Underscoring the success of many consortia and franchise groups, the Western Association of Travel Agencies (WESTA) reports its largest-ever year-end bonus distribution and record profit-share payout to its member-owners.
“It was our best financial year ever and when we have a great year, the agents have a great year,” said Mike Estill, chief operating officer of the member-owned travel agency consortium. Before a record number of attendees at WESTA's recent Annual Owners and Managers Conference, Estill also announced a new partnership with Sabre that offers agents significant segment-based financial incentives and technology fund credits.
More than 150 WESTA owners (nearly three-quarters of the organization’s member-owners) attended the two-day conference at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, CA, a WESTA Preferred Hotel partner. Agency owners participated in networking sessions, Sabre training seminars, and connected with a record number of hoteliers who have joined WESTA's Preferred Hotel Program in the last 12 months. At the Annual Awards Banquet, attendees also feted Estill on his 20-year tenure at the helm of the consortium.
Estill said, “One of our primary goals is to foster profitable, win-win relationships between suppliers and members. This year’s financial success – the largest in our history – is a strong indicator of the resurgent health of our members and the travel industry in general.”
At the conference, Estill detailed the benefits of partnering with Sabre, a new WESTA preferred supplier. "This new partnership further assists our membership in developing business models that make air ticket sales profitable in a post-commission environment.”
Speaking for WESTA's member-owners, WESTA president Ginger Minoletti of Bay World Travel remarked, “It is exciting to be able to operate in a model in which operational success at the organization level directly translates into financial results at the agency level.”
In addition, member owners were also briefed on a variety of topics, including understanding the evolution of the hotel pricing model and where consolidators function in this space, updates on legislative issues including the significant changes in travel insurance licensing .
Briefings were also offered on the- expanding array of virtual, mobile enhanced office tools, from phone systems to cloud-based servers, that can help owners increase efficiency while decreasing cost.
The event also included panel discussions on OTA price matching strategies, new client acquisition ideas and a variety of other small business management topics, WESTA reports.
The event follows the launch of WESTA's website design and hosting program, which member agencies to launch, maintain and maximize their online presence with a professionally designed website that features destination information and current travel deals offered by WESTA's preferred suppliers.
This past year WESTA also offered an annual series of trade shows, which migrated up and down the West Coast to bring together frontline agents and vendors for intensive full-day sessions. Participants included WESTA preferred suppliers from the cruise industry, as well as national wholesalers and a hand-picked group of unique local operators.
WESTA is a member owned and governed marketing cooperative whose programs are specifically designed to support premium and luxury targeted retail travel companies located on the West Coast.