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TravelManagers: Travel is back, and we’re stronger together for it

1,126 days since their last national conference in 2019, the home-based TravelManagers network and partners came together again to celebrate their in-person reunion and enjoy their 13th annual conference in Sydney.

1,126 days since their last national conference in 2019, the home-based TravelManagers network and partners came together again to celebrate their in-person reunion and enjoy their 13th annual conference in Sydney.

This year’s Together theme shone loudly and proudly as one hundred and seventy Personal TravelManagers (PTMs) from all over Australia made up a three hundred-strong delegation, including suppliers, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in person for three years.

TravelManagers CEO Joe Araullo and Executive Managing Director Michael Gazal officially kicked off the milestone conference on Thursday, proudly referencing the network’s resilience, the PTM’s recent record-breaking success, and the recent launch of its stellar TravelManagers Compensation Fund (TCF).

Amanda Stevens. Pic: Matt Leedham

Keynote speaker Amanda Stevens set an emotive tone with an in-depth look at the changes in human behaviours that came from the pandemic and what PTMs can glean to better serve clients.

Reflecting on her own story, Stevens reminded delegates of the importance of “finding your why” to reset their journey.

The affirming aha moments from Stevens? Strengthening high-touch relationships and being human are needed more than ever.

Over the two days, PTMs shared their own success stories, peppered with nuggets of wisdom to take home. Ed Bradford spoke about the power of emotionally going the extra mile, Joanne Miller talked of her love of lifestyle that had resulted from becoming a PTM, while Belinda Hackett spoke of the power of sharing her own travel via social media to drive referrals.

PTM, Ed Bradford. Pic: Matt Leedham

‘Clients want their PTMs to succeed and value expertise over cheap and discounting’ complimented by ‘Being proud of charging service fees’ were key themes, with research showing that the desire for travel expertise and being happy to pay for it is the big opportunity for TravelManagers.

There were also engaging partner presentations including a ‘Great Cruise Debate’ where hilariously dressed as cruise captains, Damian Borg (NCL Director of sales AU/NZ) and Pete Douglas (Globus Family of Brands, Head of sales) entertained the crowd with a tongue-in-cheek debate on Ocean vs River cruising.

Size, it turns out, doesn’t matter. Or does it?

Pete Douglas (Globus Family of Brands, Head of Sales) & Damian Borg (NCL Director of Sales AU/NZ). Pic: Matt Leedham

Thankfully, TMs CEO Joe Araullo stepped in to settle the debate by sharing his recent experiences on both Avalon Waterways and the new NCL Prima in Europe. The verdict? “They’re both different but fantastic experiences.”

The partner tradeshow on Friday morning gave everyone the chance to win prizes, get up to speed on products and most importantly, find out who’s who in the travel industry zoo with regard to who is working where these days.

“Sustainability sells,” was the potent message Neil Rodgers (MD, Adventure World) shared as part of a Travel Corporation panel with Ben Hall (CEO, AAT Kings) and Fran Gildon (National BDM, Uniworld) on travel trends, adding that research showed travellers “were overwhelmed” and needed travel advisors to help them make sustainable and credible choices for their trips.

Former Australian Olympic and Commonwealth athlete, mum of seven, and now remarkably, a doctor Jana Pittman stole the show in the last session of the day with an energised keynote centred on believing “I can” and building resilience to push boundaries and achieve goals.

Jana Pittman. Pic: Matt Leedham

“Negativity, failures and fear become your biggest opportunities,” suggested Pittman, highlighting the need for a mentor to guide you and the importance of finding self-acceptance.

“My emotion is my secret weapon,” said Pittman adding, “Wearing your heart on your sleeve and liking who you are as a person is a key to happiness.”

A standing ovation followed for Ms Pittman before the honour of closing the conference after two-action packed days fell to TravelManagers Executive General Manager Michael Gazal.

“We don’t take you coming here for granted. All of you taking the time out and reconnecting with everyone has been much appreciated,” said Gazal.

TravelManagers CEO Joe Araullo, Executive General Manager Michael Gazal and COO Grant Campbell get into the groove. Pic: Matt Leedham

The evening social events included welcome drinks on Wednesday sponsored by Collette, a Starship Sydney Harbour Cruise sponsored by Globus Family of Brands and NCL on Thursday, culminating with a colourful Studio54-themed Gala dinner and awards night on Friday.

The celebratory ‘Boogie night’ was extra poignant with the ultimate and most significant gong of the night, the TravelManagers Spirit Award, being renamed The Barry Mayo Spirit Award in honour of company Director Barry Mayo who is retiring from the business after 15 years and 60 plus years working in the sector.

Barry Mayo & Barry Mayo Spirit Award winner Rebecca Owen (TravelManagers NPO team). Pic: Matt Leedham

Following a standing ovation, an emotional Mayo gave out the inaugural award in his honour to winner Rebecca Owen from TravelManagers internal NPO (National Partnership Office) team.

Read on here for all the award winners.

After a three-year hiatus, this was a highly passionate conference with all the feels. The love of travel was universally shared, and unexpected tears often flowed along with laughter, a sense of belonging and immense pride for the network and its resilience and achievements.

Next year, the fourteenth TravelManagers Conference will head over the ditch to Christchurch, beginning on 31 August, 2023.

The event’s Five Platinum sponsors included The Travel Corporation, Qantas, Amadeus, Worlds Leading Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International.

To find out more, visit travelmanagers.com.au