Virtual trade show aims to match agents, clients

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InsightVAX VacationAccess is putting together a kind of online meeting of the minds -- a "virtual vacation event" with the goal of matching up agents with potential clients.

It's slated for March 15 to 21, and it's called National Plan a Vacation Week: A Travel Agent-Powered Extravaganza.

VAX, the Milwaukee-based company that provides a leisure booking platform for travel sellers, will host a virtual trade show where agents will create individual micro-websites designed to showcase exclusive offers from VAX suppliers. Besides the travel deals, the agent sites will sport photos and videos, courtesy of the suppliers.

Consumers will be matched with agents whose sites feature the destination or niche they're interested in.

"This event is unlike any other virtual promotion because it drives consumer leads to travel agents and gives them the tools, including rich media and the most complete and attractive supplier offers available, to market themselves," said Becky Capper, director of vendor and partner development for VAX VacationAccess.

During the promotion, participating suppliers can provide offers and information for seven "experience" categories: Tropical Adventures, Fun for Families, Occasions for Amazement, Viva Mexico, Extraordinary Europe, Pacific Paradises and American Discoveries.

Only 15 suppliers will be allowed per category, VAX said.

"Plan a Vacation Week will have some amazing depth of product available for travel agents to sell," Capper said. "By positioning the product offers and content into these categories, we can better match consumers with travel agents who specialize in the experiences and destinations that appeal to them."

Travel agents' microsites can focus on one or multiple categories, although VAX is encouraging them to specialize as much as possible. Participation in this promotion is free to retailers.

Suppliers or travel agents interested in being part of the promotion are asked to visit www.vaxvacationaccess.com/vacationweek for more information. Meanwhile, VAX continues to expand its platform technology and product offerings.

Funjet Vacations has introduced technology within the platform that enables travel agents to find and sort hotels by their clients' preferences and themes. This allows for retailers to quickly narrow down hotel choices based on over 15 selected criteria such as all-inclusive, adults-only, beach, family, luxury, spa and other categories.

Agents can access this tool within the Advanced Search engine from the homepage on VAXVacationAccess.com when making their initial search or within the booking engine by clicking on "Refinement Tools" in the Hotel Availability screen.

And Norwegian Cruise Line recently became the first major cruise line to use the VAX booking engine as a means to reach travel agents.

The deal is part of VAX's push to add a wider range of vacation products to its Supplier Center; VAX is traditionally known for offering tour operators and wholesalers a means of reaching travel agents electronically.

VAX said its research has shown that users want more access to cruise content, training and marketing tools such as brochures and photos. A VAX spokeswoman said many users would like to sell cruises along with pre- and post-cruise packages.

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