Travel Impressions has launched a program to drive sales by tapping a select group of agents, each of whom commits to promoting one resort or destination partner in exchange for various benefits.
Under the program, called TI Ambassadors, Travel Impressions will identify 96 travel agents to represent eight supplier partners in the program’s startup year.
Each participating agent commits to taking part in a month of focused promotions, targeted to a specific resort or destination. Extensive social media involvement by agents will be key.
In return, agents will receive $50 booking bonuses for 12 months; personalized training in social media; deals and future travel credits for their clients, among other benefits. (See sidebar.)
Leveraging agents’ expertise
The program aims to leverage agents’ expertise and passion for specific products or destinations, while putting agents in front of consumers, said president and CEO Steve Gorga, CTC. Gorga announced the program at a luncheon in New York this week.
Consumers can only buy Travel Impressions’ products through agents, noted Gorga, so the company is tapping travel sellers to talk to consumers about their passion for the resorts and destinations they will represent as ambassadors.
“Passion is what sells,” he explained.
The program also aims to drive home the message that it is agents, not online travel sites, who can give consumers unique, value-added travel experiences based on their relationships with companies like Travel Impressions and the resorts and destinations it packages, he said.
The ambassador program is consistent with a strategic decision by Travel Impressions eight years ago to replace its regional sales structure with a focus on the firm’s most-productive travel agent partners – smart, innovative businesses, Gorga called them.
Travel Impressions had its best sales year ever in 2011, and sales this year are even stronger. Gorga attributed the success to the firm’s good reputation with agents.
The TI Ambassadors program seeks to continue that sales momentum, he said.
Sharing content on Facebook
Social media will play a major role in the TI Ambassadors program, said Susan Black, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Agents will be expected to blog and post content on Facebook about their designated supplier a certain number of times.
TI Ambassadors will receive personalized training in social media, said Black, who is spearheading the company’s efforts to teach agents how to engage consumers via social media.
Gorga, who started his travel career with Sabre in 1977, likened social media today to the early days of the GDS, noting the success of agents who adopted the GDS technology early on.
He said he sees similar opportunities for agents who engage with social media and mobile technology. Travel Impressions is committed to providing travel agents with digital tools and best practices, he said.
Toward that end, Travel Impressions recently launched Social U., which offers webinars for all agents. (The second Social U. webinar – 42 Ways to Save Time and Money and Increase Sales – is scheduled for June 28.)
Agent to agent
In addition to consumer-facing promotions, the ambassador program has a peer-to-peer facet that requires ambassadors to advocate for their selected suppliers with other agents and to encourage cruise sellers to include land-based vacations in their repertoire.
The eight hotel and destination partners in the startup phase are: All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels; AMResorts; Atlantis, Paradise Island; Cancun, Mexico; Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts; Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resort; Sandals & Beaches Resorts, and Aruba.
“This is not fluff. This is a real program with a lot of teeth,” Warren Cohen, senior vice president of Sandals & Beaches Resorts, said of the ambassador program.
Travel Impressions plans to expand the program to all its supplier partners in the future.