Although diplomas weren’t handed out to the hundreds of travel agents who attended MLT Vacations’ MLT University 2014, they did walk away with a plethora of training information, from learning how to sell to the LGBT market to tapping into the growing trend of niche travel—and with the theme, Better Together, Empowering U, it didn’t come as a surprise that this year’s conference was on-point with new products and added educational courses (and let’s not forget the trade show with more than 250 participating destinations, and hotel and resort partners).
The buzz during the 3-day conference, held in Minneapolis, was MLT’s new engagement tool, The Marketing Hub, an online marketing portal where agents can customize digital banners and flyers, download e-brochures and e-postcards, and, coming soon, have access to radio ad scripts to help agents advertise in their local communities, among other highlights.
“We think this innovative technology is going to greatly enhance the efficiency for your business, and allow you to be more timely, more creative, and more cost-effective while also giving you the ability to engage with your clients on a whole new level,” said MLT president, John Caldwell, during general session.
I attended this year’s conference, and although my schedule was jam-packed and I didn’t have time to listen in on the more than 50 destination, specialty, and business development classes, I did walk away with tons of tips, tools and ideas that agents can use.
For the past five years, MLT Vacations has sold LGBT travel, but this was the first year the tour operator introduced a course teaching agents how to sell travel to this niche market.
From understanding the LGBT client to learning about destination weddings, and LGBT-friendly hotels and destinations, attending agents also learned important travel tidbits, such as the fact that the LGBT market has the most amount of disposable income, and last year, took an average of seven trips.
The course, lead by Chris Dacus, MLT’s business development manager, also focused on the top 5 LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S. (New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Seattle); which hotel brands offer LGBT-wedding packages (Hilton, Marriott, Starwood); and which destinations are the most gay-friendly (Hawaii and Mexico). Dacus also told agents that the best way to market the LGBT community is via social media and digital marketing.
Groups, Luxury & Niche Vacations
When it comes down to an agent’s bottom line, booking vacation packages for multi-gen clients, book clubs, church and business groups, can lead to a profitable business for agents. This was the key message during MLT’s Groups course. Agents should also learn how to keep their group trips organized by creating a social media site specifically for the group; hosting monthly calls with the client months before the trip; and creating an online registration form.
Other hot topics at MLTU included classes focused on how to sell luxury and niche travel—from wellness vacations centered on spa treatments, morning yoga and healthy cooking classes to getaways inspired from favorite films and TV shows like “Game of Thrones.”
Tammy Heitsman, MLT’s national accounts manager, told agents that when it comes to luxury travel, “it’s not always the most expensive trip, but it definitely has that wow factor,” and selling “luxury travel is great for that extra commission.” Heitsman also pointed out that in the U.S., luxury destinations and accommodations can be found in Arizona, Florida, California, Hawaii and Nevada.
More from MTLU
Additional classes worth mentioning include:
- Ski—Domestic & International Destinations: MLT Vacations is adding 50 new resorts in Europe to its portfolio and MLT’s ski specialists can help agents with ski lift tickets, lodging, flights, onsite activities, ski rentals and guides.
- Destination Weddings: If agents want to attend a bridal show, MLT will provide that agent with a booth, signage, flyers and print outs of their romance brochures.
- Las Vegas: There is more to Vegas than gambling; Sin City is a hot destination for entertainment, fine dining, luxury accommodations, spa treatments and high-end shopping, and MLT offers bookings to a slew of properties like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas, and MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
For more information about MLT Vacations, visit mltvacations.com.