On the first night of Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) annual conference, people’s feet were looking a little white and blue.
As more than 160 travel pros descended onto Playa Azul beach at Barcelo Maya Beach at the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort in Mexico last Monday night (May 15), they were handed WestJet-branded flip-flops.
“You can’t put flip-flops on without a bit of a smile. They always make you happy… and we want to make you happy all the time,” Jane Clementino, director of agency sales for WestJet, told attendees at the WestJet and WestJet Vacations-sponsored soiree, which served as the official welcome party for CWT’s 2017 conference.
The palm tree-speckled event, which unfolded directly on Barcelo’s sizzling beachfront, was adorned with elegant dining tables, glowing white garden lanterns and two giant WestJet-branded balloons.
After CWT associates, colleagues and supplier partners enjoyed a soaring guacamole, shrimp and taco buffet, they hit a makeshift dance floor that was built directly on the beach and boogied the night away to Nashville’s Andy Childs Band, which performed bopping renditions of classic hits such as 'Brown Eyed Girl' and 'Taking Care of Business.'
“CWT is a preferred supplier to us. We want to make sure they feel our appreciation. They always give us their support,” Clementino told PAX at the lively affair, moments before leading a tequila-laden toast to the travel industry for being “kind, thoughtful, caring and respectful of one another.”
Conference attendees dine on Playa Azul beach at the Barcelo Maya Beach in Mexico
The party marked a relaxing and fun start to CWT’s annual symposium, which is unfolding this week (May 15-19) at Barcelo Maya Palace, the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort's high-end property.
The jam-packed week, produced under the theme “Making Travel Magical Is No Illusion,” will guide attendees through a variety of supplier presentations, workshops, one-to-one meetings, panel discussions, keynote speeches and on-and-off-site dinners.
On CWT’s role in today’s leisure market, Una O'Leary, senior director, marketing and supplier management, North American Leisure at CWT, stressed the importance of focusing on the customer experience.
“The customer experience needs to be number one,” O'Leary told conference attendees in her opening remarks Tuesday morning (May 16) in the Barcelo Maya Palace’s Quetzal Ballroom.
“At the end of the day, they’re why we’re all here.”
O'Leary took the opportunity to update guests on CWT’s latest appointments and branding changes. She also reaffirmed the company’s commitment to using accurate data to drive performance and results.
“We’ve hired a chief data scientist to build a data platform for us on the corporate side to make sure we’re leveraging data [and using it] well,” O'Leary said.
CWT’s opening session on Tuesday was marked by a rousing keynote speech and workshop by marketing consultant and motivational speaker Tony Chapman, who spoke on how to find success through powerful storytelling.
Marketing consultant and keynote speaker Tony Chapman talked about the power of good storytelling.
“There’s one word so magical and special that when you have it, success follows,” a passionate Chapman told attendees. “That word is attention. Attention is the oxygen of almost all human behaviour.”
Chapman admitted it has become increasingly difficult to engage with customers in an age distorted by noise. “We’re asking our consumers to drink from a firehose and so much of what we have to say just gets spilled on the floor,” he said.
That noise includes a market where the supply outstrips the demand, where consumers are losing trust in the establishment – since the last recession, in particular – where millennials face an unstable future and where smartphones dictate our everyday choices.
“Consumers these days [are] starting to trust strangers more than brands,” Chapman said, alluding to short-term rental services and hook-up apps.
Powerful storytelling, said Chapman, is what recaptures the attention of customers, and if done properly, one can engage their heads, heart and hands.
“Stories draw you in,” Chapman said. “They fire emotions and bring out goosebumps. They take you to different places.”
Stay tuned as PAX brings you more coverage from CWT’s 2017 conference in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. For on location updates, follow us on Facebook (PAX Magazine/PAXnews.com), Twitter (@pax_news) or Instagram (paxnews).