Signature CEO: Big sales growth for 2023 and '24

MAUI — At Signature Travel Network’s Owner’s Meeting at the Grand Wailea last week, president and CEO Alex Sharpe updated members on 2023 sales figures through July 31.

Compared to last year, preferred hotel room nights traveled are up 38%. Booked travel insurance is up 44%. Cruise sales are up 47% and land sales are up 14%.

Next year looks strong, too, Sharpe said. For 2024, cruise sales are up 28% and land sales are up 5%.

Preferred partner sales are on the rise, as well. The median Signature agency, Sharpe said, has $4 million in preferred sales this year, up from $3.3 million. The average agency has $13.4 million in sales, up from $9.1 million last year.

“Pretty amazing numbers,” he said.

For hotels in particular, Sharpe said the network is seeing strong growth in international bookings, all while maintaining strength in domestic bookings. He attributed that to members getting more of their clients’ business.

Previously, he said, travelers might not have called their advisors for domestic stays, but they are now.

Regarding land trips, guided vacations have recovered from the pandemic, Sharpe said. FIT, luxury and exotic destinations are all popular as the world has opened up. Sharpe sees the most potential for growth in action and adventure travel.

Signature’s business with its destination specialists has seen “incredible growth,” Sharpe said, up over 40% over last year. 

Technology update

Karen Yeates, Signature’s executive vice president of information technologies, provided members with an update on technology.

On Aug. 31, her team completed its three-year Client Connection 2.0 project. Client Connection 2.0 enables Signature to make marketing selections for member agencies; with this version, members can connect to Signature via any customer relationship management (CRM) system. Yeates called the program “CRM inclusive,” noting that even includes the proprietary CRMs some members have developed. 

Yeates’ team has also been working on Signature Marketing List Select, a program in which Signature recommends certain clients for certain marketing campaigns. While Signature currently outsources the technology behind it, Yeates is working to bring the program in-house and give members direct access to the lists of clients Signature creates.

Since 1999, Signature has run its email marketing program in-house, Yeates said. But Signature has outgrown that solution and is now migrating to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. 

According to Yeates, the move will improve Signature’s speed to market with campaigns. For instance, a campaign that might have taken several hours to create in the past will take only minutes. It will also provide members, Signature and supplier partners better access to reporting features.

Signature has also partnered with NaviTrip for a new hotel booking engine. It will have an optional consumer-facing solution, Yeates said. The booking engine will display Signature’s hotel program to members and have an optional product with global inventory from GDSs and third parties like Bedsonline. Members’ preferred rates can be integrated. A timeframe on the new booking engine is forthcoming.

Going forward, Yeates said, her team is looking at a number of tech solutions, ranging from a texting product that enables secure payments to artificial intelligence for things like search and support.

Signature is also working on a more automated system to onboard independent contractors.

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