FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – Virtual conferences are becoming the new normal and when three of the five previously scheduled in-person Regional Trainings were impacted by COVID-19, the headquarters team at Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. jumped into action to reschedule those events, but in a virtual environment. As a result, the home-based travel agencies launched a series of two-day live Virtual Regional Trainings. The first was hosted the last week of May with more than 250 attendees, and the others are scheduled for July and August.
“We always say our agents are in business for themselves, but not by themselves, and that has never been more evident than during these past three months,” said Drew Daly, general manager and senior vice president of Dream Vacations CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “Many are saying they feel more connected than ever before thanks to our shift in focusing on virtual engagement. They are craving this interaction, and as a result, participation is through the roof on all our virtual platforms. Our hope is that every single one of our agents will attend a regional training this year now that we have re-imagined them by adding the three virtual events this summer.”
Daly hosted the entire event with the same enthusiasm and energy he brings to an in-person event, which the network expects and appreciates. The Virtual Regional Training started each morning with a general session consisting of presentations from the corporate headquarters team, including Co-CEO/Chairman Brad Tolkin and Senior Vice President of Product & Operations David Crooks. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Debbie Fiorino, Vice President of IT Sandi Szalay, Vice President of Operations Joelle Delva and Vice President of Cruises Inc. Sean Tolkin participated on a Leadership Team panel, which allowed attendees to ask anything that was on their mind and get inspired for the future. In the afternoon, nearly 20 cruise and land suppliers hosted interactive breakout sessions. A highlight for attendees was hearing from Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed, as well as Celebrity Cruises’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support & Service Dondra Ritzenthaler. Hearing directly from their peers is always the best way to learn, and Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents are always willing to help and support each other. Another highlight was the “all-agent” panel which featured four agents sharing their successful business building tips during this pandemic. All sessions were recorded so even those who were unable to attend or missed a session, were able to benefit from this training.
“Although there is nothing like in-person gatherings, our first-ever Virtual Regional Training was about as good as it can get,” said Rhonda Day, Dream Vacations franchise owner and vacation specialist in Louisville, Ky. “Our leadership team did an outstanding job putting together an engaging and informative two days. With the unique time we are in, the training naturally involved lots of talk about the state of the industry and how to move forward. With so much uncertainty right now, agents need to have positive reinforcement, support and connection and the Virtual Regional Training provided just that.”
Under the leadership of Director of Training Charity Santiago, and Director of Events & Corporate Giving Andrea Giraldo, the training and events team has amplified its online offerings and engagement. In addition to the creation of the Virtual Regional Trainings, they added a record-breaking number of training modules to the award-winning Learning Center, a robust online learning management system, and hosted nearly 100 webinars since mid-March that are experiencing a 252 percent increase in engagement.