“Travel agents will always be an anchoring part of our business,” Delta Vacations president Jennie Ho told Travel Market Report during Delta Vacations University.
Accounting for about 70-80 percent of the tour operator’s business, Delta Vacations sees the agency community as an extension of its business, according to company representatives.
Events like Delta Vacations University were designed to show appreciation to travel agents, offering a comprehensive lineup of classes and guest speakers covering new products and trends in the industry. This year’s event brought hundreds of travel advisors to Atlanta, Ga., eager to partake in dozens of training and educational classes ranging from “Social Media 101” to “What’s New in Hawaii.”
The Delta Air Lines’ tour arm has the advantage of offering one-stop shopping for agents of both air and land through a streamlined online booking tool. Delta Vacations offer more than 300 destinations worldwide, a U.S.-based call center with trained vacation specialists, and 24/7 support.
Travel agent partners also have access to a marketing hub, which includes templates for emails, post cards, and other digital assets that they can customize with their own branding. Some upgrades have been made to the marketing hub, as a direct result from feedback from agents.
“Travel agents care enough about their relationship with Delta Vacations and they trust us with their feedback that it’s important for us to react and act upon it… to really have this continuous relationship because in many ways they are our eyes and ears to the direct consumer,” Ho said.
Delta Air Lines Senior Vice President Bob Somers also highlighted that partnership during his keynote. The strength of the relationship was on display during Hurricane Irma, he said, when the Delta Vacations call center and agents worked overtime, communicating to ensure that clients got to where they needed to go.
“What we heard most was, ‘When we needed you, you were there.’”
As demand continues to rise, Delta Vacations has focused on expanding its romance and luxury offerings.
On the luxury side, booked room nights in high-end hotels and resorts accounted for nearly one-third of the company's business in 2015. Over the past two years, Delta Vacations has added about 400 four- and five-star hotels to its portfolio.
Romance offerings also increased to 45 destinations, up from 20, with about 200 new hotels.
These segments provide the opportunity for travel advisors to upsell additional high-end services. They can book First Class or Delta One, a premium cabin experience with fine dining, lie-flat seats, and a full privacy row. VIP transfers or National Premium Car rental packages are available, which can be a nice surprise for clients, added Regional Sales Director David Bentz.
Other added value perks that travel advisors can give clients are bonus points and extra amenities when booking a Delta Vacations package. The Exclusive All-Inclusive Plus includes amenities such as express check-in and check-out, dedicated concierge, and resort credits. Luxury and romance vacation packages also earn up to 3,000 bonus SkyMiles per person.
Delta Vacations recently launched four People to People programs in Cuba, offering experiential tours of the island nation. The product was designed to be easy for travel agents to book and facilitate proper documentation for their clients, said Eric Fandek, senior director of product development at Delta Vacations.
“We’re looking at working with travel agents to see how demand is doing. We built the product to make sure it can evolve with customer demand,” he added.
Vice President of Product Development Elizabeth Moriarty said the company has seen extremely strong demand for Europe and growth in the United States domestic market, and will be expanding hotel portfolio in these destinations as well.
While Europe and Hawaii are at the forefront, its core business has always been in Mexico beach markets and the Caribbean. So much so, that Delta Vacations has added about 50 hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean at four-stars and above.
“We went to the travel agency community to see what products they are looking for and we used that to expand our program,” Fandek said.