PHOENIX — American Express Travel is placing an emphasis on bringing together the various pieces of its team to more fully leverage the knowledge and resources at its disposal, as evidenced in discussions and announcements during the American Express Travel Forum at the Arizona Biltmore here earlier this month.

Claire Bennett, executive vice president of American Express Travel, ranked No. 8 on the Travel Weekly 2016 Power List, said the conference itself was more inclusive this year. What was previously a forum exclusively for members of American Express' representative network this year encompassed not only U.S.-based reps but international reps and American Express employees, including relationship managers and destination managers.

"We have phenomenal assets, and we have phenomenal talent," Bennett said. "How do we bring that all together? We've thought about this a lot in terms of, how does a customer think about us, here, in this room? They think about us as American Express Travel. They don't think about it as the rep network, as the online group, as the U.S. business, as the international business. They think of us as American Express Travel."

Customers assume anyone associated with the American Express logo is involved in an interconnected network, Bennett said.

"Our goal as a group is really one network with one goal," she said, later detailing that goal: "to serve and inspire extraordinary lives."

Bennett said one of the ways American Express is hoping to leverage its network's intelligence is through a knowledge-management system that is under development. The system, she said, will likely aggregate global destination information for the network to access and utilize.

The network is also hoping to increase communication among people — for example, its destination managers, relationship managers and travel insiders.

Relationship managers work with premium card holders and service all aspects of their accounts, whether it's help with travel arrangements, questions on billing or something else.

Destination managers are experts in a specific destination, such as New York or Miami. And travel insiders are rep network members who have been vetted as experts in a particular destination or specialization and receive leads from the American Express website.

During a panel at the conference attended by all three types of network members, it was clear that destination managers and relationship managers already work together. For example, Ray Barnes, a relationship manager based in Georgia, said he was working with destination manager Sam Cattell, based in London, to make a family's Christmas trip there special.

But a travel insider said she didn't previously know she could call on destination managers for their expertise if needed. Creating that link between insiders and destination managers is on the to-do list, Bennett said.

"That's the longer-term goal," she said. "This has sort of been a journey, and I'd say I've been at this globalization piece of it [for] three years. So we've brought together our Amex internal resources. We've brought together all of our supplier talent around the globe in a much more integrated fashion.

"Our card team at American Express is much more integrated than they used to be, and now the rep piece we'll continue to integrate as we go."

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