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When you sit down to speak with the Strategic Leadership team at Avoya Travel, the excitement over the incredible platform they’ve created for their Independent Agencies to succeed is not only palpable, it’s intoxicating. It’s easy to get swept up in their positive energy, and you leave the conversation rooting for their success, even if you are only an outsider looking in. During Avoya Travel’s recent 12th annual conference, there were announcements of innovation, part of what the group calls the Avoya 2025 plan, a 5-phase growth plan to be rolled out over the course of seven years (plan started at the 2018 conference), but more importantly, there was enthusiasm about the positive growth of the network—with a 20 percent year-over-year growth in the network, and a sales growth of 17 percent. In fact, there were a record number of Independent Agencies this year awarded for achieving $1 million or more in annual sales, with the top-producing agency growing sales over 30 percent to reach $6.5 million.

Live Leads
Steve Hirshan, senior v.p. of sales for Avoya, says that one of the main reasons for the success of the Independent Agencies is that the network is constantly feeding them leads. “They don’t have to look for clients.” And a couple of agents Recommend spoke with concur. JoAnn Challberg of Evista Travel, LLC, who’s been with Avoya for two months, says that the live lead program is phenomenal. “If you want it, you can get it,” she notes, with Samantha Pollack of Blue Island Travel Agency, LLC, adding that the “live leads program fills that void that you might have between your personal leads.”

Hirshan points out that the way Avoya distributes leads in the industry is “totally unique. It’s not on a random basis. It’s not Ashley got the last lead, so it’s Steve’s turn for the next lead. We distribute leads based upon people’s specialty—specialties can either be a vendor or a destination, because there’s no point in giving somebody a lead that they know very little about. Leads are coming in at a fast pace, so there are multiple leads at any given time.”

Innovation is King
Challberg notes, too, that Avoya’s “technolgy is very innovative.” She is referring to the proprietary agent system, which Avoya has complete control of, which means, says Hirshan, that Avoya has the ability to make changes to it quickly. “The great thing about the system is that it’s a completely integrated, web-based system. Everything is residing in one package for them. I like to say that the system is circular—wherever you go, you never run into a dead end.” Michael Anderson, Avoya’s co-president, adds that “our technology is unique because we have built it all in this big framework that ties it all together. It’s not like you are having to jump from this system to does this and over to this completely different one to do that, and another one to do that; you’ve got to copy and paste here and here…all that lack of efficiency that can happen when it’s not all housed under one thing. Having it all inside one system gives us lots of opportunities to look for those inefficiencies to improve things on the backend.”

And it’s obvious that innovation is king at Avoya Network, because, as Ashley Hunter, senior v.p. of strategic operations & partnerships, notes, “we feel an obligation to the network to make sure that we are trying new things, and that we are leading the industry in the technology and marketing sector of selling travel because that is why they have chosen to affiliate themselves with us. We’ve done many surveys of our Independent Agencies of why they chose Avoya versus other options, and one of the main reasons is because of the live lead program and because our system is unparalleled to other systems that are available.”

When it comes to the Avoya 2025 plan, many of the details are not set in stone, because, as the team says, technology and travel are constantly evolving. “If you take what worked in 2018, and close your eyes,” says Anderson, “and open them in 2025, odds are the world has gone in a different direction. There’s no shortage of opportunity for ways for us to improve things, and though we’ve come a long way, there’s still a long way for us to go.” Avoya’s senior v.p. of marketing, Sam McCully, points out that the Avoya 2025 plan at its core is “about pushing ourselves to innovate. The earlier phases are a little bit more defined. This year, for example, we are doing things that will empower and make our agencies more successful, and also allow it to be an easier and more pleasant process for our customers. The latter stages of the plan are a little less defined, but that’s due to the nature of our business.” He adds, however, that what “won’t change and be a constant is our culture, our heritage, our team, our tenacity, our model, and our platform.”

Growing the Land-Based Bookings
Avoya is known for its cruise line partnerships and the Avoya Travel conference is an opportunity for the Independent Agencies to get some face time with cruise line partners, but looking toward more growth potential, there are lots of opportunities for agents to expand on their land-based bookings with such suppliers as Karisma, AMResorts, Palladium, and Hawaii Tourism Authority. With that in mind, the team will be hosting its first-ever land forum this August. Says Hunter, “It’s specifically for the Independent Agencies that are looking to learn more and grow their all-inclusive and escorted tour business. At the event, agents will be able to have face time with hotel groups and independent hotels, etc.”

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