Travel Leaders hopes to get a lot more out of American Express program

From left, Ninan Chacko, Michael Batt and Roger Block during a fireside chat at Travel Leaders Network's annual EDGE conference. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. -- Enrollment and transaction volume in Travel Leaders Group's Apex program with American Express have fallen short of expectations.

About 2,500 agents have signed up for the program that lets them book travel for Gold and Platinum card members, and just 2,600 transaction have been completed.

Officials discussed the program during Travel Leaders Network's annual EDGE conference here.

Announced at EDGE one year ago, Apex enables Travel Leaders agents (including Travel Leaders Network members) to service Gold and Platinum American Express card members with exclusive travel discounts and amenities. Advisors can also do transactions that use clients' Membership Rewards points to purchase travel.

In a fireside chat with Travel Leaders Network president Roger Block and Travel Leaders Group founder and chairman Michael Batt, Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko said adoption of the Apex program has "gone far more slowly than I would have expected."

Batt praised Chacko for sealing the deal with American Express, and he encouraged agents to undergo the necessary training to participate. "It would be crazy not to," he said.

During a media briefing later in the day, Block said he helped design the Apex program. Block owned travel agencies in the 1980s and said he would have been thrilled to offer clients discounts that competitors could not, so he had high hopes when Apex was introduced.

To help boost the program, the required training has been cut in half, Block said.

In a media briefing Sunday, Chacko said another 2,500 agents are training so they can participate in Apex. Combining those participants with the 2,500 agents who have completed the training already, that accounts for about 10% of the agents affiliated with Travel Leaders Network.

So far, about 831 million Membership Rewards points have been redeemed by Apex agents.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI