More than 800 travel professionals descended on sunny California last week (June 9-12) for Travel Market 2016, a global travel conference hosted by American Marketing Group (AMG).
The bi-annual symposium, which was held at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Dessert, gave travel agents, agency owners, and supplier partners access to workshops, panel discussions, inspiring speakers and brainstorm sessions designed to grow their business.
The goal of the weekend was to not only keep agents abreast of industry trends and changes, but to also offer valuable networking opportunities, organizers said.
“We need to make sure we’re all working together in harmony,” Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer for The Affluent Traveler, NEST and Travelsavers, three of AMG’s 18 brands, told trade media over lunch at the resort’s on-site restaurant, Rockwood Grill, on June 9.
Of Travelsavers: Nicole Mazza, executive vice president, marketing and Kathryn Mazza-Burney, executive vice president, global sales
On her goals for this year’s conference, Mazza put the spotlight on new enhancements to AMG’s technology, which organizers debuted over the weekend.
One major announcement was the unveiling of tripXpress 2.0, a search and booking platform that lets agents access real-time content and complete complex itineraries, compare choices and provide pricing, all on one platform.
The tech tool aggregates content from AMG’s proprietary cruise booking platform, cruiseexpress, its global hotel program with more than 120,000 hotels, and add-ons such as customized tours, activities and transportation. Content is also available in multiple currencies.
“We’re making sure agencies have the right tools for their business,” said Mazza, who pointed to the latest success of OnlineXpress (OXP), a website for Travelsavers and NEST agents that has been in operation for three years.
OXP is a customizable platform that “nurtures potential buyers throughout the sales cycle – maximizing results so that agents can sell more travel,” AMG stated in a release. “The lead generation [agents] are getting off this portal is phenomenal,” Mazza told PAX.
Conference attendees fill the JW Marriott ballroom
Other tech enhancements unveiled over the weekend included “Tap for Travel,” a mobile-based program that allows agents to compile and send itineraries to clients (chat function included), new e-books, as well as a platform for sharing videos – “the greatest marketing medium out there,” noted Mazza.
Working with tourist boards and preferred suppliers, AMG’s new video tools will allow agencies to log-in and select customized two-to-three-minute videos that they can send to clients or share on Facebook. “Think of it as a Netflix for travel,” said Mazza.
Ron Cates, a digital marketing expert, who also served as the conference’s master of ceremonies, echoed the importance of video when using social media, claiming it has “five times the impact over a still image.”
His advice to first-time travel vloggers: “It’s not about you, it’s about what you know,” Cates said in his opening remarks to conference attendees on June 10. That, and to keep videos short (“Two minutes or less,” he stressed) and to always let viewers know “what’s in it for them” right off the top.
“It’s not about you, it’s about what you know" - digital marketing expert Ron Cates
The conference also drew attention to AMG’s expansion into the Canadian market.
Travelsavers, an international travel marketing organization with a retail chain of more than 3,000 independently owned full-service travel agencies in more than 35 countries, and AMG’s biggest brand, announced it has grown its Quebec base to 30 affiliates and anticipates to grow 15 per cent in the next six months.
The company said it has “Canadianized,” extending all of its programs and services to Quebec agents in French, a process that began two years ago.
“A lot of business comes out of Quebec,” Kathryn Mazza-Burney, executive vice president, global sales at Travelsavers, told PAX at the media lunch. “The expansions have continued to be enormous. It’s a very lucrative market for us.”
Travel Market 2016 drew delegates from all points of the U.S., Canada, as well as China, Turkey, Dubai, the U.K., Italy, Israel and India.
The weekend (which was briefly rattled by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in the early morning of June 10) included a bustling trade show and nightly dinner receptions – many of which were themed around Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack, icons of Greater Palm Springs.
AMG also hosted a walk-a-thon, a live painting auction by artist Gregory Adamson and silent auctions to raise funds for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization.
Performance artist Gregory Adamson painted a portrait of Frank Sinatra
Prior to the conference, The Affluent Traveler, an elite marketing organization and AMG brand that focuses on luxury travel, held an exclusive symposium for agents and industry leaders at the same resort from June 7-9.
AMG, founded more than 45 years ago, offers marketing and business solutions to the travel agent community through a comprehensive network of resources, tools and products that cover all areas of travel, from leisure and corporate to air and cruise.
Travelsavers Canada has offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec. For more information, visit travelsaverscanada.com.
Stay tuned for more of PAX’s ongoing coverage of the conference.