From bright, airy new offices in San Marcos, CA, Avoya Travel execs last week gave a preview of their growth plans for the next 18 months to supplier partners, travel advisors and media representatives who were on hand to join in grand opening celebrations of the firm’s new “innovation center.”
Avoya executives outlined three overarching goals – increase traveler demand; accelerate expansion of Avoya’s network of independent advisors, and expand supplier access to Avoya’s digital platform Agent Power. Their plans represent Phase 2 of the seven-year Avoya 2025 strategy that was unveiled in 2018.
“We’re a very hungry and driven group,” Ashley Hunter, senior vice president of strategic operations and partnership, said during a tour of the new offices.
Attracting experienced agents
Avoya, which considers itself as much marketing agency and vacation platform as host agency, currently has 1,350 independent travel advisors in its network. Last year they generated $485 million in sales, 70% of that in cruise, which has always been its core offering, though initiatives are in place to grow land sales.
The family-owned company has nearly doubled the size of its network in the last four years. Most of that growth has been propelled by a strategy to attract industry newcomers. Avoya will continue that strategy, but in coming months it also will refocus on attracting experienced travel advisors, executives said.
Avoya is betting that its patented Live Leads™ system, together with efficiencies created by its technologies and its marketing, will be a potent draw for experienced independent agents who currently do most of their own marketing.
“We think there are players out there that might play for other teams that are going to be better suited to our model. We think we have a great way for them to supplement their business,” co-president Jeff Anderson said.
The ability to generate consumer demand is one of Avoya’s biggest assets, Anderson said, and the company plans to do more on that front, though details were scant.
Recent gains include the relaunch of Avoya’s consumer site, AvoyaTravel.com, with improved navigation and search functionality and enriched product and destination content.
More personalization and a greater ability to engage with consumers in real time, including via behaviorally triggered emails that provide information tailored to individual searches, are key. “We have technology that across the entire [customer] journey allows us to automate and personalize and get back to them based on what they’re interested in,” senior vice president of marketing Sam McCully said.
Looking ahead, Avoya plans to ramp up opportunities for its supplier partners to reach “high-intent travelers” and “high-performing” agencies simultaneously. “Our focus is on offering new inventory, new placements, new ways for supplier partners within our platform to reach and have more brand share voice with travelers and sellers,” McCully said.
Marketing and branding capabilities for agents also will be expanded, including through direct mail, premium magazines and merchandising opportunities.
In the shorter term, Avoya said it will roll out a commission incentive plan in coming weeks, in part to drive sales during a potentially soft election year.
A more open partner for suppliers
The other big drive for Avoya over the next 18 months will be giving suppliers more direct access to Avoya agents through Agent Power. “The goal is for it to be a digital environment where suppliers and independent agents can talk to one another and share information through our technology,” Hunter said. “It’s really about creating efficiencies, data collaboration and communication.”
Last year Avoya expanded reporting capabilities for its supplier partners, giving them more detailed data on their performance and how Avoya customers are grading them. Going forward, the company plans to provide suppliers with more insights into Avoya agencies, including identifying top producers, who’s currently taking supplier leads, who might be interested in hosting a cruise night, etc.
The shift is significant, Anderson suggested, He said that in the past Avoya had been “very closed off” with suppliers. “We want to be more of an open partner.”
New digs designed for collaboration
Being an open partner is consistent with Avoya’s emphasis on teamwork and cooperation, a focus that’s reflected in the company’s new office space.
Spread over two floors, Avoya’s new 20,000-square foot home is designed around flexible, open workspaces. Glass-walled meeting rooms, aka “collaboration rooms,” are sprinkled throughout to facilitate impromptu meetings among the 100+ onsite employees.
Video cameras and screens are everywhere to encourage Avoya’s team to hold video chat and livestream meetings with 50-plus remote employees, independent agents and suppliers. Already, this “video-first” technology has created more energy and engagement on conference calls, Anderson said.
For onsite employees, there are amenities aplenty, including adjustable sit-to-stand desks and private phone booths, as well as a game room, relaxation room, gym access, and an open café area that’s stocked with snacks and premium coffee.