NEW YORK — A good travel agent knows how to maintain their clientele and keep customers coming back. But how does an agency acquire new clients? In a game changing move, Travel Leaders Franchise Group is on the path to answering that question with their January 6 launch of SCORE.
Travel Agent attended an intimate luncheon with Roger E. Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, today, where he expanded on his new program. "Historically franchises and consortia have used marketing to target past customers. The old model involved working with preferred suppliers to market to returning customers. Our research shows that today customers want experienced specialists who know and are passionate about a destination and a product," said Block.
The idea behind SCORE is that using predominantly the internet and mass market media, Travel Leaders will generate qualified consumer leads and distribute them among their network of specialized agents.
The group has been working on developing and testing the program over the past 18 months. Travel Leaders first worked with Qantas Vacations to bring a group of 100 agents to Australia on an in depth, two-week fam trip that thoroughly engrossed and engaged agents in the Australia travel market. Upon returning, these agents were able to use their knowledge to target clients and generate an approximate increase of 900 percent in sales to Australia. This is the kind of overwhelming results that have been coming out of SCORE's testing. In fact, 75 percent of Travel Leaders' agencies have already signed up for the program, which will deal with suppliers such as tour operators and cruise lines. Destinations are not being considered.
So what defines a specialist? According to Block it is someone who hasn't just been to a destination or has tried a product, but knows it inside and out. For example, a Mediterranean cruise specialist not only knows the cruise lines, but knows the ins and outs of each port. Agents are qualified specialists if they have lived in a destination, or visit it on a regular basis and can speak about it like a local. If agents want to become a specialist, Travel Leaders offers these immersion programs, like the one with Qantas. After completing the program, these agents are considered to be specialists who can work within the SCORE system.
"The program allows agents to sell what they love. We are putting the fun back into the business," Block told us.
As of now, all agents are working on equal opportunity. This means that the leads generated by Travel Leaders will be sent out to all qualified specialists. However those agents that generate the most sales will, over time, have priority over future generated leads.
Participation in the SCORE program is voluntary for all Travel Leaders members, and receiving each lead comes at no extra cost. “If our specialists don't make the sale, there's no cost to their agency,” Block said. “However, if they succeed in closing the sale – and our hope is that they will since all future opportunities will be based on participating agencies’ abilities to close each sale – they’ll simply pay a small portion of the commission they’ve earned to Travel Leaders to maintain our marketing outreach in generating even more leads.” Block also noted that Travel Leaders’ SCORE Program augments all of the organization’s foundation marketing and advertising, which will continue to support all members of the Travel Leaders Associate Program regardless of their participation in SCORE.
As of now this program is available solely to Travel Leaders Franchise agents. As the program expands, it will be offered to the other companies under the Travel Leaders umbrella.
"It's working," said Block. "And this is going to revolutionize the way we market travel."