Still glowing from an evening of awards and networking, attendees reconvened on Day 2, Tuesday, focused on supporting families whose special needs aren’t always being met by the travel industry.
Tuesday morning also included an eye-opening main session about the special challenges that families with special needs members face in feeling comfortable traveling.
Myron Pincomb, Board Chairman, International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), set the stage for the discussion by presenting statistics about the size of the market, as well as how parents feel about their challenges. For example, in a survey of 1,000 parents, 87 percent said they don’t take family vacations because of their having a special needs family member.
Liz Kaiser, Partnership Marketing Director, Beaches Resorts, and Alice Horn, CEO, Villa Key, talked about how, working with IBCCES, they have been able to sensitize their management and staff to the needs of these families, and build thriving niche markets around their newly gained insights.
“I’m loving such a great summit with great people. Thank you and well done!” John Speers, Client Services & Strategy Director, ConceptFarm
Later that morning, FTA Communications Director Richard D’Ambrosio led a panel discussion about the rapidly changing market for online content, and how different organizations are working with destinations, suppliers and media to craft content that inspires travel and drives bookings.
Colleen Kelly, TV Host with, Family Travel with Colleen Kelly, Wanda Goodman, Deputy Director, South Dakota Department of Tourism, and Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director, Meredith Travel Marketing Content Studio, used video projects they have worked on as case studies to help attendees consider where they need to enhance their own skills, and how organizations are always looking for content talent that can help them target niche audiences.
Tuesday morning keynote speaker Christie Holmes, Co-Founder & CEO, Global CommUnity, echoed many of the insights from the U.S. Family Travel Survey that Peter shared the previous day. Holmes discussed how she is building an innovative company based on partnerships with destinations and small businesses to create family travel itineraries that deliver powerful experiences and strengthen family bonds. (Click here for the full story.)
“I have gained so much just being here. And I want to be back, many, many times.” Kristin Karst, Co-Owner & EVP, AmaWaterways
In the afternoon, the agenda also focused on content and digital marketing, during our general session and a set of afternoon workshops hosted by a variety of FTA member experts.
Peter Ross, Co-Founder, 829 Studios, led a session about how members can “Scale Your Business Using Online Marketing and Sales Automation,” while Amie O’Shaughnessy, Founder & CEO, Ciao Bambino, and Keryn Means, Co-Founder, Twist Travel Magazine presented facts and figures about how families consume travel content, and how best to develop strategies on platforms like Instagram.
During interactive member sessions, Sally Black and Richard D’Ambrosio led a session for travel agents to develop more resources to help them work better with destinations and suppliers. How FTA and its media members can support each other was the subject of a session led by FTA Committee members LiLing Pang and . Additionally, Jeff Ment delivered a well-attended, interactive session on legal issues for travel agents and tour operators.
Aaron Schlein, Producer at Family Travel Radio, led a panel discussion on “Emerging Destinations for Families.” Ryan Connolly, Co-Founder, Hidden Iceland, Chad Olin, CEO & Founder, Cuba Candela, and Jared Alster, Vice President of Marketing, Cox & Kings covered the possibilities found in Cuba, Iceland, and Zimbabwe. (The discussion was recorded and is already available online.)
Olin described how he spent a summer in Havana in 2015, taking Spanish classes, as travel to Cuba by Americans was being opened up during the initial normalization of relations between the two countries. He said he was inspired to start his company by “the way that I was welcomed by the Cuban people, and the hospitality, and felt like part of the family, even though I was American.”
The formal agenda wrapped up that afternoon with a heartwarming and inspiring story from Gordon Hartman, Founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, a splash park where every guest with special needs enjoys free admission. Hartman built the park specifically for families with children who have special needs.
A recently produced New York Times video left barely a dry eye in the audience, as it portrayed both the story of the splash park’s creation, and how today it meets the needs of families with members facing a variety of accessibility challenges. Morgan’s was recently named to TIME Magazine’s first annual World’s Greatest Places list.
That evening, South Dakota Tourism hosted our dinner by the beach, and we announced with Wanda Goodman, Deputy Director, South Dakota Department of Tourism, that South Dakota will be hosting Summit 2019, October 21-24. (Stay tuned for more details.)
A dozen suppliers and destinations capped off a glorious evening at the Fairmont Southampton Bermuda by providing raffle prizes for attendees.
While #FTASummit2018 has come and gone, you can replay it, or take part in it through our Facebook and Instagram handles. We posted live as the Summit unfolded, and continued to post afterwards. Start following us if you haven’t already.
Additionally, if you have a Facebook account, sign up for “FTA Links” by searching for this closed, members-only group, in the Facebook search bar. More than 170 FTA members are currently using this group to discuss industry issues, share best practices, and enhance connections.
Media members can participate in the closed group “FTA Links – Media Only,” while agents can discuss issues relevant specifically for them at “FTA Links – Agents Only.” It’s a member benefit, and a way for you tap into the expertise and generosity of your fellow FTA members.
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