In addition to its promising new joint partnerships with Bon Appétit and the Food Network, Signature Travel Network announced an extensive new program to support member agency sales and marketing at its Las Vegas Sales Meeting and Trade Show at the MGM Grand Hotel. Signature's new joint partnerships with Bon Appétit and the Food Network - expected to establish Signature as the leader in the culinary travel arena – is backstopped by new direct marketing, cruise sales and training initiatives.
"Signature is committed to making a significant mark in the culinary travel segment of the market. It's a very effective way to tap into this important facet of experiential travel. Cooking, tasting and learning about local cuisines is a wonderful way for travelers to have very dramatic and powerful cultural immersions," said Michael von Wittenau, Signature's vice president of strategic business Development.
The Food Network partnership will provide Signature members with Food Network branded products to sell and market exclusively. "The Food Network travel programs will use Signature's extensive travel related services, expertise and technology to provide Food Network viewers with many opportunities to personally interact with the networks' popular stars through authentic culinary experiences in some of the most exciting destinations around the world," said von Wittenau.
In 2010, Bon Appétit and Signature will launch a variety of culinary explorations through jointly run and managed itineraries to key culinary regions of the world. Travelers will be able to purchase Bon Appétit branded cruise and land vacations exclusively through Signature's Travel Specialists.
During the conference, Michelle Morgan, president of Signature announced that sales are rebounding month over month versus the same time last year. Strong sales are reported in the luxury cruise sector and longer duration cruises, and land sales are also recovering. "We welcome member agents to dip into Signature's well stocked pantry of tools including top of line direct mail marketing, cutting edge customer-centric technology and training programs, and the highly competitive cruise and 2010 Hotel and Resorts programs," she said.
Morgan also announced that Signature will further expand its direct marketing in 2010. "Members need to stay in front of their clients now more than ever," she added. "Instead of pulling back on direct mail, Signature is broadening its initiatives for next year by providing members with marketing credits, mailing publications without charge in the first quarter, and deeply underwriting expenses associated with printing, postage and mailing costs."
Signature also reports that it continues to enjoy high praise by suppliers for its advanced technology. "Signature's plans for 2010 will hinge on the development of mobile applications for leisure travelers specifically related to destination content, maps as well as searches and results for hotel profiles and images. This initiative will assist travel consultants in connecting with clients in relevant, meaningful and real-time venues," said Karen Yeates, Signature's vice president of Internet business solutions.
On the training front, Signature University has proved one of the most invaluable tools for members. Gina Weyer, Signature's vice president member services and training, crafted a workshop strategy that focused on three new elements: Signature Custom Courses, a diverse library of training content focused on maximizing Signature programs and supplier partner products to drive measurable sales results; Business Skills Courseware Collection, a wide variety of business skills development topics such as customer services, sales and effective telephone techniques; and Books24x7, an online book resource offering access to hundreds of the latest and best business books designed to help management develop leadership skills.
"Signature's goal is to support the professional development of its members through innovative online learning that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Signature University," said Weyer, "It's times like these that we are reminded that we need education, if not to brush up on those things we've already learned, but to find new approaches to dealing with changing business scenarios."
Signature's cruise program has also been updated. "Signature offers members the best cruise program in the industry," said Filomena Andre, Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for Signature. "Clients of Signature members enjoy exclusive privileges including prepaid gratuities, shipboard credits and custom shore excursions by private car and driver." During the Conference, members were taught new ways to grow their cruise sales by maximizing Signature's myriad tools and resources.
Signature also launched the 2010 Hotel Directory. The hotel guide is now available for agents to promote the growing hotel and resorts program. "We are proud of the progress we have made since the launch of the hotel program four years ago," said Ignacio Maza, Signature's executive vice president. "This year we have added one hundred-plus new participating properties to our collection of over 650 world-class hotels, resorts, lodges, spas and unique travel experiences in 77 countries all over the globe."
Tim Smith, chairman of Signature's Board of Directors reminded agencies, "Your agency's front line staff can avail themselves of all the tools, technology and relationships that Signature has cultivated for all of us. Using these amazing resources doesn't make us just smart, it makes us brilliant."
Sponsors for this year's meeting included: Carnival Cruises, Classic Vacations, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Hertz, Holland America Line, Leading Hotels of the World, Only Vegas and Princess Cruises.
Signature Travel Network is a member-owned, travel cooperative, headquartered in Marina Del Rey, CA, with a regional office in New York City. The network was established in 1956 and today includes 190 member agencies with 330 retail locations throughout the U.S. Collectively, Signature members generate over $4 billion in annual travel sales.