“I’ve never been happier to be able to say ‘I told you so,'” Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group, told the more than 600 travel advisors and supplier partners gathered at the annual CoNexion conference. this year to be held at the Disneyland Resort hotel. in Anaheim, California. Friedman was referring to the conference last year — the first since COVID-19 upended the travel industry — where she predicted the golden age of travel was imminent.
Based on the number of Circle of Excellence winners (140), the host agency has seen this year – more than any other in the company’s history – the golden age of travel well and truly come. (Circle of Excellence winners are recognized for achieving high sales goals using Nexion Travel Group’s preferred suppliers.)
“We’ve all been through a very difficult time and I’m not going to talk about it because we agreed not to,” Friedman said during his keynote address on day two of the conference. “But we learned something, didn’t we?” We have learned that this industry is unstoppable.
“The travel advisor is here to stay,” she told a small group of reporters during an executive roundtable. “Over the last few years, even throughout the pandemic, we haven’t really seen a slowdown in the number of people wanting to get into this industry.”
In 2022 alone, Nexion recruited nearly 600 new advisors, 60-65% of whom are new to the travel industry. Many more have joined in 2020 and 2021.
“This year, we’re on track to recruit the most advisors we’ve recruited in a long time,” Friedman said.
And despite difficult beginnings, many flourish. Several of this year’s Circle of Excellence winners have joined the industry during the pandemic, said Robbi Hamida, senior vice president of agency operations at Nexion. Even advisors who have been with Nexion longer are selling more than they have ever sold before.
“We were looking at our top producers,” Friedman said, “and we saw some that we hadn’t seen before. And it’s so rewarding for me to see new people come into the network or people get to the point where they’ve achieved that level of recognition.
Three busy days
With no new technology launches or major programs to announce, this year’s CoNexion focuses on what advisors need most to be more profitable: six information-rich general sessions, three keynote addresses, 48 workshops educational events, a vendor roundtable and a well-attended trade show.
During his welcome, Friedman challenged attendees to get the most out of the show by meeting 10 new people.
“We didn’t create the CoNexion name in a vacuum,” she told Travel Market Report in a one-on-one interview. “It’s really about connecting. And you see that. You see the connections they’ve made with other advisors, with providers. And they’ve built businesses around some of those relationships. At the risk of To sound cliche, it really is a family.And every year more and more people join this family…Even though these advisors are technically competitors, they don’t act that way.
Nexion Canada President Mike Foster also encouraged attendees to make the most of the show.
“Plan, set goals, find and meet the partners, of course, that you work with, but also look for new companies that you may not have worked with before.”
You define what success means
One of the most important lessons Friedman conveyed to attendees was during his keynote address.
“Success is different for all of us. Please don’t compare yourself to other travel advisors. You define the path you want to take. You need to understand what success means to you before you can pursue it. And above all, you have to believe in yourself. You must believe in your ability to succeed.
In his keynote, Friedman equated being a successful counselor — whatever that means for each individual — with writing your own story, one with 10 chapters.
The first chapter is to first have the vision.
“You need to know what you want your business to look like in three to five years. It’s your vision. It describes the purpose of your business, what you are looking for and what you want to accomplish.
In the second chapter, it’s time to build a plan.
“Your plan is the roadmap for your business. It guides you in the direction you want to take. Start by setting goals and describing what success looks like to you. They should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable and relevant, a time-bound outline of what you are going to do and when you are going to do it.”
Examples of goals offered by Friedman include earning a set amount of commission in 12 months, strategically adding destination expertise to your agency, or achieving certification within a specified time frame.
The third chapter becomes tactical.
“This is where you’ll develop a tactical marketing plan that details the specific actions you’ll take to grow your business.”
Part of that, she says, is determining your target customer base.
“These are people with a strong propensity to do the kinds of trips you want to focus on.”
Other chapters in the “story” of each advisor’s business included: retaining your customer, qualifying your customer, building partnerships, working in your business, keep learning, engaging and having fun.
“Remember why you chose to work in this industry. For many of us it was a love of travel. For some it was a love of working with people…whatever your reason, we We’re in an amazing industry and most of us can’t think of anything else. The travel industry runs in your blood, doesn’t it? There’s no cure and it’s is a good thing.
Roadmap to success
During the executive roundtable for media at the show, Robbi Hamida, Senior Vice President of Agency Operations for Nexion Travel Group, provided an update on one of the initiatives launched last year, redesigning Nexion University’s roadmap to success.
It was launched last year with around 691 documents that Hamida says help advisors “from A to B to C to D on what they needed to know to run their business.” A year later, the resource has grown to over 1,000 documents.
In addition to helping advisors, Hamida said Roadmap to Success has helped Nexion operationally.
“It has helped us reduce our phone calls, reduce the volume of emails we receive because they can get answers at a glance.”
Hamida also said that Nexion has no plans to slow Roadmap to Success’ growth.
“We are happy with what it is now. We just have to get it where it needs to go next… The agents have given us a lot of feedback on what’s missing and we’re taking all of that into account. But it has become a real great tool for learning agents.