For the 18 brands that make up American Marketing Group (AMG), the travel giant that was started by industry stalwart Rick Mazza 48 years ago, their biennial conference carried the theme of "The Way Forward" and offered its travel agents an opportunity to come together, network, and learn. For the company’s executives, it offered an opportunity to show off the company’s growth, just two years short of a half-decade in business.
“We come to deliver a message and that message is pretty clear — the servicing aspect of who we are,” said Kathryn Mazza-Burney, president of AMG’s home-based marketing group NEST and executive vice president of TRAVELSAVERS.
“We want our affiliates leaving here with information on products, programs and services that they can truly deliver on, and put into use in their everyday businesses,” TRAVELSAVERS' Chief Marketing Officer Nicole Mazza added.
Aside from NEST and TRAVELSAVERS — AMG’s largest marketing groups that include more than 2,500 independent agencies in 35 countries that generate $22 billion in annual sales — AMG also includes a host of other travel brands including The Affluent Traveler Collection, Forte Business Travel Solutions, emergency travel assistance program Travel Helpline, and more.
Networking opportunities include round-table, trade show, training session and a Gala event.
Here are just some of the highlights from this year’s conference, held last week at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida:
TRAVELSAVERS & NEST University
One of the biggest announcements came with the company’s new TRAVELSAVERS & NEST University, a first-of-its-kind addition for AMG.
The University brings all of the training programs offered by the company’s preferred suppliers, AMG certifications, niche market training, business-building sessions, one-on-one coaching, and personal development sessions into one place. It is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018.
“We want to ensure that our agencies have all the right educational opportunities and tools to grow their businesses,” Mazza said.
The University is in addition to two other new offerings from AMG, which started over the past year: its Cocktails & Conversations and Headquarter Discovery Forums. Cocktails are four-hour evening networking receptions that bring AMG’s frontline agents together with preferred suppliers to talk about best business practices. Headquarters, on the other hand, are full-day training opportunities at AMG’s main office with a business-building focus.
“It’s about taking advantage of the talent we have on staff – we want them in there, we want them helping to grow that business,” Mazza-Burney said.
Lead Dash tool
Another big addition came with the unveiling of AMG’s Lead Dash Tool, specifically designed to help the company’s agents cash in on missed opportunities with unused cruise and tour credits that have been left untouched by their clients.
“Over the last couple years, we’ve been working with our preferred suppliers, trying to get a system where we could handle all those future cruise credits and tour credits,” Mazza said.
Agents connect with preferred suppliers.
Agents who opt-in to Lead Dash will receive reminders about their clients’ unused cruise and tour credits. They will also receive agency-branded email templates to send out to their clients to help motivate them to make the purchase. In addition, the system uses smart technology to help narrow down which clients will want to go where next, increasing the agents' close ratio.
“We want to ensure our agents close the business back through their agencies,” Mazza said. “Millions of dollars are just sitting open.”
Preferred partner additions
This year, American Marketing Group added a number of new suppliers to its family of offerings. Those additions are:
- American Queen Steamboat Company, which will now be available for TRAVELSAVERS and NEST agencies.
- Specifically for the TRAVELSAVERS' Canadian agencies, Goway Travel, Go Canada by Air Canada Vacations.
- Luxury supplier Cox & Kings has signed on with AMG’s Affluent Traveler Collection.
- Added to TRAVELSAVERS’ OnLocation DMC program are: Fiore Tours, which specializes in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro; and Luxe Travel Hawaii, which offers authentic and luxurious Hawaiian travel experiences.
“We believe we have a pretty active roster of preferred suppliers,” Mazza said, noting that each one of the new suppliers was brought on to round out AMG’s travel offerings and fill a need for its agents.
“We don’t take everybody in, we are very selective. We want to ensure that they have a very competitive program and that they are forward-thinking,” she said.
During the Tour Leadership Panel, executives will share best practices of their highest producing partners.
Distinctive Destination Weddings niche program
AMG is hoping to keep its agents better trained for the ever-expanding market of destination weddings –which generates more than $16 billion in annual spending in North America – with a new niche program that includes lead generations, training courses and certification.
The program, powered by the company’s proprietary agency website solution OnlineXpress, gives agents a consumer-facing website that is fully customizable, mobile-optimized, and targets the honeymoon- and wedding-related travel market. It also lets agents use AMG’s back-end system to automatically stay in touch with wedding clients.
“There’s a growing need and desire for travel agents to be better trained in the always-lucrative and constantly growing bridal market,” Mazza said. “Our upgraded program gives our agents a better digital presence and a greater capability.”
Each website is pre-loaded with AMG preferred supplier and agency content, including a blog. It also includes calls-to-action on each page of the site, which generate leads for affiliate agencies.
More marketing announcements
Journeys, a multi-touch marketing program for AMG’s agents, was another of the big announcements revealed in Boca Raton last week.
The program is designed to “help our travel agents mine their customer databases for repeat business and find new clients, both online and offline — while supporting the great travel products our preferred suppliers offer,” TRAVELSAVERS' Vice President of Marketing Malia Vrooman said.
Journeys now includes Destinations by Journeys and Lifestyles by Journeys, both with supporting marketing through direct mail, eblasts, consumer-facing websites, social media, and an agent resource website.
Each Journeys marketing piece is customizable to individual agencies.
The Journeys publications have about a 45 percent uptake and its direct mail piece is well into the 60 percent.
“We have over 24 different touchpoints with consumers over each one of our campaigns,” Mazza said. "Our agencies really look to us to be their marketing arm, and we do that for them.”
The conference brought together 1,000 travel professionals with preferred suppliers and speakers.