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While bigger does not always translate as better, in the case of the merger between Travel Impressions’ (TI) parent company Apple Leisure Group (ALG) and The Mark Travel Corporation earlier this year, it’s clear that travel agents will be the beneficiaries.
Scott Wiseman, president of TI, explained how ALG’s buying power is best used in agents’ favor at TI’s 23rd annual Best of the Best conference at Breathless Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, held from Nov. 15-18.
“We leverage the volume of our brands to keep you competitive, and negotiate fiercely for agent-only exclusives,” he said.
During the first of two information-packed general sessions, Wiseman explained that the new company will be better equipped to help advisors “do things like fight against the OTAs that threaten your success.”
Another major focus of the event was the company’s migration to VAX VacationAccess. Training sessions were offered to help agents transition to the platform, which Wiseman likened to an “analog to digital” improvement in comparison to its legacy booking engine.
“As a platform with a lot of self-serve features, you’ll have more freedom and independence than ever before, more control over your bookings and more instant gratification, which is really important when you have a customer waiting on the line,” he said.
The ability to make bookings from a mobile device and freedom to self-modify reservations — along with access to live hotel content, personalized email quotes, payment flexibility and surcharge options — was greeted enthusiastically by the training session attendees.
“The award-winning booking platform and wealth of travel content and resources are tailored to, and made available exclusively for, travel agents,” Wiseman said.
He went on to explain that the company has been gathering feedback and questions from agents who have already been using VAX VacationAccess.
Additional training will continue to be offered, including regularly scheduled social media tips and tricks on how to use VAX.
Michael Ehlers, senior director of groups for sister brand Funjet Vacations, explained how agents’ group business will also benefit from enhanced technology designed to boost efficiency and streamline the booking process, with a dedicated team of more than 200 professionals supporting group business across all ALG brands.
Beyond technological efficiencies, Travel Impressions’ product line has grown significantly as a result of the OneALG’s buying strategy and a white-label partnership inked between Travel Impressions and SITA World Tours, which opens up global destinations including Dubai, Egypt and Israel.
“SITA helps us expand with confidence in places such as Africa and Asia,” Wiseman said. “Sales have been exponentially growing, and the feedback on the service side and the experience on the ground has been fantastic.”
In total, Wiseman said the company added about 200,000 new hotels to its global portfolio, many of those in Europe and the U.S.
Attendees also learned about new educational initiatives, expanded charter offerings and upcoming enhancements to the agent-only operator’s LoyalTIFirst rewards program with more flexible point redemption options, including a new Virtual Mall and Virtual Visa.
Other speakers included Sarah Bentler, regional business development manager for Hyatt Hotels; Hugo Aguilera de Alba, director of partner marketing and business development, USA and Canada for Riu Hotels & Resorts; and Denise Sivick, senior manager of retail business for the Palladium Hotel Group.
A breakfast event sponsored by Atlantis, Paradise Island, provided agents with an update on upcoming and recently completed renovations to the Bahamian property in addition to insights into its marine habitat program that agents can use to drive sales.
Many delegates brought donations in support of a philanthropic initiative undertaken by Travel Impressions in conjunction with Amstar DMC and Huellas de Pan, a nonprofit civil association that works to provide nutritious food to vulnerable people in Cancun’s urban area.
During the extended weekend conference, attendees enjoyed a beach volleyball tournament, a golf tournament at the El Tinto course, a pool party, spectacular acrobatic acts and cultural excursions.
The DetailsTravel Impressions www.travelimpressions.com