I’ve finally managed to catch my breath after an outstanding time at The Travel Summit this past weekend. This was by far the largest event we’ve organized to date, and it was a resounding success.
For those who attended or for those who didn’t, I’d like to offer a roundup of the weekend with some highlights, photos, and impressions of the first – but definitely not last – event of this magnitude.
Welcome to The Travel Summit
We began welcoming 25 speakers and 400+ guests from all over North America and around the world on Friday, October 28, for pre-registration at the Hyatt Regency Toronto. Guests who picked up their lanyard and lunch gift card were able to skip the lines on the day of the event, allowing for an extra snooze cycle or two.
Beginning at 8am on Saturday morning, excitement was in the air as the Prince of Travel team whisked hundreds of attendees through the registration sequence. Attendees mingled in the lobby of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) prior to my opening remarks at 9am.
I was beaming with excitement and energy as I took the stage and looked out over the crowd. After a year of late nights and endless meetings to organize the event, it was incredible to see it all come together right before my very own eyes.
Travel & Loyalty, Under the Hood
Following the opening remarks, we settled in for a riveting keynote presentation with our two special guests.
Everyone’s favourite airline executives, Air Canada’s Mark Nasr and Scott O’Leary, took the stage with me for an hour to discuss all things Aeroplan. Indeed, there was plenty to discuss, with recent changes to Aeroplan 35K status, announcements about upcoming partnerships, and changes to the Aeroplan terms and conditions.
The dynamic duo took my questions in stride, and it was very interesting to have them explain the reasoning behind all the changes. For example, I was intrigued to learn that Maple Leaf Lounge access through holding a premium co-branded Aeroplan credit card accounts for less than 10% of lounge visits.
Furthermore, Mark explained that the nature of lounge visits has shifted greatly since before the pandemic. Not only are more travellers paying for business class on leisure trips, but passengers are spending more time on average in the lounge, which both contribute to some of the overcrowding we’ve seen recently.
We allowed for plenty of time for The Travel Summit attendees to ask Mark and Scott any questions of their choosing. They took the time to answer each question in great detail, and even offered their contact information for any required follow-up.
It’s quite refreshing to have such direct access to some of the top brass at an airline loyalty program, and we’re grateful for Mark and Scott’s attendance and ongoing engagement with the community. They continued to stick around to answer questions during the networking break, which our guests undoubtedly appreciated.
Following a 15-minute networking break, The Travel Summit began in full with the first round of four breakout sessions. Our star-studded lineup of speakers covered a host of topics, ranging from digital nomadism to content creation to all things Miles & Points.
During each of the six hour-long breakout sessions over the weekend, there were four different topics from which attendees could choose. The sessions were geared towards different levels, with something for beginners, frequent flyers, advanced travellers, and everyone in between.
Attendees didn’t need to register for specific sessions, but rather could choose which one to attend at their leisure.
Our expert speakers delivered presentations and then took questions from the attendees. Guests filled the rooms for presentations about the world’s best First Class airlines, the art of digital nomadism, a live demonstration on finding award availability, unlocking travel freedom with real estate, and more.
All sessions were well-attended, and I myself am delighted to have learned a lot over the course of the weekend.
I’m certain that everyone went home with plenty of new perspectives and data points on how to elevate their travel game. Attendees will also be sent recordings of all presentations, in case they need to recall some of the information presented or catch up on a session that they couldn’t attend.
Of course, events like these aren’t just about the material presented. Guests, speakers, and staff had plenty of opportunities to mingle and network in-between each of the breakout sessions.
Perhaps someone had a specific question that one of the speakers could directly address, or perhaps there was some knowledge sharing amongst the ever-curious Miles & Points community. Either way, there were plenty of new friendships forged and warm smiles from familiar faces among our 400-strong group.
I certainly enjoyed engaging with attendees and speakers, and found it as invigorating as ever to be around a group of such passionate travellers over the course of the weekend.
Expert Traveller Panel
Day 1 of The Travel Summit concluded with a panel discussion with a group of travel experts: Amy Tung from Prince of Travel, Carmen & Serge Sognonvi from Top Flight Family, Gilbert Ott from God Save the Points, Julia Menez from Geobreeze Travel, Mike Howard from HoneyTrek, Victoria M. Walker from Travel with Vikkie, Stefan Krasowski from Rapid Travel Chai, and yours truly.
Our moderator, Anshul Singh from Points Miles and Bling, guided the panel through a series of thought-provoking questions.
Each expert traveller offered their unique perspective on a range of topics, including family travel, visiting every country on the planet, the pros and cons of travel content in the social media landscape, travel experiences for people of colour, and the art of travel in the post-pandemic era.
Attendees also had the opportunity to throw questions to the panel, which facilitated a broad-ranging discussion and, of course, a few laughs as well.
Saturday Evening Party
At the conclusion of the first day, the networking didn’t stop at the MTCC. We set out by foot to meet up at Chef’s Hall for some drinks, some nibbles, and some more banter.
The room was buzzing as the conversations roared on over the course of three and a half hours. I had the opportunity to connect with speakers and guests alike, sharing some anecdotes, travel stories, and, of course, plenty of knowledge and tips about travelling the world on points.
The night was still young as our time at Chef’s Hall came to a close. Many groups of attendees carried the celebration on well into the evening, and I’m sure that there were a few groans as alarm clocks rang out early on Sunday morning.
Miles4Migrants: New Horizons and New Beginnings
Day 2 of The Travel Summit began with a keynote presentation from our charity partner Miles4Migrants. Patrick Stouffer shared touching stories about people fleeing war and violence benefiting from the generosity of those who donate miles, points, and cash to help cover the cost of flights.
Patrick’s talk was a humbling reminder of the privilege of travel, and that not all trips are made for leisure.
Our speakers kindly donated airline amenity kits and pajamas for our silent auction throughout the weekend. Attendees placed bids online, with all of the money raised going to Miles4Migrants.
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A few of our speakers, myself included, donated their time for lunch on Sunday, and attendees could place bids for an exclusive meal on the speaker’s dime.
In sum, guests, speakers, and staff at The Travel Summit raised over $5,000 (CAD) and 300,000+ airline miles for Miles4Migrants, and I’m extremely grateful for everyone’s generosity in raising money and miles for such an important charitable cause.
Anyone who wishes to support Miles4Migrants can do so by checking out the Miles4Migrants website.
The first-ever edition of The Travel Summit is in the books, and I’m delighted with how it all unfolded. A special thank-you must go to Accor Live Limitless and CardPointers for their support as event sponsors, without which this weekend wouldn’t have been possible.
Our speakers provided expert insight on a variety of travel topics, our attendees had direct access to some of the best minds in the travel game over the course of the weekend, and we all came together to raise an impactful amount of cash and points for Miles4Migrants, a pre-eminent charitable organization in our space.
I’m so grateful to everyone who attended the event, as well as to everyone who helped put it together and make it a weekend to remember.
If you missed out this time, or if you attended and can’t wait until the next one, be sure to join us at the next edition of The Travel Summit, set to take place in Spring 2024.