norwegian Sun, or Disney Dream. The following day, Tuesday, agents could opt-in to tour all the Walt Disney World resorts. Again, all this was exclusive to our Rockstar advisors. Plus, we provided transportation to and from the ships/resorts.
General Session & Keynote Speakers
Overall, TPI Rocks had five General Sessions. (Yes, they were mandatory, but most meals were provided!) Our very first General Session included a warm TPI Welcome from Jenn Lee, our VP of Sales and Marketing. Throughout the week, attendees heard from top-tier industry executives:
- Jacqueline Marks, Apple Leisure Group
- Dondra Ritzenthaler, Celebrity Cruises
- Amy Tine & Diane O’Dell, Universal Orlando
- Alex Pinelo, AmaWaterways
- Claire Billby & special guest, Professor Von Drake, Disney
- Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International
- Adolfo Perez, Carnival Cruise Line
This year, we invited Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity for Walt Disney Company and prominent Ted X speaker, as our keynote speaker. Wardle taught our excellent travel advisors the five biggest barriers between them and innovation and creativity at work. During his two-hour seminar on Thursday, he gave everyone the mental tools needed to conquer your challenges and deliver tangible results.
“Investing in myself and my business has always been a priority for me to grow constantly, and TPI Rocks always gives me a great return on investment,” said Theresa Chu-Bermudez, Travel Designer and owner of Get Out Custom Travels. “Not only are there opportunities to increase my knowledge through technical and product training during the sessions, but the ability to connect with other TPI agents outside of the formal sessions is also invaluable to me.”
MAG Awards Ceremony
TPI started because our founders, Tony and Marietta Gagliano, took a leap of faith 31 years ago. At TPI Rocks, we honored their efforts by celebrating all our rockstar agents and Preferred Suppliers that went the extra mile this year. Midweek, we held our first annual MAG Awards ceremony. 3900+ travel advisors voted on the ten supplier-focused categories. The categories titles included “Best Booking Engine” and “Overall Best Selling Experience” as well as unique categories like “Rocks the One-on-One,” “Best Lifeline,” and “Best Kept Secret.”
“When it came to the suppliers, we wanted to honor not just the brands, but the hustlin’ individuals who walk arm-in-arm with our Rockstars travel advisors on a daily basis,” said Jenn Lee, TPI’s VP of Sales and Marketing. “They are the true heroes!”
Royal Caribbean led the pack with the most wins. Agents voted this family-friendly cruise line as “Most Innovate Brand”, “Most Intuitive Marketing Center” and “Best Booking Engine”.
“Innovation is in our DNA, and we are beyond thrilled that our travel partners recognize us for it,” said Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service. “With tools like Espresso and having the largest sales force team in the industry, we strive to support all types of travel advisors. Winning three awards is a testament that they feel our support.”
Supplier reps were also celebrated during the MAG Awards. Kirsten Sanchez, Business Development Director at Carnival, won the big prize as “Best BDM of the Year”. Sanchez also was the only supplier rep to win a second award; she also won “Best Lifeline”, an award to the rep that best helps travel advisors in a pinch.
Several travel advisors were also honored at the MAG Awards. For the remaining nine categories that celebrated travel advisors and agency owners, the winners were picked by an internal committee. The big three awards were “Top Agent”, “Top Agency”, and “MAG Legacy Award Excellence in Entrepreneurship”. Travel advisor Margaret Centers, owner of Margret’s Travel, won “Top Agent” and Scott Asplund, owner of Plenty of Fun Travel, won Top Agency. Platinum advisor, Valerie Gossett won the most coveted award, “MAG Legacy Award Excellence in Entrepreneurship”. The same award was first presented to TPI founders, Tony and Marietta Gagliano, as a way to honor their entrepreneurial spirit and legacy at last year’s TPI Rocks.
“Over 30 years ago, TPI was founded because of our family’s determination and desire to transform the industry. Today, we’re still here because of our hard-working travel advisors and dedicated employees,” said Tony Gagliano, COO/Executive Vice President. “It’s our honor to celebrate their success at the MAG Awards.”
Breakout Sessions & Tradeshow Tornado
To better address each travel advisor’s needs, over 90 breakout sessions were offered. Plus, the classes were separated into three categories: new, experienced, and all. We were also excited to offer two certification courses: Ensemble’s Host Cruises and Sandal’s CSS Training. Click here to see a breakdown of all the sessions we offered.
Our last conference day ended with our Tradeshow Tornado. This event separates our agents into two groups: Group A and B. While Group A spends a chunk of time in our tradeshow, Group B takes classes on internal tools. Then, they swap places. It’s a whirlwind indeed.
There were over 380 preferred TPI and Ensemble suppliers in attendance including Universal Orlando, Royal Caribbean International, Viking, Carnival Cruise Lines, Delta Vacations, and Disney Destinations. For our full list of suppliers, click here.
“As a travel advisor that works from home, TPI Rocks is one of the highlights of my year! I love getting to see the TPI staff, my fellow travel advisor friends, as well as making new friends,” said Lisa Vermaak, owner of BlueSkyy Travel. “The training we get is fantastic and we get to choose the breakout sessions that interest us. I can’t pick a favorite part of the week, it’s all my favorite: the training, the supplier trade show, the breakout sessions, the tasty food, the parties, and the agent-to-agent round tables! I already can’t wait until next year!”
So, where do we go from here? We’re still figuring out the nitty-gritty details. Hopefully, over the next coming months, we’ll make a big announcement on where (and) we’re going next. Wherever it is, we hope to see you there!