• AAA Set to Launch First Branded Vacation Product

    May 12, 2011 | By: Marilee Crocker | Travel Market Report


    View article online here

    The American Automobile Association is preparing to roll out its first-ever AAA-branded vacation product. Cruise and tour products developed for AAA and sold under the AAA Vacations label are part of a strategic initiative that puts the organization’s travel agency services front and center with its 52 million members.

    AAA is working with both current and new preferred suppliers to develop distinctive vacation products that will be sold exclusively through AAA clubs to AAA members, according to Bill Sutherland, vice president of travel for AAA National Travel. The product line will be introduced in mid- summer.

    “We want to be our members’ first choice for travel agency services,” Sutherland said in an exclusive interview with Travel Market Report. “Our goal is to get more of our members using our products and services.”

    AAA’s strategic thinking in developing products and services is always to enhance member relationships and improve member retention, he said. “If our travel service is generating more income, we have the opportunity to reinvest that income back into member services.”

    A monster.com job listing for the position of manager of AAA Vacations indicated that “growing travel sales substantially, creating member value and driving travel profitability” were among AAA’s goals for its travel services.

    ‘Holy mackerel’
    Key travel executives from AAA clubs have been working together on a steering committee to establish and execute a cohesive travel strategy, in a level of inter-club cooperation that is relatively new for the 109-year-old federation of clubs, now 50 in number.

    “Many people have called us the sleeping giant [saying], ‘If AAA could get its act together, holy mackerel, what would that mean?’” Sutherland said.

    In the face of “a ton of competition,” AAA is working to transfer the high level of trust its members have in the organization, a key asset, to its travel agency services, Sutherland said. “If we could get that core trust level translated over to travel, it would be enormous.”

    To make that happen, there’s heightened focus at AAA on leveraging the collective power of its clubs in terms of supplier relations, marketing, technology and other aspects of operations.

    The fact that club executives are coming together to develop and execute the strategy is a “huge turning point” for AAA, Sutherland said.

    Large customer base
    Already, AAA has sizable clout. The organization, unique in the travel industry, is among the top five leisure travel retailers in the nation, generating an estimated $3.23 billion in annual sales, more than 90% of it in leisure travel, according to Travel Weekly’s annual agency ranking.

    With 52 million members, AAA’s reach in the consumer marketplace is unlike any other in the travel industry.

    “It’s a huge base of potential customers,” one that includes prime market segments for travel, commented industry consultant Jack E. Mannix, who served as AAA’s managing director, travel, marketing and supplier relations from 1993 through 1999.

    “Even if you mine it to where 2%, 3%, 4% or 5% will work with you that didn’t work with you before, those are incredible numbers,” Mannix said.

    Mannix noted the power of AAA’s brand recognition. “Most other folks don’t have that advantage,” he said, of AAA’s travel agency competitors.

    To what extent will AAA’s move affect competing agency groups?

    AAA is “one of the major travel producers in the U.S. Anytime they do something well, it’s going to have some impact on other groups and their ability to capture the customer,” said Mannix, who was president and CEO of Ensemble Travel Group until the middle of last year.

    Developing the product
    AAA is working with its preferred suppliers to figure out exactly how to differentiate its branded vacation product, Sutherland said. “We’re really stepping up those relationships. We’re utilizing certain partners more strategically than in the past.”

    The goal is to create products “that really have some difference, so that a member going on a AAA Vacations [trip] gets something that’s not the same routine thing.”

    “The differences can range from things like deeper discounts than can be provided in the marketplace, to unique and engaging experiences, things that might not cost a lot of money but that aren’t accessible to people,” Sutherland said. “Our biggest challenge is building something unique and different.”

    AAA began offering a limited number of branded cruise products in a pilot program launched in January. About a fourth of the organization’s 3,100 travel agents were trained to sell the product.

    Initial results were positive, Sutherland said. “In our test environment, we began to turn the corner in terms of turning sales. We’re hearing back how good the product is. We’ve got to keep that alive.”

    AAA travel services: ‘We’re the sexy ones’
    The introduction of AAA Vacations is part of a broader AAA objective to get more members using AAA’s products and services, which include roadside assistance and other automotive services, insurance and financial services.

    “The more products and services that are utilized by our members, the more likely they’ll see value in their membership and renew,” Sutherland explained.

    AAA’s travel agency services are “part of that equation,” he added.

    “We’re the sexy ones, the ones people look at more, because travel is a fun, positive bright light for people. That element of attracting our membership’s attention and view and focus is an important part of the bigger picture of our membership organization.”

    Mannix said he sees AAA’s re-focusing on its travel business as a significant move – “not only from the money standpoint, but from the standpoint of the relationship with the customer.”

    “If I book my travel through them, suddenly I develop a personal relationship and hopefully more frequent relationship with them. So there’s a strategic benefit. It’s big in terms of their travel business, but it’s potentially even bigger in terms of a membership benefit.”

    Used with permission by Travel Market Report

    Industry leaders make mark on annual board meeting

    May 6, 2011 | By: Bernadette Mari | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    NEW YORK, NY- May 5, 2011. A prestigious group of over 60 travel industry leaders convened at The Trump SoHo in New York for the tenth annual Luxury Travel Expo Advisory Board meeting on May 2, 2011. In attendance, were travel executives representing luxury travel agencies, five star hotels, luxury cruise lines, tour operators and industry consortia among others. The thirteenth annual show will be held from December 6-8, 2011 at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

    The meeting format included discussions guided by input from past show attendees and readers. Advisory Board members reviewed survey responses while suggesting speakers for both the general and breakout sessions. “Because of the contribution from the attending travel executives, we know this year’s programming will deliver content that will empower attendees to implement learning opportunities to increase their revenue from this profitable niche,” commented the show's vice president of tradeshows and events, Alicia Evanko. “We look forward to the advisory board support to continue shaping the future of Luxury Travel Expo.” Additionally, the group has been called upon to act as ambassadors for the show and to provide input on the educational programming to ensure Luxury Travel Expo remains the must-attend tradeshow for luxury education in North America.

    Advisory Board participants included: Diana Adamson Arias, Director of Sales, Corporate and Travel Industry, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Priscilla Alexander, President and Founder, Protravel International; Jody Bear, Principal, Bear & Bear Travel; Cheryl Bennett, Vice President of Travel Industry Sales, Viceory Hotel Group; Greg Bernd, Co-President, Classic Vacations; Ellen Bettridge, Vice President, Retail Travel Network, American Express; Marilyn Conroy, Executive Vice President, David Morris International; Isaac Cymrot, Director of Sales & Industry Relations, Travel Insured International; Donnie Dawson, Deputy Director of Tourism, Sales/USA and Latin America, Jamaica Tourism Board; Greg DeClemente, Managing Director, Courtyard Travel; Nathan Devore, Vice President, Protravel International; Christine Duffy, President, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, President, Fischer Travel Enterprises; Donald Foste, Director of Sales and Marketing; the Americas, Harlequin Hotels and Resorts/Buccament Bay Resort; Gina Gabbard, Vice President of Leisure Sales, Tzell Travel Group; Barbara Gallay, President, New York, FROSCH; Fay Georgousis, Director, Greek National Tourist Office; Suzanne Hall, Senior Director, Marketing and Development Land Programs, Ensemble Travel Group; Paula Hayes, Vice President of Trade Sales, Globus Family of Brands; Gerilyn Horan, Director of Global Sales, North America, Langham Hotel Group; Jeff Lanzarotta, Account Director, Global Retail Leisure & Luxury Sales, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; Lara Leibman, Executive Vice President, FROSCH; Sean Lynch, Director of Sales, Trump SoHo New York; Jon Makhmaltchi, Vice President of Worldwide Sales, Small Luxury Hotels of the World; Jack Mannix, Founder and Principal, Jack E. Mannix & Associates; Kier Mathhews, Vice President of Travel Industry Sales, Europe Express & Brian Moore International Tours; Ignacio Maza, Executive Vice President, Signature Travel Network; John McMahon, Vice President/Group Publisher, The Travel + Hospitality Group; April Murena, Regional Director of National Accounts, Loews Hotels; Joan Novack, Owner, Majesty Travel; Laurie Palumbo, Chief Operating Officer, Island Destinations; Dennis Pinto, President, Micato Safaris; Becky Powell, CTC, CTIE, Vice President, Member Sales and Service, USA and Canada, Virtuoso, Ltd.; Martin Rapp, Senior Vice President of Leisure Sales, Altour; Pilar Rios, Area Director Sales and Marketing, Banyan Tree México; Alexis Romer, Vice President of Travel Industry, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC; Colleen Schmitz, Director of Luxury Sales, MGM Resorts International; Ryan Sieroty, Director Global Accounts, Consortia, Retail Leisure & Luxury Sales, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts/Raffles Hotels & Resorts/Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts; Kenan Simmons, Vice President of Sales, The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.; Gary Stevens, Vice President of Leisure Sales and Marketing, Leaders in Travel; Kathy Sudeikis, CTC, Vice President of Corporate Relations, All About Travel; Ruthanne Terrero, CTC, Vice President/Editorial Director, The Travel + Hospitality Group; Roy Twiste, Managing Director Sales, Tzell Park Avenue; Ken Watson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Silversea Cruises, Ltd.; Valerie Wilson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc.; Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Co-President, Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc.; Julie Zadeh, CTC, Managing Director of Travel Trade Marketing, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau; and Scott Wiseman, President, Abercrombie & Kent, Inc.

    Other advisory board members include: Ralph Aruzza, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts; Chris Austin, Vice President of Global Customer Partnerships, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; Joshua Bush, Vice President, Park Avenue Travel; Peter S. Carideo, CTC, President, CRC Travel; Tom Civitano, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jumeirah Group; Roselyn Cosentino, Chief Marketing Officer, Luxe Worldwide Hotels; Terry Dale, President and Chief Executive Officer, United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA); Larry Dessler, Executive Director, Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance; Jeff Drew, Senior Vice Preident of Sales, Oceania Cruises; Kathy Falkensammer, CTC, President, Prestige Travel; Ed Fioravante, Sales Executive, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Richard Harper, CMP, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, MGM Resorts International; Malaka Hilton, President and CEO, Admiral Travel; Maureen Jones, President, All Horizons Travel, Inc.; Don Jones, Vice President Corporate and Travel Industry Sales, Americas, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; Stephen McGillivray, CTC, Chief Marketing Officer, Travel Leaders Group; Rick Meadows, Executive Vice President, Holland America and President, Yachts of Seabourn; Anne Morgan Scully, President, McCabe World Travel; Terry Morrison, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, MLT Vacations; Mary Ann Ramsey, President and Owner, Betty Maclean Travel, Inc.; Andrew Rein, Sales Manager, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts; Lee Robinson, Vice President of Field Sales, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line; Bob Romano, Partner, Fugazi Travel Agency, Inc.; Leslie Rotkel, Travel Consultant, Leaders in Travel; Navin Sawhney, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tauck World Discovery; Nancy Strong, CEO, Strong Travel Services; Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Passenger Services, Norwegian Cruise Lines; and Ian Swain, President, Swain Tours.

    Sell Yourself First!

    April 24, 2011 | By: Jack Mannix | Travel Pulse


    View article online here

    You probably don’t consider automobile dealers to be great marketing and sales role models. But there is at least one thing we can learn from them: how to sell ourselves, not just the product. Whether you thrive, or even survive in this business will, to some degree, depend on your ability to let the customer know why they should buy from you.

    Think about local car dealer ads. They spend very little time selling the vehicle. They assume you’re already interested in that Ford or Jaguar. They spend most of their precious airtime or ad space selling you on why you should buy that car from them.

    Price, service, marketplace longevity, best selection, love their customers, hometown boys, convenient location and/or hours? They’re all legitimate value propositions but the point is that they’re differentiating themselves from other Ford or Jaguar dealers and creating a sense of urgency to buy now. You should do the same.

    Most of you have probably sent out print or electronic marketing imbedded with gorgeous pictures of destinations and travel products. Sometimes it’s a formally-dressed, good looking, well-tanned (and annoyingly slim) couple clinking champagne glasses on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean sunset. The accompanying copy extols the incredible virtues of the destination and the product.

    Of course your marketing has to be inviting and visually appealing, but 95 percent of the time there is virtually no information about you and your skills (your address and phone are not enough). If the customer finds the destination or product attractive, are they equally clear that the only intelligent way to purchase such travel is by calling you? That will only happen when you market your story, not just the supplier’s product. Here’s what you need to do:

    Determine your unique positioning: If you can’t describe what’s unique or unusual about yourself, it’s impossible to effectively communicate a compelling message about why the prospect should buy from you. What’s great or unusual about you? What do you do (or know) better than anyone? What’s truly different about what you do? Will it pass the consumer’s “so what?” test?

    Invest in your image: Being a home-based agent doesn’t relieve you of the obligation to be a professional. Do you dress like an executive? Does your website look like one of the many basic templates or does it portray you as a professional? Are your business cards on good stock and professionally printed or did you print them yourself on that printer you’ve been meaning to replace? Do you carry a BlackBerry or other device to ensure your customer can reach you anytime? Do you have a CRM product to track your contacts whether they are in-person, telephonic, electronic or otherwise? Do you have a postage meter? Businesses don’t use stamps. Spend some money to look the part!

    Market yourself to the right customer: Exclusively pursue the customer who needs you and promote only those products you want to sell. The longer and more complex the vacation, the more your customers are apt to require your expertise, so be sure that you’re promoting your unique capabilities as well as the product or destination. Get more comfortable selling premium and luxury products.

    Make yourself the local expert: You can market and sell anywhere on the planet, but most business is still relatively local or regional. Other than top 10 market media, most media outlets are hungry for content. Find the editor or producer who handles travel stories at your local paper or television station. Introduce yourself. Tell them about your experience and let them know you would be delighted to help them. Keep in touch, sending occasional notes about relevant or intriguing topics. Respond immediately when they do call since they’re likely under deadline. If you’re knowledgeable and responsive, they will call you semi-regularly. It’s free, priceless exposure and it validates you as the travel expert.

    Leverage social media, but don’t abandon the basics: Handwritten notes stand out since very few actually send them. Mail a relevant newspaper article to a prospect (or email an electronic version). A brief but informative monthly newsletter will enable you to remain in touch while promoting yourself. Call people! The all-important personal relationship will grow exponentially faster if you speak to your prospects at least quarterly. Use any contact opportunity to at least subtly remind them why they should purchase travel from you. The purpose of your marketing is to get the customer to buy from you, not to highlight a particular travel product or destination.

    Jack E. Mannix, CTC, is head of his own consulting firm, Jack E. Mannix & Associates. He also serves as chairman of The Travel Institute. This column is adapted from one appearing in the April 2011 issue of Agent@ Home magazine.

    Used with permission by Travel Pulse

    'Sell your expertise,' says former Ensemble chief

    February 17, 2011 | By: Johanna Jainchill | Travel Weekly

    logo-Travel Weekly

    LAS VEGAS — Travel agents have become skilled at selling products, but not themselves, consultant Jack Mannix told attendees of a session here at Travel Weekly's LeisureWorld 2011 and Home Based Travel Agent Show and Conference.

    Mannix, the former president of Ensemble Travel who now heads Jack E. Mannix & Associates, told agents that their No. 1 job is to sell themselves and their capabilities.

    He reminded travel agents that suppliers are interested only in marketing their own product, and that consumers "can buy [the product] without you. A big part of the job is letting them know why they should buy it from you."

    Mannix said that 20 years ago, travelers did not have the opportunity to bypass travel agents, but these days consumers can buy from online competitors, traditional competitors or direct from the suppliers. In addition, the Internet enables consumers to feel they much more knowledgeable than they used to be.

    "You need to sell your expertise" as well as experience, relationships and the ability to save clients time, Mannix said.

    "When you compete on price, you are competing on a commodity," Mannix cautioned the audience.

    He said to remind potential customers that travel agents will be their advocate "before, during and after" the trip and will handle any potential problems.

    "It’s like insurance," he said. "That’s not a big deal unless you need it. Do your customers know that’s one of the things you do?"

    Mannix said agents should differentiate themselves and "get out there," not just with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter but through traditional marketing methods such as direct mail, newsletters and personal notes.

    "You can tweet forever and have the greatest Facebook page, but a lot of the basics will do you more good in a shorter time frame," Mannix said. "The bread-and-butter items are the ones that will make you stand out."

    Mannix said some of the things agents need to do to sell themselves seem obvious, but many agents still don’t do them.

    "People don’t do the basics well," he said. "They’re not sexy, but they’re the basics."

    Used with permission by Travel Weekly

    Consortia take issue with ASTA report findings

    February 15, 2011 | By: Laura Del Rosso | Travel Weekly

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    View article online here

    ASTA’s annual Supplier-Travel Agent Marketing Report indicates a small four-year decline in the percentage of travel agencies belonging to consortia, but those findings don’t match reality, say leaders of the agency networks.

    ASTA’s survey uses a "Research Family," a representative sample of 525 ASTA agency owners and managers. Some 441 participated in the 2010 research, said Melissa Teates, director of research.

    In 2006, 85% of survey participants said they belonged to a consortium. That percentage nudged down to 81% in 2008 and then slipped to 78% in 2010, a drop of 7 percentage points in four years. (Click on left chart.) While a small change, it left many scratching their heads.

    Teates said the survey did not ask other questions regarding consortia participation, so the reasons behind the decline are unclear.

    "Some people say that the economy could have had some effect in the decline in 2010," she said. "In a different survey we asked about trends and have looked at what changes agencies are making. Most of the time people talk about cutting operating costs, dropping GDS usage and that kind of thing. So, it could be that cutting involved dropping consortium membership."

    However, while agency networks are seeing a lot of "churn"— turnover in membership due to agency closures, mergers and moves to host agencies or other agency groups — they aren’t witnessing members dropping participation to go it alone.

    "We see agents who have been Main Street stores changing their business model and moving to a centralized solution with a host agency," said Stephen McGillivray, Vacation.com’s executive vice president of marketing.

    "Sometimes they are using a host for fulfillment and they are no longer a member of an agency group. But the host probably is a member. We have large host agencies who are members of V-com, such as Nexion. The people who answered the survey may have changed their business model. They may not recognize it, but they are still a member of a consortium."

    Midwest Agents Selling Travel, a 188-member Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based consortium, has seen no decline in interest.

    "I was surprised to read those survey results because I thought it was the other way around," said MAST President John Werner. "The number of agencies that are not affiliated is shrinking because people need more support. In MAST, we have seen people who have closed up shop and gone to work at home but they have kept their MAST membership."

    He added: "I’ve had conversations with members who wanted to give up membership to cut costs, but they always eventually have gotten it: You lose more money in the long run because of the value you receive from belonging to a consortium."

    Alex Sharpe, Signature Travel Network’s executive vice president, said interest in the Los Angeles-based group is high.

    Sharpe, who recently joined the consortium from the supplier side (Regent Seas Cruises), said, "Some agencies may be shortsighted and drop affiliations because of costs. Because of our business model as a cooperative, the costs are not a barrier. And the tools and amenities that suppliers provide to Signature and other consortia are such an advantage that agencies who aren’t affiliated are at a competitive disadvantage. We just don’t see any lack of interest. We turn down more people than we can take."

    Jack Mannix, a former Ensemble Travel president who now runs a Florida-based industry consulting firm, said he would be "concerned" to hear of agents reducing operating costs by dropping out of consortia.

    "There’s no question that overall numbers of retail agents have declined dramatically and many have changed their business model," he said. "But whether they are traditional agents in an office building or working from home, they get so many benefits from consortium membership. That should be one of the last things you cut. A lot of these groups are not overly costly to belong to, and the expense should be viewed as a value."

    Mannix said that agencies are leaving consortia because of a change in their business model, typically to join a host agency, but they are still affiliated.

    "People decide to close up shop and consolidate with someone," he said. "That location disappears, but the volume flows through the host agency, which is a consortium member. It would be a quick jump to conclusion to assume that agents are migrating away from the consortium model. I don’t think many agents see a benefit in that."

    Scott Pinheiro, president of Santa Cruz Travel of Santa Cruz, Calif., and longtime member of the Western Association of Travel Agencies, said he would be surprised to find agencies seeking to go it alone.

    "You would have to be a pretty bad businessperson not to see the return on investment from belonging to a consortium," he said. "People are relying more on their consortia in hard economic times."

    This report appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of Travel Weekly.

    Used with permission by Travel Weekly

    One-on-one With Jack Mannix: Agency Groups Continue to Deliver Value

    February 8, 2011 | By: George Dooley | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    Despite endless predictions of the demise of travel agents, the recent acquisition of Vacation.com by Travel Leaders underscores the enduring value of professional agents and the contributions of agency consortia, franchisors and networks to the agency community, Jack Mannix, founder of Jack E. Mannix & Associates, said in an interview with Travel Agent.

    "There are many models for agency groups – consortia, franchise, agency owned cooperatives – but a common feature is their ability to serve their professional agency members and to strengthen them with competitive tools," Mannix said. "Today’s professional agent is more profitable and productive due to their affiliations."

    A veteran consortia manager, Mannix served for more than eight years as president and CEO of Ensemble Travel Group and now manages a growing consultancy. Mannix believes that in consortia, franchises, co-ops or agency marketing groups, travel agents have found robust tools to build agency profitability and productivity while delivering value to their client bases and suppliers.

    "The agency groups are diverse – ranging from American Express’ Representative Network, to AAA, and to international networks such as Virtuoso, Travelsavers or Uniglobe," Mannix said. "The common denominator is agency owners and managers recognizing the value proposition of their groups and a meaningful ROI."

    This is true, Mannix said, not just for agency owned cooperatives such as Ensemble, Signature or MAST, but for franchises that include some Travel Leaders groups such as Cruise Holidays and the former Carlson agencies that are now part of Travel Leaders.

    "To an outsider it is confusing, but the reality is that professional agencies have a lot of choices with whom they can affiliate, including strong regional networks such as MAST and WESTA," Mannix said. "The franchise options are numerous – from Cruise One and Expedia Cruise Ship Centers and multiple Travel Leaders options – and has clearly shown its strength as a business model."

    Agency groups also are impacting the so-called "host agencies" who aggregate independent home based agents with a host who is a consortia or network member. Groups such as Avoya/America’s Vacation Center, for example, is at once a host agency, a growing cruise and tour seller and a member of the AMEX Representative Network as is Cruise Planners.

    The value proposition for agency members of consortia has evolved beyond the traditional preferred supplier relationship, according to Mannix. While negotiating supplier deals is a basic component of most programs, today’s agenda includes education and training, management guidance, booking technologies and a range of online and offline marketing programs. Even large national groups have also found a needed balance between localized and regional needs of agent members.

    Mannix, a CTC and former head of the Travel Institute, offered a unique perspective. In addition to his time with Ensemble, he served six years as managing director of Travel Related Services, worked in marketing and industry relations at AAA’s national headquarters and built a 16-year career with American Express, for nearly four years of which he served as vice president, of the company's representative network responsible for approximately 400 travel agency franchisees in the US.

    "In the future, preferred supplier relations will remain at the heart of the relationship. Agency member’s ability to direct sales to preferreds will be an imperative and — when successful — the source of higher commission revenue and incentives," Mannix said. "To benefit, however, agency members will have to meet ever-increasing performance and productivity standards and levels of 'engagement.'

    "The consortia groups themselves will be challanged to deliver value to the agency members in a changing, competitive business. For the relationships to succeed both member agencies and their affiliate groups will have to have a strong return on investment. Both will also have to demonstrate their value to preferred suppliers."

    If there is a shortfall in the relationship between agencies and affiliated groups it is that very few have the resources to be a strong consumer brand, Mannix said. The exceptions are American Express and AAA, both of whom enjoy extraordinary brand recognition, particularly in the U.S.

    "This doesn’t mean that agencies don’t benefit from their affiliation or that clients don’t benefit – but they are not household names and that isn’t essential for them to succeed."

    Industry suppliers continue to benefit from agency networks and Mannix sees a continually evolving relationship between suppliers, productive agencies and their groups: "The ability to aggregate demand has helped suppliers move product and the consortia have proven their value. But performance standards for member agents are being enforced and agencies that don’t meet them are dropped from the rolls. Suppiers, consortia and agencies are constantly evaluating ROI’s from their agreements."

    Other trends seen by Mannix include the push toward upscale luxury travel products that appear to have made a more rapid recovery. There is also a continued division between corporate business travel and leisure travel sales.

    "Agencies have and are successfully developing niches and core competencies to succeed in highly competitive markets. Many agents and groups have moved to concentrate on lucrative but service intensive leisure products. Suppliers, agents and consortia often cooperate on developing marketable programs with consumer appeal," he said.

    While some agents succeed at combining corporate/business and leisure sales, the large corporate agencies or travel management firms (TMC’s) have specialized and prospered, he notes. Travel Leaders, for example, has succeeded in expanding its business and leisure travel units as well as both franchise and affiliated locations.

    Another emerging trend is globalization. Many U.S. groups have expanded into Canada while several including Travelsavers and Uniglobe have extensive international links and affiliates. Vacation.com also has strong Canadian membership base, as does Ensemble. Mannix described the Canadian market as vitally important to U.S. agents.

    The recession has also impacted agency groups as it has agencies: "The downturn has accelerated the shift from full service storefront locations to independent home based locations. Service fees and niche specializations are commonplace," Mannix said. "The growth in independent agents has fostered a strong host agency movement. It has also helped professional agents stay in the business while reducing overhead costs and allowing them to concentrate on selling travel rather than having to focus on many management issues and expenses."

    Mannix, who holds BA and MBA degrees and is a fully rated commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, sees the travel agency distribution sector – a $110 billion segment of the travel industry --as constantly evolving.

    "The recession and the longer term impact of growing online sales and competition are major factors in shaping the future. My expectation is that agency owners and managers – including a new breed of very competent managers -expect constant change in marketing and technology. The economics of the industry have changed," Mannix said. "Every agent and agency will have to demonstrate their value to their suppliers and clients. But the consolidation of agency groups over the past decade still leaves agencies with solid options for affiliations. The key – at least for those who have made the transition from selling a commodity to a personalized service business – is to be a hero to your group, your suppliers and clients."

    Mannix began his career as a travel agent and has served as a member of ASTA's Corporate Advisory Council (CAC), the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Leisure Travel Advisory Board, the ARC’s Joint Advisory Board and the Board of IATAN. He is presently Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Travel Institute.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Travel Institute Welcomes Mannix

    January 8, 2011 | Travel Age West

    Travel Age West

    View article online here

    The Travel Institute announced its new officer team during its annual conference in Las Vegas, and Scott Ahlsmith, president of 23Touch Points, Inc., turned over leadership responsibilities to Jack E. Mannix, founder and principal of Jack E. Mannix & Associates.

    Also elected to officer posts were Brian Robb, senior vice president of the Mark Travel Corporation, as vice chair, and Gary Pollard, president of Ambassador Tours, as secretary/treasurer.

    Ahlsmith concluded five years of service on The Travel Institute's executive committee. He will remain on its board of trustees.

    Used with permission by Travel Age West

    Ability to Move Market Share Will Determine Impact of Travel Leaders' Purchase of Vacation.com

    January 6, 2011 | By: Marilee Crocker | Travel Market Report

    Travel Market Report

    The impact of the acquisition of Vacation.com by Travel Leaders Group hinges heavily on one factor: the ability of Travel Leaders to marshal the forces of a diverse group of agencies to move market share for suppliers.

    The acquisition obviously has the potential to significantly boost the negotiating clout of the newly enlarged company, but that's not a given and it won't happen overnight.

    On Monday, Travel Leaders Group announced its acquisition from Amadeus Americas Inc. of Vacation.com, the travel agency industry's largest marketing organization. With Vacation.com's more than 5,100 agencies now part of its organization, Travel Leaders encompasses 6,400 wholly owned, franchised and affiliated locations. Together, they constitute nearly 30% of all U.S. and Canadian agencies, according to Travel Leaders. (Travel Leaders Acquires Vacation.com, Travel Market Report, Jan. 3, 2011.)

    But those aren't the numbers that will determine the impact or significance of the acquisition.

    "From a supplier point of view, it's always been about market share," said Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, president of the software analytics company 23 Touchpoints. "Can this group, Travel Leaders, move the needle on market share and show they are a directionable sales force that can drive business to one supplier at the expense of the competitor?"

    Ahlsmith and others in the industry said it is far too soon to tell.

    "We're going to have to watch this evolve," said Robert Joselyn, CTC, president and CEO at Joselyn, Tepper & Associates. "To have negotiating clout, you have to have enough business that matters. Clearly Travel Leaders does. You also have to show the ability and willingness to directionalize business. Those two components remain to be seen."

    A wider net
    For Travel Leaders, the acquisition confers benefits other than size. Ahlsmith noted that the acquisition is strategically consistent with Travel Leaders' plan to "build a vertical distribution channel in the industry."

    The acquisition also strengthens Travel Leaders' ability to attract retail travel sellers to its organization, said consultant Jack Mannix.

    "It's not just about the aggregation of volume, but in fact having several different brands or levels to appeal to travel retailers," said Mannix, incoming chairman of the Travel Institute and former president and CEO of Ensemble Travel Group.

    "Travel Leaders collectively would appeal to a wide variety of travel agencies or travel retailers – everything from a Results! type of customer who wants a little bit of help, to full-blown franchises, to a more traditional consortium model, to home-based," he told Travel Market Report.

    Joselyn said he doesn't see any agencies "defecting" from Ensemble or Signature or American Express to join the newly expanded Travel Leaders any time soon. "They're going to have to show that there's an advantage to belonging to that organization and that it's compelling enough to make the shift," he said. "That's going to take some time."

    Balancing needs
    The same mix of business models that will strengthen Travel Leaders' power to attract members may pose a challenge. Managing the different needs of wholly owned agencies, franchisees, affiliates and independent contractors is a delicate balancing act, Ahlsmith said.

    "You've got four groups of people that all want the same customer. How do you appease all those constituents, keep them happy? There's going to have to be some discipline in how marketing is parsed out to these various groups, whether it's going to be unilateral or some groups get preferential treatment."

    Travel Leaders Group encompasses four divisions in addition to Vacation.com: Travel Leaders Corporate; Travel Leaders Leisure Group, including company-owned and franchise leisure travel brands; Travel Leaders Franchise Group, with over 1,200 locations; and the corporate travel management company Tzell Travel Group.

    Mutually beneficial
    Observers agreed that the acquisition will benefit both Travel Leaders and Vacation.com travel sellers.

    Agency owner Sherrie Funk said she sees several potential benefits for Vacation.com members. One is access to the airline pricing agreements of Travel Leaders members, including corporate travel company Tzell Travel. That would provide a "powerful packaging benefit," said Funk, president of Just Cruisin' Plus in Nashville and a member of Vacation.com's advisory board.

    Joselyn noted that Tzell is "a huge player in this whole picture. The ability to bring advantages and to negotiate advantages with air carriers is probably the most potentially significant aspect."

    Another benefit for Vacation.com members, Funk said, could be gaining access to Travel Leaders' proprietary reservation and booking administrative software. That would provide a "powerful management and reporting tool without third-party involvement and expense for Vacation.com members."

    On the flip side, Travel Leaders agencies will gain access to Vacation.com's training and marketing technology and expertise. "The synergy of this acquisition is quite strong," Funk commented.

    In terms of preferred supplier relations, Funk said she didn't anticipate any change, "just as Nexion, Cruise Holidays, Tzell, et. al, have not seen since Travel Leaders acquired them." She noted Travel Leaders Group's track record in letting its divisions operate with a "fair degree of autonomy."

    Travel Leaders has said that Vacation.com will continue to operate as a stand-alone division.

    Amadeus motivations
    The decision by Amadeus to sell Vacation.com is an important part of the bigger picture, observers said.

    "What's interesting is that this is the second acquisition that Travel Leaders has made from a GDS – Nexion from Sabre [in 2010] and now this," Ahlsmith said. "That might signal that the GDSs are now getting down to their core business, which is segments and content."

    It may be that Amadeus did not experience the benefits from owning Vacation.com that it had anticipated, or that its goals have changed, observers speculated. More likely, Amadeus is continuing to tighten its focus on providing IT solutions to airlines and, more recently, to travel agencies.

    Amadeus will remain a preferred supplier for Vacation.com and the companies' mutual programs will remain in place.

    Amadeus also maintains a relationship with Travel Leaders. It is working with Travel Leaders on the development of its Amadeus One multi-source agency desktop for the North American corporate market.

    More consolidation to come
    Travel Leaders' acquisition of Vacation.com marks another stage in the continuing consolidation of the agency industry's marketing groups – at one time there were as many as 50 such groups – with more consolidation likely to come.

    "I think consolidation will continue into 2011 as companies seek to relieve cost pressures and drive efficiencies to maximize profitability," said Tony Gonchar, ASTA's new CEO.

    Mannix said the development puts pressure on other agency groups to perform. "Within the consortium industry, it just raises the bar for everybody else in terms of the aggregation of volume, but also the kinds of capabilities that can be offered to members."

    The acquisition is also a vote of confidence in traditional travel agencies, said Lindsay Pearlman, executive vice president and general manager of the Ensemble agency marketing group.

    "For an organization to purchase Vacation.com is a real investment into the traditional agency distribution network and a kudo to the industry as a whole," he said. "We're talking two very good and very strong organizations that do a lot for the traditional distribution network, so to see those remain intact is a real tip of the hat to the continued development of this part of the industry."

    Dori Saltzman, Nick Verrastro and Michèle McDonald contributed to this report.

    Used with permission by Travel Market Report

    Inaugural Young Professional Event Garnered Rave Reviews

    December 22, 2010 | By: Bernadette Mari | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    NEW YORK — Held in conjunction with Luxury Travel Expo 2010, the inaugural Young Leaders Conference brought together over 100 young travel professionals for a day of networking and education. The first and only forum dedicated to 'under 40' professionals across the travel industry, attendees left with newly sharpened skills and ideas to implement into their businesses. The event was held on December 7, 2010 at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    "The inaugural Young Leaders Conference received phenomenal praise and continues to garner attention. The positive buzz from attendees proved that the event surpassed our goal to deliver a dynamic environment for the 'under 40' set to thrive," remarked Alicia Evanko, vice president of tradeshows and events, The Travel + Hospitality Group. "We are confident that the Young Leaders Conference is now an industry mainstay for young travel professionals seeking to add add another dimension of peer collaboration."

    All aspects of the event proved to be a success, especially 'Mingle for Success: Young Leaders Business Card Exchange,' an interactive peer-to-peer networking session where attendees were able to meet one-to-one efficiently with their fellow travel professionals. Industry experts presented educational sessions covering technology, sales and marketing, niche travel, generational research and personal success stories.

    Speakers included: Michael Distler, destination specialist for Africa, Admiral Travel International; Talula A. Guntner, Ed.S., CTC, MCC, assistant dean, travel and tourism, Northern Virginia Community College; Ralph Iantosca, CTA, LS, DS, agency owner, GOGIRL.TRAVEL; Michelle Mangio, owner, Magical Escapes; Jack E. Mannix, CTC, principal, Jack E. Mannix & Associates; Leah Peterson, vice president of client development, Response Mine Interactive; Nancy Strong, CTC, chief executive officer, Strong Travel Services; Andy Stuart, executive vice president of global sales and passenger services, Norwegian Cruise Line; Kathryn W. Sudeikis, CTC, vice president of corporate relations, All About Travel; Jill Taylor, luxury travel consultant, Jet Set World Travel and Monika Weinsoft, luxury travel consultant, Jet Set World Travel.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    New Leaders Will Take the Helm at Four Key Industry Organizations

    December 20, 2010 | By: Dori Saltzman | Travel Market Report

    Travel Market Report

    View article online here

    Four of the travel industry's most influential organizations have recently named new executive leaders.

    The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) appointed Tony Gonchar as its new CEO, effective Jan. 3, 2011. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), named Christine Duffy president, effective in February. Duffy replaces Terry Dale, who was recently appointed president of the United States Tour Operators Assn. (USTOA). Dale takes the helm in January. And last week Jack E. Mannix, CTC, was named chairman of The Travel Institute.

    ASTA: When Tony Gonchar steps in as ASTA's CEO, he brings more than 25 years of experience in different facets of the travel industry to the role. His background includes roles in strategic planning, marketing and branding, sales management and customer retention. Gonchar replaces William Maloney, who resigned as CEO in March.

    Gonchar's experience includes seven years at Expedia, where he ran the company's private label and branded partnerships division, and two years as executive vice president of sales and marketing at Virtuoso.

    Most recently Gonchar worked as a consultant for Microsoft, where he was responsible for building a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy for the online Microsoft Store division.

    Gonchar told Travel Market Report that although it is too early to go into specifics, he will spend most of his early days at ASTA doing due diligence, evaluation and consultation before focusing on action in three core areas: finance, government legislation and consumer awareness.

    CLIA: Another veteran of the travel agency industry, Christine Duffy will become CLIA's president in February 2011. A former travel agent, Duffy currently serves as president and CEO of Maritz Travel, a large meeting, event and incentive travel management company.

    Duffy has "thorough knowledge of how travel, and cruises are marketed and sold through the agency distribution system, and a firm grasp of the issues facing the industry," said Howard S. Frank, vice chairman of the board and COO of Carnival Corporation & plc. Frank also served as chairman of the executive committee in charge of hiring a new president.

    "As a former travel agent and dedicated advocate of the agency distribution system, it is with real pleasure that I reach out for the first time to the travel agencies and agents of CLIA," Duffy wrote in her first online marketing outreach to CLIA-member agencies. "You are the cruise industry's most efficient distribution system and CLIA will do everything in our power to support your businesses and further your professional development."

    Duffy has been recognized several times for her work as a business and industry leader. The St. Louis Business Journal named her one of the 25 Most Influential Business Women; Corporate Meetings and Incentives chose her as one of the Top 10 Women Leaders in the Meeting Industry, and Meetings News named her one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry four times.

    Duffy will be based in CLIA's Washington, DC office, but will also work from the association's office in Fort Lauderdale.

    jackmannix_headshot_smThe Travel Institute: Jack Mannix, CTC, will take over as chairman of the board at the nonprofit Travel Institute. Mannix replaces Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, president of 23Touch Points, Inc.; Ahlsmith served as chair of The Travel Institute for five years.

    Mannix, an industry veteran who is founder and principal of Jack E. Mannix & Associates, said in a prepared release that he is "excited to take on this new role and become even more involved as The Institute's chairman." He has served on the board since leaving The Travel Institute in 2002, where he had been its president and CEO.

    Mannix said he is looking forward to creating new initiatives for The Travel Institute. In 2011, he plans to focus on recasting the organization's strategic plan and unveiling a more user-friendly website with new features and benefits for its members.

    Other new leaders for The Travel Institute include Brian Robb, senior vice president of the Mark Travel Corporation, as vice chair, and Gary Pollard, president and CTC of Ambassador Tours, as secretary/treasurer.

    USTOA: As previously reported in Travel Market Report, Terry Dale leaves his tenure with CLIA to succeed the late Robert Whitley as USTOA president, effective in January.

    Dale said he wants to cultivate a collaborative effort among members to devise creative solutions and programs that will build the tour business and raise the bar for the entire industry.

    Used with permission by Travel Market Report, Inc

    The Travel Institute announced its new officer team

    December 16, 2010 | Travel Daily News

    Travel Daily News

    FThe Travel Institute announced its new officer team elected earlier this week during its annual conference in Las Vegas. Completing his term as chairman of the board of trustees, Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, president of 23Touch Points, Inc., has turned over the leadership responsibilities to Jack E. Mannix, CTC, founder and principal of Jack E. Mannix & Associates. Also elected to officer posts are Brian Robb, senior vice president of The Mark Travel Corporation, as vice chair, and Gary Pollard, CTC, president and CEO of Ambassador Tours, as secretary/treasurer. Ahlsmith also concludes five years of service on The Travel Institute's executive committee. He will remain on its board of trustees.

    Used with permission by Travel Daily News

    Mannix to Chair The Travel Institute

    December 13, 2010 | By: Staff | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    Jack E. Mannix, founder and principal of Jack E. Mannix & Associates and former head of Ensemble Travel Network, has been named chairman of The Travel Institute. He replaces Scott Ahlsmith, president of 23Touch Points, Inc. Both veteran executives are Certified Travel Counselors (CTC).

    Also elected to officer posts are Brian Robb, senior vice president of the Mark Travel Corporation, as vice chair, and Gary Pollard, president of Ambassador Tours, as secretary/treasurer. Ahlsmith also concludes five years of service on The Travel Institute’s executive committee and will remain on its board of trustees.

    “I agreed to serve as chairman of The Travel Institute’s board of trustees because of my strong belief in professional certifications and designations,” said Ahlsmith. “I was also committed to keeping The Travel Institute autonomous and independent. Today, I’m equally pleased to turn over the leadership of The Travel Institute to Jack Mannix, Brian Robb, and Gary Pollard who share my passion for professional development and continuing education.”

    Mannix, who has served on the board since leaving The Travel Institute in 2002, where he had been its president and CEO, said: “I have always been connected to the organization’s goals and projects and I’m looking forward to working closely with the board as we create several new and exciting initiatives for The Travel Institute and its members and customers.”

    Focus areas in 2011 include positioning The Travel Institute in the forefront of the industry by recasting its strategic plan and unveiling a more user-friendly website with new features and benefits for its members, the Institute said.

    The Travel Institute was established in 1964 and offers innovative education programs, professional certification and customized learning solutions. Visit www.thetravelinstitute.com.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Travel Institute Names Mannix Chairman of Board

    December 10, 2010 | Travel Pulse

    Travel Pulse

    View article online here

    The Travel Institute has named Jack E. Mannix, CTC, as chairman of the board of trustees. He succeeds Scott Ahlsmith, CTC, president of 23Touch Points, Inc. Also elected to officer posts are Brian Robb, senior vice president of the Mark Travel Corporation, as vice chair; and Gary Pollard, CTC, president of Ambassador Tours, as secretary/treasurer.

    Ahlsmith also concludes five years of service on The Travel Institute’s executive committee. He will remain on its board of trustees. “I agreed to serve as chairman of The Travel Institute’s board of trustees because of my strong belief in professional certifications and designations,” said Ahlsmith. “I was also committed to keeping The Travel Institute autonomous and independent. Today, I’m equally pleased to turn over the leadership of The Travel Institute to Jack Mannix, Brian Robb and Gary Pollard, who share my passion for professional development and continuing education.”

    “I am excited to take on this new role and become even more involved as The Institute’s chairman,” said Mannix, who has served on the board since leaving The Travel Institute in 2002, where he had been its president and CEO. “I have always been connected to the organization’s goals and projects and I’m looking forward to working closely with the board as we create several new and exciting initiatives for The Travel Institute and its members and customers.”

    Focus areas in 2011 include positioning The Travel Institute in the forefront of the industry by recasting its strategic plan and unveiling a more user-friendly website with new features and benefits for its members. Visit www.thetravelinstitute.com.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Day One Roundup of Luxury Travel Expo

    December 8, 2010 | By: Joe Pike | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    LAS VEGAS, Nevada –The 12th annual Luxury Travel Expo got its feet wet on Tuesday with the inaugural Young Leaders Conference. I was on hand for the event, which attracted roughly 110 agents and tourism representatives under the age of 40.

    “I’m usually the youngest one at all these events and conferences, so its great to be able to trade advice with people my own age for a change,” says Aimee Leon, manager of leisure services for Travel Dynamics Group in La Jolla, California. “It’s very beneficial.”

    Attendees sat through six interesting presentations from such industry icons as Jack E. Mannix, of Jack E. Mannix & Associates, along with Nancy Strong, CEO of Strong Travel Services; Kathryn W. Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations for All About Travel; Michelle Mangio, owner of Magical Express and Ralph Iantosca, owner of Go Girl Travel.

    “The energy throughout the day was exciting and innovative,” says the event’s host, Jose Barreiro, group director of sales for The Travel + Hospitality Group. “It was so wonderful to see some of the travel industry’s brightest young professionals interacting with longstanding industry icons. It made all of us hopeful about the future of the travel agent.”

    After the roughly seven-hour conference, I had enough time to race to my room, write a bit, change into my suit and race back downstairs for the 10th annual Awards of Excellence where the big winners were Geoffrey Gelardi, The Lanesborough for Top General Manager of a Luxury Hotel/Resort Worldwide and Abercrombie & Kent for Top Luxury Destination Management Company Worldwide.

    Along with the 2010 Awards of Excellence winners, Luxury Travel Advisor honored Kathy Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations for All About Travel, as Top Humanitarian for 2010. The Top Humanitarian award is bestowed on those travel industry professionals who are not only committed to the betterment of the industry, but who use their notoriety to bring attention to communities and individuals in need.

    I’ll be covering LTE through Thursday, so keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com and www.luxuryta.com for updates from the show.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Inaugural Young Leaders Conference at LTE is a Success

    December 7, 2010 | By: Joe Pike | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It’s not every day you find a room full of young professionals in the travel industry, but roughly 110 industry representatives under the age of 40 flocked Monday afternoon to the first Young Leaders Conference hosted by The Travel + Hospitality Group as part of the annual Luxury Travel Expo tradeshow.

    The all day event held at the South Conference Center of Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino was hosted by Jose Barreiro, group director of sales for The Travel + Hospitality Group, and was deemed by many in attendance a refreshing alternative to education and networking for young business leaders.

    “I’m usually the youngest one at all these events and conferences, so it's great to be able to trade advice with people my own age for a change,” says Aimee Leon, manager of leisure services for Travel Dynamics Group in La Jolla, California. “It’s very beneficial.”

    Selling Travel 101
    The conference got off and running with the first topic of discussion, “Rapid Fire Ideas: 100 Ways to Soar in Luxury Sales and Marketing,” spearheaded by Andy Stuart, executive vice president of global sales and passenger services for Norwegian Cruise Line.

    Stuart was also joined by Michael Distler, destination specialist for Africa for Admiral Travel International; Jill Taylor, luxury travel consultant for Jet Set World Travel and Monika Weinsoft, luxury travel consultant for Jet Set World Travel.

    Here’s a good chunk of some of the most interesting and some of the most quirky tips Stuart and company preached to the young leaders in attendance: Ask your dentist if you can put up a cruise poster; attend and promote at high school or college reunions; give your clients a video or some resource they can show off to friends and family; call three customers every day before 11 a.m.; send Thanksgiving cards to your clients; become a notary public and blog as much as you can.

    “People want to know where you are going and what you are doing,” Distler says in regards to blogging.

    And as far as following up with a client?

    “Never give up, keep it simple, send a magazine article,” says Taylor. “You don’t want them to feel forgotten, that they aren’t just one of a million.”

    Among the other notable tips: Do not be afraid to advertise your own popularity; ask open-ended questions in the qualifying process and be sure business phone voice recording reflects what you want it to. To avoid “shoppers,” ask for an up-front deposit. Talk for an hour or two, tell clients about the ins and outs and then ask for money.

    “This says. 'I’m valuable, the information I have is valuable',” Stuart says. “My knowledge is worth something.”

    Other tips included attending as many fam trips as possible; learn and master new technology and social media (Twitter, Facebook), take part in local partnerships; use your business card everywhere; create an advisory board with customers; don’t limit yourself to just couples travel, take advantage of large families as well; have a marketing plan; add ‘cruise’ to your company’s name; never be afraid to sell up; take a public speaking class at local community college; get together with a local band that has a big following; take part in education programs and attend travel shows.

    “So much of (the tips given) were innovative and out of the box, which I think speaks to this audience and how we need to do business now,” Barreiro says.

    How Fast Can You Network?
    Armed with 100 tips on selling travel, industry representatives then took part in a networking exercise, “Mingle for Success: Young Leaders Business Card Exchange,” the networking version of speed dating that gives industry representatives the opportunity to network for two minutes, exchange business cards before moving one seat to the left and doing it all over.

    “Its great for people starting out in this industry, looking to network and just really relate to a lot of people who are in the same age group,” says home-based agent Szymon Krasucki, of TravelbySimon.

    Learn from Your Mistakes
    The afternoon session of the conference got jump started with a presentation by Ralph Iantosca, owner of GoGirl Travel, titled “$1 Million and Counting: A Young Leader Shares Strategies and Secrets.” Iantosca spoke to the young leaders in the room about successful strategies, lessons learned and how to tailor your career journey to fit your personal passions.

    “I’m here to talk to you about my mistakes,” Iantosca says. “Not enough people tell you about what not to do, about their mistakes. You’ll always hear, 'I just opened up a million dollar business,’ but never about what not to do.”

    We put him to the test and asked Iantosca about performing damage control when a client is unhappy with a trip an agent booked for them.

    “Well there are two things you are not going to get back and that’s your time and your money. Tell your clients that,” Iantosca says. “It’s done and done, so all you can do is apologize and tell your clients you screwed up, its always your fault and not theirs. Say, 'I don’t want to lose your business, can you give me a second chance, how can I get to know you better so its better the next around."

    Age is Just a Number
    During the portion, “Fooling Mother Nature: Tackling the Generational Gap in Luxury Sales” by Talula A. Gunter, assistant dean and professor in travel and tourism at Northern Virginia Community College spoke about how to attract and land older, experienced travelers as permanent clients. How do you overcome perceptions about your young age being a detriment to their experience and needs?

    And this was something of particular interest to resort manager Rheanne Etken.

    “For me it was just great to see people my age and get pointers from people who are in the same position as I am,” says Etken of The Inn at Entrada in St. George, Utah. “I think a lot of people we need to market to are much older than us, so it’s great to get some advice from other professionals on how to be successful with these older clients.”

    Gunter preached giving value, to always being ethical, to “sell up not to a little extra commissions, but sell up so your luxury clients come back” and to cross sell.

    But how do you get that very first client?

    “Start networking and let people know you are in the business and have cards ready and get a friend to write you up," she says. "Start with friends and family, sometimes they can be very difficult to work with but that’s how you get started. And remember: they don’t have to know they are your first client.”

    Scratching That Niche
    As the second half of the conference got into full gear, Michelle Mangio, owner of Magical Escapes, kept the momentum of the day going with her presentation, “Working the Niche: An Entrepreneurial Case Study.”

    Mangio, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and successful agent, taught the attendees how to duplicate her entrepreneurial success and fine-tune niche sales through concrete strategies and steps.

    “If you have 100 other people saying you are luxury travel advisor, well, there are 100 other people saying the same thing, so how are you different, how do you stand out?,” Mangio asked the attendees.

    “If you are a niche specialist, (clients) will perceive you as an expert,” added Mangio.

    Mangio says, in order to sell niche markets, an agent must be focused on these categories: research, training and certifications, organizations, marketing and public relations, and brand and presence.

    “Selling a niche will help you excel and increase your sales,” Mangio says.

    Technology is the Present and the Future
    The next session was “Stay on the Edge: Keeping Your Foot on the Technology Accelerator” with Leah Peterson, vice president of client development for Response Mine Interactive.

    Peterson focused on how clients will communicate with your agency in the future, how they and will they plan their vacation, and how all of us will conduct our personal and professional business via futuristic hardware, software and social networking options.

    A Word From the Experts
    The inaugural conference concluded with a panel discussion, titled “Best Practices from the Pros – Our Skilled Experts Tell All” featuring Jack E. Mannix, of Jack E. Mannix & Associates along with Nancy Strong, CEO of Strong Travel Services and Kathryn W. Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations for All About Travel. Jack E. Mannix, of Jack E. Mannix & Associates, along with Kathryn W. Sudeikis, vice president of corporate relations for All About Travel and Nancy Strong, CEO of Strong Travel Services present at the Young Leaders Conference

    Here are some notable quotes from that discussion:
    “This is a business, ladies and gentlemen, be a great business person who happens to sell travel,” says Mannix. “If you don’t have the passion for what you do, I promise you that customer is going to feel that passion or the lack thereof. This is a dream come true for most of them. If it doesn’t feel like a dream come true in their eyes, you won't have the selling effectiveness.”

    “Its amazing how first hand knowledge for your first hand agents makes such a difference,” Strong says. “You don’t know your customer, but you can work on it.”

    “Everyone I get to speak to one on one today just makes me really delighted about the industry,” Sudeikis says. "Go to industry events like this and seekk out (industry representatives). I think they will be flattered so share advice."

    “If you want the best tip I can give you, it is develop a relationship with your supplier," says Strong. "You’ve been told to develop relationships with your clients. It is equally as important to develop a relationship with your supplier cause he is in charge of your client after they are on their vacation.”

    That’s All Folks

    The Conference concluded with Barreiro conducting a brief wrap-up session, offering resources to help put the attendees’ newfound knowledge into practice.

    “The energy throughout the day was exciting and innovative,” says Barreiro. “It was so wonderful to see some of the travel industry’s brightest young professionals interacting with longstanding industry icons. It made all of us hopeful about the future of the travel agent.”

    Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com and www.luxuryta.com for more updates of our ongoing coverage of Luxury Travel Expo.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Reaping the Benefits of a Trade Show

    November 19, 2010 | By: Steve Cousino | Travel Research Online

    Travel Research Online

    View article online here

    I recently attended Travel Weekly’s Leisure World and Home Based Agent Show in Atlantic City, and wow, what an experience! It was a week chock full of fun, networking, and learning. It was terrific to meet so many TRO members there, and to meet many people who will become TRO members!

    I have always found trade shows to be beneficial on many different levels. First, getting the chance to meet supplier representatives in person is very important. Often, these are the same representatives who become your point of contact for that supplier: having a face to face relationship with them cannot be valued highly enough. Understanding how a supplier’s product could fit into your product mix is vital to growing as a business and offering what your clients want from you. Hearing about new experiences and new suppliers is an important part of the trade show, too: in fact, Atlantic City marked the debut in the United States of Wendy Wu Tours, a tour operator specializing in China and well-known in the United Kingdom. Wendy Wu herself was present, and it was exciting to learn about her, her company, and explore the new options she presented.

    Networking with other agents is also a vital part of the trade show. I met and interacted with many people from different areas of the country on the trade show floor, at the hosted luncheons, and during dinner after the events were done for the day. We talked about things that concerned us in the business, our successes, our failures, and just had a really good time. Sure, online forums like the TRO Community provide an outlet for social interaction, but nothing can beat laughing about shared experiences over a glass of wine (Or two. Or three.). It’s hard to value running into Marc Mancini in the hotel lobby, and sitting down with him over some ice cream and hearing anecdotes from the travel industry history.

    But, to me, some of the most important and valuable experiences from the show was from the educational sessions provided. I came away from that week in Atlantic City with a new vigor, a new purpose for my business, and fresh ideas to make 2011 and beyond better than the years before it. One of the most memorable sessions for me was a session on group cruises presented by Captain Lou Edwards of the Little Shop of Cruises in Brooklyn, New York. I had admired Captain Lou for a couple of years, and had tried to understand his methods but never could until I attended this session. Having him explain things in detail made so many light bulbs turn on in my head that the energy from them could have sent Marty McFly’s DeLorean back to 1985. I heard from Jack Mannix on the importance of selling myself, rather than selling a supplier. Stuart Cohen explored the benefits of specializing in a niche (along with a very healthy “No” therapy session!).

    TRO’s own Laura Frazier shared her basics of romance travel to a well tuned in audience. Travel Weekly produced several important panel discussions, including one involving major cruise line executives and another highlighting successful travel professionals. I could go on about each of these, and there are many more I am leaving out.

    Simply put, there is a cost involved in attending trade shows of this caliber in time, hotel costs, and transportation. Yet, the benefits far out weigh those costs in the end. Do what you possibly can to attend at least one major industry trade show each year, and you will see a payoff in so many ways. I cannot stress enough the benefits I have reaped from attending the trade shows. Not only have I learned new business methods and new supplier products, but I have created friendships that have helped my own business, and have helped others in their business as well.

    Travel Weekly’s LeisureWorld 2011 and Home Based Travel Agent Show will be held in Las Vegas at the Aria Resort & Casino City Center from February 15-18, 2011! Registration is now open, click here to reserve your spot. The early bird rate for full conference registration is $75 but as a special offer, TRO members who register before November 30 will only pay $50!

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a four-year industry veteran and owner of Journeys By Steve, an affiliate of Sunnyland Travel Center in Springfield, MO. He specializes in cruises, escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at steve@journeysbysteve.com. Visit his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com

    Used with permission by Travel Research Online

    Former ICTA, ASTA Head Milton Marks Dies at 93

    November 15, 2010 | Travel Pulse

    Travel Pulse

    View article online here

    Milton Marks, a former president of ASTA, passed away on Sunday, Nov. 14 2010 in his sleep at age 93. Marks was a founder trustee of the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA), now known as The Travel Institute. He was CEO of ICTA at its founding in 1964 and later served as president and later as chairman of its Board until his retirement in 1988. After his retirement he was elected chairman emeritus. Marks also served in various official elected positions with ASTA. He was the ASTA national president in 1962 and 1963. In 1972 ASTA recognized him with its Travel Agent of the Year Award. In 1990 at the World Travel Congress held in Hamburg, Germany he was inducted into the Travel Hall of Fame.

    “I am deeply saddened to learn of Milton’s passing," said Jack Mannix, a former president of The Travel Institute. "He was a successful businessman but even more importantly, he was incredibly passionate about the travel industry and improving the professionalism of those in it. When I first became president and CEO of the Travel Institute, I visited Milton at his Dayton-area home to really get an intimate feel for the history of the Institute and its mission. He was a gracious host and a true gentleman and I remember leaving there not only marveling at his knowledge of the business and the history of the institute but also how dear both were to him. We may have lost a pioneer but his legacy will be with us for many, many years to come."

    Marks was born in Cattlesburg, Ky., on Sept. 9, 1917. His family moved to Dayton, Ohio in early 1919 and he has been a resident in the Dayton area since then, except for a three-year plus stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. He entered the travel industry in 1935 when he joined his father and brother Arthur Marks at Marks Travel Service in Dayton. Except for the time spent in the Army, he continued with the firm until its sale in 1984, which allowed him and his brother to retire. He remained with the new owner to effect the transition until early 1986.

    Marks and his late wife Miriam Siegel Marks had three children: Rhona Marks Smuian of Coral Gables, Fla; Richard Marks of Chevy Chase, Md.; and Judith Marks Cohen of Toronto, Canada, plus six grandchildren. He was married to Rita Zalk Cline Marks in 1984 and they resided in Kettering, Ohio. His funeral will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010 in Dayton, Ohio, at Temple Israel at 1 p.m. In Lieu of Flowers, Contributions can be made to the Miriam Siegel Marks Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton or to Hospice of Dayton.

    Used with permission by Travel Pulse

    NCL's IPO Outlines Consumer-Direct Strategy

    November 1, 2010 | By: Marilee Crocker | Travel Market Report

    Travel Market Report

    View article online here

    thumbnail.ashxNorwegian Cruise Line's disclosure last week of its strategy to boost consumer-direct sales came more as confirmation than surprise to members of the travel industry.

    The frank discussion of NCL's direct sales strategy was contained in a proposed initial public offering (IPO) of $250 million worth of common stock in NCL. In the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, NCL Corp. outlined a business plan which made clear that selling direct to consumers is an integral and increasingly important part of its growth strategy.

    "We continue to grow our direct business through investments in our brand and our website as well as increasing our direct sales force," NCL said in the offering, which named consumer direct as one of four primary distribution channels.

    NCL said direct sales had grown from 13.3% of net ticket revenue in 2007 to 27% for the first nine months of 2010.

    "The assumption is that selling direct is going to cost less money, that it's going to secure loyal customers on a longer basis, and that they think they're better at capturing those new customers as well as securing their existing customers than the [agency] distribution model," commented Lindsay Pearlman, executive vice president and general manager of Ensemble Travel Group.

    He added that the line's increased emphasis on the consumer-direct distribution channel is, "reflective of a strategy that you have to be a blind man not to see."

    Pearlman said he didn't see NCL's focus on direct sales affecting Ensemble's relationship with the line. "If we continue to bring value to them, to grow their business, it has no impact," he said. "If they feel they can do it more effectively and for less cost, then we've done a poor job. Would I prefer that they didn't go direct? Of course."

    (Executives from other major travel agency marketing groups contacted by Travel Market Report were either unavailable for comment, did not return phone calls, or declined to comment.)

    In a prepared statement, Brad Tolkin, co-chairman and co-CEO of World Travel Holdings, parent company to CruiseOne & Cruises Inc., said, "I am wholeheartedly confident in the commitment Norwegian Cruise Line has exhibited to the agent community. With a rapidly expanding fleet that includes Epic and two newly announced ships, Norwegian Cruise Line will be smart about their business. They are very well aware of the critical importance of the travel agent channel to their success."

    Regarding the doubling of NCL's direct sales from 13.3% of net ticket revenues in 2007 to 27% in the first nine months of 2010, Jack Mannix of Jack E. Mannix & Associates in Weston, Fla., surmised that such growth is typical for cruise lines' contemporary and, to a lesser extent, premium brands.

    "Particularly in the contemporary end, it's imperative that their ships go out full. The motivation is not to make it more challenging for the retail community. It's a cost-effective way for them to be filling the ships. With the advent of internet, it gets easier," said Mannix, former president and CEO of Ensemble.

    Higher Yields?
    "Whether you get the same APD [average per diem], the same onboard spend, I don't know," Mannix said of direct bookings. "If a travel agent puts somebody onboard who's paying $100 a day and the cruise gets a direct booking that only pays $50 a day, then the agency's business is obviously more lucrative."

    In its public offering, NCL said the reverse is true: "Passengers booking directly with us tend to book earlier and in premium category inventory which provides higher Net Yields."

    Mara Hargarther of Hargarther, Thaler & Associates, LLC, a CruiseOne franchise in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was doubtful. "I know that my company, CruiseOne, has a larger-cabin average sale and longer booking window than most other channels. My guess is they are comparing it to call centers. I strongly doubt when comparing the stats from NCL direct sales consultants to us, there could be any chance that our numbers would not be superior by all measures."

    As for the significance of NCL's stated growth in consumer direct sales over the last three years, that may not be as dramatic as it appears, Mannix said. In light of poor sales in 2008 and 2009, "to have the numbers grow dramatically would be mathematically expected." NCL said in the IPO that its direct sales had grown from 13.3% of net ticket revenue in 2007 to 27% for the first nine months of 2010.

    But Oivind Mathisen, editor of Cruise Industry News in New York, said travel agents should "really pay attention" to that jump in direct sales. "I think that's huge," he said.

    Ensemble's Pearlman said the growth has to be examined in context. "What is that number related to market share? If they increased it, plus their market share has gone up, then it works (for NCL)."

    Filling Ships
    NCL declined to comment on specifics in the IPO, citing legal restrictions. However, a spokeswoman said that the overall distribution strategy outlined in the public offering is necessitated by the line's expanding capacity.

    One day before filing its public offering with the SEC, NCL announced plans to build two 4,000-passenger ships at a price tag of $1.2 billion. The ships are slated for delivery in 2013 and 2014. In June, the line launched its 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic.

    "In order to support this 30% capacity increase, we need every single distribution channel to be extremely healthy and robust," the spokeswoman said via email. "This includes our travel partners, international and direct. None are mutually exclusive; they all need to be working in order to support our large capacity increase."

    Those are pressures travel agents must respond to, Mannix suggested. "As the cruise industry increases capacity, all other things being equal, they need to make sure they maintain their importance by continuing to fill capacity."

    Agency Partners
    NCL's public offering outlined distribution plans through four channels: retail/travel agent, consumer direct, international, and "CM&I" (full-ship charters and corporate meetings and incentives).

    The cruise line also specifically noted in the offering its initiatives to strengthen ties with travel agent partners. These included restructuring of its agency sales force to "more effectively support the larger accounts, which represent approximately 50% of our customers."

    As part of that restructuring, the line aims to "gain access to a significantly larger number of travel partners through an outbound call center," according to the IPO.

    The effectiveness of using call centers to reach smaller and mid-size agency accounts remains to be seen, Pearlman suggested. "I've never seen that done very well," he told Travel Market Report.

    Asked to comment on the future of cruise distribution, Mathiesen said he'd still be more comfortable booking through a travel agent than on the internet, given the complexity of the product. But, he added, "People are changing today. Young people book everything on the internet, so it seems to be going that way."

    Also, he noted, compared to some other cruise products, NCL's Freestyle Cruising attracts passengers who are more outgoing and independent, a demographic that may in fact be more comfortable booking its own travel.

    Leisure editor Dori Saltzman contributed to this report.

    Used with permission by Travel Market Report, Inc

    Cruise Roundtable: Learning from the Recession

    September 24, 2010 | By: Ruthanne Terrero | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    Travel Agent sat in on an all-star panel of cruise and travel industry executives and is sharing their feedback with you. In this first part of a series, Ruthanne Terrero asks the experts what they have learned from the recession. Here's what they had to say:

    Ken Watson, Silversea
    When you look back over the last couple of years, it's been an amazing journey, not only for this industry but for others, too. What we have learned really is to be flexible. Silversea might have been a bit more rigid years ago. Now, we believe in flexibility and that we have to service our travel community and the travel agents in particular. During the last year and a half, our senior management looked into almost every single booking to make sure that the travel community and our guests were happy and it worked. We came out of it a lot stronger, so did our relationship with the travel agency community.

    Mitch Schlesinger, Voyages to Antiquity:
    We have done an interesting thing. We started a cruise line during the worst part of the recession. We also knew we had to come up with this very interesting niche product. On the consumer side, it's about creating a value proposition for the consumer. So we build a product that is as inclusive as it can get, with everything built in. You need to get the consumer to not look at price as much as the value of what they get. The third part of is the travel agent. And because we pay agents commission on all of those elements in a product, it gives us the ability to stand up and say we support you.

    Bob Sharak, CLIA:
    From CLIA’s perspective, it’s a little different because we are a membership organization, the trade association for the cruise industry. I count as members 25 cruise lines on one hand and 16,000 travel agents and agencies on the other, so we serve different groups.

    What we’ve learned is that there are two groups of agents out there—one which was worried and maybe reduced expenditures, didn’t risk marketing and tried to ride it out. The other said, “The situation is what it is but this is my business and I have got to do something for it.” So they continued to market and find new ways to sell. Maybe they embraced social media, maybe they reinvested in themselves and their employees. As a matter of fact, during this period, CLIA had record numbers of agents who enrolled in our certification program. As of today, there are over 12,000 agents who have enrolled for the certification. It’s a record! We haven’t had those numbers for years. So there was an opportunity out there.

    Fortunately, for the most part, most agents took up proactive reinvestment and it showed in our numbers. That was an interesting lesson to be learned. We reinvested in ourselves. We refreshed all of our training programs. We introduced new modules such as social media—things that are relevant to agents today.

    We continued investing on agents because I hold meetings with the cruise lines on a daily basis and I can tell everybody here that the travel agent community is always No.1. We are always talking about how to support these folks, train them and make them better, smarter or more productive.

    Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean:
    The recession brought for our company a lot of opportunities to reevaluate our priorities. With years of experience in our leadership team, we all knew that the recession would be there for a period of time—hopefully a lot shorter than we wanted—but that we would continue to exist as a business. So, we decided to take advantage of the recession by building on our relationships with travel agents and making them even stronger. We created programs like ASAP, which gave every agent at the beginning of the year, as we saw the economy getting soft, an extra point of commission. Our chairman gave the Royal Caribbean brand an additional $3 million to help fuel the agents’ marketing activities. We didn’t want travel agents to shrink in size because we depend so much on them. We had to strengthen our relationship with the trade so that after the recession they are there to support us.

    In our company, we did go on a diet. We trimmed some of the flab without touching the product. We realized that touching the product will hurt us in the long run. But there were things we could do with salary freezes and by laying off a few employees.

    We also introduced the Oasis of the Seas during the recession. It wasn’t quite planned that way but it did allow us to give travel agents hope, with an exciting new product. It got a lot of consumer press and that allowed us to take advantage of the value proposition of cruising as the best vacation. We said this is the time to bolster our communication with travel agents and consumers. Media was becoming more of a bargain in the recession so we were able to continue with our TV campaign that got us a lot of attention. We feel that 2010 is a good year, although not as good as we’d have wanted it to be, but at least we are heading in the right direction.

    Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises:
    The most important thing to have from an agent and personal perspective is being positive in the face of adversity. That’s an important lesson because when fear crept in and expectations fell, people slowed down. Rather, they stopped. [The recession] was a tough time and it reminds me of the Depression era, [which was about setting priorities and being practical]. And corporations did that [in the recession], too, so to use the term that Vicki did, we all went on a diet and learned what we need to do to sustain us.

    When our corporation [Royal Caribbean Cruises] was about to invest in the Azamara Club Cruises brand, a lot of people said it wasn’t a good time. So we needed the agent community to communicate to customers in terms of value, which is just not a price point, as a lot of clinical data proves. It's the perception of a client as to what they are about to receive and the ability of an agent to articulate. That’s something we have to learn to do more and more of. And when we do that, we will always overcome things we are fearful of, like the recession.

    Terri Haas, Compagnie du Ponant:
    We also decided to launch our brand in North America, on the heels of this challenging period, after being in France for 22 years. One of the things we have learned, and rather surprisingly, is that the American public is pretty resilient and gets over things far more quickly than the Europeans. It has reaffirmed this is a good opportunity and place for us to be in right now to promote ourselves as the only French cruise line offering intimate, small ships possessing great value. So again, it’s when people feel they can spend the same amount of money to get something bigger and better than what they could have imagined. It's been a great move and we are starting to get our toe in the water and gain some traction. And it's been very well received.

    Jack E. Mannix, Jack E. Mannix & Associates:
    From the retail perspective, there have been a number of lessons learned. Certainly, one of them is that having a business based solely on being an expert on one destination or a product is over. [Travel agents] have to be businesspeople today, possessing sophisticated skills that relate to their marketing. They have to be their own CEO, vice president of sales, chief technology officer, etc. So, those who have survived, and will continue to survive and prosper, are the ones who understand that this is a business and that they have to be better at business than they ever have been. Unfortunately, not all have learned that message and I am sorry to say that I think some will not. But I am encouraged by seeing people emerge stronger than ever.

    Those [travel agents] who have had some challenges over the last 10 years have become more resilient and I think there is a sentiment out there that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's not that people are not traveling—you have to be the one selling them. You have to give them a reason to buy from you. Every supplier who can sell directly, for example, is going to, and that’s okay. But the retailer today brings to the table an expertise that can't be matched. Therefore, they need to focus on those consumers who are interested in buying a product and gaining from the expertise the retailer brings. So in many respects, I was bullish on this industry as I have been, maybe more so. [Travel agents] have to be better marketers because they have to find the needles in the haystack, to find the customer who does need that expertise, who is interested in fairly uncommoditized type of product. If anything, I think those who have made it this far will surely see a more prosperous and bright future.

    Chris Austin, Starwood:
    One of the most important things Starwood has been focusing on is getting our company in order, just as the rest of the companies in the room. But there are strategies that can be emulated by the retail travel professionals as well and I hope they are able to get their companies back in order as well. One of the big decisions Starwood made moving into 2009 was to continue investing in our products. So, when others were cutting back on product, we continued to invest. And over the last two years, we have spent over $6 billion on Sheraton as a brand to increase [the scope of] that brand. We continued to open hotels. In fact, Starwood is the largest player in the luxury hotel space with over 300 properties in the pipeline, and we continued to sign new hotels. And to avoid retrenching, not go deeper into that hole, we continued to lead our business with vision, innovation and differentiation. Those are the three words that any retail travel professional can use to look at their own business and say, “How am I being a visionary, innovator and differentiating myself against competitor agencies in the community or country?” The other point is that we have ramped up focus on the retail travel professional. Building trust with us is the most important factor. If we have no trust with the agency community, we wouldn’t have that business.

    Maurice Zarmati, Costa Cruises:
    At Costa, we needed to figure out what we did best and where. In the early days, the Caribbean used to be the destination of choice from the U.S. It was much later that Europe came into the marketplace and Americans started flying to the continent to cruise from there. But the reverse was the case at Costa Cruises because we were not well-known in the U.S. but had a formidable market share in Europe. We decided to do what we do best—to specialize in our departures points from the U.S. to Europe using the core markets that are best known to us, understanding that market place really well and then expanding it to expose it to the U.S.

    Rick Sasso, MSC Cruises:
    Like everybody else, we have to learn to be more efficient. In fall 2008, we were doing well, everybody was building ships and all of a sudden it just dropped off and though we could manage it, we weren’t in control. We put our thinking caps on and found more ways to be efficient without cutting service and quality. We knew we already had the fastest-growing brand but we just couldn’t say, “Okay, let’s stop now and wait.” We had to keep the momentum going. While in Europe, we are a household name, in North America we were an unknown brand. But we needed to continue to market and define a more efficient way to do so. We had to use the cleverness of online and partners to create partnerships with travel agents that helped us spread our brand name.

    We knew that service was going to be a defining fact. We knew we all had great ships. This industry is built on great ships by so many brands it’s hard to differentiate sometimes. But certainly, customer service is a philosophy that some companies either adapt to and go aggressively with or they just take it for granted.

    We thought like our customer base—our travel agent partners and our customers who sail with us—to make sure we excelled in our service. When our people answered the phones, and the clients sought group space, we made it our practice to never keep them on hold. We kept going, and we invested well. We have the best support for the travel agent community in terms of compensation and commercial arrangement. And I think our management team is quite sensitive to the fact that the travel agent is the primary source of our success. We’ve put a lot of eggs in that basket.

    The last piece is for all of us, that has been played by CLIA, ICCL and FCCA. There needs to be a central place where we can do the right thing together—be more safety- and environment-conscious and everything else that make us a better industry because yes, it is about independent companies, but it's also about our industry. And I give a lot of credit to the leadership at CLIA, ICCL and FCCA for the way they’ve managed us in these areas, because of the kind of signups we have for the training, the stuff in Washington we need to combat all the time. That’s been a major factor in our industry surviving an adverse time.

    Roundtable participants included:
    John McMahon, vice president/group publisher of The Travel Group; Ken Watson, COO, Silversea; Terri Haas, chief commercial officer for Compagnie du Ponant in North America; Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises in North America; Maurice Zarmati, president & CEO, Costa Cruises; Mitchell Schlesinger, vice president, sales & marketing, Voyages to Antiquity; Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, Royal Caribbean; Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises; Jack E. Mannix, Jack E. Mannix & Associates; Chris Austin, vice president of global retail, leisure and luxury sales for Starwood Hotels & Resorts; Bob Sharak, executive vice president, marketing and distribution for CLIA; and Ruthanne Terrero, vice president and editorial director for The Travel Group.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent Central

    Critical Issues Panel III: Do the Suppliers Know Me?

    October 27, 2010 | Travel Weekly Leisure World 2010

    Senior leisure supplier executives discuss the changing travel agency marketplace and how they identify and connect with individual sellers.

    Click here to read article

    Travel Agent Magazine Cover & Cruise Roundtable

    September 27, 2010 | Travel Agent


    Used with permission by Travel Agent magazine/Questex

    Jack E. Mannix Launches Strategic Consultancy

    September 24, 2010 | By: Staff | Travel Agent Central

    Travel Agent Central

    View article online here

    jackmannix_0Travel industry executive Jack E. Mannix, CTC, has launched Jack E. Mannix & Associates, a strategic consultancy for the travel industry. Leveraging more than three decades of travel industry experience, Mannix will consult with suppliers, retailers, consortia/chains and many other segments in strategic planning, the development of business and marketing plans, distribution strategies, one-on-one consulting, coaching and mentoring.

    Most recently, Mannix served as president and ceo of Ensemble Travel Group, a travel agency cooperative with approximately 800 locations in the United States and Canada. Mannix led Ensemble from February 2002 through July 2010, when he resigned in order to start his consulting practice and be based full-time in Florida, where his family resides. In his role with Ensemble, which is headquartered in New York City, he was responsible for the strategic direction of the company as well as its day-to-day management.

    Prior to joining Ensemble, Mannix served as president and ceo of The Travel Institute and as the managing director of travel at AAA's national headquarters. In addition, he held various high-level positions during16 years with American Express. He began his career as a travel agent. He has a bachelor's degree from American International College and an MBA from Western New England College.

    Mannix serves on the Board of Trustees of The Travel Institute. He has previously served as a member of ASTA's Corporate Advisory Council, the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Leisure Travel Advisory Board, the Airlines Reporting Corporation's Joint Advisory Board and the Board of the International Airlines Travel Agency Network (IATAN).

    Jack E. Mannix & Associates is based in Weston, FL. Mannix serves as founder and principal of the company.

    Used with permission by Travel Agent magazine/Questex

    Former Ensemble President Mannix Launches Consulting Firm

    September 24, 2010 | Travel Pulse

    Travel Pulse

    View article online here

    Travel industry executive Jack Mannix, CTC, who resigned as president of Ensemble Travel Group earlier this year, has launched Jack E. Mannix & Associates, a strategic consultancy for the travel industry. Leveraging more than three decades of travel industry experience in virtually all facets of the business, Mannix will consult with suppliers, retailers, consortia/chains and many other segments in strategic planning, the development of business and marketing plans, distribution strategies, one-on-one consulting, coaching and mentoring.

    Mannix served as president and CEO of Ensemble, a travel agency cooperative with approximately 800 locations in the United States and Canada, from February 2002 through July 2010, when he resigned in order to start his consulting practice and be based full-time in Florida, where his family resides. In his role with Ensemble, which is headquartered in New York City, he was responsible for the strategic direction of the company as well as its day-to-day management

    "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to use my expertise to work with a variety of business challenges in a number of industry segments as I am passionate about helping business people achieve the success they envision," said Mannix. "I'm already working with clients on both the supplier and retailer segments on strategies tailored to achieve their specific objectives yet with one common goal in mind -- to deliver the results they're looking for." Prior to joining Ensemble, Mannix served as president and CEO of The Travel Institute. Before that he was managing director of travel for AAA at its national headquarters. In addition, he held various high-level positions during16 years with American Express. He began his career as a travel agent. For more information, visit www.jackemannix.com.

    Used with permission by Travel Pulse/Performance Media Group LLC

    Jack Mannix forms consulting firm

    September 24, 2010 | Travel Weekly

    Travel Weekly

    JackMANNIX2Jack Mannix, who recently stepped down as CEO of Ensemble, has launched a strategic consulting firm called Jack E. Mannix & Associates.

    Mannix said the consultancy would target suppliers, retailers and consortia/chains, among other segments.

    Used with permission by Travel Weekly/Northstar Travel Media LLC

Copyright 2010 Jack E. Mannix & Associates. All Rights Reserved