At the first-ever Travel Leaders EDGE Conference, which has drawn over 2,000 attendees to Las Vegas from June 12-16, Travel Agent and other media learned more about Travel Leaders’ big new partnership with American Express, dubbed APEX.
The biggest perk of the new program is the ability for participating travel agents to book travel using their clients’ American Express Membership Rewards points—and earn commission—for holders of four American Express cards: Premier Rewards Gold, Business Gold Rewards, Platinum and Business Platinum. (The program does not include co-branded cards like Delta Skymiles.)
Under APEX, agents can book travel as they normally do, charging it to their client’s American Express card, and use the client’s points to cover all or part of the trip using the Pay with Points tool across five categories: air, rail, cruise, hotel/resort and tours. This can be a big up-sell opportunity, officials noted, as it gives agents the opportunity to offer clients a commissionable upgrade to a higher suite category, or a trip extension, without dipping into their client’s wallet.
To promote the program, Travel Leaders has also secured the right for agents to use the Membership Rewards logo in a limited set of circumstances. Travel Leaders will provide marketing materials incorporating the logo, such as approved website banners, email footers and prewritten emails, which agents can use; although, these materials must be used as-is.
In addition to Pay with Points, Travel Leaders is also launching The Travel Collection, a compilation of benefits and offers available to APEX-participating agents and their clients. Available across air, cruise, car rental, hotel and land, some notable offers include 10 percent commission on air travel on certain routes and fare classes, as well as a number of Travel Collection cruise offers that are combinable with existing deals.
APEX agents will also be encouraged to refer clients to participating American Express cards. Agencies who do will be able to earn bonus incentives for approved new card accounts.
Finally, looking ahead, Travel Leaders is looking to launch benefit sharing. In the future, participating agents will have access to book select card member benefits. Details on this are still to come, but officials said it would help agents work toward being a “one-stop shop” for their clients.
Thus far, 289 beta phase agents have already completed onboarding in the program. There is no cost to agencies to participate and it takes approximately eight hours of on-demand training. Independent contractors can also participate: Their host agency needs to sign up first; after which, the independent contractor can sign a participation agreement.