Travel Leaders Execs Say New Structure Gives Members Cruise Clout
At a recent press conference in New York, execs from Travel Leaders Network made strong arguments about why their new structure combining Vacation.com and Travel Leaders will help grow cruise sales among members of the world's largest retail sales group.
"Everything is about product differentiation," summed up President John Lovell. "Organizationally, we look at how we're going to create product that will differentiate our members from their competitors and how they can bring an elite product to the forefront of their consumers."
In the case of Travel Leaders Network, the marketing side of the equation is clearly a major factor shaping this viewpoint.
Chief Marketing Officer Stephen McGillivray says the merger of the retail groups offers real benefits to members.
"For me, the win in creating Travel Leaders Network really was being able to expand the benefits. Honestly, the travel agent doesn't give a hoot what the name of their network is. What they care about is their marketing opportunities went up a lot. So there are tangible things we can show them about the coming together."
A case in point is the cruise space program, where there far more hosted and so-called "amenity enhanced" departures.
"It’s an all-time high," says McGillivray. "Last year we offered 1838 departures. This year there are 3149 departures -- a 71% increase in free amenity-enhanced departures for the retailers to sell."
McGillivray said Travel Leaders told the cruise lines: "We need more amenity-enhanced departures now that our networks are coming together. This number is the proof in the pudding for taking the two groups and putting their power together."
As well, the number of ‘Distinctive Voyages’ jumped from 271 in 2016 to 352 in 2017, an increase of 30%. Combined, that's about nine departures a day, most of them with premium and luxury lines.
"This allows our member agents to compete with those big cruise sellers on literally every sailing that has an amenity, shipboard credit, etc.," says McGillivray. "Now we say to our agents, 'Look, this is how you can compete -- by putting in the codes for either amenity departure dates or Distinctive Voyages."
McGillivray continued that this equalization goes to the core of the network’s mission.
"Those of us who have been in the networks, our base mission has always been to do things for agents that they can't do themselves,’ he said. “Do the big giant guys need as much help? Not really. So really it's helping that mainstream agency, that agent at home, etc.”
"I can say to them, 'Look, you don't have the muscle to get a $400 shipboard credit from Crystal. But by being a member, you now have a $400 SBC on every Crystal departure.’ We're doing something for them that they couldn't do on their own. It's helping that agent who doesn't have the voice at the table, and that's really the power of this network."