For home-based travel agents, 2014 was a year of changes. Travel Agent rounds up the key headlines you need to know.
Focus on Yield
With agents facing continued pressure from non-commissionable fees (NCFs), 2014 saw independent agents moving to sell high-yield product, such as all-inclusive vacations, luxury products and river cruises.
“Our research shows it has been a natural progression for our travel consultants to opt for the higher yielding sales of luxury and small ship cruises, tours and FIT packages replacing the lower yielding cruise sales,” NACTA president Ann van Leeuwen told independent travel consultant members attending a conference of NACTA Chapter Directors at the Grande Rivera Sandals resort in Jamaica.
Van Leeuwen cited research that shows cruise sales are more time-intensive for agents. Also, low fares and higher (NCFs) cut into compensation which, in turn, makes it harder for agents to reach sales goals, move to higher commission levels, and make continued investments in their talent and overall business operations.
|Christine Duffy, CLIA's president and CEO // Photo by Irene Owsley|
CLIA Targets Independent Agents
2014 also saw Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) release a big revamp to its membership model, the first in nearly 40 years. The new structure had big implications for home-based agents, as it was designed with more perks for individual membership.
Under the new model, Silver membership for an individual agent begins at $49-$99. Under the previous membership scheme, prices started at $119. Additionally, individual agents who join CLIA get their own membership number. Previously, they would have had to have used their agency's number. Additionally, more than 25 cruise lines will provide special offers for individual agents.
The new program does come with some requirements for individual agents. Agents must still work for an agency that's a CLIA member, and earn a minimum of $5,000 commission in a year. That number must be verified by the agency or host group.
CCRA Acquires and Rebrands OSSN
Early in 2014, CCRA Travel Solutions acquired the Outside Sales and Support Network (OSSN) and Travel Retailer Universal Enumeration Systems, Inc. (TRUE Coding System).
Later in the year, CCRA followed up on the acquisition with a comprehensive rebranding of OSSN that included a new logo and tagline emphasizing independent travel agents. CCRA said at the time that its research had shown agents were coming to prefer independent agent as a title, as opposed to home-based.
|CoNexion 2014 general session // Photo by Nexion|
New Tools From Consortia
2014 also saw consortia continuing to expand their marketing and technology solutions for travel agents.
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) launched enhancements to its AX CONNECT product and TripCase integration. New "Card Swipe" functionality for AX CONNECT allows travel managers or company security teams to view an integrated representation of a traveler’s itinerary information and recent American Express Corporate Card transactions to help pinpoint their location during an emergency situation. GBT also extended its integration with TripCase, Sabre’s itinerary management app, to display trip-relevant supplier benefits such as free in-room Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast options.
At Nexion's CoNexion 2014 conference, Nexion rolled out two major technology enhancements at the conference: the Smart Leads by Nexion lead generation program and the ResReview quality control program.
Smart Leads uses a consumer-facing mobile app to match new, prospective clients with Nexion agents based on the consumer’s travel request. Nexion agents can also communicate with their existing clients through the mobile application with outgoing notifications.
In addition to communicating with their clients through push notifications, Nexion agents will be able to put their brand in the hands of their clients by providing clients with destination content, travel products, supplier promotions and travel quotes.
ResReview is a mid-office quality control system that provides credit card verification, scanning for eligible commissions and providing client invoices. The program will support all Amadeus, Apollo, Sabre and Worldspan GDS users, in addition to all Nexion agents using SNAP!, Nexion's air program.
The personalized invoices automatically include Seller of Travel information and itineraries with links specific to a traveler’s baggage information and weather reports. There are also links to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Department of Transportation.
Additionally, ResReview has Internet calendar sharing capabilities to provide clients with digital attachments and notifications regarding air, car and hotel confirmations. The system also confirms that each client is taking advantage of obtaining eligible frequent flyer miles, as well as hotel and car rental reward programs.
At Travel Leaders' 2014 National Meeting, the company debuted enhancements to its Agent Profiler program, dubbed Agent Profiler 2.0. Agent Profiler enables consumers to find the right travel agent for their needs by selecting from a full-range of travel specialties, destinations and other search options.
More relevant content will also be driven within Travel Leaders’ leisure website, www.travelleaders.com. Additional specialists will be highlighted throughout branded promotions and increased opportunities will be offered to consumers desiring to connect with a travel agent specialist.
Additionally, Travel Leaders created a proprietary photo gallery for member agencies. Members will have access to royalty-free travel photography for marketing and social media without concern over copyright infringement with exclusive Travel Leaders gallery images.
Cruise Holidays International rolled out enhancements to its AgentMate technology, which offered new lead management features for travel agents.
Cruise Planners introduced its updated Mobile 2.0 Cruise Planners app, which allows clients to create and upload photo albums of their personal trips – and then share them with their agent or on social media platforms. The revamped Mobile 2.0 also allows Cruise Planners agencies to send clients notifications and promotional offers, and clients also can use it to book a cruise or talk with their agent.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com in 2015 for the latest home-based travel agent news, trends and updates.