Buyers and sellers conduct an abundance of appointments at Travel Exchange. The seven-minute business meetings provide enough time for participants to either introduce themselves and their organizations or to renew an acquaintance and update each other.
So when Nayaz Noor and Fraser Neave sat for a one-on-one in San Antonio five years ago, neither knew exactly what the appointment would lead to. They were strangers, after all, paired by the computerized matching system that NTA pioneered in 1974 and has continually refined since. They’re also half a world apart. Nayaz (pictured above, at right) is the CEO of 39 Degrees South, a ground operator in Australia, while Fraser (above, left) is product development director for Wells Gray Tours in British Columbia.
“I had never met Nayaz before and had never heard of his company (formerly Safir Tours) before the appointment scheduling system opened,” Fraser says, adding that he typically requests an appointment with every receptive tour operator from outside of North America.
The appointment was considered a perfect match by the computer system because Noor had also requested an appointment with Fraser.
“As a seller, my focus is to get tour operators to include Australia as a new destination,” Nayaz says. “I check every company’s website to see what kind of tours they are promoting. If they are packaging, say, Asia or Africa, then I’ll target that operator for an appointment at TREX. I also try and meet operators who offer only domestic tours, in case they’re thinking of expanding their portfolio with an international destination.”
Wells Gray Tours had conducted pre- and post-cruise touring in Australia before but had never put together a longer land tour, so Fraser was eager to meet with Noor, who had plenty to talk about.
“I was very enthusiastic about meeting him and spoke about the iconic train journeys that I was trying to promote to North America,” Nayaz says.
In the months after Travel Exchange, Nayaz sent follow-up emails to Fraser and other operators he had met with, and he included sample itineraries with The Ghan, a luxury train journey through parts of Australia not often explored by other sightseeing companies. He also sent Fraser a link to a 2018 Courier article about his then-company.
“We had a great appointment at TREX, and I came home with Australia as one of my top new tour ideas,” Fraser says. “Nayaz followed up by email and we had some further discussion on a two-and-a-half-week itinerary featuring the top highlights of Australia and a trip aboard The Ghan. We called the tour 'Amazing Australia,' and it sold out instantly."
“That was the most exciting day for me—when I got that email from Fraser giving us the nod to go ahead with the program,” Nayaz says.
Wells Gray’s Australian adventure in 2019 was a huge hit with the participants, and the Nayaz-Fraser team had another tour set for 2021, but … you know. The journey continues, though.
“We're all booked for 2023, and the tour is nearly full,” Fraser says. “We even expanded it by two days.”
It’s successful partnerships like this that make Fraser excited about Travel Exchange ’22 in Reno, Nevada, Nov. 13–16.
“Reno was my first travel conference that I ever attended, back in 2009, and I’m looking forward to meeting a new supplier partner who will help me find my next great idea,” he says. “There isn’t another travel show in North America where I can meet with U.S.-based restaurants and hotels one day and have appointments with receptive tour operators from around the world the following day.”
It’ll be a reunion, then, because Nayaz is also returning to Travel Exchange after missing the show due to COVID restrictions.
“After two years of being unable to travel to TREX, it is vital for us to be present at the event so we can renew our relationships with current clients,” he says. “And post-COVID, many operators have changed their strategy and may now look to promote new destinations.”
Nayaz hopes one of those new destinations is his, and he has advice for other sellers. “Do your homework on the tour operators and learn what they have done over the years. This is a good way to start a conversation with someone you have never met before.”
Fraser can vouch for Nayaz’s approach.
“Nayaz is a social genius. After that first appointment in 2017, whenever we saw each other at events that week, he would approach me, shake my hand, and have a quick chat,” Fraser says. “Sometimes it was just for 30 seconds, and other times we would chat for much longer. Five years later, he’s still the same way, and I appreciate that. His enthusiasm for NTA and our industry is infectious, and I’m thankful that we have such a great partnership.”
Top photo by Normand Huberdeau