|Vacation.com President John Lovell discusses the challenges that lie ahead for agents.|
As we head toward autumn, the country’s top consortia are hard at work pumping out new plans to keep your agencies relevant and successful. Here is a look at what’s new in the world of travel agent consortia.
Virtuoso has revealed findings from its seventh annual “Travel Dreams” survey, launched earlier this year via Virtuoso Life magazine. Readers were asked to identify their travel personality by selecting their ideal destinations, vacation types, excursions and ultimate trips of a lifetime.
This year, 8,000 readers were polled. The responses act as a wish list for travelers and provide a roadmap for where and how the affluent plan to go next. According to the survey, Australia is a perennial favorite, named the top dream destination for the third consecutive year. Europe, namely Paris and Rome, were among the most coveted destinations, topping the lists for dream destinations, city getaways and culinary trips. And whether it is a Mediterranean sailing adventure for two or a round-the-world excursion, cruising continues to rank high.
New this year: The survey identified five distinct travel personalities based on respondents’ travel styles; whether they prefer relaxing on the beach or blasting off into suborbital space. These personalities are: the Go-Getter, who are active, adventurous and want to see and do it all on their vacations; the Connoisseur, who like the best of the best and will indulge in food, wine, art and architecture while traveling; the Classic Travelers, who are loyal to the places they love and will return multiple times to their favorite destinations; the Relaxationist, who travels to get away from it all—to relax and rejuvenate; and the Trendsetter, who is all about what’s new and next.
Looking ahead, Results! Travel reports that its upcoming National Meeting, in Bloomington, MN, September 12-14, will feature stage and screen star David Cassidy as the keynote speaker and entertainer for the closing reception.
“The theme for our national meeting is ‘Over the Top,’ and from the record number of registered participants and variety of workshops to the major deliverables and well-known entertainer, we will be delivering on that,” stated Results! Travel Vice President and General Manager John Risner.
There will be a number of firsts at this year’s meeting. This is the first time it will be held in the Twin Cities, which is where the franchise organization is headquartered. Members will also have their first-ever opportunity to attend a Services and Technology Showcase on September 12, prior to the opening reception.
This event will include the latest services and products in the marketplace from top technology suppliers for both business and leisure travel, as well as various office services vendors.
Nexion is also reporting record registration for its 2013 conference, CoNexion, September 26-28 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. The agenda includes 45 hours of training seminars, six general sessions, various opportunities for travel agents to connect with suppliers, and a chance to experience Las Vegas with special discounts.
“CoNexion 2013 is already shaping up to be even bigger and better than that in the last year and the hundreds of agents that have already registered clearly indicate that they find immense value in [our] classes, supplier trade show, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities,” says Nexion President Jackie Friedman. This year’s theme is “Place Your Bet on Success,” encouraging agents to connect with each other and to use the many tools and resources Nexion makes available.
Travel Leaders has added six travel agency members with 20 locations in nine states since 2013 kicked off. The new agencies are Travel Leaders/Adventure Travel in Lawton, OK; Travel Leaders/Aquila Travel in Albuquerque, NM; Travel Leaders/Greaves Travel in Highland Park, IL; Travel Leaders/Travel Concepts in Southbury, CT; Travel Leaders/Travel Management International in Dublin, IE; and Travel Leaders/Williamsburg Travel Management in Marietta, GA.
Ensemble Travel Group members can now tap into the education travel market through its newest specialist program—Ensemble Learning Journeys. The program targets both the 25-and-under student population (which brings in $14 billion annually in overnight group travel), as well as those travelers considered “life-long learners.” The Program provides a curriculum, which will give Ensemble members the tools to enter the market. It will also focus on the leisure travelers and groups who want to learn a new area of interest. Visit www.learningjourneys.com.
Ensemble is also ramping up its cruise program in 2014. Cunard Line will join Ensemble’s hosted cruise program with a number of Europe sailings in 2014. This brings the number of host partners to 13 next year. A new Ensemble Headquarter Program with Norwegian Cruise Line was also recently announced. Swan Hellenic Cruises is now a preferred partner with Ensemble.
In June, Vacation.com wrapped its 15th International Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, FL. Formed in 1998, the company has grown to include 5,100 members, pulling in impressive figures like $2 billion in annual cruise sales and over $1 billion in tour and wholesales. But even an industry giant is not immune to the challenges that face all of us in today’s travel industry. Lovell addressed the four biggest of these: 1. Advancing pace of technology; 2. Changing compensation models; 3. Overreliance on existing client base; and 4. 58 percent of leisure agents are over 55 years old.
“In terms of advancing pace of technology, we have always had wonderful parent organizations,” says Lovell. “We are going to work over the next 12-18 months to come out with a branded mobile app, which will apply to our CruisePRO tool first and then will expand to the other travel verticals.”
Lovell also addressed that the model of compensation, inevitably, is going to change. “Look at what happened in the airline industry,” he says. “It was forced on a distribution channel. I do not want anything forced on us. I want to be proactive to make sure you all stay viable as we move forward.” The key, says Lovell, is to sell your preferred suppliers.
An ongoing challenge is how to generate more leads. Vacation.com is moving forward to harness an important asset—the URL Vacation.com. “We are going to partner with preferred suppliers that choose to support us on the tool,” he says. “We are seeking third party partnerships that can take millions of consumers and funnel them into your businesses, as well.” The idea is to make Vacation.com more consumer-facing, which will ultimately drive consumers back to you, the member agent. This is something that is expected to be delivered in the next 12 months.
A final challenge, which proves to be a buzz topic in the industry as of late, is how to bring new, fresh talent into the community. At the conference, Vacation.com highlighted Travel Leaders Group’s Travel Leaders of Tomorrow school, which was launched in March and is designed both for people looking for new careers and as a way for current agents to identify new talent.
Signature Travel Network recently closed its annual tour of Regional Council Meetings. The gatherings were held in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale and New York. These sessions gave the opportunity for an open dialogue between members and Signature management. “Through the sessions, owners validated Signature’s focus, which is to continue to grow sales by leveraging our turnkey marketing tools, best-in-the-industry arsenal of technology tools and strong supplier relationships,” says Alex Sharpe, COO.
The organization has redesigned its online learning portal, Signature University, which was unveiled to owners during the sessions. The training content now includes a library of short How-To guides and Video Tutorials.
|Nexion President Jackie Friedman says hundreds of agents have already signed up for September’s CoNexion 2013 conference.|