Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
This story was updated on Monday, April 24 at 1:32 p.m. EST.
The Travel Agent Next Door’s (TTAND’s) 2023 conference in Mexico came to a rousing close on Sunday (April 23) as the host agency announced the location of next year’s symposium: Jordan.
The seven-day event of fun and learning in the Middle East will be held in partnership with G Adventures, Jordan Tourism and Royal Jordanian Airlines, departing from Toronto on June 2, 2024, and arriving in the capital city of Amman in the morning of June 3.
What’s more is that air transportation will take place – wait for it – on a privately chartered Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
“Nobody has ever done this,” TTAND’s President and Founder Flemming Friisdahl told PAX on the beach at Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres, a chic, all-inclusive resort, located some 30 minutes north of Cancun, which is where this year’s TTAND conference was held.
Next year will mark TTAND’s 10-year anniversary, so “we wanted to do something different,” Friisdahl said.
Air Canada will also provide discounted rates for agents requiring the connection to Toronto.
All eyes on Jordan
Jordan, an Arab nation on the east bank of the Jordan River, is known for its ancient monuments, nature reserves and seaside resorts.
It’s home to the famed rock-cut archaeological site of Petra, where TTAND will host a private event, lit by candlelight, for next year’s conference participants.
READ MORE: “An amazing week”: TTAND’s “Breaking Barriers Together” conference kicks off in Mexico
The Jordan Tourism Board, notably, attended TTAND’s conference for the first time this year, which, this week, led some to speculate if they were involved in next year’s event.
David Green, global VP of sales and customer operations and managing director for Canada at G Adventures, held back happy tears when the announcement was finally made at TTAND’s afternoon closing session on Sunday, where final thoughts on this year’s conference theme, “Breaking Barriers Together," were shared.
All week, in between supplier presentations, workshops, seminars, guest speakers and parties, Green, and a select group of in-the-know people, were tasked with keeping the big news a secret.
When Jordan was revealed as next year's host country in a special video that TTAND produced, the conference room erupted with cheers, applause and standing ovations. (PAX captured the room's reaction, which you can view on our Facebook page here).
"I think agents will be blown away by what we can do,” Green told PAX. “We’ll be showcasing the best of what Jordan has to offer. At this conference, the destination will be the hero.”
Bruce Poon Tip confirmed
G Adventures, a Canadian company, specializes in small group tours, so accommodating a national conference of more than 300 people, like TTAND’s, will put a unique spin on the experience.
Green said agents in Jordan will have a chance to interact G’s non-profit organization, Planeterra, which will come directly to the conference to present and engage.
“The conference element won’t change,” Green shared. “But mid-way through, we’ll be taking agents to places like Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. And all of our CEOs [Chief Experience Officers] will be with us.”
Participants will also stay in hotels that are part of G’s National Geographic Journeys collection, which are upgraded accommodations (compared to the hotels on G’s classic trips).
G Adventures’ Founder – entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Bruce Poon Tip – has also been confirmed as the conference’s keynote speaker.
“From agents spending quality time with the G and CEO team, experiencing the destination, to leveraging the power of social media – everyone will be sharing photos – only good things can come from this,” Green said.
Not just an add-on
Omar Banihani, director of marketing for Canada at the Jordan Tourism Board, describes Jordan as a hidden gem, packed with history and culture, that’s focused on convincing travellers to stay longer in the destination.
“The biggest complaint we hear from visitors is, ‘I wish I had more time,’” Banihani told PAX. “Jordan isn’t just an add-on, it’s a full-on, standalone destination. You could spend 14 days there and see amazing things every day.”
He said travel advisors are essential to selling the destination because it’s a “unique place where if you don’t have the right person showing you the way, you’re not going to get the full potential.”
Travel advisors, he said, end up becoming the best ambassadors for Jordan once they experience the country for themselves.
“I don’t know one travel advisor who went to Jordan and said ‘it wasn’t for me,’” Banihani said. “When travel advisors go, and then return home, they never book Jordan as an extension, or do Petra as an add-on.”
“They become proponents of seven to nine days in Jordan, at minimum, so their customers can see the highlights.”
The rate TTAND secured for the big trip is impressive – all-in, the ticket price for next year’s conference, which will host some 240 agents and 40 suppliers, is under $1,900.
Registration opens Wednesday, April 26 at Noon (EST), and Friisdahl expects that spots will go quickly.
“This is about opening up the world, and Jordan, to Canadians and seeing different types of travellers look at Jordan,” Friisdahl said. “We’re very excited.”
Stay tuned for more of PAX’s coverage from TTAND’s 2023 conference “Breaking Barriers Together” in Mexico.
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