At the recent Cruise3Sixty, which took place in Vancouver last month, Recommend’s editor-in-chief, Paloma Villaverde de Rico, sat down with Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer for TRAVELSAVERS, NEST and The Affluent Traveler Collection, to gain insight on how travel agents can have a leg up on their competition, and learn about the new goings-on at TRAVELSAVERS, which has a retail chain of more than 3,000 independently owned full-service travel agencies in 30 countries. Here, in the second part of the 2-part interview, Mazza discusses the consortium’s latest offerings and tools for their travel agent members.
American Marketing Group, which serves as a one-stop-shop for the travel agent community, offers a network of resources, tools and products and its array of brands cover all aspects of the industry, including TRAVELSAVERS; NEST, which caters exclusively to home-based agents; The Affluent Traveler Collection, which offers an enriched amenities program and a variety of exclusive offers to its licensed travel advisors; TRAVEL HELPLINE and agent24, providing around-the-clock emergency travel assistance and after hours support to travelers; Well-Being Travel, which focuses on educating the travel agent community on the growing trend of health, wellness and medical travel; and cruiseexpress, a business-to-business and business-to-consumer cruise booking engine, among others.
But the company is most certainly not resting on its laurels. This past year alone they launched three new programs.
“We have such an array of different marketing programs,” says Mazza, “and three programs that are new this year. We have Social Connect, which is a social media platform for agencies; it’s a resource tool. The two biggest things that agencies stumble upon when they go into social media is: ‘I don’t have the time to get into it’ and ‘I don’t understand it. I’m not quite sure what to write, how to write it, which platform to use.’ There are hundreds of social media platforms. It’s endless.”
Social Connect includes customizable content in the forms of postcards and flyers that feature exclusive offers from preferred suppliers. Travel agents have the ability to change images, fonts, headers and color scheme as well as add a logo, contact information and personal message. Videos are also available and feature cruises, destinations and other preferred supplier-related content. Agents can pick and choose which social networks to use for each promotion.
“It’s a really easy three-step tool. They log on, put their credentials on the back end (which is all the passwords for the social media sites they belong to), and we have all of the promotions. They might know we are doing one with Royal Caribbean, a pre-paid gratuity offer, and they’ll say, ‘I love it, I want to do it and I want to send it out and promote it.’ They just click on it and they state which social media network to put it to, so if it’s Twitter, it’s truncated just as text. It’s customizable to make it consistent with their branding,” says Mazza.
“What we do is we work with our preferred supplier partners on exclusive products and promotions for our agencies. This is something that can’t be shopped online,” she adds.
The other program that was rolled out this year was OnlineXpress, a customizable platform. As Mazza says, “It’s a website solution for our agencies. Our agencies were asking for a website solution that was full of content and technology that was unique in the marketplace. So we have created an out-of-the-box solution. It’s a full website design, with full content in it.”
In fact, Mazza stresses that it allows agencies to be as hands-on or hands-off as agents would like by updating each website with exclusive supplier promotions and more. “If they want turnkey, we can do turnkey and keep it relevant and updated on a monthly basis. Or, they can take over 50 percent of it and throw unique content into it—however they want to manager their business.”
Agents can link from the site to all of TRAVELSAVERS’ exclusive technology, including cruiseexpress, a proprietary cruise booking engine; Daytripper, a service that provides travel agents with access to thousands of commissionable top-rated tours, tickets and activities; as well as Social Connect. Additionally, OnlineXpress websites are mobile friendly.
On Location is yet another program that the consortium launched this year. It’s a network of local experts including select preferred suppliers and international travel professionals who are best known for creating unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that are indigenous to their individual location.
“We’ve had clients who have booked with Trafalgar and with Globus, for example, but might want to do a pre and a post and wanted to know if there was someone who could assist them with ground transportation,” says Mazza. On Location provides that sort of service via the DMCs that TRAVELSAVERS works with, and these DMCs offer their expertise when it comes to assisting TRAVELSAVERS agencies with complex itineraries.
“It’s usually the largest DMC in the country that’s doing a lot of ground operations for the tour operators, and we just bring that resource to them [TRAVELSAVERS agents],” says Mazza. “Again, that’s the value of what we bring to the table. They don’t need to go out—we fully vet them.”