Industry optimism has fueled the recent growth of the event.
An improving travel industry, from rising consumer demand for travel products to the need for creative strategic partnerships, energized attendees gathered in St. Pete Beach, Florida for the 54th Semi-annual meeting of the Cooperative Association of Resort Exchangers (C.A.R.E.).
Held over May 5-8, 2012 at the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, about 160 delegates came together to network and create business opportunities along with handing out annual awards and providing special recognition for the charity Send Me On Vacation.
“There’s a lot of passion in the room and everybody wants to do business. I think they’re looking to make connections and [it comes] back to the way we treat people. We’re friendly to each other all the time and I think that goes a long way,” said C.A.R.E. president Alain Carr of American Resorts International. “The way people treat each other here, you’ve got to like it. People like to do business with people they like and this is one place you can find a lot of people that you like.”
“I think it was one of our best conferences yet. Members – new, old and prospective – were excited and energized about the opportunities for new business gained from all the networking they were able to do,” added Linda Mayhugh, Chief Operating Officer of Accommodations Unlimited and a C.A.R.E. Vice-President. Participants began the event with the latest installment of “C.A.R.E. Gives Back”, the group’s community relations program which includes an outreach event in the communities in which they hold each conference. Volunteers went to the Susan Sheppard McGillicuddy Breast Cancer Center at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St.
Petersburg on Saturday to help support those battling the disease, with the group also attending a Beach Clean Up at Ft.De Soto Park on Tuesday after the conclusion of the conference.
When delegates gathered for the business end of the event, Keynote Speaker Susan Rider addressed the audience for a presentation entitled “Celebrate” and discussed the need for business leaders to ensure that negativity is eliminated from the workplace and the impact that enthusiasm can have on work performance.
“When I train salespeople, do you know the ones that need it the most? It’s the old guys, the [people] who have been doing it for 25-30 years because they have lost that flame that they had when they first went in it. So it’s about re-igniting that flame and that interest and that excitement about what they do,” said Rider. “Many corporations identify that their biggest assets are not the properties they have. Their biggest asset is the person on the phone talking to people and getting that property booked. And if they realize that, they’ll take responsibility for re-igniting that flame. If they don’t, then it’s up to the individual to do it themselves.”
Rider acknowledged the challenges for businesses in today’s society to motivate employees, especially with the generational differences that exist in the workplace.[member]
“The responsibility lies with the person that wants the best execution in their business. If it’s the individual who wants to succeed and be an ‘A’ player, then the responsibility lies with that person. But not all of us want to be an ‘A’ player,” Rider added. “The new millennials coming in, they don’t care. They’re OK being a ‘C’ player. They want quality of life and they don’t want work to be their life.” Rider discussed ways for staff to improve customer service through techniques to handle complaints and methods to turn around difficult situations. She described her “SMILE” vision of customer service, which emphasizes making the customer feel special, going the extra mile to settle complaints, asking questions to allow them to talk out the problem and being as enthusiastic as possible to resolve any issues.
C.A.R.E. and Send Me On Vacation
The C.A.R.E. Recognition Evening followed a special wine tasting event at the Don CeSar Hotel, with Joan Brouwer of Bar G Inc. named the winner of the Richard Gallardo Service Award honoring a C.A.R.E. volunteer who has consistently given their time, above and beyond, to the organization. Accreditation Awards were also handed out to Linda Stockwell, Preferred Access, Debbie Shroyer and Tammy Stone, Festiva Hospitality Group and Vikki Shatney, Club Resort Intervals.
C.A.R.E. is also a supporter of the charity Send Me On Vacation, an organization dedicated to providing a vacation to women fighting breast cancer in order to rejuvenate their body, mind and spirit. Tammy Jahn is one such woman, having undergone five surgeries over a seven month span at the onset of her diagnosis, and addressed the group to thank them for providing her with a much-deserved vacation.
“I literally have not had a vacation in four years so I can’t even imagine, when I was trying to figure out what to do for the week, how I would spend a whole week doing nothing,” said Jahn. “I can’t figure out how to have fun for a week because I’ve spent the last four years in surgeries, doctors’ appointments, follow up appointments and meeting with people to kind of fix you down the road as far as it’s not just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing too.”
Jahn added that “to be able to shut down and recharge my batteries for a week is an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to do it.”
It’s All About The Networking
One of the benefits of a C.A.R.E. conference is the informality of the gathering, which tends to promote a camaraderie among members where impromptu schedule changes can lead to new business prospects. “Look at what happened in a five minute break. That wasn’t scheduled [but] the next thing you know there was a flock of people by the [exhibitor] marketplace.
People were talking, sitting outside and I’m thinking ‘do I want to bring them in? No, that’s what they’re here to do’,” said Carr. “On the one hand, I want to keep things going but I’m looking [around] and saying ‘why would I want to disturb what we’re doing this for?’ So the intimacy, small venue thing seems to lend itself to serendipity connections.”
As C.A.R.E. prepares for its next event, September 22-25 at the Radisson Hotel at Opryland in Nashville, businesses are still realistic about the economic conditions affecting their business plans.
“It is my belief that the companies in our industry that have survived all the economic challenges in the last several years have grown stronger and likely have started doing business smarter,” stated Mayhugh. “Most of us have been in a survival mode whereas we’ve had to re-engage our current members/owners with new benefits and re-evaluate our entire business models to make sure we are operating in a manner that could sustain further struggles in the economy and therefore in our own businesses. The majority of our customers didn’t stop traveling, but they did change the way in which they travel and you have to stay in tune with their travel habits to keep them engaged.”
“I think we’ve made it through the storm, it feels like that. I do believe it’s going to stabilize and I think that companies are going to diversify and be able to offer multiple, different services. The market’s changed, you know. Generation Y doesn’t want to own things,” added Carr. “Everything’s an app. You put it in, you take it off. You don’t want it anymore, you get a new app. Same thing with their travel plans these days, it seems. They don’t want to be [bound] with anything.”
“We have to be ready to roll with that and in forums like this, you listen to other people. If you’ve got an open mind and you listen to other people’s ideas and what they’re doing to be successful, then you’re going to be successful.” [/member]