The Hottest News from Travel Impressions’ Biggest Event of the Year
It can easily be argued that Travel Impressions’ 23rd annual conference and awards gala provided more education for travel agents than any other such show in the operator’s history.
And that’s usually what happens when you have to educate your partners about roughly 200,000 new hotels added to the company’s inventory.
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TravelPulse recently returned from Travel Impressions’ “Best of the Best 2018” event, which honors the operator’s top-producing agents, and the reoccurring topic of conversation centered around the tour operator’s recent and rapid growth in inventory as a result of the Apple Leisure Group (ALG) and The Mark Travel Corporation merger back in April.
If you weren’t one of the nearly 300 tourism industry representatives to attend, here’s what you missed:
Merger Brings Historic Growth in Product
In what can be considered the best problem a tour operator can have, Travel Impressions is currently adjusting to a whopping influx in inventory due to the ALG and TMTC merger.
In fact, Wiseman said Travel Impressions grew its hotel product by roughly 200,000 properties.
“We have a range of new destinations and products coming over from the merger,” said Wiseman. “Europe has been the biggest benefactor.”
Wiseman said Travel Impressions, which is now on Vax VacationAccess, the booking platform from Trisept Solutions that Travel Impressions inherited in the merger, saw positive results immediately.
“Since we launched on VAX, we saw strong double-digit growth overnight,” said Wiseman, “and it’s mainly because there is this amount of expanded product.”
Emphasizing the benefit of OneALG’s unified buying strategy for agents, Wiseman told advisors in attendance that Travel Impressions’ growing parent company “stands behind us as we say what we’ve been saying for years—that our incredible buying power is best used in your favor.”
“We leverage the volume of our brands to keep you competitive, and negotiate fiercely for agent-only exclusives,” he continued. “We’ve combined forces on your behalves to help you do things like fight against the [online travel agencies] that threaten your success.”
And what was Wiseman’s reaction to the merger when he first heard about the news?
“I would say we were excited,” he said. “It’s a huge win. For me personally, it was exciting the way that we all worked together, and I’m also excited about all of the talented people that will be working together now. We combined to create a great company.”
“Sometimes these things don’t work out as they should,” he continued, “but for me and my team, it’s been a positive experience. I would give it a thumbs up. It’s been terrific.”
Cuba Available for May Travel
During the first general session of the event, Wiseman told attendees that Travel Impressions will soon be selling Havana, Cuba. Wiseman later told media that Cuba will be sold by Travel Impressions for travel starting in May.
Cartagena, Colombia: One Year Later
It was around this time last year that Wiseman and other Travel Impressions representatives announced the addition of Cartagena, Colombia to the company’s portfolio.
So, how is the destination selling one year later?
“Colombia has been a big success for us,” said Wiseman. “All of the destinations we have been selling have been doing very well. ”
As far as new destinations on the horizon, Wiseman didn’t name specific countries but did tell TravelPulse that Travel Impressions is looking to continue to grow its Latin America product, noting that South America was a region the company will continue to eye.
Also as part of the show, Wiseman updated agents on Travel Impressions’ multi-faceted EducaTIon First initiative, its TI360° marketing hub, expanded charter offerings, and the upcoming LoyalTIFirst Virtual Mall and Virtual Visa—introduced with hopes of providing more flexible point redemption options.
Delegates also heard from Michael Ehlers, Travel Impressions’ senior director of groups, about the new team of more than 200 professionals dedicated to supporting agents’ group business and how new technology solutions will hopefully provide enhanced flexibility and streamline the group booking process.
Attendees also heard from representatives from key resort partners, including Sarah Bentler, regional business development manager for Hyatt Hotels; Hugo Aguilera de Alba, director of partner marketing and business development for the U.S and Canada for Riu Hotels & Resorts and Denise Sivick, senior manager of retail business for the Palladium Hotel Group.
Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas also sponsored a breakfast on day two of the conference, while the motivational speaker and popular violinist, Kai Kight, provided the keynote address.