A new initiative from Hilton is celebrating travel professionals as the backbone of the hospitality and meeting and events industries.
The program’s name itself, “WowMakers,” stems from the experiences travel professionals create for their clients through careful planning, great attention to detail and seamlessly handling crises behind the scenes. Hilton’s new online audio-visual “Museum of Wow” showcases stories from travel professionals describing moments they went above and beyond for their client, even something as small as arranging champagne upon arrival.
The first set of WowMakers was introduced last week at Hilton’s annual customer event during IMEX in Las Vegas. Mindy Halpert, conference manager at Consortium for School Networking, transformed her company’s annual retreat in an indoor ballroom into an interactive camp, complete with trees, tents and an indoor campfire built from light-sticks and burlap.
Another WowMaker named was luxury travel professional Jack Ezon, of Ovation Vacations, who sent 150 guests to Tanzania for a Bar Mitzvah, chartered a 757 and 20 private jets, and recruited 100 Maasai tribespeople to greet the group. Ezon said he applauds Hilton for reaching out to the travel agent community. "As OTAs get bigger and bolder the role of the travel advisor as 'information navigator' is becoming more and more prevalent. Our success depends not only our knowledge though, but also on our partnerships, especially as you climb up the luxury chain," he said to Travel Market Report.
Joe Landers, a sales promotions manager for Shelter Insurance, recreated Bavaria’s late-19th-century “Mad King” Ludwig’s castle in Munich for a ball; he plans about 20 meetings a year for groups between 15 and 500 people and makes sure no two events are the same. He noted that the WowMaker program recognizes the important partnership between the travel planner and the hospitality partner, and told TMR his “hope is to see the continued strengthening of relationships between planners and hospitality partners through mutual appreciation and the sharing of best practices. The Hilton WowMaker program is a fantastic platform to accomplish that goal.”
The initiative, Hilton’s largest B2B marketing initiative, also offers travel professionals a revamped website with new resources such as tips, including “When negotiating, think beyond room rates” and “Book early to get the location that you want,” and convenient access to Hilton’s planning information like food and beverage. Hilton also expanded its “Meet with Purpose” program to include a health-focused package, incorporating healthier food options and activity breaks during meetings. New menu options include steel-cut oats with seasonal fruit, fruit smoothies and personal salads.
In addition, travel professionals can enter a Twitter contest by sharing how they’ve wowed clients. By tweeting their stories using the hashtag #WowMakersContest, now through Nov. 15, agents will have a chance to win 12 prizes including a $250 Ticketmaster gift card and a one-night stay at a Hilton property. Three prizes will be given out each week for the next month. There will also be 20 runner-up prizes, six per week for four weeks, each to include $250 in Unlimited Rewards for entrants who are a part of the program.
The moves were well-received by agents, many of whom had been displeased with Hilton’s direct booking campaign launched earlier this year.
In regards to the tension, Andrew Flack, Hilton’s Vice President of Marketing at eCommerce, said “Hilton HHonors members who are loyal to our travel professional partners or book through preferred corporate travel partners receive the same benefits as members who book through Hilton-branded channels.”
Flack went on to say, “While WowMakers is not directly related to Stop Clicking Around, we see the initiative as another way we are showing our audiences how Hilton is best positioned to help deliver exceptional client experiences and unsurpassed value as a partner. “
But the real point is to give travel professionals the “credit they deserve for jobs incredibly done.”