And the award goes to…
Canadian agents shine with Karisma
The Canadian contingency on hand for Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ recent 10th Annual Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultant (GIVC) Awards – a four day event in Riviera Maya, Mexico celebrating top performing travel professionals from across North America – walked away with notable recognition.
“Canada remains a top priority for Karisma,” Mandy Chomat, chief marketing & sales officer for the luxury hotel collection which owns and manages properties in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, told Canadian Travel Press. “Our Canadian travel agent partners have been crucial in helping us grow our business in Canada.”
Along with a marketing and sales forum, educational workshops and themed soirees and parties, the festivities at the El Dorado Royale culminated with an awards gala and $250,000 in cash giveaways.
In attendance for the eighth year in a row, Calgary-based Pamela Walker of Escapes.ca was one of only four agents to take home the Elite Award, given to those who produce over 2,000 room nights in one year.
“I’m the first individual travel agent to have ever received this award in Karisma’s history. I’m very proud of this accomplishment,” says Walker, who received the award for the second time, and also earned the Top Sales Canada award for a home-based agent, and Top 10 Wedding Producer for Azul Beach Resorts. “I began my love affair with Karisma in early 2009 when I booked my own destination wedding at a Karisma Resort. Since then, I have been a huge supporter and my business has grown with them year after year.”
Another notable Canadian winner was Jen Langlois of Suite Trip Travel – TPI in Thorold, Ont., who was recognized as the Top Selling Storefront Canada agent for the second consecutive time.
“The awards really are special and reinforce all the hard work and dedication it takes to earn these achievements,” says Langlois, who also earned Diamond 4 status and was a Top Producer for Azul Beach Resorts. “It really gives you a push to keep going and selling hard for the brand as they recognize your accomplishments and make you feel appreciated, something not all hoteliers understand or do.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Cervoni of Vision Travel Solutions in London, Ont. says earning Diamond 4 status – for selling over 500 room nights in the last year – for the first time means a lot.
“I now stand among some pretty phenomenal colleagues and fellow agents,” she says. “I’m excited to learn from the best and network with agents that I’ve always looked up to in my career.”
In addition to earning Diamond 4 status, Cindy Almond of Romance and Foodie Travel in Ottawa was also recognized as a Top Wedding Producer for Nickelodeon.
“It is a reward for working really hard, and it’s a thank you from a supplier who recognizes the partnership that we have,” she says. “I sell the resort chain because I have high confidence that their resorts will wow my clients and take care of them, giving them the wow experience for resort beauty, service, food quality.”
Alex Portman, senior business development manager, Canada for Karisma, says the GIVC program, which was launched in 2008, showcases how valuable the trade is for the company.
“We spend a lot of effort to really make sure the travel agents have an amazing time, that they really feel like we’re celebrating them because we are, and that they really see how we’ve grown over the past decade very much thanks to them,” he says. “Our mandate is to work with the travel agent partners. If a booking is made directly, we do not get credit for it. It does not count towards my numbers for the year. We are 100% mandated to work with the travel agent community.”
Over the years, Portman says the number of Canadian agents taking part in GIVC has grown significantly.
“We do a lot to support our travel agents in the US in terms of bonus commissions so last year we started something called Karisma Canada Cash, where we pay Canadian agents who book with a tour operator up to $250 per booking,” he says. “We’ve included more marketing tools for Canadian agents, we’ve really tried to work with the tour operators as much as we can to get Canadian agents the most value when booking Karisma. So we’ve definitely seen a big influx of Canadian agents who have joined the program.”
In terms of growth, Chomat reports Karisma Hotels & Resorts increased business in Canada by 30% while seeing a 50% increase from agents.
“In 2018, Karisma will also provide agents with more hands-on education, additional opportunities to earn cash, added values for consumers, and for the very first time, wedding seminars,” he adds. “Meanwhile, we will introduce car wraps, window scrims, and other advertisements to drive further awareness and bookings through our travel agent partners in Canada.”
In addition to bonuses, GIVC members receive access to marketing tools, added incentives to offer clients, exclusive deals, on-property VIP recognition, and more.
“The main takeaway from the GIVC conference is the resort updates they provide on the new resorts coming, enhancements to their current brands and really the networking with other agents and suppliers,” says Langlois.
After learning about some of the new additions coming online as the company moves ahead with plans double its portfolio within the next four years, from Margaritaville-branded hotels throughout the Caribbean and Mexico to three new resorts in the Cap Cana area in the Dominican Republic to an expansion into Huatulco and beyond, Walker says the potential to increase sales will only continue.
“I look forward to selling Karisma in new destinations in the coming years,” she says.
For Almond, a major takeaway of the annual conference is bonding with fellow agents.
“It only helps you grow stronger when you help each other out,” she says. “We stay in touch, are there for each other if we have questions on hotels, how to deal with sticky situations, resort contacts, etc.”
Tips from the trade:
How can agents increase their Karisma bookings?
“I find the best ways to sell Karisma are to point out the differences and strengths they have over other resorts. All resorts have a beach and a pool and lovely rooms but nobody else has an organic greenhouse that provides to their properties plant to table freshness like Karisma does. Also the baby amenities are a huge selling feature at the Azul and Nickelodeon properties – any mother of small kids is elated to not have to pack all the gear for their kiddos!”
—Jen Langlois of Suite Trip Travel – TPI
“Knowledge. The webinars that Karisma offer are jam-packed with lots of information. When they offer marketing training – take it! It’s super helpful to know how to place yourself apart from your competitors. Also, become a GIVC member. The benefits from the program and the opportunities that present themselves are worth every penny becoming a specialist. Also, get to know your BDMs. They are all really well versed and open for you to approach them. The Canadian BDMs totally rock at supporting you, and your vision within your personal business.”
—Jennifer Cervoni, Vision Travel Solutions
“Work hard to achieve the minimums required to become a GIVC agent and pay the fee to join. It will come back to you in droves. The perks, upgrades, certificates that you are able to offer your clients with your membership, can often mean the difference in getting a sale. When comparing various resorts if you can say, if you stay here, I can do this, this and this for you, but here, I have nothing to offer – it makes a difference and can often convince your client to spend a little more than they would have because of the inclusions. The GIHAC (honeymoons and anniversary program) is a supplement and definitely worth it as well, it allows you to upgrade the honeymoon package and lengthens the period of validity for your client. My clients have been so impressed.”
—Cindy Almond, Romance and Foodie Travel
“Loyalty and believing in the product. These are the cornerstones of how I built my business to be as successful as it is today, and Karisma has been a huge part of that.”
—Pamela Walker, Escapes.ca