The Worldchoice and TTA consortium’s new Cruise Club exemplifies how it is helping its agent members to grow. Hollie-Rae Merrick reports

It is only a matter of months since the Travel Network Group created a new seven-strong marketing team to help grow members’ businesses.

But managing director Gary Lewis says it is “finally time to start shouting” about what they are doing.

When Lewis spoke about the company’s plans for growth at its overseas conference in Slovenia in May, he referred to four pillars for development. The Travel Network Group – the parent of Worldchoice and Travel Trust Association – would focus on scale, opportunities, solutions and growth, with a particular emphasis on the latter.

The first step on that road was the arrival of marketing director Si Prentice to head a new team, and an emphasis on the differentiated product that would give each member something to shout about.

“A lot of things have changed recently,” Lewis said. “We are trying to demonstrate that we do all these other things and are differentiating ourselves. We are always pushing what we offer.“When we grow and develop, we help grow our agencies and in turn grow every single industry proposition.

“We have invested in our technology offering through our Honeycomb system, which allows our members to create dynamic packages and they can also control their margins. We’re allowing members to be proactive.”

To help stimulate growth, the company launched The Cruise Club, which aims to arm cruise specialist members across Worldchoice, TTA and Independent Travel Experts with the tools to secure sales. Members benefit from tailored products, ship visits, a new website and a dedicated support network. They are also given printed collateral and e-shots that can be forwarded to clients.

Prentice said the next step was the creation of the River Cruise Club, Luxury Cruise Club and Family Cruise Club – all likely to be operational by the start of 2014.

Prentice said: “Our marketing and growth strategy is about responding to our members and the market and how we can help build their companies. Being responsive is key for us and The Cruise Club is part of that.”

The Cruise Club launched earlier this year and already has 82 members, with 25 waiting to join.

“We are giving our members all the information about things such as pre and post-cruise stays – it’s things like these that can set our members apart.

“We are also giving them VIP ship visit days to sell to clients. It’s a good way of getting new-to-cruise customers into the shops.

“Customers can get access to upgrades and onboard spend – things that are exclusive to our members.”

Prentice said advertising in the Daily Express had helped to highlight what members can offer without them needing to do anything themselves.

In order to discover exactly what its members need, the Travel Network Group recently launched an Adopt a Store initiative, which sees the marketing team spending time on the counter.

Five stores are involved in a trial for the scheme: Inspire Travel in Leicestershire; Liphook Travel in Hampshire; Heart Travel in Surrey; Triangle Travel in Richmond; and Dave Criddle Travel in Taunton.

Other initiatives include the use of database segmentation to show members different ways to target their customers, and a series of webinars to help members get into social networking.

“We’ll be running weekly webinars on online marketing and social media, but because we know our members are working hard we will be running these twice a day – once in mid-morning and again in the evening when it might be easier to take time out,” said Lewis.

“Since putting all this into practice we haven’t really shouted too much about it, but agents are telling us they like what we’re doing.”