|John Werner, president and COO of MAST|
Travel agents must engage customers continuously through the travel planning process and even when no trip is currently in the works, according to members of MAST Travel Network.
The viewpoint emerged from MAST's recent annual All Star trip for its top-producing and most-improved member agencies aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
Engagement includes at least six touch points throughout the year, making yourself as an agent accessible and giving clients ways to communicate with you while they are on their trip, MAST says.
Twenty-six agencies were invited as recipients of the All Star Award for their 2013 preferred supplier sales. During the Business Meeting, members formed discussion groups around two topics: "How do we make ourselves more referable?" and "How do we create more customer loyalty?" One answer, MAST reports, is improved engagement.
John Werner, president and COO of MAST, also spoke on identifying who are agents customers. He said they are travelers who value quality over price, as they will spend more to get the experience they are after.
"They are travelers who are open to ideas and questions. They want to share themselves with others and express their wants and aspirations. And they are travelers who value guidance, advice, and recommendations as part of their decision making, " Werner said.
At the board meeting held in conjunction with the trip, the MAST board reaffirmed its preferred supplier strategy with marketing alliances and a short list of suppliers and directional selling activities for member agencies.
MAST also made a donation on behalf of its members to the Make A Wish Foundation, one of Royal Caribbean's charitable causes.
MAST also reports its Sales Sensation event took place on November 18 at Drury Lane Theatre and Conference Center in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Attendance records were broken again this year with over 530 people, including 98 exhibiting companies, in what has become the third-largest annual travel agent event in the Midwest, MAST said.
Seminars were held focused on destination training including an immersive two-hour seminar on Southeast Asia presented by SITA World Tours. Other destination seminars featured South America; South Pacific Islands, such as Tahiti, Fiji, and Hawaii; Central Europe; and Mexico.
New this year was a ClientBase Cafe enabling members to have hands-on training from ClientBase. Apple Vacations gave one-on-one training on incorporating their video content and social media tools into agency marketing, MAST reports.
Among the speakers was Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, who highlighted ASTA's partnership with MAST, which offers MAST members agencies membership in ASTA at a subsidized rate with MAST paying for a portion of ASTA dues for MAST agencies.
Dick Fislar, MAST board chairman and CEO, Picture Perfect Travel, Rock Island, Illinois, said, "Kerby emphasized how important it is for every travel agent to be a member of ASTA. ASTA protects the interests of every agent in the business. We cannot begin to have the impact on our own that ASTA has with federal, state and local governments."
MAST also reports its Annual Conference will be held, April 30-May 4, 2015, in Seattle.