Last night, key players in the Aussie travel industry got together to announce the winner of the 2016 Avis Travel Agent Scholarship, and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the brilliant award.

Held in Sydney and attended by Australian travel industry leaders and guest of honour, The Hon. John Barilaro MP, New South Wales’ Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Skills and Minister for Small Business, the award recognises all the hard work and commitment that goes into being a top-tier Travel Agent.

And this year, one Travel Agent stood head and shoulders above the rest: Barbara Baron from Sylvania Travel & Cruise (NSW).

Congratulations Barbara!

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L-R) Avis Australia Travel Industry Manager Russell Butler, 2016 Avis Scholarship winner Barbara Baron (Sylvania Travel & Cruise), The Hon. John Barilaro MP (NSW Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Skills and Minister for Small Business) and Avis Pacific Region Managing Director Kaye Ceille.

Barbara Baron joins an elite group of Australian travel consultants after by bagging the award, which is the retail travel industry’s most prestigious award for customer service. The Scholarship is awarded annually to an Australian travel consultant who consistently delivers outstanding customer service.

As the recipient of the 2016 Avis Travel Agent Scholarship, Barbara will receive a prize package valued at more than $40,000, including: two return Qantas Airways Business Class tickets to New York; six nights’ accommodation in Manhattan and seven days car rental from Avis; a scholarship to study at Southern Cross University with financial support of up to $8,000; 12 months’ individual membership of Cruise Lines International Association (Australasia) and two tickets to attend Cruise3sixty Australasia in Sydney in September 2017; a Polonious Resources Personal Profile, feedback session and on-call personal/professional coaching for 12 months; and two tickets to the 2017 National Travel Industry Awards Gala Dinner in Sydney (including return flights and overnight accommodation)

In addition, she will enjoy a one year honorary position on the Avis Travel Agents Advisory Board.

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(L-R) Adele Sheers (Qantas), Professor Elizabeth Roberts (Southern Cross University), Brett Jardine (CLIA), 2016 Avis Scholarship winner Barbara Baron (Sylvania Travel & Cruise), Vanessa Hudson (Qantas), David Fellows (Polonious Resources), Kaye Ceille (Avis) and Rob Harrison (Qantas).

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Avis Australia Travel Industry Manager, Russell Butler., commented on the incredibly intense competition in this year’s Scholarship finalists:

There is always a lot of hyperbole associated with award programs. Competition is always ‘incredibly intense’. Finalists are of ‘the highest calibre’. Winners are ‘remarkable’. But I think on this occasion I’m more than justified in describing the Avis Travel Agents Scholarship as ‘extraordinary’.

Russell Butler, Travel Industry Manager, Avis Australia.

Speaking of the other finalists, they’ll each be receiving a personal online behavioural profile and consultation session with a Polonious Resources business coach.

This year’s Scholarship finalists included Joanna Tatton, Cruiseabout Noosa (QLD); Jeanette Lasek, Travel by Design (NSW); Melissa Pointon, MTA Travel (NSW); and Janene Ferguson, Helloworld South Melbourne (VIC).

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2016 Avis Travel Agent Scholarship finalists: (L-R) Janene Ferguson (Helloworld South Melbourne), Joanna Tatton (Cruiseabout Noosa), Barbara Baron (Sylvania Travel & Cruise), Melissa Pointon (MTA Travel) and Jeanette Lasek, Travel by Design (NSW).

The Avis Travel Agent Scholarship has been a staple of the Australian travel industry for 20 years now, and it’s still going strong.

When it was first launched back in 1997, the prize package on offer was very much focused on international travel. The winner flew to the Unites States and enjoyed some excellent insight into how Avis approaches customer service.

Twenty years later, no other industry award comes even close to how much it can help a Travel Agent be the best they can be.

Were you one of the finalists at last night’s event?