What's New in Host Agencies

Michelle Fee: “2017 doesn’t seem to have [experienced] much of an impact from the terrorist incidents [in Europe] earlier this year.”

Hooking up with a host agency can help agents access new technological tools, potentially boost earnings and gain national exposure, among other benefits. Here are some recent developments on that front.

High Tide for Amex Affiliate: Following a record sales year in 2016, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, has posted a 20 percent increase in sales through the first seven months of 2017 vs. that same period last year. Helping to boost those numbers were 525 additional luxury bookings by member agents for the four-month period between April and July 2017, compared to what the group posted in 2016.

“2017 doesn’t seem to have [experienced] much of an impact from the terrorist incidents [in Europe] earlier this year,” notes Michelle Fee, CEO and co-owner, Cruise Planners. Fee made that statement to hundreds of travel agency owners and agents attending the group’s first Luxury Travel Forum in August at the Broward County Convention Center, Port Everglades, FL. For the last five months left in the year, Cruise Planners’ departures are up 14 percent and, according to Fee, “we’ve already surpassed the full year last year.”

She also said that popular big-ship cruise departures are up 15 percent, luxury departures have increased by 35 percent, river departures have seen a 15 percent rise and specialty cruise departures are up 23 percent. “Luxury in this market [the cruise segment] is exploding.” In addition, “2018 looks off the charts,” Fee emphasized. “We are front loading so much.” She cited the growth as well as the potential for her agents, with now some 260 ocean ships and 198 river vessels to sell. 

Cruise Planners is currently hosting its annual convention at The Grand at Moon Palace in Cancun. This year’s theme, CP Ignite, aims to inspire agents to spark innovation and beat their personal records through collaborations and sessions with the Home Office Team, travel industry partners and fellow Cruise Planners advisors.

“Cruise Planners agents who attend the convention typically experience a 25 percent sales growth year over year and sell four times more than franchisees who do not attend,” says Fee.

Investing in New Technologies: Avoya Travel has announced the launch of its new Avoya Infinity vacation planning experience, which it describes as a consumer-focused vacation planning and booking model. The new model is expected to accelerate the company’s growth by putting independent home-based travel agents in the Avoya Network at its center. 

Recognizing that the vacation planning process is no longer linear, Avoya said it designed its Avoya Infinity model as a fluid and endless infinity loop with the important relationship between a customer and their agent at the center, in what the company is calling the Connect phase. Avoya Infinity also encompasses all other stages of planning and taking vacations like Dream, Discover, Book and Enjoy, all while promoting the continued value of travel agents.

Avoya said it is also continuing to invest in new technologies and strategies to better understand what consumers want and position the brand as the best solution in order to elevate the role and value of the travel agent and to connect with a new market of travel customers. 

Additionally, Avoya has implemented a more powerful website experience, added personal touch points and enhanced pre-trip experiences to power Avoya Infinity. As a result, Avoya said it is sourcing better customer leads through its Live Leads program and connecting more travelers to its travel agents than ever before.

Kudos for ‘A-List’ Quartet: Travel + Leisure magazine recently published “The A-List 2017,” which included their “World’s Best Travel Agents” for a variety of destinations and market segments. Four members of Travel Experts made the list: Karen Benson, for Spa and Wellness; Sheri Doyle for Pacific Northwest; Ellen LeCompte, for the UK; and Michelle Murré for Napa Valley and Sonoma, CA.

For the first seven months of 2017, Travel Experts registered a 21 percent increase in sales over the same period last year. This is on top of the 32 percent revenue boost recorded in 2016.

New Tech Platform: Nexion unveiled its new technology platform at its CoNexion gathering last month in New Orleans. Called myNexion, it gives members a new tool to grow their businesses. It not only replaces WebView (the former member portal), but also incorporates new features and functions. The program will be rolled out in phases over the next six months.  

Earlier this year, Nexion introduced the first phase of myNexion and quickly followed with implementing pinSIGHT 2.0, Travel Leaders Group’s proprietary hotel booking interface. In the coming weeks, all Nexion members will be able to access myNexion’s CRM platform, which will be fully integrated into Travel Leaders Group’s suite of marketing solutions. These solutions include a new consumer website, lead generation tool and integrated e-mail and direct mail marketing campaigns. 

‘Essentials’ And Beyond: Nexion’s last Agent Essentials program of 2017 is slated for December 4-8, with four more set for 2018: March 19-23, June 11-15, August 6-10 and December 3-7. The five-day sessions — designed for those who are new to the industry — examine the journey of a booking from the initial research stage to the actual booking process for all types of travel. For more experienced advisors, Boot Camp provides the basics of being a Nexion member and how to be a successful travel agent. Upcoming dates are February 9-11 and July 20-22. Details and registration info for both programs, which are hosted by Nexion at its headquarters in Irving, TX, can be found at join.nexion.com/fundamentals.

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