Uniglobe Travel Center Hosts The Industry’s First Virtual Conference
Uniglobe Travel Center (UTC), a premier host agency, was set to throw their Annual Conference/Family Reunion late this May at Walt Disney World. Then a pandemic hit, and all those plans were forcibly thrown out the window.
Rather than cancelling or rescheduling their event, Uniglobe chose to pivot, and quickly. Three weeks after cancelling their in-person event, the UTC team hosted a 3-day live virtual conference for 200 attendees, kicked off by Uniglobe Travel International founder, U. Gary Charlwood.
The virtual conference was able to include much of the same content as their typical conference. Keynote addresses on the “main stage” from Camille Olivere, Senior Vice President of Sales at Norwegian Cruise Line, and John Chernesky, Senior Vice President of Sales & Trade Marketing for Princess Cruises, offered both realistic industry updates and hope for the future. It was important for the advisors to hear directly from key players in the industry about how they are managing the current situation and will continue to support travel advisors. The remainder of the agenda included supplier presentations, product and technology training in breakout rooms, as well as multiple opportunities to include the social aspect that advisors love so much about attending Uniglobe’s Conference. “A few years ago, we nicknamed our conference a ‘family reunion’ at the suggestion of our advisors because they felt our conference captures more than just education and training. It’s really a close group of advisors, staff, and suppliers that all treat each other like family.”, said UTC’s Vice President, Betsy Geiser.
To replace the social aspect, Uniglobe planned events at the close of each day. The first was a cocktail hour, where advisors were encouraged to mingle in small group rooms by clicking on links for different virtual rooms throughout the hour. With many first-time advisors in attendance, it provided a way for those advisors to meet new friends and mentors and feel like a full-fledged member of the family.
Night two ended with a play on UTC’s very popular Supplier Dine-Arounds. Suppliers will normally take a group of agents out to dinner during conference. In this scenario, the supplier had their own virtual room where they could host advisors. Some chose to play games, others baked cookies together, and some just spent the time chatting. The “dine-arounds” were designed to allow advisors to connect with BDMs on a personal level, not sit through a product presentation.
The final night offered up a Family Game Night Gala. Advisors and suppliers alike each chose from a host of virtual games to play and spent the evening engaging in activities like Bingo, Pub Trivia, Cooking Class, Cocktail Class, and more.
Uniglobe’s virtual conference seemed to resonate with both travel advisors and suppliers. Veteran travel advisor, Jean Paugh, got just the encouragement she needed… “From the minute U. Gary started speaking I got fired up and was in conference mode. My heart took that little extra step and I was all in for the next 3 days. Conference didn't miss a beat. From speakers to sessions to our social hours... I was and still am pumped up! Only thing missing was the real hugs.”
In a time when the travel community has been hit with mostly negative news, this conference provided the motivation and positivity many people needed just at the right time. The theme of conference was “Looking To The Future” and all sessions focused on how to take advantage of the down time and plan for what is to come, together.