MAST Owner’s Summit Reveals Opinions on Key Issues
The recent MAST Owner’s Summit, a one-day conference for agency owners, revealed attendees’ opinions on several key issues. Among them: Concerning supplier direct bookings, MAST members recognize that a segment of the marketplace wants to be “do-it-yourselfers,” but feel that suppliers who work with travel agents only should receive strong support from agents. When it comes to direct consumer marketing, agency owners feel that supplier marketing is overly aggressive, even by companies who are supportive of travel agents. Often, the message tells consumers to contact their call centers to reach an experienced and knowledgeable reservationist who is ready to assist them in booking their vacation. MAST members believe suppliers who support agents, should move the message to the top. Agents feel that, if suppliers really believe this as they say they do, this would be a very visible method of demonstrating their commitment to agents.
MAST agencies strongly support the anti-rebate policies of companies such as Oceania Cruises and Crystal Cruises and want to push other companies to enact similar policies. They feel consumers want to know they are getting the best value, and with rebating, the consumer never knows. When it comes to the importance of fam trips, agency owners feel that, beyond seeing a destination and hotels in the area first-hand, fam trips help agents judge the quality of products and services, attitudes of the people who will interface with agency clients, and the overall experience their customers would have.
Regarding BDM relationships, MAST agencies feel that, in many cases, as they have learned how to cement relationships with their customers, suppliers are not paying attention to the relationships they have with the agency community. Agencies feel sales territories are too big for BDMs to adequately support them. Cost cutting has meant fewer BDMs and less co-op money. BDMs are often not empowered to make decisions quickly, have too many restrictions placed upon them, and have to deal with lack of support for them by their companies. Agents want BDMs to help them source new business, share best marketing practices, educate them on points of differentiation in the marketplace, provide problem resolution and be advocates for them within their companies.