American Express Travel credits the success of its Representative Network with the continued addition of innovative programs and initiatives for its members, according to Tony Gonchar, the recently named vice president of the Representative Network.
During the annual U.S. Representative Travel Network Learning Forum and National Summit held in San Antonio, Texas, American Express Travel introduced new marketing tools and programs, as well as a favorable report on the continued success of the network. The event was attended by owners, agents and industry suppliers.
According to Gonchar, “[the] Network is stronger than ever.” With consistent growth, the Representative Network has seen a 36 percent increase in sales from 2009 to 2012. Several agencies joined the network this year, and many celebrated anniversaries, including Wilcox World Travel, who has been a part of the network for 45 years. The network also saw a marketed increase in agencies completing all goals, with more than two-thirds meeting the targets, up from 43 percent in 2011, Amex said.
(Editor's Note: The Representative Network does not release its membership numbers or annual sales.)
New marketing tools and programs - designed to drive business to the Representative Network agencies - include:
• New Marketing Platform – American Express Travel will unveil this month a new turn-key marketing system designed exclusively for members of the Representative Network. Launching in time for the 2013 marketing campaign selections, the new system integrates with ClientBase CRM software and offers an automated direct mail and email marketing solution, as well as improved campaign targeting.
• Travel Insiders - Following a pilot launch in 2011, a full roll-out of the Travel Insiders program took place in July 2012. The Travel Insiders program offers clients insights, customized itineraries and premium services and access. The Travel Insiders program helps travelers discover and book vacations and connects customers with more than 300 travel professionals who have highly specialized destination and lifestyle travel expertise. The agents are featured on the enhanced American Express Travel website.
• American Express OPEN for Business Platinum - After a pilot this June, the Business Platinum Travel Network will launch this fall. Through the Network, American Express OPEN matches Business Platinum Card members with qualifying Representatives to provide customized travel management services for their business and leisure travel needs. While there will be specific eligibility requirements to participate in this program, Representative members are uniquely positioned to offer travel services to this network through exclusive programs such as Fine Hotels & Resorts and the International Airline Program, Amex says.
• Small Business Saturday – An initiative launched in 2010, Small Business Saturday was created to help small businesses with their biggest need: more customers. Now in its third year, Small Business Saturday serves as the ceremonial kick-off to the holiday shopping season for small businesses throughout the country. “Our vision was to make this day part of the national culture as prominent as Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” said Claire Bennett, Executive Vice President of Loyalty and Membership Benefits at American Express. “Nearly 96% of American consumers believe it’s important to support the local businesses and we are doing everything we can to turn that support into sales.”
American Express entered the travel agency business in 1915 and today operates one of the world's largest travel agency networks in more than 140 countries worldwide, Amex notes.