Friedman: “We really pride ourselves in having a variety of educational opportunities because nobody learns in the same way.”
Editor's Note: Headquarters Happenings is a new feature from Travel Market Report that helps keep you updated on the marketing and technology programs from major travel agencies, host agencies, travel agency consortia, cooperatives, travel networks and franchise groups. Top executives from these groups detail how they grow their businesses and how their programs and initiatives can help travel agents succeed in selling more travel.
Nexion has grown into one of the largest host travel agencies in the North America, with roughly 3,800 independent agents, including about 100 from Canada. The host has done that by offering an intensive agent education program, including extensive sessions for “newbies” to the business, as well as by supporting its agents with new technology and marketing programs so they can build their business.
Nexion also has benefited from being part of Travel Leaders Group, which has quickly become one of the country’s largest travel agency organizations, with ties to roughly 36 percent of all agencies in the U.S. Technically Nexion is a unit of Tzell Travel, which is also owned by Travel Leaders. But it also is a member of the Travel Leaders’ Vacation.com consortium, so gets much of its technology and marketing assistance from that group.
Effective Jan. 1, 2017, Nexion is set to be a member of the newly merged Travel Leaders Network, a combination of Vacation.com, Travel Leaders Associates (the franchise network owned by Travel Leaders) and Results! Travel (Travel Leaders’ other franchise network).
New Technology Platform
This past September, at Nexion’s annual CoNexion conference in San Diego, the host agency introduced new technology platforms and training programs to support its affiliated agents. On the technology front, Nexion debuted myNexion, an upgraded technology platform that will replace ithe host’s current WebView portal. Set to debut in early 2017, myNexion is designed to serve as a one-stop suite where Nexion’s independent travel agents can build and manage their businesses.
According to Nexion President Jackie Friedman, Nexion’s goal with myNexion is to provide each of its diverse agents, who range from those focusing on corporate travel to those concentrating on leisure travel, with relevant and targeted messaging based on their individual specializations.
“This is going to be our overarching platform,” Friedman says. “Today we offer an Intranet site that’s very static. We wanted to move to a more dynamic site where the content that is served up to agents is much more relevant to their business. It will have widgets and dashboards, booking tools, great supplier information. They will see content based on what they do.
The new myNexion technology platform will provide Nexion agents with access to a variety of business-building technology tools to more efficiently serve their clients, including pinSIGHT (Travel Leaders Group’s hotel booking portal with more than 100,000 hotels); SNAP (Simple Nexion Air Program enabling agents to book air and earn commissions), and CruisePRO (Vacation.com’s cruise booking platform).
New CRM Tool
Nexion agents also will be able to manage their bookings through a customized version of AgentMate, a proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing tool offered by Vacation.com, but tailored in this case to the needs of Nexion. Nexion agents using myNexion also will have access to business reporting solutions as well as customized dashboards to run their businesses. They also will be able to connect with their colleagues using a newly enhanced NexionTown, a communications system that integrates the Nexion community.
“AgentMate will allow agents to have a really robust CRM presence,” Friedman says. “They will be able to manage their business and do marketing. So I like to think of it as the ideal solution for them to work in their business, but more importantly on their business both in terms of efficiency and profitability.”
New Training Programs
In addition to new technology platforms, Nexion also debuted new educational niche initiatives to augment its existing training programs. Nexion has launched a series of multi-day business development summits that will bring agents and supplier partners together in an interactive forum. They include: Group Travel Sales Summit (Oct. 7-9, 2016), which is devoted to agents who are building successful group travel sales (the Group Travel Sales Summit will be offered again in 2017), and Luxury Travel Sales Summit (Nov. 11-13, 2016), an invitation-only session for luxury-oriented agents (Luxury Travel Sales Summit will be offered again in 2017).
New niche training programs also include Corporate CoNexion (June 9-11, 2017), an invitation-only session for top corporate-selling travel agents; Romance Travel Sales Summit (2017), a session focused for agents specializing in honeymoon, destination weddings and romantic getaways; and the Marketing and Sales Summit (set to be scheduled in 2017), a session hosted by Friedman herself that will enable agents to fine tune their marketing skills and expertise.
“We really pride ourselves in having a variety of educational opportunities because nobody learns in the same way,” says Friedman. “We also do two to three Boot Camps a year—next year we’ll do two. These are three-day training programs where we focus on soft skills and hard skills. Four to five times a year we also do Agent Essentials, which is ideal for new agents coming into the business. That’s a five-day program in our office where agents really get hands-on practice in all elements of booking travel.”
Agent Essentials is augmented by NexStart, an 18-week online program with virtual study groups for new agents developed in conjunction with Travel Leaders Group’s Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program for those new to the industry.
Nexion’s other training programs for 2017 include six regional Nexion on the Road events where agents will have the opportunity to train and meet Nexion suppliers. Nexion also has an extensive online Nexion University, where agents can learn remotely. That will be augmented by new 15-minute webinars called them Quick Learns, where Nexion agents can learn about Nexion preferred suppliers and other programs.
Then there’s the CoNexion conference itself. This year’s event featured 49 educational workshops, a large supplier partner trade show, supplier roundtables, and networking opportunities, as well as opportunities to hear from top industry keynote speakers. Next year CoNexion is scheduled for New Orleans Sept. 16-19.
Finally, many Nexion agents at this year’s CoNexion were eager to learn what might change and how they can benefit from the pending merger of Vacation.com, Travel Leaders Associations and Results! to form Travel Leaders Network. Friedman is quick to say there will no major changes and only better access to more programs.
“Nothing changes in the way we operate as far as our agents are concerned,” she says. “But what does change is they will now have access to a lot more programs. So if you are a Nexion agent, you can really look forward to access to more training, more marketing and more robust programs.”