This week, at Resorts World Las Vegas, the team from American Marketing Group (AMG), along with 800 of its member travel advisors and preferred partners, gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the family-owned consortia that includes 19 different brands, notably TRAVELSAVERS, NEST, NEST-Plus, the Affluent Traveler Collection, and more
“It is 50-plus-2 as we like to say,” Nicole Mazza, the chief marketing officer at AMG said during the opening general session on Friday. “Welcome to our big family reunion.”
That “family reunion” included celebrating the history of AMG, an organization that was the first to advertise travel on the celebrated television show Wheel of Fortune, and the first to partner with the American movie chain AMC to pair reward programs.
The anniversary celebration, delayed two years by the COVID-19 pandemic, also marked a time of optimism for the future of AMG.
According to Mazza, AMG and its brands are 85% back to 2019 levels in leisure travel. For the full year 2022, the group projects year-over-year revenue growth for many of its markets, including insurance revenues (63%), hotel revenue (40%) and room nights (24%), cruise sales (29%) and land travel (24%).
The group expects that growth to continue and the first quarter of 2023 to meet or exceed the same period during 2019.
“2023 is looking tremendously exciting for us,” Mazza said.
Growth in agencies and in staffing
Staffing has largely been the story of the travel industry since the pandemic rebound began, but, with a ton of turnover and movement coming out of COVID-19, AMG was able to make some key appointments to its own staff, and add business by bringing on new agency members.
In recent times, AMG has brought on Jane Clementino as TRAVELSAVERS Canada Senior Vice President and General Manager; Marylene Lupien as Director Business Development; Monique Lalonde, Director Strategic Partnership in Canada; Kelly Koehler, Business Analyst for NEST; Maureen Bourcy, Business Analyst for NEST Plus; and Mary Kaye Zanatta, Supplier Relations Director.
Executives speaking this week said that the goal has never been “to be everything to all people.” Historically, AMG and its brand have always been focused on discerning growth, only adding agencies to the network that already have a book of business with its preferred suppliers.
Potential TRAVELSAVERS agencies also have to abide by territory concerns with those already in the network. NEST, which is exclusively for home-based agents with a $500,000 book of business, and NEST-PLUS, its sister brand for agents that might not qualify for NEST yet, don’t have territory concerns, but that doesn’t mean that all U.S. and Canadian agencies have an open invitation for membership.
“We are not looking for everyone,” Kathryn Mazza-Burney, AMG chief sales officer said. “We’ve been extremely strategic and we’ve seen some great success.”
Even with those rules in place, in total AMG affiliates of TRAVELSAVERS US and Canada, along with NEST, have brought in new agencies representing $480 million in preferred supplier sales to date this year.
Preferred Partner Growth
Along with agency growth, AMG also continues to curate and build its preferred partner portfolio.
In the cruise space, it has added Explora Journeys and Quark Expeditions, along with tour companies exotica and Adventure World Travel. For air, new additions include Emirates, ITA Airways, and La Compagnie.
AMG has also added MHS Worldwide, a luxury transportation company, along with Venture Ashore, a shore excursion provider.
There has also been big growth in its CVB and Tourist Board partnerships, including the additions of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Bermuda Tourism, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tourism New Zealand, Discover Puerto Rico, and Saudi Tourism Authority.
The group has also seen a major expansion in its hotel division, which is led by Samantha Jones. Members now can gain access to more than 50,000 hotels across the globe through three different hotel programs.
“We are proud of the relationships that we have built with these preferred partners,” said Mazza. “They recognize the power of the AMG network and provide us with the exclusive offers and amenities to help our advisors remain competitive and close the sale.”
KORE, AMG’s training program that was launched in November 2021 specifically for new entrants, celebrated the first graduating class at the conference’s Gala Awards dinner on Saturday night.
The program is made up of 14 modules, with work spread between three textbooks and two workbooks, paired with monthly check-ins with KORE staff along the way.
There are several goals with the program, but, ultimately, it boils down to providing the education that advisors need to get into the business, achieve success along the way, and then manage as their career and their agency grow.
It also gives current agencies a way to gain talent that they know has been through training catered to their business—all users are passed only after completing a 100-question, proctored final exam, with 70 as the minimum passing grade and 80 as the minimum grade to be placed at an agency.
Mazza-Burney told reporters that KORE, along with NEST-Plus, was one of the “silver linings” of the pandemic for AMG.
According to Steve Philips, Senior Director of Education, and Training for AMG, KORE traces it routes back to a 2014 conversation he had with founder Rick Mazza about wanting to launch something that would help the industry deal with an aging population of workers.
“There are a lot of newbies coming into the market wondering ‘who is going to train me?’” he said, adding that KORE is a “solution from beginning to the end.”
The next step for KORE, Philips said, is to launch it in Canada.
Also during Travel Market 2022, AMG announced that it had added cryptocurrency to its payment processing options—all of its brands, including TRAVELSAVERS, NEST, and The Affluent Traveler Collection will now allow payment with crypto via tripXpress.
Mazza told reporters that the goal was to allow a new generation of wealthy consumers, who have their wealth in crypto, to purchase travel with a travel advisor.
“It’s another form of payment for our advisors, she said, adding that it continues “innovation in the company.”
“With over $1 trillion in market capital, we felt it was time to make it possible for holders of crypto to book travel directly with our agencies,” said Jim Mazza, COO of TRAVELSAVERS. “We have been working for months with some of the top banks and exchanges to facilitate the process.”
“There were a lot of technical and procedural considerations and the project called upon all the resources of our financial and IT teams,” he said. “After many months of collaboration, we’re extremely proud of this accomplishment. This exciting new feature added to the robust tools that we currently offer our affiliates today, will help them innovate and grow their businesses.”
New Segmentation in OnlineXpress
Also new, AMG this week announced a new automated customer segmentation tool in its lead-generating consumer travel website platform OnlineXpress.
“In the ever-changing dynamics of digital marketing and privacy restrictions, we are thrilled to be working with innovators in the travel industry to create a new tool to support our preferred partners that is ahead of the game,” said Nicole Mazza.
“This technology ensures that our agencies have permission-based marketing. We want to deliver the best ROI for marketing and in turn deliver quality leads to our advisors.”
Starting next year, changes to online privacy laws will make it difficult to track consumers via third-party cookies. To counter that, OnlineXpress will place a code on each website that will help register the user, with their permission, and keep track of their preferences and internet history. It allows preferred partners to better target advisors and better track the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.
In 2022, OnlineXpress has already experienced 12% growth with close to one million emails sent out on behalf of AMG’s preferred partners.