Signature Travel Network


Alex Sharpe
Alex Sharpe, EVP, Signature Travel Network, Marina del Rey, CA (EVP), with “Bright Spot” Awards winners David Fritz, president, Cruise Everything, Fort Myers, FL; Christine Niskanen, VP/Co-owner Cruise Masters, Portland, OR; Phil Swartz, owner, Holiday Cruises & Tours, Tallahassee, FL; Howard Moses, owner, The Cruise Authority, Marietta, GA; Margo Portillo, owner, Tramex Travel, Austin, TX; and Lee Smolinski, Palm Coast Travel, Boca Raton, FL. For a complete list winners,.


The tone was optimistic at Signature Travel Network’s Owners’ Meeting at La Costa Hotel and Resort in Carlsbad, CA, last month. Helping to set that tone was President and CEO Michelle Morgan, who, during her inaugural address, reported a 20 to 40 percent increase in advance sales from Signature travel members over the same period last year. 

“We’re hearing that business is good, and members are optimistic,” she said. She also announced four key initiatives for Signature in 2013:

1. Adopting Signature’s new proprietary CRM technology tools.

2. Partnering with preferred suppliers to grow already strong preferred sales.

3. Building a robust e-mail-marketing list with higher percentages of permission.

4. Ensuring front line consultants provide rich information on clients’ travel preferences and selections by utilizing Res Cards.

ClientLink and Other CRM Tools

Regarding the CRM tools, Karen Yeates, vice president of Internet Business Solutions, said, “Each new CRM tool has been designed to enhance travel consultants’ personalized engagement with their clients, while making communication increasingly easy and intuitive to implement.” 

For example ClientLink, launching in 2013, will allow Signature to set up a series of triggered messages, customized for each traveler’s unique experience. Through the information from client ResCards, Signature will have the opportunity to send (on the consultant’s behalf) a series of customized messaging, including: recommendations for how to utilize Signature’s consumer technology, final payment reminders, welcome home messages, surveys for feedback, as well as auto-trigger messaging for birthdays and passport renewal. 

‘Bright Spot’ Award Winners

Here are the winners of Signature’s “Bright Spot” Awards, given to member in recognition of “how they’ve contributed to the success of not only their own businesses but of the entire network,” said EVP Alex Sharpe.

- Highest Annual Sales: FROSCH Travel, Bryan Leibman

- Preferred Supplier Sales: Palm Coast Travel, Lee Smolinski

- Preferred Supplier Sales: Tramex Travel, Juan Portillo

- Groups: Holiday Cruises and Tours of Tallahassee, Phil Swartz

- Groups: The Cruise Authority, Howard Moses & David Bitner

- Groups: Cruise Masters/Concierge Travel Advisors, Christine and Paul Niskanen

- Groups: Cruise Everything, David Fritz

- Marketing: Travel Beyond, Jim Bendt

- Marketing: Creative Vacations & Cruise Centers, Craig Baldridge

- Marketing: CTA Travel, Cathie Lentz-Fryer

- Hotel Program: Boulevards of Travel, Barbara Boatman

- Hotel Program: Lorraine Travel, Greg Guiteras

- Hotel Program: CRC Travel, Peter Carideo

- Res Cards: Carol’s Travel, Carol and Dan Lekki

- Res Cards: Kern Travel East Hills, Ron Biglin

- Res Cards: All-Travel, Eric Maryanov

- Res Cards: Avenues of the World Travel, Yves and Monika Leuenberger

- Res Cards: CruisingCo., Jami Sales and Char & Don Berger

- Best Practices: TravelStore, Wido Schaefer & Dan Ilves

- Best Practices: Peak Travel Group, Tyler & Lisa Peak and Vivienne Kouba

- Best Practices: FROSCH Classic Cruise & Travel, Susan Reder and Penny Entin

- Best Practices: CruiseExperts Travel, Blaine Lambert and Denis Lim


Yeates said, “We have developed ClientLink so that we at Signature can take the heavy lifting off of the agencies. We are constantly communicating with our members’ clients to keep them energized and focused on their upcoming vacation, while reinforcing the bond with their travel consultant.” 

Susan Reder, managing partner of FROSCH Classic Cruise & Travel, said, “I’m very much looking forward to Signature’s rollout of ClientLink. This program alone will provide our travel consultants with consistent timely communications with clients while saving them a tremendous amount of time.” Following is a look at other tools Signature is rolling out.

E-mail Enhancement: In tandem with ClientLink, in 2013, Signature will enhance their e-mail program to develop more intelligent response to clients’ e-mail behaviors—silently updating preferences and sending triggered messaging based on clicks. Clients will receive timely specials that increasingly match their specific interests. 

Facebook Apps: Signature’s extensive “Cruise” and “Land” search engines and e-mail sign up capabilities will now be available as Facebook Apps on Signature travel consultant and agency Facebook pages. 

Cruise Track: The new Cruise Track will now notify members of relevant cruise updates. Cruise Track has been created to assist members with staying on top of changing pricing and itineraries so that they can be proactive with notifying clients of any changes. Members can receive all updates or hand select what they want to track.

Text Search: Text search capabilities will now be available on members’ websites so that their clients can search for vacations and content without being limited to specific dropdown search criteria. 

‘Private Sale’ Program 

Signature also announced a new “Private Sale” program. This new sales and marketing platform, which launches this month, will offer limited-time, hotel and resort offers, available exclusively through a Signature Travel Network consultant.

Ignacio Maza, Signature’s executive vice president, said: “Signature clients will find substantial savings and uncommon value at hotels and resorts all over the globe. The ‘Private Sales’ offer our members’ clients the competitive value they have come to expect, with the personal touch of working with their trusted travel consultant. Signature members can take advantage of this new marketing tool to retain customers and capture new clients. Our goal, as always, is to ensure that our members stay ahead of the curve.”

“Private Sale” offers will be available for sale during a short booking window and will be non-refundable once purchased. Signature clients must register to receive these exclusive offers.

Inspirational Book on ‘Change’

Signature said its new “Bright Spot” Awards (see sidebar) were inspired by the latest business book du jour, Switch—How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This year, Signature is adopting some of the principles of the book and provided all attendees with a copy. 

“The senior staff read the book prior to our annual retreat. We wanted a common language to tackle issues relating to communications and positioning of products and programs,” stated President Michelle Morgan.

“Engagement of Signature member/owners is exceptionally high, but the book lead to a discussion on some key areas Signature can perform even better. There are opportunities for further utilizing our centralized ClientConnection database of 3.5 million qualified travelers,” Morgan said. 

Executive Vice President Alex Sharpe added, “As a member-owned organization, today our members had the unique opportunity to share best practices with one another in selective member-only sessions.”