Among the new technologies and customer benefits announced at the American Express Travel U.S. Representative Network Conference in Seattle, Oct. 5-8, the biggest news was its partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for the unveiling of the final “neighborhood” aboard Oasis of the Seas
Pictured from left to right: Ellen Bettridge,Vice
President, American Express Retail Travel Network;
Kathy Falkensammer, Prestige Travel and Cruises;
Leo Falkensammer, Prestige Travel and Cruises;
Lynne Biggar, Senior Vice President,
American Express Consumer Travel Network
As the world’s largest and most revolutionary cruise ship set for launch in Nov. 2009, Oasis of the Seas features “neighborhoods” or various themed sections which cater to guests’ preferences and moods. American Express Travel offered a Cardmember-exclusive webcast unveiling on Oct. 21 and two-day sale of cruise bookings on Oct. 22-23.
“The partnership between American Express and Royal Caribbean allows our customers and agents access to exciting travel opportunities and “new news” before the rest of the industry finds out through special events, such as the 'reveal,' said Lynn Biggar, senior vice president and general manager of the American Express Consumer Travel Network. “In addition,” Biggar added, “the unveiling reiterated for travel agents the important relationship American Express Travel has with Royal Caribbean and with the cruise industry in general. The sale was a revenue generator for agents. For their clients, it provided the opportunity to book a Royal Caribbean cruise through American Express at a special price.”
American Express Travel also unveiled On Demand, a new online training and communication website tool for agents. Key features include 24/7 availability, access to 26 preferred supplier training videos, a forum for travel agent collaboration and the ability to track participation and test agent knowledge.
“With the launch of On Demand training we’ve put easily accessible and organized information at our agents’ fingertips,” said Ellen Bettridge, vice president, Retail Travel Network, American Express Travel. “The more information agents have about suppliers, programs and destinations, the better they can serve their customers. On Demand can assist agents to drive sales and grow their business.”
Other benefits announced for travel agents included a relaunch of the Retail Marketing Online Toolkit, a one-stop marketing shop available on AXtraWeb; a new marketing toolkit designed specifically for business travelers; enhancements to the SwiftTrip Online Booking Engine; as well as a redesigned Travel Office and Specialist Locator tool, debuting on the American Express Travel website in late 2008.
Among the Cardmember and customer benefits announced was a new Starwood Hotels & Resorts travel benefit for Gold Cardmembers, which provides a $75 food and beverage credit for bookings of two or more consecutive nights at more than 500 properties around the world.
American Express Platinum Cardmembers who book cruises of five nights or longer with Uniworld River Cruises will now receive exclusive benefits such as a $300 per stateroom shipboard credit, a bottle of premium champagne and complimentary chocolates. Uniworld is the ninth partner to participate in the Cruise Privileges Program.
The conference also featured professional, educational workshops such as Future Proof Travel Solutions, presented by Nolan Burris, president of Visionistics Enterprises, Inc. as well as Search Engine Marketing – Jumpstart Your Agency to the Top of the Line, presented by Ashleigh Groce Sawdon, president, the AGP Group and Instructor for The Direct Marketing Association.
Looking beyond simply the bottom line, this year’s Representative Network Conference also engaged in some charitable outreach efforts. The conference solicited donations for Habitat for Humanity, which is taking an important role in disaster recovery for Hurricane Ike victims.
In addition, Bruce Beckham, executive director of Tourism Cares, educated attendees about his innovative nonprofit organization. Dedicated to maintaining the travel experience for future generations, Tourism Cares has restoration projects for cultural, natural and historic sites, scholarships for tourism and hospitality students and grants for capital improvements and educational programs.