Editor’s Note: Headquarter Happenings keeps you updated on the marketing and technology programs of major travel agencies, host agencies, travel agency consortia, cooperatives, travel networks and franchise groups.
"Acceleration" was the key message the Affluent Traveler Collection (ATC) delivered to a sold-out crowd of members at its travel agent symposium last week, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida. With the announcement of an enhanced hotel amenities program, a new consumer website and a new experiential training program, the luxury brand is determined to move its members forward through support tools, partnerships, and education.
“The depth of our Affluent Traveler Collection program gives our agency affiliates all the resources they require to meet the demands of their most discerning clientele who are looking for that unique, personalized travel experience,” said Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer for the Affluent Traveler Collection.
Mazza said the group’s amenities-driven program sets its agencies apart from the competition in the luxury space, as it includes negotiated hotel, cruise and tour products, as well as an online presence and now, in-destination trainings. The additional tools are expected to further enhance the “double-digit” growth Mazza saw from its members this past year in the premium and luxury space.
During the symposium, ATC announced it has added 44 luxury hotels to its hotel amenities program, all of which exhibit the level of 5-star properties represented by the brand and will provide its agency affiliates with the full value of available amenities.
Consumer site aims to drive business back to agents
The affluent group has also gone live with a new consumer website that was designed to display luxury travel content and promote the group’s negotiated hotel, cruise and tour products. There is no consumer reservations ability on the website because it was created to drive clients to member agencies.
“Our new ATC site is full of rich content and completely responsive, and it’s all about providing information to connect to affluent clients, so we can connect them to you [the travel agent],” announced Claire Bidlingmaier, senior director, supplier relations and agency engagement for ATC. “We’re not taking any reservations on this website and there is no booking engine because we are driving the client to you [the travel agent] every single time.”
Claire Bidlingmaier, senior director, supplier relations and agency engagement for ATC.
The website features Find a Specialist call-to-action buttons in at least three separate locations on each page. Phase two of the website rollout is already underway, whereby member agents can upload their individual agency profiles and photos, allowing users to search for an agent by specialty or by destination.
ATC also supports its agencies’ online presence by providing a complete luxury travel microsite that they can incorporate into their own websites. The integration for travel agents who currently use AMG’s OnlineXpress website solution is expected to be seamless, according to company officials. “You can brand our website as your own,” said Bidlingmaier, who told agents they can use it alone or as a module to their existing websites.
Marketing tools unveiled
In other initiatives, ATC has developed new user-friendly marketing pieces for members to easily distribute to clients via e-newsletters or social media. Bidlingmaier said the marketing pieces were designed to supplement brochures and meet a need in the market for clients who want exclusive experiences around their needs and wants. “Allow these marketing pieces to stimulate the clients, as opposed to a brochure that’s already created for them,” she told agents.
ATC officials also said the marketing group will expand its visibility on social media by creating fun themed cruise, tour, and destination videos that can be shared and customized with agency branding and call-to-action information. “Everything that we do is to accelerate you,” said Bidlingmaier.
It was also announced that a new printed travel agent reference guide is in the mail to member agencies, showcasing preferred suppliers, partners, exclusive amenities and the VIP cruise program. All information within will also be updated daily on ATC’s extranet, which has been redesigned and elevated with increased functionality and content. The extranet now offers a simplified single user login to access all ATC, NEST, and TRAVELSAVERS products and services, as well as supplier and partner-of-the-month information, and alerts and messaging capabilities.
Intimate, on-location trainings
Last but not least, after two successful test-runs this year, ATC also announced that its agents can now participate in a new hands-on educational series called Affluent Travel Experiences. These in-destination training trips last three to seven days; are designed to be intimate and immersive (groups are no more than 10 people); and are intended to provide attendees with valuable insights into preferred supplier partners’ products and services. The new program was designed to demonstrate how agents can create affluent travel experiences for their clients.
Affluent Travel Experiences trainings scheduled for this year and in 2019 with supplier and destination partners will be held in Spain, London, New York City, Costa Rica, Bermuda, Fiji, and Washington D.C.
For an even deeper dive into American Marketing Group, the parent company of ATC, NEST, and TRAVELSAVERS, affiliate agencies are welcome to attend new “Headquarter Discover Forums,” whereby agents can visit the company’s New York office to engage in discussion and hear solutions to common issues affecting its members.
Bidlingmaier wrapped up the session with some inspiring words from Henry Ford for the many agents in attendance: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”