Achieving a balance between commissions and fee revenue for greater profitability and meeting customer demands for more professionalism and greater expertise, rank among the key challenges faced by travel agents, John Werner, president and chief operating officer of MAST Travel Network, the Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based agent-owned consortia said.
A veteran executive, Werner told Travel Agent that MAST is enjoying sustained growth with nearly 200 agency members in ten states and Canada who turned in a strong performance in 2011. Consumer demand remains relatively strong and agents are benefiting.
Despite this Werner is cautious about the year ahead.
"2012 is destined to be a year of uncertainty on a national and international level because of continued high unemployment, the presidential and congressional elections, the European debt crisis, high fuel prices – you name it, " Werner said.
"I think this year will look much like last year. Fortunately, people want to take their vacations. Vacations have become a priority for many people. It wasn’t that way ten years ago. Professional agents have clearly benefited from relatively high consumer demand and this should continue in 2012."
Celebrating his 10th anniversary with MAST, Werner is bullish on the future of MAST and other agency groups.
"Agency groups continue to evolve. I think agency groups are continuing towards being the marketing department, particularly for small and mid-size agencies. And this means going beyond the direct mail and e-mail activities all groups offer their members. I am referring to agency branding, individualized marketing plans, customer acquisition and retention and achieving sales targets."
Among a diversity of new programs launched by MAST, Werner cites its MAST Rewards program, new professional and career training tracks, web marketing, business coaching and a MAST Elite marketing program. "All are designed to help support our member agencies and improve profitability and productivity," Werner said.
MAST's new rewards program, for example, offers agencies three levels of membership incentives, Werner notes. The program tracks member engagement and participation in education, marketing, meetings, events, and networking activities. Members are automatically enrolled in the program and begin earning rewards after accomplishing one of the rewards status levels Select, Pro or Premier.
Members exponentially earn rewards towards their membership upon achieving each level, Werner reports. Rewards double for reaching preferred supplier sales targets.
Among the activities included to earn rewards are webinar training, educational workshops, participation at the MAST annual conference, active users of MAST’s direct mail and e-mail marketing programs, including the bi-annual edition of Honeymoon Destinations, an award winning direct mail program.
“Active members are an ideal that every organization strives to achieve and this rewards program will encourage and reward all members. MAST is fortunate to have member agencies that believe in this ideal too and know that by working together, we accomplish more and help bring success to everyone.”
"This program empowers members and recognizes them for their active involvement in MAST - the result is good for the members own business and good for all MAST members," Werner said.
MAST will celebrate the network's 2011 achievements on March 15 during its awards night that honors MAST members – and suppliers - who achieved top sales in several categories as well as recognition to individual sales agents.