Independent Agencies had the opportunity to participate in educational sessions and workshops during Avoya Travel’s four-day travel conference. // © 2017 Avoya Travel
Feature image (above): Nearly 600 attendees — a record number — came together for the 10th annual event. // © 2017 Avoya Travel
From May 22-25, Avoya Travel held its 10th annual Avoya Travel Conference at San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo Inn. Nearly 600 attendees — which included Independent Agencies (IAs) in the Avoya Network, industry leaders, supplier partners, support staff and media — gathered to celebrate record success for the family-owned marketing and travel technology company, as well as to network and to participate in workshops, educational sessions and a preferred partner tradeshow.
“The Avoya Travel Conference is a premier forum for our stakeholders to come together, share ideas and learn about our newest programs and resources designed to support the continued growth and success of Avoya Network members, supplier partners and our overall Shared Success model,” said Brad Anderson, president of Avoya.
With a top sales year in 2016 and peak sales in 2017 to date, Avoya is also seeing record growth in the number of new IAs, and the company is working diligently to provide its network with what it considers some of the most innovative technology in the industry.
During a general session at the four-day event — which saw record attendance this year — Sam McCully, senior vice president of marketing for Avoya, introduced the new Avoya Infinity concept. The idea, which takes a fresh look at the consumer vacation-planning approach, encompasses seven elements: Dream, Discover, Engage, Connect, Book, Excite and Enjoy. Avoya’s goal, McCully explained, is to begin by enticing and engaging a customer; then connect them with an agent expert through its proprietary Live Leads technology; and finally help an advisor close a sale and provide the perfect vacation. Then, ideally, the process repeats once an agent has successfully established a relationship with a client.
“We want to have the industry’s best experience,” McCully said. “Infinity is about creating a customer for life.”
Additionally, Michael and Jeff Anderson, executive vice presidents for Avoya, held a session on the new Agent Power dashboard. Excited by new applications of artificial intelligence, the two went over new concepts for the dashboard that its network uses to book sales. The still-to-come redesign features — which will include a new navigation and notification system, integrated metrics, customer tracking and better lead generation — garnered cheers from the audience.
The Family Approach
During an intimate press conference, co-presidents Brad and Van Anderson shared their thoughts with media attendees on Avoya’s record growth. Van Anderson stressed that the success has not been at the expense of quality.
“We have a community as close as family,” he said, noting that Avoya’s new-to-industry IAs are proving just as successful as its experienced travel professionals.
Jeff Anderson pointed to the company’s mindset of continual evolution as one of the reasons for this year’s fast growth, as well as the updates to Agent Power, which houses everything an Avoya agent needs to find clients, make booking and manage customer relationships.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is how do we make our agents the most successful and efficient people possible?” he said. “How can we leverage new technology to make the agencies even more effective than they’ve been in the past? How do we take those live leads and help agents manage those relationships better?”
Scott Koepf, senior vice president of sales for Avoya, discussed how this questioning mindset has helped — and will hopefully continue to help — attract millennials to the company’s network.
“We are allowing people to see that travel agents are a viable and existing business,” he said. “We are redefining the story we’re telling about the vacation planner.”
Overall, the executive team expressed its passion for continuing to reimagine the travel-planning experience and its confidence in being able to provide agents with cutting-edge technology that allows them to fulfill client needs better than similar organizations.
“People want to explore, learn, relax and travel, and I don’t think there’s anybody better to do it in today’s environment than an Avoya specialist,” Brad Anderson said.
“You don’t have to have the last name of Anderson to be part of Avoya,” he added.
A Community Affair
The conference program also featured keynote speakers such as Vicki Freed, senior vice president for Royal Caribbean International; Paula Hayes, vice president for Globus Family of Brands; Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways; and Camille Olivere, senior vice president for Norwegian Cruise Line. A particularly moving session included a testimony from 15-year-old Mia, a teenager with Von Willebrand disease, who was able to travel to London with her family through the help of Avoya, Globus brand Monograms and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
After the main day of general sessions on May 24, attendees helped package meals with staff from Friends & Family Community Connection, a San Diego nonprofit that Avoya partners with to help children and families in need. One-third of the meals were donated to local San Diego families, and the rest were sent overseas to help those in need in Haiti.
After the “Best of the Best” cocktail party for Avoya’s million-dollar-and-plus producers, the conference rounded out with the Chairman’s Sip and Savor, a Hawaiian-themed dinner and party honoring Avoya’s founders, Pat and Pal Anderson, and celebrating Pal’s 95th birthday.