This year’s second annual National Plan a Vacation Week (March 18-24) focuses yet more attention on the resurgence of travel agents.
The initiative, sponsored and operated by VAX VacationAccess and free to agents, offers travel sellers the chance to communicate their relevancy to consumers, while at the same time offering exclusive deals from 16 participating suppliers.
“The main focus on National Plan a Vacation Week is about the value that travel agents provide to their customers,” Rick Karnes, vice president of VAX VacationAccess, told Travel Market Report. “We’re providing agents with a platform to go out and reinforce to their customers how they bring value.”
Similar to CLIA’s World’s Largest Cruise Night and National Cruise Vacation Month, the National Plan a Vacation Week platform gives agents the chance to emphasize their own value and what they can do for consumers, as well as highlight exclusive packaged vacation offers.
The platform, provided by VAX, gives agents a set of marketing tools to advertise the event, including a micro-website, email templates and flyers.
A showcase for agents
On the consumer-facing micro-site, agents can showcase exclusive supplier offers, product videos and photos. Though the event technically only lasts one month, participating agents will have access to their micro-site to promote offers and pick up leads until May 31.
Agents can refer their own clients to their micro-site, but the National Plan a Vacation Week website also serves as a lead generator for participating agents. Customers who have never used, or don’t currently work with a travel agent, can search for agents by the type of vacation they’re looking for, as well as geographic location.
The seven travel themes that customers can search for are American Discoveries, Extraordinary Europe, Fun for Families, Occasions for Amazement, Pacific Paradises, Tropical Adventures and Viva Mexico.
New for this year, consumers can also search for local travel National Plan a Vacation events. VAX encourages agents to add any event they’re organizing into the database.
VAX has spent the last several months drumming up consumer press coverage for National Plan a Vacation Week.
“We’re supporting it with as much messaging as we can on the consumer side,” Karnes said.
Engagement = Success
According to Karnes, of the 1,500 agencies that participated last year, those that were the most actively engaged in using the tools VAX provided and organized their own events to coincide with National Plan a Vacation Week had the most success.
“We found last year that those agents that were more successful, based on post-event feedback, were those that got more engaged and took advantage of the marketing tools. If they happened to do an event it was that much better for them.”
For this year’s Week, Karnes said he’s heard of agents planning cruise nights, wine and cheese tastings, a Bucket Travel themed event and destination specialty events such as Europe and Caribbean nights.
“Last year it was evident that the more agents specialized in one or two of the key themes, the better it was for them because they got referrals that were very specific to their destination focus,” he said.
“This goes back to agents taking initiative. We’re providing the tools but the more they take advantage of them the better and more successful this event will be for them.”
Timing is right
The timing couldn’t be better for the second annual edition of National Plan a Vacation Week, Karnes said.
With its focus on the importance of using a travel agent, it fits perfectly with all the positive messaging that’s been in the national press lately.
“The focus on the importance of the travel agent and the value they bring is very timely on top of all the great press travel agents have been getting about how they’re not extinct; they’re out there and surviving and adapting and doing quite well,” Karnes said.
No cost to agents
There is no cost to participate in National Plan a Vacation Week, though agents must be a member of VAX (also free) to sign up.
Current VAX members should visit www.vaxvacationsaccess.com and select Plan a Vacation Week from the Agent Resources tab where instructions for creating a new micro-site or accessing their site from last year are available. E-mail templates, flyers and event ideas are also available. If not a VAX member, visit the same website and click the Register Now button first.