Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with John Hanratty, Chief Marketing Officer of Travel Impressions.
Jessica: Welcome to MAC Chat, John. Thank you for joining us. Congratulations on Travel Impressions' nomination for the MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) Awards.
John: Thanks, Jessica. We were delighted to hear about the nomination, especially because it relates directly to our core business, which is supporting the travel agent community. This is our first year to work with MailPound, so we are very pleased to be part of your awards program.
Jessica: You were nominated for "Most Agent Friendly Tour Operator." What are some of Travel Impressions' features you think appeal most to the travel agent community?
John: Travel Impressions’ day-in, day-out philosophy is to delight our customers. We achieve this not only through award-winning customer service, but also with outstanding technology, an industry-leading travel protection plan, strong supplier support, committed partnerships with our agent customers, and dedicated long-tenured employees who truly care. Travel Impressions also offers the support and stability of its ownership by one of the world’s most respected companies – American Express. We continue to ensure that our existing strategy, sales message and culture are relevant to keeping the company in a position of strength for future growth.
We have adopted a strategy of “consultative selling,” which assists agents in understanding their businesses, provides advice and tools to market to an identified customer base, advises on effective marketing and sales strategies, and provide product knowledge by niche market rather than just by destination. We have just introduced an online Travel Agent Resource Center as part of our website which serves as a one-stop shop for everything travel agents might need from Travel Impressions, including marketing tools, customizable marketing materials, online brochures, news and information, online forms, our booking engine, payment capability, and sign ups for Twitter and Facebook. And, through our heavy reliance on MailPound, we are able to deliver promotions to agents more quickly and concisely – something that has proved to be especially important this year with the incredible number of excellent promotions we’re seeing from our suppliers.
As I mentioned earlier, travel agents are our core business and what makes Travel Impressions successful, so we value agents as true business partners. We provide commissions to agencies based on volume and offer a wide range of promotional incentives throughout each year. We provide onsite and webinar training on the latest technology, new properties and destinations, and we sponsor a series of informative trade shows and appreciation dinners for agents at various locations nationwide. We also recognize our top producing agencies at our “Best of the Best” annual event hosted at a major resort destination and featuring industry information, tours and entertainment. Most importantly, we continually listen to our travel agent customers and survey them quarterly to identify ways to better serve them.
Jessica: I noticed on your website that Travel Impressions provides a Managed Brands program. Can you tell us more about it and the Vacation Brands that are currently managed by Travel Impressions?
John: We manage and operate American Express Vacations (AEV), which is a private-label brand sold exclusively through the American Express Consumer Travel Network which includes wholly owned and representative travel offices and Platinum and Centurion Card call centers. AEV features broad-based, quality products with premium brand positioning, focusing on the upscale, luxury traveler. The AEV destinations are the same as those offered by Travel Impressions. We also manage United Vacations – Latin America, providing attractive vacation packages with special United Airlines leisure fares to key destinations in Central and South America. And, Almond Vacations is another one of our managed brands, providing vacation packages to all-inclusive Almond Resort properties in Barbados and St. Lucia.
Jessica: What is the best advice you can give new agents just starting out in the business?
John: Focus on differentiation and selling on expertise and value. Be clear on what sets you apart. Identify a niche market and establish yourself as a credible expert in the field. Provide a customized best-value vacation, rather than joining the ranks of the “order taker,” merely validating that price is king.
Take advantage of using a limited number of preferred suppliers to maximize compensation and support. Focus on product that provides the most commission, while creating value for the customer – such as all-inclusive properties and optional tours.
Be visible! Communicate – not only with your clients, but also with your preferred partners. And make sure that you are communicating in the right way to the right people to drive them into your store or to your website. That means being as up to date as possible on all the latest online communication tools and social networking opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the business. Be available. Look at every shopper as a buyer and every buyer as a long-term customer. And, if you feel that you need assistance, call your Business Development Manager at Travel Impressions – we’re ready to help!
Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents?
John: There are so many terrific promotions across all our destinations, it is difficult to single out any specific ones right now, so I would encourage everyone to continue to watch MailPound and definitely check our website at TravelImpressions.com for the latest and greatest! We’re soon entering the season of early booking bonuses, so stay tuned. I will mention one current promotion that is running during the month of August with our partner, Palace Resorts that benefits agents and their clients. Travelers can receive up to $400 in air credits per booking at Palace Resorts properties in Mexico and can also take advantage of the Palace Passport with great added values. And, agents booking these packages can earn a $25 American Express® Gift Cheque, plus bonus commissions from Palace Resorts up to $250! We encourage everyone to check for details on our website or call 800-284-0044. Lastly, I want agents to remember that when they book online with Quest for Agents, they receive an additional 1% commission bonus.
Thank you John for taking time to share more about Travel Impressions with us.
Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!