|From left to right, John Lovell, president of Vacation.com and Steve McGillivray, chief marketing officer of the Travel Leaders Group|
Travel Agent was on hand Monday for Vacation.com and Travel Leaders Group’s “Think Big” 2012 news conference, a state-of-the-company address where both the agency and its travel network shared with media some ongoing trends in the industry as well as an update on its growing products.
One of the most revealing trends with regards to Vacation.com’s tourism product was a surprising, year-to-year upswing in Mexico business despite the negative publicity, including a refreshed travel warning there back in February, that has been eating away at the country.
“If you didn’t look at these numbers or didn’t know about these numbers, I’m sure most of you would have just thought that Mexico’s numbers tanked again,” said Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for the Travel Leaders Group. “ But the numbers haven’t tanked. And we think that’s a testament to agents. They are addressing clients' concerns and our members are really handling the objections a client has to a destination.”
John Lovell, president of Vacation.com, says most of the “double-digit” spike in Mexico business could be traced to the Riviera Maya. Specifically, Cancun and Cozumel have been the two hottest destinations to come out of the Riviera Maya region.
“Lets not forget that this has something to do with value as well,” McGillivray says. “Mexico has great value with its all-inclusives. This is, after all, where you’ll find some of the greatest all inclusive in the world.”
Rising fuel costs to Europe doesn’t hurt either.
“People aren't going back to Europe that quickly, so they are really looking for places where they can get something similar for a shorter flight and Mexico and the Caribbean are where they are going,” McGillivray adds.
In 2011, Vacation.com has seen more than 400 new members, which Lovell says is impressive considering Vacation.com’s partnership with Travel Leaders Group was only finalized in December 31, 2010.
“This experiment has gone very well,” added McGillivray. “To see all of our big units interact with one another is great. The backgrounds are similar. We just took all of the best practices. And I can say that in one year, it's been a job well done.”
As far 2012, Lovell says there is “guarded optimism.” Although Vacation.com’s projections look positive for three of the four quarters, Lovell says its soon to celebrate since there are so many unforeseen events that can transpire from now until the end of the year.
“There is a guarded optimism for 2012,” says Lovell. “After all , if fuel prices hit $6 a gallon in the U.S., that will have an impact on people's discretionary income.”
And the third-quarter projection, the only one that is trending behind of 2011, can be attributed to clients’ desire to sit and wait for the perfect deal, Lovell says.
“We expect third quarter numbers to increase because we are fairly sure that these are the bargain hunters who are waiting for that perfect value deal,” Lovell says.
Vacation.com also reported on the success of two of its leading technology offerings – In-Sites and Stream. Members are quickly adopting the brand new In-Sites program, the professionally-designed mini-sites that can be embedded into member agencies’ existing websites to help showcase their expertise. Additionally, Vacation.com’s new and easy to use hotel booking tool, Stream, is gaining popularity.
With access to more than 70,000 hotels and resorts worldwide, the Stream prepaid hotel program, launched in November, offers competitive client rates and guaranteed 12-percent commissions on every gross booking (before taxes). Since January 1, Vacation.com has seen an 81-percent increase in agents booking through Stream and a 278-percent increase in actual bookings via the tool.
Vacation.com also officially announced the launch of four new In-Sites mini-sites. In-Sites are professionally-designed mini-sites seamlessly embedded into an agency’s existing website that showcase its agents’ expertise in six categories: European Cruising, European Tour/Land, Luxury Travel, Exotic Destinations, Alaska and the Caribbean. The mini-sites contain rich content, including ship photos, deck plans, itinerary details, videos and up-to-date pricing. In-Sites are designed to be completely turn-key. Members don’t need any special technical expertise, yet they can be customized to include branding and contact details for a particular agency, in addition to including an agency’s most current offers.
Agencies interested in learning more about these programs, and all of the benefits Vacation.com offers to its members, should visit www.JoinVacation.com.
In May, Vacation.com also be rolling out a new mobile phone app that will allow clients to get a free app that relates to the destination that had booked with an agent. This post-booking tool essentially gives a client a free app that disperses information pertaining to the destination they already booked. The app will then have the agent’s name and contact information on it, serving as “just another way to reinforce the idea that your agent is with you all the time,” says McGillivray
Although there is no name yet announced for the mobile device, there will be one announced during Vacation.com's 14th annual Conference and Trade Show in May. The mobile app will have a soft launch then and will be officially launched around June, says Tiffany Glass, vice president for e-commerce and technology for Vacation.com.