When I learned I was going to the C.A.R.E. Conference (Cooperative Association of Resort Exchangers) in Denver, Colorado, I was really excited. I didn’t know what I was excited for, but this was my chance to learn about more aspects of the industry I’ve now worked in for more than a year.
I was worried I’d feel like a mouse in a museum with all of the seasoned travel professionals who both know their industry and know each other, but walking into C.A.R.E. armed with my meager industry knowledge wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was probably a blessing. Everyone was warm and friendly right off the bat, thrilled to see a “first time attendee,” and no one turned away when I apologetically explained I actually worked in Creative rather than Condos. In fact, people were actually eager to hear my opinions on marketing and branding challenges.
I was also strongly supported by a powerhouse Global Connections team that clearly commanded respect: Emily C., and Jennifer A. from the Condos Department at Corporate, Nancy R. and Kelli B. from the Florida West office, and Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Public Relations, Melanie G. It felt pretty good hanging with this crew. They knew people, and it wasn’t long before I did too.
The first major conference event was speed networking, which worked a little like speed dating, but all business (and no dating). Fortunately for me, I stayed put on one side of the table while all the conference attendees rotated down the line for three minutes of “quick, how can we do business?” Again, I felt bad that I didn’t personally have wholesale property or exchanges, but I took that opportunity to put on my journalism hat and interview every single person, and it was eye-opening.
I never realized, in addition to other travel clubs and timeshare companies, how many other types of services partner with us to help deliver better member or client experiences. From the collections company that works to do the worst part of the job in the best possible way to the timeshare management company who helps ensure everything at the resort runs smoothly, these resources provided another perspective on the industry.
I learned more about exchanges and wholesale as the weekend went on, including some best practices for reputation management and branding as well as how we actually do business with our competitors and counterparts.
We all enjoyed the entertaining and informative keynote speech on leadership from the very charming and very brilliant Mark Jackson (former Denver Broncos wide receiver – I had to Google that).
I learned that C.A.R.E. came into existence not only to provide a networking forum so organizations in our industry can find opportunities and inventory they might not otherwise have access to, but also to put in place strict by-laws for C.A.R.E. members that ensure the transactions are reputable and the organizations completing them are held accountable.
But here’s the most valuable thing I took away, and I expect it’s the thing I will always be reminded of when I meet up with my colleagues in the travel industry: Travel is the only thing we buy that makes us richer. Ok, I stole that quote from New Member Orientation, but it’s the truth. What we’re working so hard behind the scenes to provide is someone’s vacation experience, the memories from which are priceless. We deal in making people’s lives better.
This is a fun industry. People were having fun at C.A.R.E., and you can tell they love what they do. I was energized by their enthusiasm, and found myself feeling really good that this is the industry in which I’m working. I can go do creative work in just about any trade (and I have), but it’s really great to come away feeling like you’re part of something you will enjoy.
And then, just to add icing to the cake, our team got to check out one of Global’s newest resorts, the lovely Lodge by The Blue in Breckenridge. Spending a day on Main Street in Breckenridge followed by a roaring fire and comfy bed back at The Blue is bliss. The warm, friendly staff at Lodge by The Blue (shout out to Val M. and Jennifer C.) made our experience extremely pleasant.
I look forward to one day joining a travel industry organization like C.A.R.E. myself, and lending my talent to help make what they do even better.
I’m grateful to Global Connections for the opportunity, and already plotting my next educational adventure.