MTA ’s 2016 con­fer­ence, the best yet

Travel Bulletin - - ISUES & TRENDS - By Nathalie Craig

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”.

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