Affordable heath insurance for agency owners, managers and staffs is a key challenge for the travel agency industry, John Risner, vice president and general manager of Results! Travel said in an interview with Travel Agent during Results! Travels national convention at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood Resort.
Risner, an industry veteran who has led Results! Travel since its inception in 2000, said concerns with health care costs was among the key concerns of the record 200 plus agents who attending the conference. Noting the age of many successful, established agents, Risner said questions of affordability, prior conditions and risks were considerations as were the effects of health insurance on recruitment and retention of agents.
During the conference, Result! Travel celebrated its 10th anniversary with a solid record of growth, Risner reported. The agency franchise group - part of Travel Leaders -has grown to include 700 agency locations and $2.2 billion in annual sales, he notes and has survived and prospered despite tough times including the current economic downturn.
Predicting strong growth for the third and fourth quarters, Risner also sees opportunity in business travel sales. A new program “Preferred Membership” was announced at the conference to assist member agents to expand sales to small and medium-sized businesses. The program gives agents a tool kit that will equip them to increase sales and maintain high levels of services.
Among the tools offered will be training opportunities, which will include basic and advanced business travel sales, account management, proposal writing and RFP responses, Risner says.
A host of training options were offered during the conference, including social media promotional opportunities, new profit opportunities from Results! programs, online marketing, service fees and significant given the growth of independent agents, a workshop on risks. “When it comes to independent contractors, there are two big categories of legal pitfalls: legal liability and re-classification as employees for taxation purposes,” Results! noted.
Several agents were singled out for praise, including Sue Linderholm of Value Travel in Edina, MN; Jeanne Langlo of Complete Travel & Cruises in Morton Grove, IL; and Rae Anne Ryan and Paige Ryan Heitzmann of Travel Affiliates in Gulfport, MS.