The iconic Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida recently played host to Vacation.com’s 18th International Conference & Trade Show from May 22 - 25. With the theme“Connect More”, the annual event brought together top suppliers and Vacation.com representatives with more than 1,300 members who represent in excess of $1.21 billion in supplier partner cruise and tour sales for 2015.
Keynote speakers included CEOs such as Richard Fain, Drank Del Rio, Arnold Donald and Bruce Poon Tip.
“We know our members attend Conference each year expecting top-level industry insights, incredible networking, and challenging educational programs” said Vacation.com President John Lovell. Lovell wants member agents to know, “[they’re] not out there on [their] own. [They’re] a part of something bigger.”
"We don’t sell travel – we sell travel agents.”
Notable updates included that of Agent Snapshot – a revolutionary lead-generation tool launched at Conference in June 2015. Agent Snapshot allows Vacation.com members to personalize their unique bios to attract consumers seeking their expertise online. Consumers are referred to Vacation.com agents who specialize in the type of trip they’re looking for. To date, Agent Snapshot has delivered over 35,000 leads to the 2,200 agents who have created profiles on the site.
“The numbers speak great volumes – Agent Snapshot is working, and our members are benefiting thanks to the additional business they are generating” Lovell said.
Since its inception, agents have reported not only getting leads, but those that are high-quality.
Cal Warren, president of Travel With Us based in Edmonton, AB, said, “I was skeptical about Agent Snapshot but since joining, have been thrilled with the results and calls received by consumers. Recently, I received a call as a direct result of Agent Snapshot, less than three weeks after I finally got my profile posted. I ended up selling him an Avalon Cruise at 18 per cent commission. This is a client I would never have acquired had it not been for Agent Snapshot”.
Lana Sharr of Quintess Travels, Inc. told CT, “The visibility my business gets with future prospects is so much greater than it’s ever been, and that’s something I wouldn’t be able to do on my own”.
Referrals come by way of the Vacation.com consumer site, which was launched last year.
Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for Travel Leaders Group, parent company to Vacation.com, said, “[We made a bet last year] as to what was going to make this website work – the fact is that it is not going to promote travel product, but the product on that website is you, the travel agent. The idea is that … we don’t sell travel – we sell travel agents.”
The unique bios of the agents who have created them is what drives the SEO of the site.
"That’s what has really driven the traffic to generate the 35,000 leads," McGillivray said. "We want our members [to know] that they are the value of the site.”
In the SEO game, the more unique content that a site publishes, the higher it will rank in Google searches. McGillivray cautioned against the belief that more buy-in from agents who create profiles would mean leads being divided between more people, therefore less leads per agent.
“That’s backwards thinking”, he said. "More bios means higher ranking [which means] higher SEO and even more leads [to go around]. That’s the value”.
The level of exposure member agents and agencies receive would be virtually impossible to achieve in a solo effort. Another feature of Agent Snapshot is Ratings and Reviews. Vacation.com provides agents with an e-mail to send to their clients asking them to rate and review the service they received. To date, more than 10,000 ratings and reviews have been submitted which instill confidence and trust in the consumers who are looking to buy travel.
One Canadian agent, who has amassed 125 reviews on her bio, had to request her profile be temporarily disabled so that she could catch up on responding to all of the leads she was being served. A true testament to the power of Vacation.com membership, adoption rate of Agent Snapshot is expected to continue rising – especially in the wake of these strong results.
“It’s a virtuous cycle," Chief Technology Officer Jose Ferreira said. “If I’m a luxury cruise specialist and I write a bio about being a luxury cruise specialist, those are the kinds of customers I’m going to attract… It’s about letting agents look inside themselves, determine their true value proposition and what they want to bring to the market… If an agent creates a good story, they will be rewarded for it”.
Approximately 16 per cent of all leads have been delivered to Canadian travel agents, according to Christine James, vice president - Canada.
Family Bonds Foundation
Regarding the Family Bonds Foundation that was launched at last year’s Conference, Vacation.com announced it has already raised more than $100,000 over the course of the past year. The initiative was created to support selected Vacation.com members and travel agents, their children and their communities experiencing hardships beyond their control, such as a sudden illness or death of a parent, accident, tornado, fire, or other emergency hardship.
Twice a year, individuals or local communities are selected to receive grants from the foundation. These are confidential and can assist with such things as medical bills, daycare of after-school care, school supplies, and other basic necessities.
“The goal is simple” Lovell said. “It’s to give back to the individuals and communities that we depend on to make our living. We all know somebody that’s suffering; we just want to touch the people in the local communities who don’t have a place to turn. At the end of the day, if you’re a part of the VCom family, I want those people to know that they have a place to turn to”.
Vacation.com’s regional conferences will be held between Oct. 4 - 20 in Markham, Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, and will have a theme of “Focus on Success” which will undoubtedly build on the information and education agents gleaned from this year’s International Conference.