Signature Celebrates 50 Years

Agent consortium keeps family feel despite growth

By: Kenneth Shapiro

Maybe it’s the flowers in acknowledgment of 10 years of service for VP of Member Services Gina “The General” Weyer. Or maybe it’s the photos of VP of Internet Business Solutions Karen Yeates’ family that fill the screen in a seminar room when her PowerPoint presentation ends. Or maybe it’s Michelle Morgan’s easy-going vibe as she emcees the event. Whatever the reason, Signature Travel Network’s 28th Annual Sales Meeting and Trade Show, held last month at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, feels a bit more familial than similar meetings for other consortia. At times it’s more family reunion than sales meeting.

“There’s a genuine sincerity with Signature,” said Al Merschen, of Myriad Travel Marketing, the marketing representative for Signature. “The group has gotten pretty big now, but it really hasn’t changed much from the beginning. It’s not just about business. It’s relationships.”

Signature has indeed come a long way. In addition to its annual sales meeting, Signature celebrated its 50th birthday at the event, complete with a cake and candles on stage.

“Our staff consists of extraordinarily talented and dedicated individuals committed to each member’s success & regardless of their size, scope or type of business,” Morgan, president of Signature, wrote in a statement to attendees. “We are dedicated to growing the individual businesses of our members and doing what our founders did 50 years ago & deliver exceptional service to their clients.”

The meeting, attended by approximately 1,200 agents and suppliers, included seminars, a trade show and a luncheon. There were also presentations by Signature execs on trends, marketing and technology. The theme across the board was growth.

Signature was started in Southern California in 1956 by a handful of agents. Today the consortium boasts over 5,000 members and has been spreading steadily eastward. With the opening of an office in New York, Signature Travel Network is poised to become an even bigger national force.

Other signs of growth for Signature, announced at the sales meeting, include double-digit growth in their cruise and tour sales and strong advance sales for 2006. Also, the organization announced that its database of clients has topped over one million names.

Furthermore, Signature announced substantial growth in its hotel preferred partnerships going from 100 properties to 242 in one year. New partners and properties include Rosewood hotels, the St. Regis San Francisco and St. Regis Shanghai, Miami’s Delano Hotel, the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York, the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego and many more landmark properties.

“We had to walk away from a lot of hotels” that weren’t up to the group’s standards, said Ignacio Maza, executive vice president of Signature.

Finally, included in the day’s events was acknowledgment of the organization’s top producers (see sidebar), including several that earned national recognition in publications such as Travel + Leisure magazine.

As Signature continues to grow, it’ll be interesting to see if the organization can maintain its family feel. After 50 successful years, I for one wouldn’t bet against it.


Signature's Top Producers

Top Ten Sales Producers for Signature in 2005:

Carefree Vacations/San Diego Travel Group
CruiseCenter (Houston)
The Cruise Place
Doug Fox Travel/U.S. Travel
Peak Travel Group
Rio Grande Travel
Seven Blue Seas Vacations
Tzell Travel Group

Top Five Sales Producers in 2005 for Insignia Vacations*

Betty Cox, CTIE, Travel Concepts, Fountain Valley, Calif.

Bobbie Abood, All-Travel, Los Angeles

Barbara Matles, CTC, MCC, Robinson Travel Service, Inc., Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Sherri Carefix, CTC, Town & Country Travel, Sacramento, Calif.

Nancy Johnson, Willett Travel, Studio City, Calif.

*Insignia Vacations is Signature’s wholesale division.