I, along with approximately 2,000 attendees and 187 of Delta Vacations’ supplier partners, converged onto the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, Georgia Sept. 16-18 for the inaugural Delta Vacations University 2016 travel industry educational seminar series and tradeshow. Previously known as MLT University, which would have celebrated its 23 year anniversary this year, Delta Vacations University encompassed a well-balanced mix of general sessions, in-depth classes and networking receptions. In case you missed this year’s sold-out event, I’ve rounded up a few takeaways from an interview with John Caldwell, president of Delta Vacations; Tina Iglio, senior v.p. president of marketing; and Elizabeth Moriarty, v.p. of product development.
- One of the objectives of hosting Delta Vacations University to Atlanta was to tap into new agencies around the country—a goal that resulted in a roughly 12-13 percent increase in new registrants, according to Caldwell. Last year around 45 percent of the attendees were new to Delta Vacations University; however, this year, “Well over half of the audience said it was their first year here and really that was the objective of moving the U to a new destination,” says Caldwell.
- Another boon for business was renaming the event. “We changed the name last year to align with Delta Air Lines, our parent company, because we found that aligning our brand with the name of the company made Delta Vacations University more easily understood by our agency partners outside of the Midwest, where they kind of grew to know MLT,” says Caldwell.
- In 2014, Delta Vacations launched a Marketing Hub, allowing travel agents to conveniently create Delta Vacations customized flyers, e-postcards, social media content, web banners and other marketing and advertising materials for their business. “This year we’ve refreshed it and re-launched it with a new look and feel, and it’s much easier to navigate and search for items,” says Iglio. “We have also increased the amount of materials that are in there.”
- More than 80 percent of Delta Vacations’ revenue comes from four-star and higher category hotels. In fact, travel agents have requested more four-star and higher category hotels, particularly in Europe, “so we’ve put in a very conscious effort to increase the luxury side of our portfolio with a strong focus in Europe. We’ve continued to add properties like the Shangri-La and those higher end hotels,” says Iglio.
- On that note, Moriarty touched upon Delta Vacations’ partnership with Preferred Hotels & Resorts. “We just recently entered an agreement with Preferred Hotels, so we’ll be getting access to their properties globally, and as you know they are very upscale, boutique properties,” says Moriarty.
- Delta Vacations is also enhancing its romance offerings, as this lucrative market continues to sell well. “We have really focused in on romance travel for probably the past five years, but it’s been more of a focus in the Latin America area, Mexico and the Caribbean, and as we continue to add more properties and brands we recognized that we really need to refresh and revitalize our Romance program,” says Moriarty. “So the good news is we are now going to have a Honeymoon program for Europe and we’ve added Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris and London.” The company has already added another 100 hotels to the program, and by year’s end, will introduce some U.S. destinations. Keep a lookout next year as well, as Delta Vacations plans to revitalize its Wedding program.
- Another lucrative market, groups, is also top of mind for Delta Vacations. “We’re going to put some investment into the group process so it’s easier to do business with us,” says Caldwell, as there is a high demand from agents on how to appeal to this market.
- In addition to romance, luxury and group travel, Delta Vacations is also attuned to the desire of experiential travelers. “We have [more than 150] serviced apartments, and are looking to add [more options] in Europe and other places like Hawaii, Florida and New York, where people can live like a local,” says Iglio. “It’s about providing that choice.” These serviced vacation residences—apartments, condominiums and homes—offer more space than standard hotel rooms, come fully furnished with well-equipped kitchens, and are centrally located, serving as a home away from home for travelers.
Delta Vacations University 2017 will once again be held in Atlanta. After that, the event may move to a different location to tap into new agencies. Stay tuned for next week’s dedicated Delta Vacations e-newsletter where we’ll discuss emerging destinations, tours opportunities with upsell potential, selling tips and promotions available to agents and their clients. For more information, visit worldagentdirect.com.