The third annual Romance Travel Forum (RTF) has officially wrapped, and with rave reviews. Produced by Specialty Travel Forums (a division of Travel Show Marketing Group), the event was hosted at the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Palace Resorts’ newest property. The event welcomed a hand-selected audience of top-performing romance travel sellers and an elite group of supplier partners who cater to the lucrative romance vacation market.
“The results are in, and all we can say is WOW! The 2016 Romance Travel Forum has far exceeded our expectations, and it is an absolute privilege to produce an event that brings in such a passionate and successful audience (really, the best in the romance arena) and contribute to their professional growth and longevity in the marketplace”, said Jennifer Fernandez, Vice President Events & Content, Specialty Travel Forums.
The first full day of the Forum kicked-off with a Welcome Session featuring an insightful panel titled “Inside the Wedding Department: Secrets of the Top-Performing Destination Wedding Seller”, hosted by Tom Varghese, Chancellor of Travel with TravelTom. This interactive session explored different factors that brought these top-producers business from average to enviable. Participants included Caroline Waffle, CTC of Certified Travel and Shelli Nornes of Shelli’s Travel, along with a supplier perspective from Susan Solomon of Palace Resorts and Marsha-Ann Brown of Sandals Resorts.
The educational highlight of this year’s Forum was the all-new Peer-to-Peer meetings, which offered travel agents the chance to convene in small group settings and learn from one another. While discussions were open-forum format, each room featured a rotation of facilitators to help proxy and drive the conversations forward. Facilitators included: Richard Earls, Publisher, Travel Research Online (TRO); Margie Jordan, Owner, Jordan Executive Travel Services (JETS); Lorraine Simpson, Owner, Romance Concierge; and Tom Varghese, TravelTom.
The educational line-up also offered Certified Romance Product Sessions, hosted by some of the most popular names in romance travel. Product sessions were presented by AMResorts; Sandals Resorts; Travel Impressions; and Ask Me About Destination Weddings (who hosted a number of fun initiatives beyond their working lunch and breakfast sessions). Palace Resorts hosted a fun-filled, self-paced scavenger hunt, which allowed travel sellers to act like the paparazzi and explore the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande with social media photo contests.
Conversation was not limited to peers; travel sellers had a full agenda of one-to-one supplier meetings on the dedicated Showcase floor. The event featured over 70 supplier companies with representation from the Caribbean, Mexico, Italy, Tahiti, Thailand, and other renowned romantic vacations. All in all, nearly 5,000 one-to-one meetings took place on the Showcase floor. Immediately following the event, it was reported by many suppliers and agents that business had already been booked as a result of the Forum.
Travel sellers also had the chance to take part in the Power Lunch Focus Groups, focused on individual products and destinations where they were able to learn more and contribute their feedback. Power Lunch sponsors included: Alsol Hotels & Resorts; Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts; Casa de Campo; CSA Travel Protection; Iberostar Hotels & Resorts; and the host destination, the Jamaica Tourist Board.
While business is the top-priority of the Romance Travel Forum, the event is hosted in destinations that appeal to the romance traveler and seller, so it is only appropriate that a balance of fun and destination immersion were thrown into the mix.
Palace Resorts hosted a Welcome Reception followed by a dine-around at the Jamaica Grande on arrival day, along with a Jamaican themed Farewell reception on Thursday evening. Off-property, travel sellers were amazed by the team at Sandals Resorts with a One Night in Paradise themed evening extravaganza, featuring a true feast of delicacies, beautiful bridal package displays, a fashion show and a plethora of entertainment, including a “silent disco” where delegates were provided with their very own headset with three distinct music stations to choose from and share with their colleagues on the dance floor. Couples Resorts, a Jamaican gem, treated delegates to an impressive evening at their Couples Sans Souci property along with an optional site inspection of the beautiful Couples Tower Isle. The party at Sans Souci was titled Cirque de Sans Souci, which offered an international menu of delicious food, drinks, and treats coupled with extraordinary Cirque style entertainment.
The final day of the Forum was focused on Jamaica. The Romance Travel Forum team worked in collaboration with Island Routes DMC in offering two very unique experiences. The first, site inspections in the Ocho Rios area, including: RIU Dunn’s River; Jewel Dunn’s River; and Sandals Ochi Resort. The second option, which generated quite a lot of interest, included a visit to Blue Hole, where delegates climbed along many cascades, jumped off rocks and dived into natural spring pools. After Blue Hole, agents were treated to a tubing excursion in crystal-clear White River, followed by an optional Jerk Chicken meal.
While some travel sellers opted to return home after the conference, about half of the audience stayed on for a couple of additional days for post-FAM itineraries, compliments of the Jamaica Tourist Board with Playa Resorts; Jamaica Tourist Board with Iberostar Hotels & Resorts; Couples Resorts; and Sandals Resorts.
It’s important to note that while delegates gained so much during this year’s Forum, they also gave back. The Romance Travel Forum elected to bring attention to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Associations Education Foundation, and conducted an onsite raffle with all proceeds to go toward this important cause.
The 2016 Romance Travel Forum included a Who’s Who of sponsors, including: Host Partner: Palace Resorts and the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande; Official Photographer: WeddingDayStory; Premier Sponsors: the Jamaica Tourist Board; Amstar DMC; and Island Routes; and Supporting Sponsors: Ask Me About Destination Weddings; AMResorts; Romance by Melia; Romance by Paradisus; Blue Diamond Resorts; All-Inclusive Hard Rock Collection; Sandals Resorts; Club Mobay; VacationCRM; Alsol Hotels & Resorts; Travel Impressions; Saint Lucia Tourist Board; Iberostar Hotels & Resorts; CSA Travel Protection; Casa de Campo; Couples Resorts; the Caribbean Hotel & Travel Association; IDOWeddingPrint.com; Jan’s Floral; and Travel Research Online (TRO).
The Event Management announced that the fourth annual Romance Travel Forum will be heading the Paradisus Palma Real from June 19 – 22, 2017. The travel agent application will open in Fall 2016. An inquiry form is available online www.RomanceTravelForum.com for travel sellers interested in learning once the 2017 application process commences.
Suppliers interested in learning more about participation should contact Jennifer Fernandez, Vice President Events & Content for Specialty Travel Forums at (718) 979-1952 or emailJennifer@SpecialtyTravelForums.com.