The first quarter of 2018 has been a busy and productive one for travel industry consortia and host agencies. Here are some highlights.

NEW LIBERTY BRAND: Liberty Travel and its parent company, Flight Center Travel Group, are launching a new brand for independent and home-based travel agents — although the new brand’s definition of “home-based” is quite expansive. Dubbed Independent by Liberty Travel, it is aimed at travel consultants who wish to do “business where and how they choose,” according to a statement announcing the launch.

Travel agents who are part of Independent by Liberty Travel will get commissions on sales, with up to a 90 percent commission split. They’ll also get access to Flight Center Travel Group’s exclusive hotel, air cruise and tour partners, as well as tech support, marketing collateral, sales and operational support, and financial services. The new brand will not charge agents fees for ticketing, invoicing, customer service or sales and support. Liberty says that the launch of this new brand will address the changing way in which people work and how customers shop for travel.

Travel Industry Exchange

The #1 Industry Event for Specialization | Oct. 9-11, 2018

Travel Industry Exchange is the leading one-to-one event featuring a product-focused conference, networking and entertainment. Top agents vie for coveted hosted positions to leverage valuable supplier content that will help improve personal growth and increase overall sales.

VIRTUOSO PAPER LAUDS SUSTAINABLE TOURISM: Virtuoso has released a new white paper calling sustainable tourism a “transformative movement.” The white paper, “Sustainable Tourism: From Trend to Transformative Movement,” discusses how the organization can leverage its position and relationships in luxury travel to elevate sustainable tourism best practices as a more significant factor in travel consumer choice. The white paper outlines Virtuoso’s action plan to advance this goal and includes:

  • Compiling a database of Virtuoso partners’ sustainability success stories and best practices, and making this easily available for Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors to craft itineraries for a great trip that also gives back to local people and the planet.
     
  • Increasing sustainable tourism awareness and training for Virtuoso staff, establishing an interest group for Virtuoso travel advisors and partners, and creating a sustainability specialist designation for advisors.
     
  • Promoting travel consumer education on sustainable tourism as an important factor in trip planning, with easier ways to find advisors and partners committed to enjoyable and responsible travel.

TRAVEL LEADERS CAMPAIGN: Travel Leaders Group picked a “winner” on Valentine’s Day from among the travelers who wrote reviews and comments on Facebook during a weeklong social media campaign about why they love their travel agent. The hashtag #YearofTheTravelAgent was used throughout the campaign, which contributed to an 82 percent increase in engagement on Travel Leaders Group’s @TravelLeaders Facebook page, the company reports. The campaign was a part of the 2018: Year of the Travel Agent celebration.

Brian Hegarty, vice president of marketing for Travel Leaders Network, a division of Travel Leaders Group, noted that the campaign reached over 4,000 people. Participants were clients of many different travel agencies and were not required to limit their nominations to a Travel Leaders Group agent. Consumers were asked to post about why they love their agent, as well as write a review. The winner was chosen based on the content of their posts, their enthusiasm for their travel agent and their overall engagement.

Winner Chris Thell won a $100 Visa gift card for himself and another for his travel agent, Cindy Sanborn, who is a specialist with the Travel Leaders location in Maple Grove, MN.

NEW ENSEMBLE PARTNERS: Ensemble Travel Group has expanded its global network with the addition of new preferred partners in two key land categories. The travel group welcomed four On Location partners: Family Twist, Leonidas Travel, Revealed America and Reykjavik Excursions, as well as specialty supplier Shore Excursions Group, to the organization’s growing partner network.

SIGNATURE LAUNCHES LUXURY CAMPAIGN: Signature Travel Network has announced the launch of a new Luxury Sales Development program, as well as a change to the leadership of its Hotel & Resort Program. The new luxury sales program, spearheaded by Signature Executive Vice President Ignacio Maza, will aim to expand the network’s luxury business. 

In other executive updates, Signature has announced that Richard Lebowitz will serve as the new senior vice president for the organization’s Hotel & Resort Program. Lebowitz, a distinguished hotel industry professional with more than 30 years of experience, will be based in Signature’s New York office, and will be a part of the company’s senior management team, reporting to Alex Sharpe.

Former Avoya exec Scott Koepf is Cruise Planners’ new vice president of strategic development.

NEW TOOLS, TEAM MEMBER FOR CRUISE PLANNERS: Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is beefing up its tech tools for travel agents with the launch of its new, proprietary booking and customer relationship management platform, CP Maxx. The new system allows Cruise Planners travel agents to manage their business from a variety of digital devices, including desktop and mobile, and also works with Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence to allow Cruise Planners clients to ask questions about their vacation, or to serve as a voice-activated digital assistant for travel agents.

On the personnel front, Scott Koepf has moved from Avoya Travel to Cruise Planners, where he will serve as the home-based travel agent franchise network’s vice president of strategic development. In his new role, Koepf will lead Cruise Planners’ training and events team, exploring new opportunities for strategic development and helping Cruise Planners travel agents to continue to develop their franchises. 

Most recently Koepf served as senior vice president of sales at Avoya. He has also held leadership roles at Cruise Holidays and Nexion, as well as served as president of NACTA. He began his career in travel as a cruise franchise owner, and has also been an entertainer onboard a cruise ship. He has also often been quoted as an expert in travel media, Cruise Planners said. 

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