In business for more than 90 years, Atlas travel agency has been a pioneer in the MICE business for more than 40 of these. The first incentives done for American trademark firms some 40 years ago, the first costumed medieval dinners in Dubrovnik, dinners with a Roman Emperor in Split as well as many other numerous and WOW! events are testament to the highly dedicated Atlas MICE employees.
As a Senior Event manager at Atlas DMC, being 25 years with the company, I can share my positive experiences attending important MICE travel fairs, as the company’s main objective is to increase MICE business. Atlas has always had approximately 45 requested meetings at the exhibition booth with agencies and direct clients who are trying to learn more about destinations they have not yet visited. Those one-to-one meetings, even 20-minute ones, are offering a chance to present the company’s profile as well as the MICE department itself. We are not doing just talking there, we are showing what we have done so far for certain clients who have entrusted us with their company meeting, partner summit, incentive or congress. It is always good to ask the colleague whom you are talking to what companies their clients usually are and then you find a parallel client among the Atlas clients. I offer to show photos from an event, a cost sheet and a function sheet. This is the best way to present yourself and what you do.
Follow up after a travel fair is important, as well as sending an e-mail before the fair asking the colleagues you are going to talk to if you can prepare something in advance. This can result with a confirmed event, because you can do the offer ahead, or just have ready information about the availabilities in hotels. Immediate reactions are important in our line of business; speed is a virtue, but it has to be quality as well, not only speed. I will never forget a reaction of one dear colleague from the industry after I presented what I had in those 20 minutes: he took a long look at me, from head to toe and said – ‘yes, you can definitely meet my client’.
Another important thing is to give your colleague or client a positive CAN-DO attitude – a comment coming from them like “you clearly enjoy your job“ is more than a compliment, it is obliging. Being so long in the industry is recognised, because you have an answer to every question. Honesty is very important here, you can’t promise something you can’t deliver.
As for the follow up, it is nice to refresh everyone’s memory by sending a short e-mail after the travel fair saying ‘here is what you asked me to send you’. If you have a personality, it happens that you are remembered a couple of years after and you get a request for proposal beginning with –“Hi, we met at IMEX and I have a client interested in Croatia…“ If you want to stick to the MICE industry, you must maintain good relations with hotels and other vendors in your destination, so it is crucial to convey that information to clients, for it makes them feel secure and in good hands. Transparency in reporting is one more thing to point out. All this leads to more requests and lets the best DMC win!
If you realise just two events out of the requests for proposals coming from IMEX or EIBTM visitors, you have paid off your investment. For example, one agency having 30 branch offices throughout their country had their logistics manager talk to me. After that meeting Atlas was put on the intranet pages of this agency, thus resulting in many incoming and confirmed events. I was invited to present in that country and we had an internal educational meeting about Croatia. You never know where exhibiting at those specialised fairs will take you, just like you never know when you see people standing near your exhibition booth whether they are direct clients wanting to assess which DMC of us all would be their choice. So sometimes looking a bit older, meaning you are long in the business, might be a help. It means you can answer all the possible questions on the spot without having to say ‘I must come back to you later on that’. It is important to convey to colleagues from various countries who are not familiar with Croatia that they cannot just copy-paste events done in their country into Croatia, as Croatia is unique for its venues, for its tradition, good food and wines, and when all that is put together with an innovative idea it will end up with huge congratulations for a memorable event. Very often you are stuck with travel agent colleagues who cannot accept that a local DMC knows better what is on offer in various destinations within Croatia, they claim to better know their client and choose for themselves what to offer and what not to offer to clients, forgetting that you always need to offer your client several options and let them choose what they prefer the most. You can’t be the judge for your client – it is teamwork and we are all a team: the agency, the client and the local DMC.
Atlas is both a DMC and PCO, which means in our department we have the experience and long tradition of congresses as well as incentives. At the Croatian stand there are DMCs, PCOs, hotels as well as Tourist boards and Convention bureaus. We are all supporting each other, as we all try first of all to incite visitors think about Croatia as WOW! destination. Hotels like to present themselves of course, but DMCs are also supporting the hotels. The importance of Convention bureaus is to get important international congresses into their county like Zagreb, Rijeka, Dubrovnik or others. They represent the destination and congress venues in the region. PCOs are familiar with all the venues and hotels in all the Croatian counties and with local airline companies and of course are equipped to organise congresses in all the segments.
I think that the joint exhibition of Croatia as country of lots of possibilities can bring us more clients who have never been to Croatia, while at the same time the fact that fellow colleagues from neighbouring countries are not familiar with their first neighbour country’s beauties is not encouraging. I remember while I was talking about Dubrovnik to a gentleman during a Radisson party in Frankfurt – he said ‘TEACH ME’.
Silva Ušić has been with Atlas DMC Croatia since 1987, taking on various roles within the organisation. Silva lives Atlas; her devoted work is well recognised, and she held the prestigious American Express Great Performer Award from the very start of her career during her time at the Atlas American Express Travel Service Inbound to ex Yugoslavia. Silva knows the industry from top to toe and is well-known for her charming and hearty approach to business.