Travel agents can benefit from expanded local, community public relations that build costumer awareness of the value of travel agents professional services, says John Werner, president and COO, MAST Travel Network.
"While the industry must do a better job in PR, agents can create a lot of PR for themselves by being visible in their own communities through volunteer work, membership in local clubs or organizations, or involvement in their schools and churches," Werner told Travel Agent.
"MAST members tell me all the time about conversations they have with neighbors, acquaintances, and random travelers that didn’t plan their trip with a travel agent because these people believed that travel agents don’t exist anymore or aren’t needed. The consumer media and even statements made by government officials have reinforced this idea. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Recent ASTA research also helps, Werner said. "I found the ASTA research on the value of agents interesting and encouraging because it highlighted the growing use of travel agents. The data also indicates that people are once again seeking the help of a travel agent after having planned past trips on their own. "
"I also saw in the research that Internet-savvy Millennials, who are also the biggest users of social media, seek the help of a professional travel agent for their trips too. I think it puts to rest the idea that younger people will never use an agent because they want to do everything online themselves."
Werner noted that more than 280 members and suppliers attended the recent MAST Awards Night, with one hundred and nineteen awards presented in six categories to 47 agencies and 12 preferred suppliers.
MAST’s highest sales award, the All Star Award, was presented to 25 agencies for their 2013 preferred supplier sales. The top agency was Cary Travel Express in Cary, Illinois. In addition to the award, these 25 top agencies will also attend the All Star trip this fall hosted by Royal Caribbean International on the Oasis of the Seas, Werner noted.
Thirteen agents were honored with the Million Dollar Agent Sales Award for their achievements in individual sales of MAST’s preferred suppliers. An additional nine received the Outstanding Agent Sales Award for their leisure travel sales of MAST’s preferred suppliers.
In the Business Development Awards category, GetAway Travel Service in Hartland, Wisconsin, won for Best Group Promotion for their wine club cruise on the Rhone River in France. Travel Discoveries of Watseka, Illinois, won the Best Travel Show Award, for their consumer travel show that drew people from over 100 miles away. Honorable Mention Awards were presented to Picture Perfect Travel in Rock Island, Illinois, and Blue Horizon Travel in Orion, Illinois, for creative marketing activities.
Werner said MAST also recognized the exceptional service provided by its preferred suppliers as voted by its members. Suppliers were divided into two sales categories with members choosing two suppliers for each award.
Recipients honored include:
- Best Sales Managers: Apple Vacations and Collette Vacations
- Best Inside Sales Support: Apple Vacations and Collette Vacations
- Best Reservations Department: Disney Destinations and Avanti Destinations
- Best Group Department: Royal Caribbean and CIE Tours International
- Best Customer Service: Travel Impressions and Down Under Answers
- Best Marketing Support: Apple Vacations and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Best Training Program: Globus Family of Brands and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Best Client Documents: Travel Impressions and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Best MAST Sales Sensation Exhibit: Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line
- Best Support of Travel Agents in Consumer Marketing: Royal Caribbean International
Werner also presented the President’s Award to Darrellynn Hanes of Worldwide Traveler in McHenry, Illinois, for her service and leadership to MAST and the agency community.