Effective marketing, including direct mail and data mining are core reasons for the success of agency groups’ effectiveness and a key yardstick by which agents measure the value of their partnerships, Mike Estill, general manager of the Western Association of Travel Agencies (WESTA) told WESTA members during its recent annual Owners and Managers Meeting in Seattle. WESTA’s meeting,= was attended by 114 agents representing 67 WESTA agency members. Also attending were 60 representatives of 44 WESTA travel partners.
“The effectiveness of an agency groups’ marketing program is one of the yardsticks by which our travel partners measure our partnership,” Estill said. “We have developed direct marketing programs using cutting-edge printing and distribution technology, to allow all of our agency members, both large and small, to participate in a robust range of marketing programs with very modest and manageable investments. A researched database of well-traveled clients across all our agencies, along with well-designed, customized sales materials, is extremely valuable to our travel partners.”
The agenda included presentations by Estill as well as sessions on subjects of most importance to WESTA’s travel agency membership. Travel supplier presentations, a trade show and networking opportunities were part of the conference. Included was a well-attended ship tour of Holland America’s Zaandam hosted by Steve Simao, Holland America’s director of sales western division, and Dave Stockert, director of national accounts.
WESTA said it continues to focus its educational programs on assisting its member agencies to remain profitable in the ever-changing travel industry environment. This year’s working sessions were on wide-ranging subjects such as addressing change in the cruise and car rental industries, increasing revenue through group cruises, the benefits and details of travel insurance, and updates on agency benefits and health care programs.
Major presentations were made by Paul Allen of Holland America Line, Graham Cove of Princess Cruise Lines, Orlina Howard of Hotel/Connect and Greg Billingsley of Thrifty Car Rental. Paul O’Meara of Yankee Holidays also updated WESTA agents on social networking sites such as Facebook for business promotion.
Dick DeRose, WESTA’s Marketing Director, outlined the 2011 direct mail projects and associated fees, which will include multiple postcards of varying design and size, the twice yearly Best Values Vacations brochure, and a new upscale piece entitled Journeys of Distinction. Continued training was offered on TRAMS ClientBase.
Successful combination of agency databases has enabled WESTA to fully utilize the services of IXI, a direct marketing demographic information supplier, WESTA reports. Using IXI’s Cohorts’ services, the WESTA database can be honed to target specific demographic groups with specific sales pieces allowing for multiple concurrent marketing programs with better client focus and agency return on investments.
The groups annual Awards Banquet recognized top producing WESTA member agencies as well as the 16 new member agencies
WESTA is a travel agency-owned and operated co-operative that has been serving travel agencies and travel suppliers in the western United States for the past 26 years.