Do Industry Awards Have Meaning?

While there may well be too many awards given out annually by too many organizations, many awards have value in recognizing achievement. Award programs are used by cruise lines and other industry suppliers as well as associations, agency consortia and franchise groups to recognize achievements by agents and agencies.

While many awards essentially recognize productivity in sales others go deeper. Often the awards offer welcomed recognition of client service quality, the willingness to help other agents and agencies and contributions to the travel industry. In brief, professionalism and volunteer contributions are recognized as well as productivity.

Several good recent agency examples are offered by Travel Leaders. During their recent annual convention in Salt Lake City, the group presented its “Golden Legacy” award to Sandra and David Lovick Sr. – along with son David Jr. – the owners of three Travel Leaders locations.

The award honors Travel Leaders Associates (franchisees) whose lifetime achievements best exemplify the franchise system’s entrepreneurial spirit and quality standards.  And significantly their ability to deliver exceptional customer care and ensuing exemplary reputation over 25 years.

“Very few have met the challenges of the travel industry as skillfully, tenaciously and as successfully as Sandy, David and Dave Jr. have over the past 25 years. They may be celebrating their silver anniversary, but their exceptional customer care and ensuing exemplary reputation assures their clients of an inspiring golden legacy other Travel Leaders across the country seek to emulate,” stated Roger E. Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group.

The agency has received back-to-back recognition from Travel Leaders’ including two other awards that the franchise group said was unprecedented in the organization’s history. The agents were also were cited for their willingness to share their business knowledge and successful ideas with other Travel Leaders Associates. Travel Leaders also praised their encouragement of employees to continually hone their travel expertise and knowledge – while taking advantage of training and educational opportunities.
Travel Leaders also noted their skills as innovators, calling the agents highly knowledgeable in the field of travel technology, often serving as early adapters. One prime example being their implementation of Voice Over IP (VOIP). VOIP has been instrumental in enabling them to effectively grow to their business, while also enabling them to balance their staffing among their various locations.

Another example offered by Travel Leaders, is its “2009 Associate of the Year” award. This year the award went to Silicone Valley’s 6th largest female-owned business and the area’s 14th largest family owned business owned by Lois and Mike Van Dyck, along with son Max Nelson.  Joining the Travel Leaders network 23 years ago as an Ask Mr. Foster agency, the Van Dycks have grown their San Jose travel agency since purchasing it in September 1978. During that time, their leadership has taken it from its beginnings with $300,000 in annual sales to well over $38 million today.

 “Over the last 31 years, Lois and Mike have built a strong and respected travel company that has seen phenomenal sales growth by concentrating first on corporate travel for small to mid-sized business accounts, along with providing an extra-special level of care to their corporate clients’ vacation needs,” noted Block.

“It is obvious that they have placed the right amount of emphasis on service, professionalism and industry knowledge,” Block said. “Today their agency is 76 times larger than it was in 1978.  That is a truly enviable feat considering the turbulence the travel industry has weathered this decade alone.”  Over the past three years, they have acquired or merged six other agencies into their operations, including several in Arizona.

Other award programs are notable including ASTA and CLIA who offer among other forms of recognition Hall of Fame awards that recognize the contribution of industry pioneers. Travel Agents own efforts to recognize top performing agents include “Best of the Best” – recognizing top performers and “”30 Under 30” recognizing young achievers in the travel industry. Both are useful ways to mark achievement.

Timely, well-vetted awards as in the case of Travel Leaders suggest several lessons. First, successful agencies often have long standing relationships with their consortia or franchise group. Second, there is opportunity for travel agency owners and managers to build profitable businesses. Third, the ability of an agent or agency to deliver outstanding client service is a welcomed  key to success.  Beyond the hype and sometime excesses, awards remain a useful and welcome way to recognize achievement and contribution.