Onsite: Report From Results! Travel's Networking Event

NASSAU, BAHAMAS-Travel Agent attended the recent Results! Travel "Come 'Sale' Away" National Networking Event onboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas, sailing from Miami to the Bahamas October 12-15, featuring a panel discussion with preferred suppliers, as well as presentations by Kevin Weiser, general manager of Primero Systems, John Risner, general manager of Results! Travel and Roger Block, executive vice president of Carlson Travel Franchise Group. The event attracted more than 200 attendees of brick-and-mortar travel agency owners who have chosen to become franchisees of Results! Travel, one of four franchise brands in Carlson Wagonlit Travel's leisure group with over 900 locations in the U.S.

During his presentation, Block addressed such concerns as competition from online travel sites. "Customers are getting fed up with Travelocity and Expedia and they are coming back to us in droves, especially for large group travel and small business accounts," he said, noting Expedia's flat sales growth in the U.S. while also touting an agent's unique ability to help their clients when something goes wrong on a trip.

He also urged the crowd to focus more on selling airline bookings, given the growth in the airline industry and the opportunity to earn "a couple of bucks" from GDS and airline overrides, in addition to services fees. Block also commended Royal Caribbean International for the stand it took in the recent YTB and card mills controversy, and urged agency owners to attract the cooperation and financial assistance of such suppliers and keep pace with the growing travel industry as a whole by growing their business through expansion and acquisitions. "Acquiring other agencies will dramatically increase your market share and profitability," Block said. He gave Carlson as an example, which, after buying Navigant for more than $500 million, "is now the largest travel agency in the world." He concluded his speech by urging all agents to join the American Society of Travel Agents-Block is a member of the organization's corporate executive advisory committee-so that the organization can continue to "fill up their war chest" and go to bat for agents.

Risner, in an interview with Travel Agent, related how and why he and his company decided to launch the Results! Travel franchise brand seven years ago. One major advantage that a franchise has over consortia and co-ops, Risner said, is their ability to offer their affiliated agencies airline overrides. "In 2002, I began to get letters and phone calls from our franchisees saying that airline overrides helped sustain them after September 11 and that they probably would've had to close their doors without [the overrides]," he said.

He also touted the fact that each agency that becomes a franchisee keeps its own brand identity, with Results! providing marketing, training, preferred supplier relationships and back-office/tech support such as the Results! Advantage customizable web site manager. Risner says the training that Results! offers, which includes online content, webinars and classes in various U.S. cities, focuses on ways for agents to make more money. "Regardless of what the economy's doing, if you're differentiating yourself by creating a customer experience, people will want to do business with you," Risner said. He listed three keys for agencies to increase their sales: "Know your customer better than you know anything else; be ready to do business when they want to do business [with 24/7 availability]; and sell the products, destinations and experiences that meet or exceed your customers' expectations while increasing your earnings."

When asked about what differentiates Results! from its competitors, he said that franchisees "like the sense of community and our responsiveness. They know they can pick up the phone and call me, and that I'll respond," he said. "We focus on the big-picture view so they can focus on the details." Risner also was eager to talk about a recent survey of Results! franchisees, in which 97.6 percent of those surveyed said that they would recommend Results! to another agency. Visit [www.resultstravel.com] or call 888-523-2200. (DB)