With summer right at our doorstep, we thought it would be a good idea to check in with the top consortia to find out what new and exciting things they have cooked up to help better serve you all as agents. Technological enhancements of one kind or another are among the highlights. Here is what we have learned.
Earlier this year, Ensemble Travel Group announced a partnership with Grasp Technologies Inc., which will provide enhanced automation, reporting and business intelligence for Ensemble’s members in the U.S. and Canada. Grasp will provide products, services and custom solutions at special discounted pricing to all Ensemble members. The group also recently wrapped up its second annual Ensemble Executive Retreat at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. The retreat allowed time for members to meet one-on-one with participating preferred suppliers and with Ensemble Marketing personnel for customized recommendations on upcoming promotions and campaigns.
Vacation.com is generating technology buzz, as well. In February, the organization reported success of its CruisePRO booking tool, which was launched in late fall 2012. The web-based tool allows member agencies to search, compare, sell, book and manage cruise vacations in one system. Agents can compare itineraries without logging into multiple cruise lines’ websites and can view real-time cabin availability, ship deck plans and destination information. Agents can also upgrade staterooms and add options to bookings.
In March, Travel Leaders Group unveiled its new consumer website, which was redesigned to serve as a portal for the consumer, as well as agents and suppliers. Visitors can access each of Travel Leaders Group’s growing number of business units and brands. The site offers company news, along with career opportunities.
Signature Travel Network has turned its focus to four primary pillars and related projects. These are Preferred Supplier Sales, e-mail capture, tech tool adoption and RES Card utilization. Technology plays a major role in the growth of the consortium. One of their top tools is the CruiseTrack tool, which is a software system that allows Signature travel consultants to be apprised of all changes for a particular cruise, from pricing and itinerary to Signature Collection amenity changes. The system sends alert notifications to agents.
New this year: Signature’s Hotels & Resorts program is continuously growing. To date, the portfolio now includes 780 partner properties in 83 countries worldwide. The most recent additions include Mukul Luxury Resort & Spa in Nicaragua; Azura at Gabriel’s in Benguerra Island, Mozambique; and the Hyatt Regency Kyoto in Japan. The Signature Collection cruise portfolio features 2,400 different sailings. Recent additions include Silversea Cruises, Seabourn and Azamara Club Cruises.
|Consortia continually offer their members technological upgrades to help them sell travel and manage their business better.|
As for educating agents, Signature University is in the process of being redesigned and will be rolled out later this month. Content will focus on Preferred Supplier Sales, e-mail capture, tech tool adoption and RES Card utilization. There will be a new library of “how-to guides” and video tutorials. A new fam trip program has also been launched for members, known as “Signature Educational Journeys.” The consortium’s Destination Specialist program has recent additions, as well, including Viviani, based in Napa Valley, for California, Oregon and Washington; Discover New York for the Big Apple; Peirce & Leslie for India; The Travel Designer for Scandinavia; and Butcher Travel for Switzerland.
Coming Soon: Launching in late 2013, Signature will introduce ClientReach, which will allow Signature to set up a series of triggered messages, customized for each traveler’s unique experience. By analyzing a client’s reservation card, Signature will be able to send customized messaging on the agent’s behalf. These messages include recommendations on how to use Signature’s consumer technology, final payment reminders, welcome home messages and surveys for feedback. In conjunction with ClientReach, Signature has kicked off a program to develop more intelligent response to client e-mail behaviors.
Virtuoso recently wrapped its 2013 Virtuoso Symposium in Buenos Aires, drawing more than 400 attendees from 33 countries. At the Symposium, Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch announced a shift in the consortia’s business approach: moving the brand towards direct-to-consumer for the sole purpose of lead generation to help grow business for its member agencies and preferred suppliers. There are two projects underway to help achieve this goal. The first is a complete overhaul of the organization’s website to become more user-friendly. Features will include the addition of an advisor catalog with comprehensive profiles; product catalogs of the network’s preferred suppliers, complete with product descriptions, photos, video and an outline of traveler amenities through advisors; travel content from VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine and more. Secondly, the consortium has been working with its members to build and evaluate customer transactions.
American Express recently refreshed its website to more easily drive new, high-value customers directly to its agents. Social media and networking, meanwhile, were key themes at the annual Cruise Planners-American Express Travel convention, during which Amex unveiled new technology and marketing programs.