The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism hosted 250 travel professionals from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and The National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) from across the United States, this past week.
The ASTA/NACTA Bahamas Showcase took place at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort on June 21- 24 and the goal was to familiarise the agents with what The Islands of The Bahamas have to offer making the destination easier to sell to their clients.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General in the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said the showcase is just one of many familiarisation trips the Ministry has offered to educate travel professionals on The Islands of The Bahamas.
“We wanted the travel agents to experience The Islands of The Bahamas, not just Nassau, Paradise Island. They had an opportunity to go to the Family Islands before and after the showcase. The goal really is to educate them on the beauty, the diversity and all that The Bahamas has to offer including our hotels, our tours and experiences so that when they go back to their companies they become the experts in selling our destinations,” Mrs. Jibrilu said.
The agents participated in several hotel site inspections and presentations by the various tourism promotion boards. They also enjoyed sightseeing tours, a Bahamas workshop series that included a Taste our Bahamas celebrity cooking show, a presentation on romance options throughout the islands, a crash course in Bahamian culture and an Authentically Bahamian craft marketplace.
Jennifer Gardiner – Bannister, Area Manager at the Bahamas Tourist Office in Florida said strengthening relationships with travel agents is a priority for the Ministry especially as recent studies have shown that although travellers are likely to search their destination online, they often go through their travel agents when it is time to book.
“[Travel agents] don’t sell what they don’t know. We’re giving them a true experience of the islands and at the same time they’re learning how to sell the destination, how to earn more commission and how to match their clients with the right island destination. It was an awesome experience.
By hosting the showcase, The Bahamas hopes to position itself as a top destination. Bob Duglin, ASTA Vice President of Business Development explained that it was indeed a smart move to host the travel professionals.
“Travel agents sell more than 80 per cent of all outbound travel from the United States so in order for a travel agent to be able to truly understand what product they’re selling and what the difference is, they need to come and experience it for themselves. They need to know the difference between the Baha Mar and the Comfort Suites and to be able to talk to their client’s about budget and the right property for them,” Duglin said.
“The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is smart to bring the travel agents here to learn and experience the destination so that they can go back and tell their clients first hand what it’s all about. Not every destination does that as well as The Bahamas.”
Enoch Boakye, ASTA Chapter President in Ghana said he came to the showcase to be able to sell the destination better to his African, European and North American clients.
“If you do not feel it, you cannot sell it as a travel agent. I need to taste it and feel it so that I can sell it properly, that’s why I’m here,” Boakye said. “Now we’re going to sell The Bahamas to [our clients] so that they know it’s a destination that you can trust, a destination that you can feel at home. It’s a home away from home, for African travellers especially,” he said.
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