An estimated 3,000 agents gathered in Minneapolis for an intensive three-day tutorial on destinations, the travel industry and how they can improve their own bottom line working with tour operator MLT Vacations.
MLT University celebrated its 20th anniversary after a year of change for the tour operator. After moving from Minnesota to parent company Delta Airlines’ Atlanta, GA, home, the company brought much of its team to the new offices and hired 100 new employees to cover those who could not make the journey. At the same time, Tina Iglio was named senior vice president of marketing. She is responsible for marketing, product development, revenue management and distribution, and corporate communications for the ever-changing company.
We touched base with President John Caldwell earlier this month to see how the company was faring in the wake of the move, and at the University, we sat down with him, Iglio and Vice President Of Product Development Elizabeth Moriarty to look ahead rather than back.
2012, Caldwell said, was MLT’s best year ever, and 2013 seems poised to be strong as well. 2012 was the company's best year ever, and they are achieving triple-digit growth in New York, Los Angeles, the Southeast and Seattle.
One of the first major new developments at MLT is the expansion of Delta’s flights to Mexico, and the launch of direct flights to Grenada. The dates for the Grenada flights have not been announced yet, but they should be available for booking later this year. When the flights are confirmed, other components like hotels and tours will be organized—Caldwell mentioned that the upcoming Sandals resort, due to open in December, will be included in packages.
With the recent granting of antitrust immunity in the Delta-Virgin Atlantic agreement, MLT is expanding its routes into London from the U.S., with more than 30 flights from different gateways throughout the country. “New York to London is up to nine flights per day,” Caldwell noted, adding that the two airlines can now coordinate prices and schedules. Combining this with Delta's existing relationship with KLM/Air France, the operator's coverage of Europe is expected to rise significantly throughout 2014.
Another notable development is the gradual disengagement of MLT and United Vacations, which has turned into an 18-month process: While United looks for a new vacation provider, agents can keep selling United trips through December with MLT, and MLT will manage existing tours through next September. “When the transition does occur, we want it to be as seamless as possible,” Caldwell said.
Delta's partnership with Aeromexico is also boosting the airline's position south of the border. Combined, the two airlines cover about a quarter of all flights to Mexico City, and both carriers are expanding their service options, Caldwell noted. Aeromexico will soon launch 787 service from New York to Mexico City, and Delta is increasing its Mexico service as well. “The combination makes it powerful,” he added.
On the tech side, an interactive Delta Vacations Route Map is now available for agents to more easily plan flights for their clients. Using Delta Air Lines’ Route Map as a template, the new web-based reference tool lets agents see a detailed route and schedule information for all Delta Vacations origins and destinations around the world. Updated every Monday, the Delta Vacations Route Map shows flight schedules 331 days in advance, and allows users to select nonstop, single connections and double connection flights, which are color-coded and easily accessible via a drop down calendar. With the tool, travel agents can find all possible connections between Delta Vacations origins and destinations and sort the results to fit their clients’ schedules.
At the President’s Forum at MLT University, Caldwell called the map “an industry first.” The service is available to travel agents now through the Reference Files tab on WorldAgent Direct, the booking engine for MLT Vacations.
For more information, travel agents can visit worldagentdirect.com or call 1-800-727-1111