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Worldchoice Conference 2022 – “Making a Difference”

The 2022 Worldchoice Conference started in earnest on Saturday morning with a theme of “Making a Difference”

A handful of members, suppliers and media, including ITTN’s Shane Cullen, made the journey to Dundalk on Friday night for a chilled campout at the residence bar.

After a “Grab & Go Breakfast”, sponsored by Bedsonline, the 85 members in attendance took their seats for Carol Anne O’Neill’s Opening Address.

Carol Anne O’Neill Opens Worldchoice Conference

Commanding the audience’s attention, Carol Anne took to the stage for the opening address of the Worldchoice Conference 2022.

Carol Anne commended and thanked the audience for both delivering expected targets and commissions for the year.

The last 12 months is coming from a place of positivity. Face-to-face meetings returned, real meetings with real people and customers she said. Tourism has bounced back bigger and quicker than expected notwithstanding that it came from a tremendously difficult period that still harbours lingering memories for many.

A Bright Light Shines for 2023

She shared that the 2023 appetite to travel is increasing, flight accessibility is returning to 2019 levels or higher and there is a strong pipeline for new cruise ships. With these growth drivers in mind, there is an opportunity to embrace these to ensure a bright future for the Irish travel trade. Perhaps this is the inspiration behind the apt light bulb icon of the conference.

“Making a Difference”

“We can all make a difference no matter how small or insignificant your effort may seem. It can have a big, big impact”, shared Carol Anne. She continued with questions to ask ourselves:

“How do I, as a person, make a difference? How can I make a difference and grow and develop the business? How can you as sales teams make a difference to your customers? How can managers and owners make a difference to their teams? How can trade partners make a difference to members in 2023?”

Recruitment Remains Problematic

“One of the most prevalent topics is recruitment” shares Carol Anne, a sentiment shared extensively by others in recent months. At today’s event, CPL Recruitment will deliver a talk on the trends, themes and topics in the travel industry. They will be on hand to support members in attendance with questions and queries. More on that later… 

Interactive Workshop Coming Up 

She warned that guest speaker, Alf Dunbar, an expert in coaching and motivation, would deliver an interactive workshop on this subject matter. (I quietly shudder at the potential for audience participation but will stick around, I promise).

The iNUA Collection – Headline Sponsor

Carol Anne O’Neill welcomed to the stage, Christian Schmelter (Group Director for Corporate & MICE Sales, iNUA Collection) from iNUA Collection, the headline sponsor of the event and owner of this four-star hotel in the heart of Dundalk – The Fairways Hotel.

Ireland’s largest regional hotel group, iNUA Collection, has 4 and 5-star, Irish-owned hotels across the country. The portfolio consists of 10 hotels in 10 locations with 1,200 bedrooms, 6 spas, 6 leisure centres and 21 restaurants and bars. The collection includes iconic hotels such as Muckross Park Hotel & Spa in the heart of Killarney National Park and Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel in the city centre of Kilkenny. In the capital, Dublin One Hotel & Ariel House and across the rest of the country: Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan, Tullamore Court Hotel plus Radisson Blue Hotels in Athlone, Limerick, Cork and Sligo.

As he acknowledged that his focus is inbound tourism while many of the delegates are focused on outbound travellers, there is a symbiotic relationship. Much of the guests come from overseas and for the connectivity in Ireland, load factors both ways help ensure routes to far-flung (and, of course, not so far-flung) destinations.

He further highlighted how we as a peripheral island on the far West of Europe punch above our weight with regard to tourism. People around the world love the Irish and whether it’s our charm or spending habits, being wanted and welcomed makes our industry’s job, on one hand, a little easier but also tasks us with the responsibility of best positioning the Irish reputation abroad.

The Iconic Royal Caribbean – Jennifer Callister Head of Ireland

Jennifer Callister shared that across the Royal Caribbean fleet, the average load factor was 85% over the summer with many ships at 100%, a significant shift in the 12-month period that preceded this.

Royal Caribbean sails to 250 destinations including the cruise company’s private island in the Caribbean, Coco Quay. Jennifer detailed how nearly all North American cruises head to the island and highly recommended it. She described it as an island that has a “chill and thrill” side to it, she claimed the chill side as her own with Michelle purporting to favour the thrill. While I might think I’d like the thrill, I think my middle-aged bones have ventured over the chill side these days.

“We’re Bringing Our A-Game”

Royal Caribbean has 26 ships on sale to over 250+ destinations, a private island with the Dream Team hitting Europe for 2023. She mentions there are 23 reasons to book for 2023 (love the number symmetry, let’s see where this goes)…

Icon of the Seas

After a video on the Icon of the Seas, Michelle Ryan (Regional Sales Manager Ireland) detailed the features of the ship set to launch in 2024. Icon of the Seas is the first Icon Class ship. It stretches almost 1,200 feet in length and 160 feet across. The total double occupancy of guests is more than 5,600 guests with 2,805 staterooms onboard the 20-deck ship. As is synonymous with RCI ships, Icon has a range of neighbourhoods, namely: Thrill Island, Surfside, Chill Island, The Hideaway, Aquadome, Suite Neighborhood, The Royal Promenade and Central Park.

Coach & Motivational Speaker, Alf Dunbar delivers “You are the Difference

Alf Dunbar has been delivering customer service coaching for over 20 years. He developed this programme from personal experience. Facing the very real and devastating prospect of bankruptcy in an almost impossible time frame of seven weeks, he took the franchise business he managed and threw away the model guidelines to follow his instinct. His own approach to managing the business resulted in a turnaround. Flashforward and he became a consultant for the brand and many other businesses, brought in to turn underperformance into profit or boost growth.

The creation of his unique customer service coaching programme, You Are The Difference, is used in 25+ countries worldwide. His unique and enthusiastic communication skills inspire people, and this in turn enhances their individual performance. He seeks to raise people’s level of self-belief and confidence.

Ahead of the tea and coffee break (sponsored by Amadeus), the inspiring Alf Dunbar captivated the audience. I’m feeling energised, positive and set to take on the world after listening to this person. It is a Jerry Maguire “Show Me the Money” feeling for many of us.

Mr Dunbar is exceptional in his field as a motivational speaker and, what’s better, there were no awkward participants dragged on stage and audience members sharing their uncomfortable anticipation of audience attention. There was none of it.

It was beautifully simple. A simple and powerful message Be positive. Don’t let the traffic, the rain, the lack of milk in the fridge – the accumulation of little things affect you starting your work day with anything but a clear positive attitude. Exude a positivity that is infectious whether with colleagues, customers, employees or the randomers on the street. While you have to be here at the conference to feel the positive energy – we should all be mindful of it, embrace it and spread it to others.

Alf Dunbar - Worldchoice Conference 2022 - ITTN
Alf Dunbar – Worldchoice Conference 2022 – ITTN
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen has been managing director of a media production studio for nearly 20 years working on projects for a global clientele. He has worked in the travel industry for over a decade and as a travel journalist since 2015. He is passionate about travel, film & photography. He also has a keen interest in emerging technology.
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