Scott Wiseman, president
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19?
What we have always done: continue to make their success our number-one priority and provide them with the tools and education they need to be the best in the game. And as part of one ALG, we can push even harder to give agents every advantage. We’re banding together to support our agents by pooling resources, sharing best practices, and proactively collaborating in their interest.
One way is by enhancing our booking platform by migrating over to VAX VacationAccess. This puts so much more control in our agents’ hands as they are given the ability to self-service their bookings. We’re really excited about how much this will simplify their lives and increase their productivity so that they can better reach their goals. We’re also looking at enhancing our incentives and rewards, because we feel there’s nothing more important than being appreciative every day for the partnership we have enjoyed since 1974.
What is your key strategy these days and why?
Since Travel Impressions was founded, our strategy has been to focus exclusively on travel agents. When I took the reins two years ago, one of my first objectives was to really listen to what agents were saying. We solicited feedback to determine what agents liked about our business model and what we could do better to become an even better wholesale partner. We’ve been focusing on driving incremental business for agents with options such as Flex Groups, and supporting them with initiatives that have also touched other areas. For example, over the last year, we’ve been implementing a number of upgrades based on that feedback, from enhancements to our booking technology to an automatic callback system to reduce telephone hold times.
What are some of your newest destinations or products in the marketplace?
In August, we introduced more than 70 new tours across 20 destinations throughout Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region. This builds upon our efforts to expand our global product in 2017, which saw the introduction of new product throughout numerous European and Asian destinations.
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
Newly added destinations include Africa’s Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Additionally, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be added to the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf portfolio. These programs are equipped with more in-depth experiences and memorable encounters with authentic local cultures.
What’s your “tried-and-true” mainstay offering that clients continue to love?
We just wrapped up our annual “31 Days of Giveaways” flagship promotion, which provided even more opportunities for agents to earn multiple entries on each booking, increasing their odds of winning one of more than 40 vacation stays. Beyond that, our value-added promotions help our partners compete with the large OTAs with exclusive room upgrades, resort credits and enhanced amenities their clients won’t find elsewhere.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have “authentic” experiences?
We recently partnered with Back-Roads Touring Co. to add memorable small-group journeys that transcend the typical tourist experience by introducing a seldom-seen, authentic side of Europe via scenic back roads. This includes an Iceland program that features a “Secret Lagoon,” interactions with local Vorsabær farmers, and a Viking sushi boat cruise.
Have you seen the age of your customers change at all in the past year or so? How about their mindset?
The mindset of today’s travelers con-tinues to evolve and this is one of the areas in which we’ve focused our EducaTIon First initiative. Millennials tend to crave adventure and cultural authenticity much more than Gen Xers and Boomers. Programs such as #OnLocaTIon and our #WeekendLearning series arms agents with insights into some of the ways our hotel and destination partners are accommodating these changing travel habits, while providing the insider knowledge they need to close more sales. For example, with properties like Hotel Xcaret Mexico, the attention to detail is so minute that the only way to learn about it all is with these programs.