FTA Summit 2018 Serves Up Passion, Innovation and Insights

FTA Summit 2018 Serves Up Passion, Innovation and Insights

Posted on October 24, 2018   •   Written by

At the conclusion of the 4th annual FTA Summit, the 150 delegates who attended left Bermuda with a renewed sense of excitement and resolution about the opportunities the family travel market offers their businesses.  The buzz we heard from both veteran and first-time attendees consistently validated that this conference remains a unique experience for our members and all who attend.  We’ve tried to capture some of the highlights here.

FTA Founder and President Rainer Jenss opens the 2018 Summit.

Day 1: Transforming Family Travel Through Innovation

As in years past, the 2018 FTA Summit was filled with passion for helping families discover travel’s transformative properties, a hunger for being better informed about our segment, and an eagerness to build deeper bonds and celebrate success.

Throughout three days of informative presentations, workshops and networking opportunities, more than 135 travel industry executives and FTA members engaged with each other at the Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda Oct. 7-10, sharing their insights, expertise and willingness to collaborate in our collective mission.

“FTA Members are by far the most passionate group I have ever been associated with. I have left with not only great information to enhance our business but personal stories that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

Anthony Meloro, Director, Business Development Support & Host Travel Partner Relations , Royal Caribbean International

The theme of this year’s conference was “Innovation,” and attendees brought their creativity to an assortment of issues that face the family travel community, including affordability, families with special needs, and reaching new clients in a digital age.

We opened the conference Sunday with personal introductions and a “speed dating” session that set the Summit off on a strong personal footing, capped by a wonderful night at Bermuda’s Commissioner’s House, adjacent to the Royal Naval Dockyard.

Every attendee had a chance to introduce themselves Sunday, setting the stage for personal direct engagement throughout the Summit’s three days.

Monday’s business agenda started with an intimate Q&A with AmaWaterways’ Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner – who that evening was honored with the 2018 Family Travel Association’s “Person of the Year” award.

Karst told the story of AmaWaterways from its early beginnings to today, where this innovative cruise line is opening families to people, places and moments they otherwise would not have experienced. Expanding on its thriving relationship with Adventures by Disney, AmaWaterways will host 21 family-oriented sailings on the Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers in 2019.

Delegates also received an update from Rainer on the many new members who have joined the FTA in the last year, and the resources and activities launched since the 2017 Summit.

For travel advisors, the FTA’s Travel Agent Initiative includes our industry-first Training and Certification program, a partnership launching with Northstar media, and advocacy for agents across all of our communications platforms. FTA Member Sally Black, owner of Vacation Kids, leads the initiative.

Rainer also laid out plans for the FTA Media Center, currently managed by members LiLing Pang and Sharlene Earnshaw, at Trekaroo. The Media Center team, which met with media members on Tuesday during one of the workshops, is organizing press trips, designing methods for syndicating media content – such as the October 1 launch of Family Travel Radio – and rebooting the FTA Links Media Only Facebook group.

Finally, Rainer announced the launch of FTA Europe, a European-focused affiliate of the FTA that will host its first event in Spring 2019, in Portugal. FTA member Top Service Tourist Services is leading this initiative.

2018 Family Travel Survey Sets the Agenda

Attendees then received an exclusive review of the findings from our annual U.S. Family Travel Survey, conducted with New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, and supported by Travel + Leisure magazine. (The study was released later that week to the general public.)

Peter Bopp, FTA Director of Strategy, walked us through the highlights, helping attendees understand how families travel and what they seek from the experience. The audience received a primer on how families perceive the affordability of travel, as well as some of the chief obstacles families face, and how the industry can better serve them. (Click here for the full story.)

The survey’s key themes resonated throughout the panel discussions and workshops the rest of the morning and into Tuesday.

Erin Kirkland, Author, Travel Journalist, Outdoor Advocate, Kirkland Family Media, led a panel discussion that immediately followed Peter’s survey presentation, while Laura Begley Bloom, Chief Content Officer, Family Traveller, approached the topic of how families view destinations and how companies market to families, during a session about the Caribbean’s comeback from the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

Leading into lunch, Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky, co-owners at R Family Vacations, used the story of their wildly successful travel and tour company to help attendees understand the L.G.B.T. family travel market.

Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky informing and entertaining the audience about the LGBT market.

Honoring our members

Monday night, at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, we took the time to celebrate some incredible FTA members, through our long-standing Person of the Year Award. The evening’s festivities were generously sponsored by MSC Cruises. (Click here for the full story.)

This personal and emotionally stirring evening included our first ever FTA Honors program, recognizing the work of six individuals/organizations, (Link to full story) including Nicole Thibault, Owner, Magical Storybook Travels, Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky, at R Family Vacations; Trefor Grant, Product Director, British Virgin Islands (BVI), and Laura Begley Bloom, Chief Content Officer, Family Traveller Magazine;  and Erin Kirkland, Publisher, AKontheGO.com.


Next: Day 2: The Momentum Continues

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