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September, 2013, Alexandria, Va. – ASTA Small Business Network (SBN) 2013 convention was held at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale Florida September 19-23, 2013 and said by many agents and suppliers to be the best convention ever held by SBN due to the popularity and content of the workshops and vibrant and crowded tradeshow floor.

Participants were awed by the inspirational address given by six-time Olympic Diving Gold Medalist, Greg Louganis at the opening reception. SBN Agents valued the content and education provided in the workshops and through the discussion that came out of the river cruise/small ship panel and host agency panel. Suppliers appreciated the inclusion to participate in social functions including receptions, lunches and the awards dinner, allowing them more networking time with the independent agents.

During SBN’s opening session Ann van Leeuwen, SBN’s newly named President, recognized and thanked Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Celebrity Cruises for their major sponsorship in the convention. Van Leeuwen pointed out the growth and strength of the independent agent channel referencing the 40,000 independent agents represented in the industry according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistic data. “Not only is our segment one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry; SBN members’ report their business is growing as well” said Ann van Leeuwen. “This is illustrated by a thirteen percent increase in business of SBN members over last year.”

The convention offered participants training and educational sessions centered on sales, marketing, negotiations, public relations and social media. Dondra Ritzenthaler, SVP Sales and Trade Support, Celebrity Cruises (and longtime supporter of SBN and the independent agent channel) gave her exhilarating presentation titled Attitude is Everything! Chris Austin Vice President Global Leisure & Luxury Sales Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide communicated the Keys to Success by Embracing the Luxury & Global Mindset. Peter Kerr, President Kerr Communications gave useful strategies on The Art and Science of Effective Negotiations.

Afternoon workshops included presentations given by Adam Lapsevich, CEO Spoon Drawer Media discussing the benefits of a truly professionally designed website while Denise Vogel, CEO of Click of the Mouse reviewed How to’s of using Social Media to improve online presence. Newly offered this year was a work shop presented by Peter Kerr titled, PR for the PRO: Promoting YOU by using the Press.

“I am so proud to be a member of a wonderful, genuine, down to earth organization where we can come together as professionals and be team members – not competition – I always have felt that way about SBN but am surprised to learn these days that in other organizations it's not the same” commented SBN Member Deb Fogarty, Certified Travel Counselor, Cruise Planners. “The convention was a wonderful success. “

Six Time Olympic Diving Gold Medalist, Greg Louganis addressed the SBN convention participants at the opening reception on the roof top of the Westin Beach Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Greg’s message inspired the riveted audience by speaking to the adversity he overcame in his life” said Ann van Leeuwen. “He is an amazing testament to the human spirit which left the audience in awe of his accomplishments and a reminder to us all to be the best we can be”.

Supplier participation in the convention included tradeshow exhibition, one on one discussion through round table dialogue and inclusion in all social events including dinners and award ceremony. “I am engaged with what SBN does for their agents and am fully supportive” said Jim Killen, Director of Sales Eastern Region Club Med. Over 70 suppliers and host agency partners were represented at the SBN convention and in preliminary survey results, suppliers rated the SBN convention a 4.2 out of 5 compared to all other travel industry conventions.

The SBN Convention immediately followed the ASTA Global Convention in Miami, Sept. 16-19 which made it convenient for many travel agents and suppliers to experience both conventions. Complimentary motor coach transportation from Miami was provided.

SBN’s 2014 convention is expected to be held in early November next year.

For more information on SBN contact 877.22.SBN.

SBN is the travel industry’s leading national trade association representing independent contractors, outside sales agents, cruise and tour oriented agents, group oriented travel professionals and traditional ARC-appointed travel agencies that provide services and support to such professionals. Established in 1986, SBN’s mission is to represent the interest of independent travel entrepreneurs and to promote professionalism and recognition for the professional independent agent. SBN is an affiliate of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents, the world’s largest travel trade association.