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NTA Chief Sees Opportunity for Home-Based AgentsMarch 26, 2009 By: George Dooley
Home based travel agents looking for new sales and marketing opportunities have a powerful new ally in Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association (NTA).
“We see real sales opportunities for home based agents in packaged tour sales and want to invite their participation,” Simon said in an interview with Travel Agent. “Agents' proven success in cruise sales can be duplicated in tour sales.”
Simon’s invitation extends to all home based agents and host agencies with networks of independent agents who can benefit from expanded tour sales. “NTA member tour operators, destinations and suppliers are eager to work with professional agents. They see agents as a key to expand future sales, reach clients and build viable programs.”
A first step is being taken with the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) led by president Scott Koepf. The two groups will cooperate during the NTA’s Spring Meet '09, June 4-6 in Monterey, California. The Spring Meet will allow tour operators and travel agents to connect. The dates are also those of NACTA’s Western Regional Meeting.
Currently, 22 percent of NACTA travel agents sell tours, and NTA operators stand ready to help more agents learn how they can offer creative and customized product to their clients. Additionally, 370 of NTA's 700 tour operators offer agents commissionable packages. And, because so many of NTA tour operators now offer customized itineraries, the product available to agents is extensive and includes unique options such as faith-based product and gay and lesbian travel.
From Simon’s perspective, tour operators are looking for new distribution partners, and travel agents are looking for higher profits and quality product for their clients. The co-location of the two associations' meeting will encourage both and offer business opportunities under one roof.
"We are going to bring NACTA members a completely new and powerful training program," said NACTA’s Koepf. Koepf sees major opportunities for his home-based agents' membership and for host agencies as well. NACTA has 2,500 members and 25 plus chapters. Building agents' awareness of domestic U.S. destinations with FAM trips is another approach.
This "destinational," as Koepf sees it, not only offers networking with the NTA tour operators but also will provide an exclusive agent training track. This adds up to one on one access to tour operators that offer tour and travel packages for groups of all kinds, independent itineraries, student travel and more. In all, the NTA has representatives in 40 countries.
One feature of the combined event will involve attendance at networking sessions and participation in NTA's signature speed dating session. During the speed dating, NACTA travel agents and NTA tour operators will have the opportunity to explore potential partnerships as tour operators discuss the types of packages and products they offer.
Travel agents can explain who their clients are and the types of travel packages they desire. “Travel agents will be amazed by the diversity of opportunities including close to home U.S., Canadian and Mexico destinations. NTA members are innovative and responsive to agents needs.” Many are agents themselves.
NACTA represents 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 professional agents.
Registration for the 2009 NTA Tour Operator Spring Meet is currently open. More information is available for tour operators at www.NTAOnline.com/SpringMeet or by calling NTA Headquarters at 800-682-8886 (U.S. and Canada) or 859-226-4444. NACTA members can visit www.nacta.com or e-mail [email protected]