Headquarters Happenings: The TRAVELSAVERS Advantage

by James Shillinglaw
Headquarters Happenings: The TRAVELSAVERS Advantage

Mazza-Burney: “Our by-invitation-only, exclusive territory system is based on population and ensures that agents maintain control over clients and prospective leads in their exclusive area.”

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.

It’s intimate, family-run, yet part of a much larger conglomerate of travel companies that gives it greater clout in the industry. TRAVELSAVERS, the consortium with roughly 2,500 independently owned full-service travel agencies, has managed to stay independent even as other consortia and agency groups were being gobbled up or merged. And it’s done so by keeping a loyal following of travel agencies that like its technology, training, marketing and family ownership.

TRAVELSAVERS is part of American Marketing Group, an international travel marketing organization that its executives say generates more than $22 billion in annual travel sales. Headquartered in Oyster Bay, NY, the group has 18 distinct travel brands designed to provide solutions for the leisure and corporate segments of the travel market. TRAVELSAVERS itself has a wide range of support services to help its travel agencies maximize sales though a select group of preferred suppliers. 

Agent territories
In the United States, TRAVELSAVERS has representation across the country in every state plus Puerto Rico. “Our by-invitation-only, exclusive territory system is based on population,” says Kathryn Mazza-Burney, executive vice president of sales, “so the most densely populated areas have the highest concentration of TRAVELSAVERS affiliates. This type of territory system ensures that agents maintain control over clients and prospective leads in their exclusive area.”

Beyond the U.S. borders, TRAVELSAVERS is a global travel marketing organization with a strong presence in Canada, where Mazza-Burney says the group is seeing double-digit growth. “More opportunities lie ahead domestically and we are strongly positioned for continued growth,” she says.  

Technology tools  
All TRAVELSAVERS technology platforms are proprietary, developed in collaboration with the agency owners and designed specifically to meet their day-to-day business needs. “As the architect of our technology, we have the ability to continually enhance and customize to optimize efficiency and drive revenue,” says Nicole Mazza, TRAVELSAVERS chief marketing officer. “Most importantly, agents find our tools save them time and boost their bottom line.”

Each of TRAVELSAVERS’ technology platforms is designed to fill a specific need for its agency affiliates to simplify complex tasks and drive business growth. “We build it, own it and service all of our booking platforms and marketing solutions,” Nicole Mazza says. 

For example, tripXpress “reimagined” is a content search, itinerary builder and booking platform built to help agents streamline their business. The tripXpress platform aggregates content from TRAVELSAVERS’ proprietary cruise booking platform, cruiseexpress, along with content from more than 120,000 hotels available in tripXpress and more than 40,000 hotels in the group’s global hotel program, so travel agents can search for travel products and book all in one place.

The tripXpress platform enables agents to customize each itinerary, add flight and transportation, and select additional segments such as guided tours, activities, transfers and more. For example, they can add air and any other segment of the trip that wasn’t booked to the itinerary as a passive segment and have a complete automated version, a “super-itinerary.” The easy-to-use interface includes automated and customizable communications complete with photos and descriptions about destinations to keep clients engaged. 

Meanwhile, cruiseexpress is TRAVELSAVERS proprietary B2B and B2C cruise booking engine and management solution. This web-based application supports live access to inventory availability for most major cruise lines. It can be used as a stand-alone booking engine and has been fully integrated into the tripXpress platform.

OnlineXpress (OXP) is TRAVELSAVERS’ comprehensive website solution that provides lead generation and brand exposure for individual travel agency members. OXP nurtures potential buyers throughout the sales cycle and beyond, maximizing results so agents sell more travel. The customizable platform is available for mobile devices and is optimized for search engines. Its backend CMS manages incoming leads, provides insight into marketing activities, and manages content on the site. TRAVELSAVERS agents say they get a large number of leads from the system and report a 70% close ratio.

Social Connect is the TRAVELSAVERS platform that allows agents to share customized content on all major social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Agents have access to postcards, flyers, videos and other supplier-related content that can all be shared with a few easy clicks. All TRAVELSAVERS technology platforms also include  solutions for corporate business providers, enabling agents to better manage travel and save money using Sabre, Concur, Grasp and Trondent.

TRAVELSAVERS Agent Extranet is the group’s internal portal that provides access to everything agents need to keep their business growing and running efficiently. This includes preferred supplier information, booking platforms, training and learning modules, marketing solutions, a resource library, a calendar of events, news and more.

The Agent Extranet also houses information about web-exclusive offers from preferred suppliers, current incentives, preferred supplier communications, commission rates and programs, and training opportunities. Finally, TRAVELSAVERS.com is the group’s public site that includes its marketing campaigns and directs consumer to TRAVELSAVERS agencies. 

Business analysts
But beyond technology, TRAVELSAVERS offers a human touch. Each travel-agency member is assigned a dedicated business analyst to customize a program based on its unique business needs, including personalized consultations on business- building strategies.

“Our dedicated business analysts are strategically positioned throughout North America to ensure the highest level of personalized service,” says Mazza-Burney. “Each business analyst handles a specific region. They assist affiliates throughout the year to create customized strategic business plans to build their business through education, training and marketing support. We are big enough to serve everyone’s needs and human enough to be a trusted partner.” 

Custom marketing 
TRAVELSAVERS’ marketing programs are designed so they can be customized to each agency’s uniqueness and style. They are “a reflection of our dedication to providing innovative creative and messaging that drives business directly to our affiliates,” says Nicole Mazza. “Our lifestyle campaigns throughout the year are customizable and hone in on travel niches that are trending today, such as cruise, tours, luxury, all-inclusive, romance, adventure, family, multi-generational and more.”

For example, TRAVELSAVERS’ Travel Club features top offers from preferred suppliers for both business and leisure clients. The Travel Edge Quarterly Newsletter is for clients and visitors enrolled in the Travel Club.

In addition, its two customized consumer magazines, JOURNEYS and The Affluent Traveler, direct clients and prospects to advisors. “Both featuring exciting destinations and vacation inspiration,” says Nicole Mazza. “We also have a Focus on Business and Technology publication for our corporate solutions that features global business, hotel and relevant industry information. We provide a dedicated marketing manager along with our business analyst team to assist agents with the programs to maximize sales.” 

Top training
TRAVELSAVERS’ training team delivers development programs for the group’s affiliates throughout the year for events such as lunch n’ learns, Owner’s Retreats, Boot Camps, and ongoing top-notch training webinars. In addition, the business analyst team provides one-on-one meetings to help determine which tool best suit each agency’s needs, and to help create customized strategic business plans, education, training support and sales tips. 

TRAVELSAVERS conferences (including the most recent in Palm Desert, CA, in June) bring together top travel professionals, suppliers and speakers from around the globe to exchange ideas and network. While many travel-agency groups use their annual conferences to train members, TRAVELSAVERS’ strategy is to provide educational programs, webinars, fam trips and one-on-one training continually throughout the year. “This enables us to use the biannual conference for industry thought leadership, learning opportunities and supplier engagement,” says Mazza-Burney.   

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Tip of the Day
The suppliers I can tell appreciate the patience and kindness as well, as we have all been working very hard to manage the influx of work. I see the travel agent community and the suppliers working in harmony.

Emily Rawlins, Merriway Travel
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