MTA ’s 2016 conference, the best yet
MOBILE Travel Agents (MTA) enjoyed its largest annual conference to date in March with close to 400 members, suppliers and guests coming together at The Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort on the Gold Coast. Themed ‘Power of Community’, the aim of the conference was to inspire and educate MTA members, providing them with valuable takeaways to weave into their day-to-day work as travel agents. “Our members want to learn because they know it’s going to change the way they do business,” managing director and co-founder of MTA, Karen Merricks said. Karen and her husband Roy Merricks, who founded the business in the early 1990s, said the 2016 national conference was “perhaps the most important event” in company history. This stems from the timing, with the event taking place after 12 months of hard work producing new systems to enhance the MTA business model. Agents learned about two new products during the three day event: an itinerary building mobile app and a global fares tool. The itinerary app will allow members to build luxury, quality itineraries which are downloadable to their customers’ phones via an MTA app. “This will allow our members to deliver customised and bespoke itineraries to their clients,” MTA CEO Don Beattie told travelbulletin. He said the new app allows their agents to build up a suite of information for customers to access via their smartphone as well as giving delivering real time updates. In addition a global fares tool was also announced which will allow members to see all airfare prices, including low cost carriers, all in the one place from any GDS. It’s set to be put into place within the next few months. “At one search I can have all these things delivered. It’s just amazing,” Beattie said. Before this fares were kept in spreadsheets or the system but the new tool will present the whole lot together. These initiatives build on the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” the company puts towards developing new technologies for their members each year. “We see this as a way to help our members to improve their productivity and their professionalism to their customers”. As well as learning about new technology, agents were entertained and inspired by a line-up of stellar keynote speakers throughout the weekend. The event was emceed by ABC Gruen Planet regular Dan Gregory while inspirational key note speaker and best-selling author Li Cunxin wowed the audience with his life story which highlighted the rewards of hard work and passion. This was followed by motivational talks from leading Australian business and life coach Shannah Kennedy and award-winning small business expert Sophie Andrews. MTA members took part in peer-to-peer breakout sessions and workshops while the company’s support team worked behind the scenes to be on call for clients. Suppliers attending updated agents on their offerings throughout the weekend while 54 prizes including cruises, flights and accommodation were picked up by members. To relax, attendees enjoyed a pool party on the Friday night, followed by a gala dinner on the Saturday evening. The conference wrapped up with a family fun barbeque on Sunday hosted by celebrity Fijian chef Lance Seeto together with MTA ambassador and sailing star Jessica Watson. When speaking about the business model during the conference, Beattie told travelbulletin his focus for this year was retaining their existing 350 members as well as selecting highly skilled agents. “Is our business model going to grow? Absolutely, but our focus is on making sure our members are skilled,” he said. Three new roles have been created this year with a cruise specialist, a social media manager and events person – to support our members’ growth. When looking forward to sales in 2016, Beattie said the company does not set sales targets – a focus that would be “incorrect” for the group’s business model. “Our central focus is on education,” he said. “It’s about quality, it’s about expertise and it’s about support. We encourage people to go and learn, because once they learn they will come back as experts”.