The marketplace floor was abuzz with the sound of business as delegates met and planned trips at the BankTravel Conference in Milwaukee. Bank travel directors gathered travel information and booked tours during Meet the Banker, the business appointment session that is BankTravel’s signature event.
Bankers from more than 20 states and travel industry representatives from across the country and numerous international destinations met in a series of prescheduled, six-minute appointments to exchange information and collaborate on trips for bank customers. Altogether, more than 7,500 appointments took place at the conference.
Many bankers say that the information they gather during the business sessions is an essential tool for running their travel programs.
“Without this conference, I wouldn’t be able to do my job,” said Sue Swaner of Members Choice Federal Credit Union in Waco, Texas. “You’ve got to have information to be able to go anywhere.”
The marketplace sessions were equally as beneficial to travel industry representatives, who count on bank travel groups bringing affluent travelers to their destinations and attractions.
Amy Learming has attended the conference for several years on behalf of the Mansion Entertainment, a theater company in Branson, Missouri.
“I love BankTravel,” she said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who already come see our shows, and four people so far have booked new shows here at the conference this year. A lot of them are planning for 2011, so there are a lot of prospects for new business there, too.”
Bankers met with representatives of tour operators who offer tours and cruises all around the world, as well as delegates from domestic destinations. The variety allows groups of every type to find providers that meet their needs.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but having all these resources is great,” said Diane Phillips, a first-time delegate from Woodford State Bank in Monroe, Wisconsin. “Sometimes, I find we have the best success when we piece things together. So for me, there’s been a lot of value in meeting people closer to home.”
Another appointment session, SpeedDate, has become a popular feature of the conference in recent years as well. During the two-hour SpeedDate sessions, bankers and industry delegates meet for a series of two-minute appointments generated by a computer system, giving everyone a chance to make additional introductions and connections.
For the first time this year, the appointment sessions took place in the same large room as the seminars and educational sessions, creating a more open and social environment. As a result, bankers had more opportunities to browse display booths in the conference mall area and to meet spontaneously with other bankers and travel industry representatives throughout the room.
Gail Goodwin of Experiential Tours in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said that the new format helped to foster a more congenial atmosphere.
“I love the new format and how open it is,” she said. “In the past it has felt isolated, but here in this room we’re like one big happy family.”
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