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For more than a decade, travel agents in the West have honored the brands they do business with by voting for their favorite travel suppliers in TravelAge West’s annual Western Agents Vote of Excellence (WAVE) Awards. This year marked the event’s 12th year running, where more than 5,000 votes were cast for over 150 companies in 68 categories.
Our WAVE coverage begins with the Trendsetter Awards, given to agents who have shown exceptional success in four categories.
We also acknowledge the achievements of this year’s recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Leadership Award — Patrick Clark of Avalon Waterways — as well as the four sales representatives who were chosen by agents’ write-in votes.
Be sure to check out photo highlights on the following pages from our WAVE Awards black-tie gala, held June 15 at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey in Marina del Rey, Calif.
Best Targeted Marketing Idea: Christina Hanna, marketing supervisor for Montrose TravelAdvisors at Montrose Travel know that sometimes the greatest wins come from a group effort — and that success isn’t always just about the bottom line. Christina Hanna, along with the marketing team at Montrose Travel, created an animated character named “Adventure Joe” to help promote the agency’s wave season cruise bookings. The Adventure Joe campaign — used in Montrose’s direct mail, social media and email efforts — led to a more than 30 percent increase in bookings. But perhaps even more important, the targeted marketing idea was a powerful team bonding experience.
“Every single one of us on the marketing team contributed to the Adventure Joe campaign in a fully creative, fun and can-do atmosphere,” Hanna said. “Besides the sales results and success of the campaign, working together in such a fashion brought us even closer as a team; for me, that is one of the greatest accomplishments. We’re now more motivated than ever to continue pushing the boundaries of our campaigns and continue to reach our customers on a personal level.”
Hanna describes the marketing team as “a fun bunch of creative go-getters” who love working together and with others in the company. She praises Montrose’s founders and management team for ensuring that the company continually maintains its long-standing family feel.
“It makes coming to work every day a true joy,” she said. “There’s always a new project — and so much potential for innovation.”
Runner-Up: Daniela Harrison of Avenues of the World TravelDaniela Harrison and her agency launched the Northern Arizona Travel Expo, a consumer-facing travel show that highlights preferred suppliers and emerging destinations. Marketing efforts included print, radio, social media, email, phone, direct mail and word-of-mouth. The event brought in some 250 attendees and resulted in more than $300,000 in sales.
Sponsored by Celebrity CruisesThe winner in this category received a Europe cruise for two, up to 12 nights, in a balcony stateroom from Celebrity Cruises. The runner-up won a seven-night Caribbean cruise for two in a balcony stateroom.
Best Targeted Marketing Idea: Christina Hanna, marketing supervisor for Montrose Travel // © 2017 Volker Corell
Runner-Up: Daniela Harrison of Avenues of the World Travel // © 2017 Volker Corell
Best Use of Social Media: Brianna Glenn, founder of Milk + Honey Travels // © 2017 Volker Corell
Runner-Up: Peter Enns of Travel Concierge LLC // © 2017 Volker Corell
Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40: Myste Wylde, travel advisor with Protravel International // © 2017 Volker Corell
Runner-Up: Danielle Stephens of Harmon Travel // © 2017 Volker Corell
Best Group Booking Sales Effort: Danny Genung. CEO of Harr Travel, Inc. // © 2017 Volker Corell
Runners-Up: Neil R. Bauman and Theresa Mazich, M.D., of Insight Cruises // © 2017 Volker Corell
Best Use of Social Media: Brianna Glenn, founder of Milk + Honey TravelsBuilding something from nothing is a concept right in Brianna Glenn’s wheelhouse. In just over two years, she has built her business from the ground up, thanks in large part to social media. Glenn’s strategic and impeccably curated social media presence has resonated deeply with many people, creating a strong community around her and garnering her loyal customers. She says about 30 to 40 percent of her clients found her through Instagram and Facebook.
“I’ve learned that showcasing my unique assets and abilities online does work, and that personal branding is a great way to get a new business off the ground and thriving in a short amount of time,” Glenn said.
Glenn’s profits — both monetary and personal — are a testament to her entrepreneurial prowess. She says she got into the travel industry by asking herself, ““If you could start any business, what would it be?”
For her, the answer was planning people’s vacations.
“I didn’t know a way into the industry, so I made the decision to just create my own business right from the start,” Glenn said. “It was such an honor to win the Trendsetter Award, because I feel like it was validation that I’m doing something right. There is so much that I still need to learn and ways I want to grow in this industry, but being acknowledged in this way was an indication that I’m on the right track.”
Runner-Up: Peter Enns of Travel Concierge LLCPeter Enns’ social media strategy includes targeting online groups for first responders and LGBT travelers, and his posts have resulted in a combined 1.2 million shares and 5,000 likes. These efforts have helped his agency grow from $150,000 in sales to more than $700,000 — and it continues to see upward progress.
Sponsored by The Globus Family of BrandsThe winner in this category received a seven-day Barcelona and Madrid vacation for two from Monograms. The runner-up won a seven-day vacation for two in Rome and Florence from Monograms.
Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40: Myste Wylde, travel advisor with Protravel International For as long as she can remember, Myste Wylde has wanted to travel the world. She was raised in East Texas, where she says she used her untamed imagination to create Indiana Jones-like adventures for herself.
“From my earliest memories I was trekking across the sands of Arabia, digging for buried treasure on the shores of the Caribbean and scaling trees and mountains,” she said. “The world was this huge, beautiful place full of mystery and wonder — and I am happy to report that I still see the world that way, but now, the magic castles and foreign lands all have names.”
Wylde joined Protravel in 2014 and says she now spends her days learning about all of the adventures and life-changing cultural experiences the world has to offer while building relationships with people around the globe.
Wylde is also co-chair of SoCal ASTA’s Millennials & Mentors program, where she initiated a unique education and training program and has managed many successful events. Additionally, she is part of the leadership team of Millennials in Travel and runs her multimedia travel brand and blog, www.foreverwylde.com.
“I have been very fortunate in the support I’ve received from my colleagues,” she said, particularly noting her Protravel and Millennials in Travel families, along with her mentor, Mickey Weill, vice president of sales development for Protravel. “It has enabled me to accomplish a great deal in such a short amount of time. What I am most proud of, and what will always excite me the most, is igniting a corresponding fire in my peers to push our industry forward in a positive way and facilitate its reinvention and continued evolution.”
Runner-Up: Danielle Stephens of Harmon TravelIn 2013, Danielle Stephens left a job in civil engineering to follow her passion and pursue a career in travel. By her second year at Harmon Travel, she was the top salesperson, booking more than $1 million in sales. Because of her success, Stephens has been recognized on a number of “top agents” lists and has been invited to speak at several conferences.
Sponsored by AmResortsThe winner in this category received a five-night stay at Breathless Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa. The runner-up won a five-night stay at Dreams Dominicus La Romana.
Best Group Booking Sales Effort: Danny Genung. CEO of Harr Travel, Inc.Danny Genung’s secret sales superpower is simple: He used to be a teacher. And once he puts his abilities into action, he can create truly unique, unforgettable trips for clients that combine education and leisure travel.
The first of Genung’s groups sailed on an Alaska cruise. The trip was such a success that he now has modeled three trips after it for 2017, along with six trips in 2018.
“The way the groups are comes from a desire to educate and enrich,” he said. “I approach these groups as an educator does, with a full lesson plan using backward design principles; I started out with a vision to create a business where, at the end of the transaction, both parties get exactly what they want and what they need.”
Genung’s drive to learn and teach has been a lifelong journey. His grandfather founded Harr Travel in 1982 and, as a child, Genung says he would race down to the office and browse the travel catalogs and their pictures of far-off places. This passion for travel — combined with a love of culture, people and history — prompted Genung to become a teacher. Shortly after, he took over the family business from his grandfather.
“What I love the most about my job is that I get to fulfill dreams,” Genung said. “I know that is something that many people say in this job, but not many agents get to experience the journey with clients from start to finish. I have zero doubt that I am opening minds, warming hearts and fulfilling lifelong dreams.”
Runners-Up: Neil R. Bauman and Theresa Mazich, M.D., of Insight CruisesFor three years, Neil Bauman and Theresa Mazich planned an Asia cruise that would include viewing a full eclipse. They worked with the cruise line to reroute the ship to better position it for the eclipse, marketed the cruise in Sky and Telescope magazine and ultimately booked 230 passengers on the sailing.
Sponsored by Royal Caribbean InternationalThe winner in this category received a six- to eight-night Caribbean cruise for two in an oceanview stateroom from Royal Caribbean International. The runners-up won a four- to five-night Caribbean cruise for two in an oceanview stateroom.