Rebooting the Travel Industry key topic at ITAA Annual Conference in Portugal

Irish Travel Agents Association 2021 Annual Conference took place in Évora, Alentejo

21 October 2021

The 2021 Irish Travel Agents Association Annual Conference took place last Friday, 14 October 2021, in Évora, Portugal. Over 70 travel professionals travelled to the Alentejo region for the three day event, where they stayed in the 4 star Vila Gale Évora Hotel.


The theme of this years’ conference was ‘Reboot, Restart, Now!’.  Looking forward into current and emerging travel trends, the issue of sustainability, collaboration , partnership, and revitalising  the travel industry in the wake of the pandemic were to the forefront. Eoghan Corry, travel journalist and expert on all things travel related, was our MC for the day and kept the conference on schedule and ensured the debate was lively.


The conference was officially opened jointly by Rita Marques, Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism and Paul Hackett, ITAA President. They were joined on stage by Carlos Pinto de Sá, Mayor of Évora Municipality and Vitor Silva, President of Alentejo Tourism Office. Ricardo Dinis of TAP Air Portugal provided insights into the service between Ireland and Portugal.


President of the ITAA, Paul Hackett, commented; “This year’s conference is one of the most important we have held for many years. Recovering from the challenges a global pandemic has had on our sector, now more than ever we need that essential restart toolkit… to reboot and to restart… Our conference focussed on the themes of collaboration and partnership and the sharing of best practise. What we have learnt is that working together, we will be stronger together. The outcome of this conference was to give delegates the tools and the know how to rebuild their businesses. And that, I believe, we achieved.”


Challenges and updates for the Travel Industry in the areas of insurance, PTD, Brexit and licensing were presented by Anne Dolan, Legal Advisor to the ITAA and Mark Duggan of McCarthy Insurance Group who has promised good news for the travel industry in the coming weeks. Watch this space! ITAA Board Member Emma McHugh of Atlantic Travel provided updates on changes in CAR.  Jennifer Lee of CB & Associates addressed the challenges facing many travel agents on Recruitment, Retention and Remote Working.


“Tourism as a Force of Good” was the inspirational presentation by Carlos Ferreirinha, President and founder, MCF Consultoria. He told delegates that they should now be called “Travel love&care Agents” and we should all be using a new hashtag – #IAMDESPERATETOLEAVEHOME.


Marc Kazlauskas, President of Leisure and Operations with Frosch in the US joined the conference remotely, providing very encouraging insights into what is happening in the US market which is two to three months ahead of Ireland. There is huge pent up demand on the way with availability of product becoming an issue. The pandemic has shown that both suppliers and customers value the role of travel agents. It was during this session that the welcome news of the US reopening to international travellers from 8 November broke.


Providing further insights on the travel industry was David Moon from The Advantage Travel Partnership in the UK. David spoke of how Advantage work with their members, the importance of supporting your customers and looking after each other. His core messages for a Retail Travel Reboot were to support those who support you, recognise and value the work you do, ensure you have great communication and support when times are tough, and to take great care of your customers.


Sustainability and the Travel Industry was a key focus of the afternoon session with an informative presentation from João Wengorovius Meneses of BCSD Portugal, the business association that promotes the transition to a more sustainable world.  He informed delegates, “There is no silver bullet but certification can help in delivering Sustainability.”


Prue Stone from Hotelplan joined us virtually from UK to give us insights into how the travel industry can positively contribute to sustainabiility. This session continued with Marta Cabral of Rota Vicentina Association and Rob Rankin, Managing Director of Sustainable Travel Ireland who told delegates, “Tourism, as we know it, will not survive unless we change the way we do business. And experience has demonstrated that behaviour change can lead to cost savings.”


Concluding the session on Sustainable Travel, Jean Maxwell, Membership Executive with the ITAA presented the ITAA membership survey results on sustainable practices and attitudes, followed by an introduction to the Sustainability Pass. Jean provided details on the Climate Ready Academy which will be open for all members to engage with over the coming months.


At the conclusion of the ITAA Conference weekend, Paul Hackett, President of the ITAA said “Our few days in Évora were very special.  Great work went into providing an excellent social programme designed by our hosts, the Alentejo Tourism Office.  A programme that was wholeheartedly enjoyed by the Irish visitors. Thank you for your hospitality.”


“Considered by many to be one of the most timeless cities in Portugal, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Évora is rich with history, culture, architecture, and more. We hope you take the time to visit this special place, to savour the warmth of the people and take the chance to explore the area.”