Nexion Host Agency Unveils New Programs at CoNexion Conference
By James Shillinglaw
October 04, 2012 10:25 PM
Nexion, the largest host travel agency in the country with roughly 3,300 affiliated agents, launched its annual CoNexion 2012 conference, Oct. 4-6, at the Hyatt Regency-Dallas at Reunion Tower by debuting a number of new programs for its members. More than 400 travel agents and industry representatives are attending Nexion’s Texas-themed annual conference, “Fire Up Your Future,” which features educational seminars designed to enhance the businesses of its home-based travel agents. business and increase the success and profitability of Nexion agents.
“We are pleased with the tremendous response we’ve seen from our agents and suppliers,” said Nexion President Jackie Friedman, CTC, CTIE. “This truly is the place for agents to ‘fire up’ their futures through our industry-leading classes, supplier trade show, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities. Every year, we find CoNexion is an integral part in connecting our agents -- not only with each other, but with our valued supplier partners and our staff.”
At the conference, Nexion, which is owned by Travel Leaders Group, unveiled plans for a new voluntary travel agent achievement recognition program called “Maestro,” which is designed to recognize Nexion agents who excel in various categories of the travel agency business, and to provide heightened credibility among their peers and clients.
The Maestro program will assess agents on training, performance, participation and overall business excellence in the categories of corporate travel, leisure travel, and business mastery. It also will feature certification levels beginning with “Medallion.” Once Medallion status has been earned, Nexion agents can continue on to be recognized as “Select,” “Performance Pro,” and “Elite” status.
The tiered levels created to achieve Maestro status are based, in part, on significant booking revenue in key areas; engaging with suppliers through training webinars, ship inspections, or other industry certifications. Agents also get status by attending networking events like Nexion’s annual CoNexion conference or Boot Camp training seminars. The qualification criteria get tougher as an agent progresses through the Maestro status levels. Agents choosing to participate will need to pass an assessment in order to officially complete a level.
Nexion also said it is recruiting a new generation of travel professionals using a campaign it calls “Nexion Generation,” which illustrates how its members encompasses professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds, including experienced travel agents, those new to the travel industry, recent college graduates, and individuals who are recently retired, semi-retired, or looking to change careers.
Indeed, the host agency revealed results of a recent survey that found its agents come from a wide variety of experience levels and backgrounds. Survey results revealed nearly 80 percent of Nexion agents surveyed have been travel agents for over five years and over 60 percent are relatively new to Nexion, having been with Nexion for less than five years.
Nexion’s survey indicated that a majority of respondents (66.4 percent) made a career change to get into the business of owning their own travel agency. Of those surveyed who said they changed careers, Nexion found the most common career backgrounds of its agents were business/management/accounting (20.4 percent), sales/marketing (11.8 percent), and teaching (8.4 percent). Another 11.8 percent of those surveyed came from another career inside travel/hospitality. In addition, Nexion found that while a handful of its agents are recent college graduates, and roughly 7 percent are in their 30s, almost 80 percent of agents participating in the survey are over the age of 40. Of those surveyed, roughly 27 percent are either retired or semi-retired from another profession.
Nexion’s survey also concluded that a nearly even number of its agents surveyed work part-time (53.8 percent) as compared with those working full-time (46.2 percent). Nexion found that while some of its agents manage well working part-time (less than 40 hours per week) in their agencies, and in some cases balancing separate jobs, others find success working over 40 hours per week in running their own full-time businesses.
Nexion also launched a new peer mentorship program called “Agents Connecting Together” (ACT). ACT has been developed directly as the result of agent input from CoNexion 2011. The program’s aims to allow Nexion agents to capitalize on their shared talents and business knowledge, with the ultimate goal of boosting profits across Nexion’s agent population. The program is open to all Nexion agents interested in being either mentors or mentees.
For those agents participating in ACT, Nexion will match mentors with significant business experience or specific expertise to mentees who may have less experience or expertise in a certain area of their business. Nexion agents interested in taking part in the program will complete a profile that either addresses their specific needs or indicates their level of experience and expertise. Nexion will then review in order to match those agents with qualified mentors who can provide the best fit for them.
The three-day conference opened on Oct. 4 with keynote speaker Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and services for Royal Caribbean International. The agenda was set to continue on Oct. 5 with executive panel discussion comprised of eight leaders from the industry’s top cruise line and tour operators and a special guest motivational speaker, Michael Hoffman, on Oct. 6. Thirty-two additional speakers, including Nexion President Friedman, Nexion staff, and other travel industry professionals – are providing their expertise in more than 30 different workshops. This year’s workshops focus on marketing and sales, technology, social media and product expertise.