Azul Beach Hotel, by Karisma
Most agent specialist programs created by suppliers are predicated on a the “more-the-merrier” conception. The aim is to capture as many heads as possible to create a database of dedicated agents.
“Our travel agent specialist program is unlike any of the other ones out there,” said Mandy Chomat, vice president of sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts. “Our program, Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultant or GIVC, is by invite only and is determined by the agent’s geographical location and marketing potential.”
For those agents not already in the know, Karisma Hotels is a company with a growing portfolio of properties located throughout the Riviera Maya — primarily the Azul and El Dorado brands.
The GIVC program was inaugurated in 2008. Karisma has set a limit of 1,000 agents. At present there are 550 agent members.
Well, then, the question remains. How can an agent get invited to join? According to Chomat, it helps to have a strong relationship with tour operators.
“We follow the time-honored system of going through the tour operator or wholesaler, having the wholesaler deal directly with the agent and enabling the agent to work with the client,” said Chomat. “So, we rely on the tour operators’ help in determining which agents to approach. They come to us with information about which agents are booking business and marketing themselves well.”
The next step is for Karisma to determine if the recommendation is a bona fide agency with an ARC or IATAN number or, in the case of a home-based agency, whether the agency has a license to sell travel.
“We aren’t interested in Web-based agencies,” said Chomat. “We still think the five- to 10-mile radius agency is a profitable model. We don’t want our agencies tripping over each other, so we only invite agencies in the same area to join if they are clearly selling different niches. For example, if one agency in a small market is selling family travel and a second agency down the street wants to join and they specialize in destination weddings — that’s fine.”
A GIVC is a specialist in one or more of the following niche markets: destination weddings, honeymoons, adults-only vacations, romance vacations, anniversary celebrations and family vacations. After agents have chosen their niche or niches, Karisma invites agent members to experience the company’s resorts. Destination wedding agents get the opportunity to see every wedding venue and to actually experience a whole wedding process — from planning to ceremony.
“Being part of GIVC, you get points, and these points turn into dollars,” explained Chomat. “An agent can spend $5,000 points on marketing and then receive an additional $10,000 from us. Or, they can choose to spend the points on a vacation at one of our resorts.”
Chomat added that unlike some companies, Karisma guarantees the travel dates and reservation, and offers agents an automatic upgrade on arrival based on availability.
“There’s another important difference in the GIVC program — if you don’t perform you lose your membership,” said Chomat. “An agency has to reach a minimum amount of bookings or they are not invited back.”
Chomat noted that Mexico had a tough year in 2009, but the country’s tourism is rebounding.
“Last year we were on a treadmill running fast as we could,” said Chomat. “We received lots of support from our agents and, in 2010, business is coming in. There’s incredible value in Mexico. Service-wise, nobody can beat Mexico.”
Karisma’s properties in Mexico are El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas Royale by Karisma; El Dorado Maroma, A Beachfront Resort by Karisma; El Dorado Seaside Suites by Karisma; Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma; Azul Fives Hotel by Karisma; Azul Sensatori Hotel and Azul Villas Carola.
Karisma Hotels & Resorts