WHEN NANCY NICOL HONEYMOONED AT THE HYATT REGENCY MAUI 22 YEARS AGO, she was unaware how deep her connection to the hotelier would become. Now a Hawaii destination specialist with The Visitor Center in Denver, Nicol was crowned one of Hyatt's top-selling agents at its annual travel agent awards last month. "I didn't know then that I'd maintain such a strong relationship to the brand," she says.
For that relationship, reciprocal in its profitability, Nicol won 50 free nights to use at any Hyatt property worldwide, which amounts to one million Hyatt Gold Passport points. Nicol considers the award generous and plans to pay it forward by donating 50,000 of those points to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which Hyatt will match, based on a partnership Hyatt established with the nonprofit organization in 2006. The program enables Gold Passport members to donate hotel nights for use in granting the wishes of sick children, such as a stay at the Park Hyatt Dubai for a 12-year-old girl from Holland who was treated to spa treatments, tea with Princess Tamara Laura Czartoryski-Borbon and a dinner of her favorite foods at the program's launch. "I'm excited to have someone help me to do some good," Nicol says, "and I'm really happy to be able to do this."
Nicol had the same reaction to winning as last year's winner, Aggie Lewis of Gaffney Travel, whom Travel Agent also has profiled. "Listening to the introduction [at this year's event]," Nicol recalls, "I said, 'That must be a really great person,' and then they said my name and I almost fell off my chair."
After all, she has simply been doing what she loves. She started her career in the travel industry at a car rental business, eventually finding a fit at The Visitor Center, which zeroed in on Hawaii as a profit center after September 11 and requires all of its agents to be Hyatt resort specialists. "I consider it a job duty to visit Hyatt properties and make sure I know what's new," Nicol says.
She tries to travel to Hawaii at least once a year. "I'm able to give a personal description of what my clients might experience and I think that gives clients a good feeling to hear that I just got back [from there]."
Hyatt's Plans for Agents
Nicol also credits Hyatt for her success. "They do a great job of keeping agents educated and we've always been so impressed with the support we receive as an agency from the Hyatt brand," she says, noting that her relationships with the hotel giant's sales reps have grown so much that they are on her Christmas card list and vice versa.
As for this supplier that supports and is supported so well by Nicol, Hyatt has said it will adjust some of its travel agent benefits in 2008. Though details are still being finalized, according to Scott Seed, director of leisure marketing for Hyatt, one change that's already planned is expansion of the hotel company's monthly e-newsletter for agents from focusing just on properties in North America to covering all Hyatt brands worldwide, including Hyatt Place, Summerfield Suites and the new Andaz line.
Another enhancement involves an online training program that will debut late next year. Hyatt also will revamp its agent incentives in late 2008. "It will roll the 'Slice of Paradise' into a new Hyatt-brand-wide incentive for travel agents, which will be an incentive not just to book our resorts but all the properties worldwide," Seed says.
Nancy Nicol THE VISITOR CENTER Headquarters: 6000 E. Evans Avenue, Suite 1-260 Denver, CO 80222 Phone: 800-556-8606 E-mail: [email protected] Affiliations: ASTA, CLIA