Travel industry thought-leaders explore transforming the AAA member experience
SEATTLE (Oct. 29, 2019) – AAA Travel, one of the largest leisure travel agencies in North America, hosted its annual conference Oct. 20-22 in Seattle, Washington. With a theme of “Travel: Transforming the Member Experience,” the event focused on how AAA continues to evolve its travel offerings along with changing consumer expectations, as the association recently reached a record-high 60 million members. The conference featured world-renowned speakers including: bestselling author and motivational speaker, Erik Qualman; journalist Ron Insana; and travel industry experts Terry Dale, CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association; Emmy Award-winning travel host Samantha Brown; Tourism Cares’ chief impact officer, Paula Vlamings; and more.
“Travelers want their vacations to make a mark on their lives, to be memorable and engaging. They want to embrace and interact with locals and immerse themselves in the culture by doing something authentic to the destination or learning something new,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel in her conference keynote speech. “AAA is focused on keeping pace with the experiences that drive member expectations, paving the way for a transformed member experience that leads to continual engagement and creating members for life.”
During the conference, AAA presented leading travel industry suppliers with prestigious Partner of the Year Awards in 14 categories. These highly coveted awards recognize the partners’ commitment to providing AAA travel agents and members with exemplary travel services in their respective product categories, and for marketing, member service and travel agency support. Additionally, four of AAA’s top-performing agents were honored with Travel Agent Superlative Awards.
“We are proud to present AAA Travel’s Partner of the Year Awards to some of the top companies in the travel industry. AAA is intentionally selective of our preferred partners whose products and services reflect our brand, and these companies offer exceptional value to our members,” said Twidale. “We are also honored to recognize four of our top travel agents with Superlative Awards, based not only on remarkable sales levels, but more importantly, their commitment to personalized vacation planning for members.”
2019 Partner of the Year Awards
(Photos available upon request)
Ocean Cruise Partner of the Year:
Royal Caribbean International
River Cruise Partner of the Year:
Guided Tour Partner of the Year:
Member Choice Vacations
Independent Tour Partner of the Year:
Lodging Partner of the Year:
BWH Hotel Group (Best Western)
Best in Marketing:
Cruise: Viking Rivers
Lodging: Marriott International
Best in Member Service:
Tour: African Travel
Lodging: BWH Hotel Group (Best Western)
Best in Travel Agency Support:
Cruise: Royal Caribbean International
Lodging: BWH Hotel Group (Best Western)
2019 Travel Agent Superlative Awards
Henry Dennis, AAA Carolinas
Highest Sales Volume
Henry Dennis, a six-time Superlative Award winner, has more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in in Tourism Management from Northeastern State University, he is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor. He holds multiple destination specialist accreditations, as well as numerous supplier and destination certifications. Dennis is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he has served AAA Carolinas’ members for more than 23 years.
Rhonda Bartnikowski, Auto Club Enterprises
Rhonda Bartnikowski, a nearly 25-year veteran of the travel industry, is an agent with Auto Club Enterprises, based in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her success comes from a philosophy of creating value and offering indispensable information. She also relies on a wealth of product and destination expertise, helping her provide members a consistently high level of service.
Mary Brown, Auto Club Enterprises
Highest Preferred Cruise Sales
Mary Brown began working at Auto Club Enterprises in 2002 as a member service representative at the La Quinta, California, branch office. She was promoted to travel agent in 2010. Since then, she has received numerous awards for her performance and client service, including the club’s top cruise sales Superlative Award in 2012.
Julie Hill, AAA Auto Club Group
Highest Preferred Tour Sales
Julie Hill’s journey in the travel industry began in 1989 in her hometown of Camden, Maine. Realizing her passion for travel and wanting to advance her career, she became a travel agent with AAA Northern New England before eventually relocating to Naples, Florida. She has been with the Auto Club Group in Naples for the last 21 years, expanding her knowledge and expertise, earning her Certified Travel Associate designation, and destination specialist certifications for Hawaii, Africa and many travel suppliers.
The Partner of the Year Award selection process included surveys and evaluations from the association’s club travel agency executives. Superlative Awards are based on agents’ leisure travel productivity and leisure group sales from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. Thousands of agents were eligible for the awards, and AAA clubs nominated their top achievers.
For more information on AAA’s travel offerings, visit AAA.com/Travel.
AAA provides more than 60 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and more than 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.