OASIS Travel Network is celebrating their 10 year anniversary, however, the agency has been around for 32 years. “We started in 1987. Around 2009, our CEO Lee Smolinski, he’s very presient, very far-seen, he cold see this whole independent contractor thing getting bigger and bigger,” says Kelly Bergin, president of OASIS Travel Network. “That’s when he decided to open up a division called Oasis Travel Network.”

To learn more about what OASIS Travel Network has to offer you, as well as what trends they’re currently seeing in the industry, Recommend’s managing editor, Michelle Marie Arean, sat down with Kelly for a chat during CLIA 360.

Michelle Marie Arean: What’s new for Oasis this year?

Kelly Bergin: Our annual conference that we have every year, this is going to be our 10th annual, so it’ll be a big splash. It takes place Dec. 5-7th in Lake Las Vegas.

We’re a member of Signature Travel Network, and every year they have their conference in Las Vegas. So we like to piggyback on top of that, sometimes we do it before, sometimes after. This year, we’re doing it after. But we’re getting out of Vegas. We’re going somewhere more zen, more chill… Lake Las Vegas about 30 minutes south east of Vegas.

We are getting ready to announce the new Diamond program, [more on this below] which we are doing to help those smaller agencies; or larger producing individual agents/advisors that we think their book of business could really merge well with our book of business. It would be a really good partnership and we can help them grow their business while helping grow our business because we have the tools to help them do that. And not all, but a lot of those tools, are through Signature Travel Network. We have fabulous websites that we create and personalize for them. And then, in conjunction with that is our e-mail marketing program, our print marketing program, that all works together. These are systems that if you try to build these on your own…they’re getting more expensive, technology is getting more complicated. I really feel strongly, having been an agency owner, knowing what you need to grow your business, especially marketing, that we can really, really help these agencies. We’re offering a pretty good incentive to team up with us—100 percent commission with no fees.

MMA: How does 100 percent commission work?
KB: They get the whole thing. They have to produce a certain amount of bookings and sales. If they don’t fit in to that category, then we have other great plans. We have a 90/10 split, which is what the majority of our agents belong to. It’s the Elite plan and every body gets 90 percent.

We are just trying to make these types of agents/agencies aware of us…They might have heard of us, but they don’t really know what we have to offer—the e-mail marketing, the print marketing, the website, a system called Client Reach—it’s all about staying in touch with the client after the booking. To help agents keep reaching out from that time period of the deposit to the time they take off for their trip. Just like ‘hey, do you need insurance, you didn’t book insurance do you need insurance?’ Or, ‘hey how about a pre-hotel to that cruise?’…things like that. Can an agent or advisor do all this stuff? Set little reminders and take care of it? Yea, they can. But this system is automatic. You put them in the system, boom it starts sending those appropriate e-mails for the particular vacation they’re taking, so it saves time, and they can go on to do more important things, like get more clients.

MMA: What would you say sets you apart from other consortia for agents to join?
KB: We’re a host that belongs to a consortia; the thing that sets us apart are the tools that we have to offer to run your business. You can ask any person in the travel industry, ‘who has the best marketing system for independent travel professionals?’ Signature Travel Network, hands-down there’s no doubt about it; the best, most technological system. We have the systems, we have the tools, we have the commission split. We are not a mammoth organization. I think now we have over 800 members. We aren’t 3,000 or 4,000…we’re smaller; we’re probably a little more particular about who we sign up. Another well-kept secret, that we probably don’t brag about enough, is we basically do their accounting for them. A lot of companies require that you do your own invoices so they can track whose commission belongs to whom; we do that. They have to report the booking in a very simple system, and then we use Client Base [to keep track].

OASIS agents on a trip together.

MMA: In addition to the marketing initiatives and commission splits, what other benefits do advisors get with Oasis?
KB: We’ve got what we call our Chairman’s Club. For every commission dollar that they earn, they earn points. Those points can be turned into dollars, and you can use them for FAM trips, for our annual conference, or for the hotel at the conference. And we have a Chairman’s Club trip every year and they can use it to help pay for that.

We also offer Pocket Travel Consultant—an app powered by Axus with some tweaks and added benefits to it. They love it. The members that have really embraced it and started using it, and sending it out to their clients…they’re sold. And the clients love it too. It’s an itinerary builder, and there’s a chat feature on it. It’s a way to stay in touch with your client when they’re traveling. So that’s another piece of technology that we offer. It’s all branded to them, so everytime something comes up on their client’s phone, it’s going to say, [something like] “Suzy’s Travel” in front of the client’s face, which helps the client remember who got them to where they’re at, and how much they do for them, which is a good thing.

MMA: Is there anything new for travel advisors?
KB: We are coming out with more info soon, but we have a new direct mail program for prospecting. And, we’re going to be rolling that out soon. There’s a component to it that I’m not being overly dramatic, but it’s game-changing. It’s so cool!

MMA: Since we’re at Cruise 360, what tips do you have for agents selling cruising in a market with so many options?
KB: You know, cruising is kind of down this year. That’s what our numbers are telling us. I just spoke to my buddy at another host and asked what he’s seeing, and he said, ‘Yup, same thing.’ We’re flat. The numbers are flat. Land is through the roof.

MMA: What do you think is making cruising go down?
KB: I’m sure there are a number of things. But, one of the things is they kind of priced themselves out. I think they raised the rates a little too high, and people were like, ‘you know what, I can do an all-inclusive.’ In January and February our land business was 44 percent, and 44.5 percent higher than the year before. That’s huge. I just ran the numbers last night; I had to do it again. I had to look at that and go, ‘What?’ Accounting had been telling me that, but I was like let me just look at this. And yea, it’s up. I guess people are just thinking they can do an all-inclusive for this…get all meals, all drinks, and not worry about tipping. That could be it. What’s another reason? Maybe it’s just the year for land, next year it’ll be cruise.

Also, some promotions are so complicated that we don’t know what’s going on. The consumer for sure doesn’t know what’s going on. Just keep it simple.

MMA: So what tips would you give agents who are booking cruising?
KB: Simplify it. Make sure they put the right client on the right product. Especially now, it’s so true. Just because you love XYZ and maybe 6,000 people, doesn’t mean your client will. Do your research. Don’t give them too many options. When it comes to cruising and cruise lines, but also when it comes to promotions. Keep it simple.

MMA: Any other travel trends you’re seeing in the market?
KB: Alaska is soft. Not sure if it’s too much product or not enough passengers. It’s probably a little bit of both. What I’ve noticed about Alaska is that Alaska has its years. One year it will be great and up. I think last year was a great year for Alaska. But, then they put more product in. They don’t need more product.

We see a lot of Europe, for us, Europe is crazy. River cruising also continues to be strong, even though we’re seeing more ships come in to the market. It seems to be remaining strong. I think it’s starting to touch a little bit of a younger demographic. I think it originally started with people in their 70s, then the 60 year olds caught on, now the 50 year olds are definitely in on it. You’re seeing a bit of the 40s, too. River cruising is doing better than ocean.

MMA: Since you mentioned Europe, where in Europe do you see it booming?KB: Croatia. Croatia. Croatia.

Italy always does great. Ireland is doing great. Iceland is still showing interest, but I think it’s leveling out. But, yea, Croatia.

A group of OASIS members during a bootcamp seminar.

MMA: How can interested agents learn more about what Oasis has to offer?
KB: Go to oasistravelnetwork.com.

I give webinars about every 2 weeks. They can find it on our website under webinars. Stacy does New to Travel webinars, and I do it for experienced agents who are thinking about joining a host. You have to be experienced to join Oasis. You have show us a 1099, a W2, that you’ve earned money selling travel. If you can’t do that and you want to get in to the industry, great. We welcome you with open arms, but you have to go through our New to Travel program.

Oasis Launches New Diamond Program

Today, Oasis announced its launch of the new Diamond Program, designed for independent travel agencies and advisors who gross $1.5 million or more in annual land and cruise sales. With this new membership tier, OASIS Travel Network now has programs for agencies at every level from beginners to seasoned professionals with an existing book of business.

To join the Diamond Program, agencies pay a $1,500 initiation fee, which grants them full access to a host of perks, including an outstanding 100 percent commission on all sales, as well as:

  • An agency-branded website complete with a consumer booking engine for cruise, hotel, and air
  • Participation in Signature Travel Network’s marketing and email marketing campaigns, and access to the premier network’s educational and marketing materials
  • Cutting-edge technology platforms, like the Axus Pocket Travel Consultant App and CruiseFinder
  • Exclusive travel opportunities through the Chairman’s Club rewards program
  • Ability to add up to five associate agents with no additional fee
  • Clientbase Online for customer-relationship management

For more on agent tools that can help you better your business, click here.