When I asked Travel Impressions president Scott Wiseman what’s new during a conversation at The New York Times Travel Show, he had plenty of answers. After all, one of the first things he did when he was named head of Travel Impressions in 2016 was to methodically study how Travel Impressions could be even better, and then to make improvements based upon those findings. This process leaned upon feedback from travel agents. “We build what travel agents ask for,” he declared.
What followed was a profusion of innovations, such as:
- EducaTIon First, including #OnLocaTIon and #WeekendLearning components on social media and a section of the website, Monthly Makeovers, that is constantly updated.
- A robust and (literally) rewarding LoyalTI First program.
- An enhanced revenue management team to back up a new Price Match Chat so agents always get the best possible rates.
- TI360, a virtually endless source of images, social media posts, e-blasts, and brochures that agents can customize for their marketing.
- Flex Groups, to make booking groups both easier and more profitable.
Referring to Flex Groups, Wiseman said, “Not every group wanted to sign a contract and be held responsible for that, so with Flex Groups, there is no contract—no risk. Also, it offers upfront discounts to every participant in a group trip, so the agent does not have peripheral participants going to an OTA for a ‘better’ price. In addition, a new platform for larger groups such as large wedding parties enables attendees to enter their own credit cards, which means less work for agents.”
Travel Impressions first offered some of these programs to the company’s Best of the Best agents, and now it is implementing them on a broad scale. It’s “the year of helping agents be successful and reap the benefits,” said Wiseman.
“One of the things agents reported to Travel Impressions when Wiseman came on board was an increased interest in overseas travel. Moreover, many of the clients who wanted to visit, say, Europe, were the same ones who had been taking Caribbean vacations. Thus, agents wanted Travel Impressions “to make European trips easy for them, so they could retain clients they’re already working with,” said Wiseman. “So we added overseas destinations that are very safe, such as Switzerland.”
I asked how that’s working. “Those bookings are booming!” he exclaimed.
Wiseman is happy about Travel Impressions’ partnership with Villas of Distinction, too. “Booking people into villas is a complicated business. Villas are a nice, big-ticket item for agents, but traditionally, if you didn’t have someone who had your back—who could, for example, confirm that there is a fence around the swimming pool so your child doesn’t fall into the water—villas were trouble for agents.” With this partnership, he explained, there are no unpleasant surprises. In fact, “sales have been skyrocketing.”
On the subject of surprises, Wiseman views greater transparency as a welcome trend. “In travel, transparency is not just about money and best ‘deal.’ People want to be sure what they’re hearing is true, not a sales pitch. So we’re trying to be transparent about what we deliver to the agents. Truth and transparency help agents have the information to really be the experts. That’s what I think,” he said emphatically, “and I’ll run with it until it’s proven otherwise.”