Bravo Starwood!

Travel agents gave a resounding round of applause to Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ myriad travel agent tools, awarding the hotel company with the Best Resort Chain (Non All-Inclusive) for Travel Agent Support in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

From this year’s new and highly successful Book and Win BIG agent incentive sweepstakes and its on-going ProLearning online training program, to such goodies as STARPRO travel professional rates, Starwood has more than a few travel agent-specific goodies that are making the agent community stand up and take notice.

“Our travel professionals are such important partners, and the current economic climate has only reinforced their value, something we already knew and in which we already invested,” says Chris Austin, v.p. of global customer partnerships, leisure and luxury sales. “To know that Starwood has developed a deeper more meaningful relationship and that they are committed and trust Starwood because of our work is not only gratifying but it is important to our company as well as to the top line.”

Two years ago the company launched StarwoodPro, the company’s travel professional program, and since then, says Austin, “We have expanded this to be a true travel professional community, a hub where agents have greater access to everything Starwood, to our best promotions and offers…. We even tell our travel professional partners where they can meet us under our news and events section, and provide valuable links to our programs.”

One of the company’s most important avenues to the agent community is the ProLearning online training program, which is designed to help travel professionals better understand each of Starwood’s nine brands and to advance sales and business development skills. Approximately 20 to 45 minutes in duration, each of the training modules contain video, audio and other learning aids such as supplemental offerings and hyperlinks to other sites.

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“All our programming and tools are designed to drive profits, maximize on time and present easy solutions differentiated from the competition,” says Austin. And in 2010, the agent love will continue with the extension of Starwood’s Book and Win Big incentive, which this year awarded one booking agent 50,000 Starpoints [the brand’s loyalty program] each month since January and a grand prize winner, 1 million Starpoints.

In addition, the company continues to expand on its ProLearning tool to continue, says Austin, “…to help our travel professionals build on their skill set and keep them up to date on Starwood and the industry.” In fact, in the first quarter of 2010, travel professionals will have access to the first of several destination modules, focusing on some of Starwood’s strongest destinations.

“We continue to be laser focused in our support of the travel professional,” he says, “and in contact with many of them to learn how we can be a better partner and provide services they can use—and we are glad it’s working!”