Attended By: Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
Starting with the word “WOW” doesn’t do justice to our recent experience at the Avoya Travel Grand Opening of their new Innovation Center. Having known the Anderson family for many years, we have had the upmost pleasure in watching the Avoya Travel business change and grow to new heights. In the recent years, a shift to the 3rd generation of Presidents has taken place and the results have continued to show increased success for the family owned and operated business of 56 years.
Personally, I have known the Anderson family for about 6 years now while my mother, Joanie Ogg, and father, Tom Ogg have been in touch with them for nearly 20 years. What once started out as a chain of storefront travel agencies has evolved into a powerhouse business with success that continues to inspire.
Each year, we visit the Avoya Travel support office, previously located in Vista, California to discuss updates in the industry, as well as our plans for the coming year. This past August, I was made aware that the Avoya team would be moving from their Vista location to a new building just up the road in San Marcos, California.
While their Vista office was beautiful with artistic craftsmanship and style, it was apparent that the Avoya Travel team had outgrown the building. Having no idea where they were moving, I could only assume it was a step forward to a larger facility to accommodate the growing business.
On January 23rd, 2020, my wife and I departed our home to participate in the Grand Opening of Avoya’s new home. We arrived after a short drive and were immediately impressed with the move that the team had made. Located across from City Hall and along a commuter train in North County San Diego, the building was not only impressive but spoke professionalism. Mind you, this is just my opinion from the parking lot.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) which consists of Jeff Anderson, Co-President, Michael Anderson, Co-President, Steve Hirshan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Sam McCully, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ashley Hunter, Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations & Partnerships, and Daniel Rego, Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence. In addition to the SLT, Co-Founders Brad and Van Anderson were in attendance and as always, a complete joy to connect with.
The Innovation Center
We were taken inside and to the 2nd floor of the beautiful building and as the elevator doors opened, we were greeted with a beautiful living wall proudly displaying the recently refreshed Avoya Travel branding. Turning the corner, we found ourselves in a space that would resemble something you may see on the Apple or Google campuses. Bright light shined through the wall of windows and the decor was modern and welcoming. Once the initial shock wore off, we were taken around the Atrium Cafe portion of the new Avoya office and while the space welcomed conversation, we learned of the arcade, relaxation room, and top-notch amenities that Avoya staff members have the pleasure of enjoying daily.
The decor throughout the entire 2nd floor resembled something you may see in a modern furniture catalog with comfort and collaboration as the highest priority. Every single space offered open and inviting areas to converse and work. As we poked our heads around, we kept finding more spaces that were equally as impressive.
The 2nd floor of the building is completely held by the Avoya Travel team and was broken up into different sections but ultimately all tied together through large glass doors and an open design concept. Throughout the 2nd floor, you can find the Strategic Leadership Team amidst their employees, not hidden in a distant office, but available and immersed into the work being completed. While offices were abundant and available, the SLT team focused the design of the space to cultivate connection and innovation.
“This Innovation Center is an investment into the Avoya Travel business, our employees and in the success of Avoya as we look forward to the future,” shared Jeff Anderson, Co-President of Avoya Travel.
On top of the very stylish and amazing design of the 2nd floor, technology was on the forefront in design with a video first system installed in every room and workspace, as well as two large flat screen TV’s. The video first priority aides in connection of remote employees and partners with onsite employees to quickly discuss and collaborate, all while remaining focused on the task at hand. When asked about the two TV’s in every space, Jeff Anderson shared “We wanted to bring everyone closer and with the dual screens, we are able to run a presentation on one screen and see the presenter on the other, further tying us together as a team.”
A robot coffee machine provided us with a delicious warm beverage and we grabbed a few snacks from the welcoming and open area before heading to a tasteful room, which had been set up for Press in attendance. After quickly checking a few emails, we were then escorted to a meeting room where the press briefing was held, which featured comfortable desks and chairs, as well as two large flat screen TV’s mounted to the wall displaying the Avoya Travel branding.
Avoya 2025 and the Never Ending Pursuit of Success
Soon after taking our seats for the press briefing, we were joined by the Strategic Leadership Team who greeted us with smiles and excitement. After a brief introduction, the SLT consisted of Jeff Anderson, Co-President, Michael Anderson, Co-President, Steve Hirshan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Sam McCully, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ashley Hunter, Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations & Partnerships, and Daniel Rego, Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence.
In the information shared, there is lots of excitement shared by the SLT group and it shows. The impressive success of Avoya Travel resulted in a massive $485+ million dollar year for 2019 booked sales with 100% of that travel being booked through Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network™. The Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network, of which there are currently more than 1,350, all share a similar drive as the SLT with over 100 Independent Agencies reporting $1 million dollars in sales for 2019. While that number is impressive, Steve Hirshan shared, “While we have many Independent Agencies producing $1 million in sales, it’s equally important to note that we have some stand out Independent Agencies reporting upwards of $7 million.”
The Shared Success™ model of Avoya Travel continues to provide growth for all parties involved and as mentioned by Jeff Anderson, Co-President, “Our success is based on a win-win formula. We want Independent Agencies to succeed and by giving them the resources to do so, we find success as well”
In 2018, Avoya Travel shared the 2025 vision at their annual conference. Luckily enough, we were there to be a part of this vision and you can read about that experience in our past issues of Travel Professional NEWS. Just 18 months into their 7 year plan, Avoya Travel’s Jeff Anderson shared, “We are labeled as a Host Agency but we are much more of a hybrid model providing marketing, technology resources and the power to let the sellers actually sell.” “in Phase 1, one of the main focuses was to unify the branding and imaging,” shared Sam McCully.
With Phase 1 of 5 completed in the Avoya 2025 plan, Avoya is now turning their focus on interconnectivity between suppliers and Avoya Travel by providing useful and important information from Avoya travelers. This information can be as simple as the best selling product and as advanced as real-time feedback from the vacation and the positives it offered, as well as the areas that could use some improvement. This information is becoming available to suppliers in an effort to continually provide the best products available for the consumer.
With Phase 2 in motion, the term “hungry and competitive” was used to describe the overall essence of this next phase. The all new Innovation Center provides the roots for the business to continue on its carefully constructed path to the upmost success. “This investment isn’t just for today or next year, this investment was made looking many years into the future of Avoya Travel,” shared Jeff Anderson.
The Hard Hitting Truth of Independent Agencies in the Avoya Travel Network
While Travel Professional NEWS is one of our businesses focuses, one of our other asserts is FindaHostTravelAgency.com which contains over 180 Host Agency listings as well as reviews, detailed information and helpful tools to connect Travel Professionals to the right Host Agency. Being very involved with Host Agencies is part of our business and it’s always a good rule of thumb to know the details about the success that a Host Travel Agency can offer a Travel Professional, whether new to the industry or an experienced Travel Professional.
In terms of the sales that the Avoya Independent Agencies are reporting, it is a 70/30 split with 70% of the bookings being cruise focused and 30% focused on land. Ashley Hunter, Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations & Partnerships shared “The 70/30 split is strong due to relationships in that sector and the fit between the Avoya model and cruise model.” While cruise travel is predominant in the Avoya Travel sales, the land portion appears to continue to grow and is a focus of Phase 2 for the Avoya Travel SLT.
Steve Hirshan shared “We are seeing a 50% success rate with new-to-travel Independent Agencies.” Additionally Steve continued, “Agent Power™ is huge to the Avoya Independent Agencies and offers amazing metrics into what they are selling best, commissions, Live Leads™ and much more.” Agent Power is the “hub” of the Avoya Network Independent Agencies and with the completion of Phase 1 of the Avoya 2025 plan, Agent Power has only become more intuitive, informative and useful to the Network. Steve also shared, “In a year and a half time, new Independent Agencies are performing just as well as Network members that have been around for years.”
The partnership with CLIA has been a big assistance for new agent’s joining Avoya and provides the proven training and tools for success shared Steve. “Over 80% of new Agencies in the Avoya Network are completely new to travel,” continued Jeff Anderson. While new-to-travel is a focus of the Avoya Travel team, providing the best fit for a Travel Professional is as well. “We are not interested in host swapping and it does not help grow our industry. We wanted to focus on growth from new prospects,” shared Steve Hirshan.
“We offer a lot of resources that can help a successful travel agencies and we’d love to work with those business owners who are interested in maximizing their success in selling travel,” shared Jeff Anderson.
In addition to the mentioned success of Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network, the technology behind the entire 2025 plan continues to better the experiences for all portions of the business. While many businesses focus on the technology needed for today, Avoya Travel decided to focus much more on the future. With an entirely new coding process in place, the Avoya Network can receive information on what their clients may be looking at, interested in or what trends they have completed on the AvoyaTravel.com site to further connect them with the right vacation. “Information is King with the Customer Activity Stream, allowing Independent Agencies to see what actions and what activity they are performing on the website,” shared Steve.
Quick Stats on the Avoya Independent Agencies
- $485M+ in 2019 Booked Sales
- 2020: 1,350+ Independent Agencies reported by Avoya
- +100 Independent Agencies Selling over $1 Million in 2019
Over 100 Independent Agencies have been with
Avoya Travel for more than 10 years.
- Average Sales per Agency: $382,000
- Total Travelers Booked: 7+ Million in the Avoya Database
- 100% Leisure Travel
- 70% Cruise Sales Volume 30% Land Sales Volume
The Grand Opening Experience
After the Press Briefing completed, we were escorted to the other end of the building to a large and comfortable conference room. As we arrived, the SLT were already awaiting us. With food already presented, we had the opportunity to enjoy a sandwich with the Avoya Travel SLT further discussing the exciting happenings shared with us.
After the lunch, my wife and I gathered our notes and worked for a few minutes before the party began! Suppliers, partners and Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network were all starting to arrive for the ribbon cutting ceremony and the excitement was contagious.
Before the event, we spoke with Diane Mirabella of Carlsbad, California who has been a Travel Agent for over 25 years. She had been in storefront operations before starting with Avoya Travel 13 years ago. “The Live Leads program is the best thing that Avoya offers and counts for over 70% of my sales,” shared Diane. When asked about her Agencies success “We just finished 2019 with our sales just above $2 million dollars and we could not be happier!” Continued Diane.
When asked for her thoughts on someone who is considering joining Avoya Travel, Diane shared “Don’t get discouraged in the beginning. Like anything, there is a learning curve with any new platform but the success is available if you are willing to work for it.” Diane was a stay at home mom before starting her career in travel as an intern for a local storefront agency that is no longer in operation. “Joining Avoya Travel was a fantastic move for me and my husband and we greatly enjoy our work,” concluded Diane. Thank you Diane for the fantastic chat and we wish you the best of success into the future!
As the large and beautiful room began its hustle and bustle with snacks, cocktails and more and more people arriving, we had the opportunity to visit with some of our great industry friends and partners for a quick chat. As the time progressed, TV’s in the room showed live feeds from other remote Avoya staff members and Independent Agencies who could not only see the room and festivities but also shared themselves. This video first platform implemented in the Innovation Center is truly fantastic and as any one could see, shows major promise for further opportunity and connection of the Avoya Travel team to employees, Independent Agencies, and suppliers.
With some time remaining before the ceremony kicked off, we then spoke to Angie Johnson, located in Tustin, California who has been selling Travel for 16 years. She began working with a tour operator that specialized in Italy and Greece before affiliating with the Avoya Network 6 years ago. “We just hit our $1 Million dollar year, specializing in Italy and Greece,” shared Angie.
When asked about the Live Leads program, she shared “50% of our sales come from the Live Leads program and we throughly enjoy the opportunities that are available through them.” Angie continued to share “The American Express partnership is extremely valuable as the expertise and education opportunities are just amazing.”
Lastly, we had the chance to chat with Sofia Markovich, located in Birmingham, Alabama. Sofia has turned her passion into her business from being a client of Avoya Travel for 13 years to running her Independent Agency with Avoya Travel for over 7 years now.
“We currently have 14 Agents working with us, from all over the country,” shared Sofia. When asked about the most valuable resource offered by Avoya Travel, she shared “Agent Power is amazing, and the technology keeps improving my ability to grow our business.” Sofia has travelled to all 7 continents and is now working on her 2nd voyage to each as she looks forward. “Never lose your passion in Travel as it continues to be the largest fuel for our success,” concluded Sofia. Thank you, Sofia, for speaking with us and sharing your fantastic insights!
As the music turned up, it was clear that it was time for the official Grand Opening event of the all new Avoya Travel Innovation Center so we quickly returned to the gathering to witness the excitement. After a very heartfelt message delivered by Jeff Anderson, Co-President of Avoya Travel, Michael Anderson also shared some fantastic news regarding the future of the Avoya Travel brand and the goals that the SLT have in place.
Promptly after an overwhelming cheer from the crowd, Jeff and Michael Anderson officially inaugurated the new Avoya Travel workspace with the official Ribbon Cutting. The moment was felt by the entire room in attendance and the excitement was absolutely contagious. We were honored to share the excitement and proud of the long term friends we have in the Anderson and Avoya families.
While the event was far from over, my wife and I had to depart to relieve Grandma Loretta and Grandpa Al from their babysitting duties. As we departed the main lobby, the group was beginning to head around the new offices for an in-depth tour of the renovated 2nd floor, as well as the call center on the 3rd floor, which Avoya has in house. We were a bit sad to depart with so much excitement and fun in the air but parental duty called.
We want to thank the entire Avoya Travel family for the invitation to attend this monumental step for their business. Not only was it impactful with information of their continued success but it was absolutely awesome to witness the success that this family and brand has continued to cultivate. Thank you for including Travel Professional NEWS and FindaHostTravelAgency.com in your special day and congratulations once