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Sell Your Way to Your Next VacationFebruary 1, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Home-Based Travel Agent
The latest on agent rewards programs
ALWAYS A TOP SOURCE OF REVENUE FOR hoteliers, cruise lines and other suppliers, agents are recognized as important through various rewards programs. Here, Home-Based Travel Agent highlights new and long-standing agent rewards programs.
Trafalgar (www.trafalgar.com), now entering its 60th year, is offering agents up to $60,000 in incentives. For every deposit collected within 10 days of booking, agents receive one entry into "The Sensational Trafalgar Sweepstakes." Winners will be chosen in random drawings. January 2 through February 28, a winner will receive $10,000; March 1 through April 30, the prize is $20,000; May 1 through June 30, the kitty is up to $30,000. "Since agents receive an entry for every booking, they improve their chance of winning with every single sale," says John Severini, Trafalgar's president.
As part of a Valentine's Day promotion, Classic Vacations (www.classicforagents.com) is offering 50 Special Travel Agent Rewards (STAR) points to agents who book a romance package before March 31. The STAR program gives agents one point for every $100 in sales on qualified bookings; points can be used toward cash or fam trips.
In January, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts (www.hyatt.com) launched its year-long "Recommend Reward," which operates much like mystery shoppers do. "A Hyatt member will randomly call agents and ask for a hotel recommendation in a certain city, and if the agent recommends Hyatt, they get an automatic $500," says Scott Seed, resort marketing director for Hyatt. The company will award two agents per month. "We've had our mainstay, 'Slice of Paradise,' for years, but we wanted something new and exciting to show our commitment to agents," Seed says.
A promotion marking Regent Seven Seas Cruises' (www.rssc.com) launch of Sabre Cruises and Sabre CruiseDirector gives agents $25 per booking of seven nights or longer for all reservations made on either Sabre product through March 31.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World's (www.slh.com) 15th annual international conference in New York on April 19 will honor three agents in three categories. The top overall award will be given to the agent who booked the most business between January 1 and March 31. The prize is a seven-night vacation for two to Italy, replete with frills such as a new five-piece Samsonite luggage set, a $1,000 shopping spree and access to a luxury sports car. Awards will also be given to the travel agent who best supported the SLH brand in 2006 and the agent who makes the most expensive booking at an SLH hotel for stays before March 31, 2007. Nominations must be submitted by February 28.
In December, Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa (www.sunsetjamaicagrande.com) launched its "Spell to Win" initiative. Agents earn one letter for each room booked at Sunset Jamaica Grande through March 15, 2007 (for travel through March 31). Upon selling six rooms to spell "grande," the agent and a companion will be off to Jamaica for four free nights at the Ocho Rios property. Additionally, those who spell "grande" and "spa" earn seven free nights for themselves and a guest.
This summer, the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, NV (www.grandsierraresort.com), will complete its renovation of the luxury hotel formerly known as the Reno Hilton, and the property is now launching agent rewards programs to increase business. Grand Sierra is offering 15 percent commissions on all reservations for the first quarter of the year and $100 American Express gift cards to agents who book a certain number of rooms per month.
For 2007, Hyatt Resorts (www.hyatt.com) amended its "Slice of Paradise" program so that agents making client bookings of three-night stays at Hyatt Resort properties in the continental U.S. will be rewarded with a free night's stay.
The Leading Hotels of the World's (www.lhw.com) Suite Rewards program offers agents 5 percent commission overrides on rack rate suites.
Almond Resorts' (www.almondresorts.com) Team Almond program offers rewards earned through bookings, such as a three-night fam trip and site inspection for two, plus Team Almond shirts, gifts, signage and displays.
At Sandals & Beaches Resorts, (www.sandals.com,
www.beaches.com) agents who become Preferred Sandals & Beaches Specialists earn benefits based on four tiers. The program certifies about 5,000 agents a year who have completed an education and training program that includes required visits.
"Fun for Life" is Funjet Vacations' (www.funjet.com) travel incentive program. Agents earn "Fun-Jets" points based on the type of bookings made. Depending on the number of points earned, agents can receive such incentives as travel discounts, office supplies, bonus commissions and rewards for clients.
Carnival's (www.bookccl.com) long-term incentive program pays commissions all year, based on agents meeting sales targets from the previous year. Another aspect is the back-end override incentives, where high-producing agencies can earn 1 or 2 percent over the front end of 16 percent commissions.
Last year, Oceania Cruises (agent.oceaniacruises.com) unveiled its Cruise Connoisseurs Club, the line's first rewards program. Members receive a personalized Versace recognition plate, one year subscription to Food & Wine, priority notification of new itineraries, product enhancements and invites to exclusive Oceania events.
Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com) offers several rewards programs, such as the Centurion Cruise, where every year the top 100 HAL producers are rewarded with a cruise and onboard program; and "At Home With HAL," which rewards home-based agents with recognition and support.
Silversea's (www.silversea.com) Agency Recognition program has two levels: To qualify for the Associate level, agencies need to reach $350,000 in annual sales to receive a 1 percent override, regionalized training and access to the online direct-mail imprint program. Associate agents also appear in the "Find an Agent" section of the line's web site and in a corporate directory, and they are given a plaque indicating their status.
Agencies at the Silver Society level generate $600,000 a year in sales and receive a 2 percent override, priority co-op dollars, advance notice of special promotions, 9,000 complimentary direct-mail pieces, one complimentary cruise per agency, real-time online booking capabilities, listing in the "Preferred Agents" section on the "Find an Agent" page of the web site and an invitation to the annual Awards Gala Meeting. During the Awards Gala Meeting, top producers meet with Silversea executives, participate in roundtable discussions, offer feedback to the cruise line and hear about new programs and incentives.
Crystal Cruises' (www.crystalcruises.com) Crystal Alliance is designed to reward agents with a combination of recognition, rewards, personalized service and professional support. Several levels of the program exist, each with different extra commission percentages added to the 10 percent base commission.
As agents complete each level of Cunard's (www.cunard.com) four-tier program—First Officer, Staff Captain, Captain and ultimately, Commodore—they are awarded a certificate of achievement and a pin indicating their rank, which both identify them as a Cunard Academy expert.
Each year, the first 200 agents to reach the rank of Commodore will be invited to experience a free voyage to complete their education. In addition, beginning with the second level, agents can receive the benefits Platinum World Club membership.
Seabourn Cruise Line's (www.seabourn.com) rewards program, the Pinnacle Club, is for top-producing agents, a determination based on both total production and increased production. Benefits include tiered bonus commissions and special offers.
Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com) offers 50 percent off tariff all year as well as a travel agent fam stand-by program with either a 30-day or 60-day confirmation.
Club Med's (www.clubmed.us) 777 Loyalty Program provides Club Med sales specialists with several opportunities to earn free stays at a Club Med resort, such as commissions up to 17 percent, including airfare, and one free night's stay for each booking of two adults for three nights or more.
"Look to Book," Carlson Hotels Worldwide's (www.carlson.com) booking technology, provides agents with real-time point awards for hotel bookings. Agents can earn 10 points per U.S. dollar for booking participating brands of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, including Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Country Inns & Suites by Carlson, Park Inn and Regent Hotels.
Through its Travel Agent Plus booking tool, Enterprise Rent-A-Car (www.enterprise.com) allows members to receive discounted rates with no blackout dates or restrictions when personally renting a car. Agents also receive a free upgrade when the pay for a rental with an American Express card.
Hertz's (www.hertz.com) Exactly Rewards gives travel agents one dollar for every qualifying booked rental of three days or more. Once an agent earns $10, he or she receives a personalized American Express Hertz Exactly Rewards card.
Last year, Alamo Rent A Car made enhancements to its Cash-In Club, the incentive program for U.S.-based agents supporting Alamo (www.alamo.com). Agents now can earn club points for every Alamo rental they book in the U.S. at a leisure, corporate, government or travel industry rate. Club points can be used toward gift cards, jewelry, electronics and household items.
Thrifty Car Rental (www.thrifty.com) offers agents five points for every dollar that stems from a "Look to Book" reservation, its agent reward program. These points can be redeemed for appliances, home furnishings, electronics, travel and gift cards.
Last year, Dollar Rent A Car (www.dollar.com), a sister company of Thrifty, launched Dollar Dividends, which gives points to agents enrolled in the program based on the length of the car rental.