Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Student Travel Trends & Education at the Annual SYTA Summit

People to People Ambassador Programs is an active member of the Student & Youth Travel Association, or SYTA. All SYTA members are organizations - big and small - that focus exclusively on domestic and international student travel. This past week, SYTA held its annual Summit in Irvine, California. SYTA members came together to discuss the most pressing issues in our industry, and to hear from fellow experts (including People to People). We heard from some of the most experienced minds in the student travel industry, all helping to ensure that travel is as safe, enjoyable and sustainable as possible (for families and travel operators alike).

By comparing our experiences and hearing from experts, we make travel safer and better for the entire industry. The summit included educational sessions that addressed how to travel a student safely on an educational program, overall trends in the industry, and tools to strengthen international travel programs.

For the behind the scenes look at what the industry is talking about, keep reading. But I also want to know, what are you interested in, as consumers? Let me know...just leave a comment.

The Board Meeting
The week started off with an all day, face-to-face board meeting in which we were able to learn more about our new Executive Director, Carylann Assante (pictured below). Carylann is a Certified Association Executive and had clearly done her homework on the current issues facing the educational travel industry. Day two was focused on strategic planning for the organization and how to continually improve the effectiveness of this great organization.

The Summit Speakers
Micah Solomon started the conference off with insights into how to create the best customer service experience possible. Micah is a published author on the subject and firmly believes an organization can no longer sell on price and they must focus on service. In order to do that he believes you need the following:
  • A perfect product
  • Delivered by caring, friendly person
  • Timeliness. Delivery of the product must be fast
  • Effective problem resolution
Next up was Robert C. Chandler, Ph.D., a director at the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Chandler provided guidance to help ensure effective and successful communication during critical periods. Drawing from his research, field experience, and his most recent book on Emergency Notification, Dr. Chandler reviewed basic key aspects for effective communication during critical and contingency situations.

George A. Aguel, Sr. Vice President for the The Walt Disney Company, then shared his views on the current trends impacting the industry. Of particular significance was his observation that the Walt Disney Company is seeing a 5% increase in booking this year and his prediction that 2012 would be, as he put it, “A barn burner year.” (The travel industry has felt the economic downturn as much if not more than any other industry, so it was refreshing to hear that people are once again traveling in great numbers.)

Day one then came to a close after a wonderful presentation by Phil Otterson and Cathleen Johnson (pictured below) on how organizations can break down the barriers to building the international market.

Day two started with Carylann Assante sharing the work that the board was able to accomplish during the week as well as her commitment to continue to improve the service provided by SYTA.

Next we heard a very interesting presentation by Joseph G. Osterman who shared the latest work being done by the Bus Industry Safety Council and what we as operators need to be focused on when selecting a great motor coach operator. I was particularly interested in his statements that 42% of accidents involve cars, 39% involve light trucks but of all the accidents, motor coaches account for the lowest level at just .1% of vehicle accidents.

Last but in no way least, the Summit closed with an emotional presentation by Word of Mouth Guru Geno Church, co-author of the book Brains on Fire. Church led a presentation showing why “People are the Killer App,” centered on the theme of stories as the ultimate connector between an organization and their audience. Geno shared results and methodology behind case studies from successful word of mouth movements, including the award-winning Fiskars Brands “Fiskateers” and “Rage Against the Haze,” South Carolina’s youth-led anti-tobacco initiative. Join in the conversation on the Brains on Fire blog.

Next fall SYTA will hold its annual conference in New York, and I will be there as a board member to share what we learn in 2011 and to help all travel related organizations enhance their health and safety practices. I also hope to gain further knowledge from my industry peers that ensures the safety of everyone who travels with People to People Ambassador Programs.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

No comments:

Post a Comment