Outrigger Enterprises Group was one of the earliest hotel companies to realize the importance of travel agent training programs. Over the years, the company has continually fine-tuned its approach and added components to its programs. This month, Outrigger Enterprises Group launched a new travel agent initiative that features an exclusive travel agent website called OutriggerAgent.com. The company also revitalized its Outrigger Hospitality Specialist Program.
“When we were preparing the program, we went out and talked to travel agents, both those who were already Outrigger Specialists and those who weren’t in the program,” said Lois Shore, vice president of distribution for Outrigger Enterprises Group.
The company’s survey of East and West Coast agents came up with some surprising numbers. Of the 500 agents surveyed, 96 percent reported that the aspect of the program they liked the most was the amenity given to the client in the agent’s name. Of those 96 percent, 78 percent said the amenity was “very important.”
“We’ve never seen anything get that high a rating,” said Shore.
The new website is Outrigger Enterprises Group’s first travel agent-only online resource, which offers exclusive insider information and tips on all Outrigger-owned, managed and affiliated hotels, resorts and condominiums. “We actually gave the program a soft opening last spring, but only through our webinars and in person,” said Shore.
These early efforts resulted in 1,000 agents either recertifying or certifying for the first time as Outrigger Specialists. Shore notes that the company was especially gratified to see that 40 percent of the 1,000 were new agents to the program.
OutriggerAgent.com presents information about Outrigger Hospitality properties in Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region, including agent alerts and property updates. A “Specials Compendium” showcases the latest travel agent specials and consumer offers, and “Fast Fact Sheets” in Outrigger’s properties. “Our goal is to make sure they have the most current information about the property their client might be staying in, and how it will impact their stay,” said Shore. “One of the advantages of an online program over a print program is our ability to update the content and keep it fresh.”
One section of the website is open to all accredited travel agents with an active IATA/ARC number, and the other section of the website is reserved only for certified Outrigger Hospitality Specialists. Certified Outrigger Hospitality Specialists will have access to a special section on OutriggerAgent.com, which will allow them to access an online command center to manage their accounts. Specialists will receive additional benefits including the personalized welcome amenities for clients delivered in the agent’s name, online forms pre-populated with the information from the agent’s online profile, and a monthly e-newsletter.
The new Outrigger Hospitality Specialist Program allows certified travel agents to earn Reward Points for reporting booked client stays at Outrigger Hospitality properties. Reward Points are redeemable for cash or gift certificates on www.amazon.com. An agent can earn $50 cash in as few as four or five reported bookings, depending on the property and clients’ length of stay. Sixty-four percent of the agents surveyed by Outrigger reported that redeeming points for cash was an important feature of the program.
“The Reward Points scale provides the flexibility to easily offer Specialists extra incentives for special products or promotions,” said Shore. “For example, to celebrate the launch of this new program and to reintroduce the newly transformed Outrigger Reef on the Beach and the newly remodeled OHANA Waikiki Beachcomber, we are offering Specialists additional bonus Reward Points throughout 2009.
“Travel agents are responsible for nearly half of all bookings at our properties and we felt it was imperative to provide them with the tools they need to succeed,” Shore added.
Visit www.OutriggerAgent.com or call an exclusive travel agent hotline at 866-585-6579.