Signature’s Alex Sharpe: Put 2019 in the Rearview Mirror

Put 2019 in the rearview mirror. The travel industry is well beyond recovering from the pandemic and is en-route to making 2022 a benchmark year—and the numbers shared by Signature Travel Network President and CEO Alex Sharpe at the travel agency network’s Owner’s Meeting backs that up.

Held September 14-17 at the JW Marriott Nashville, Signature’s Owner’s Meeting is its first such event since 2019, before the pandemic caused the last two iterations to be cancelled. It’s why the theme for this year’s event is “Together”—but there’s multiple layers to the name. On the surface, Sharpe noted that the network is back together in person for the first time in some years. But, deeper, he brought up “The Law of Mount Everest,” which states that as the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork elevates. That, he said, was never more the case than throughout the last couple years.

And in further good news, since 2019, the industry—and the network—have seen tremendous growth. Sharpe also mentioned the adage, “There’s a reason your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror; where you’re going is more important than where you’ve come from.” Looking to the years ahead, Sharpe expects them to continue to build on the record-setting year 2022 has been. It’s also why he said it’s time to stop talking about 2019.

Total hotel revenue from preferred partners hit a record for the network in Q2 2022, as total room nights have seen a steady increase since the same time in 2020. Sharpe said he expects the numbers from July and August to be even better. Digging deeper, room nights and revenue for U.S. hotels have held steady since April, but the numbers have consistently increased since January on the international front. Regions like the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America and the Middle East are showing better sales numbers in 2022 than 2019. All regions except Asia have a higher ADR this year than in 2019.

As far as land performance (through the end of July), FIT, luxury and exotics are up 4 percent, while villas and private homes are up 125 percent. Wholesalers (+29 percent) and Disney (+233 percent) are also showing strong, while guided vacations and active and adventure tours are down a few points. On the cruise side, all but deluxe cruises are up this year. River cruises and expedition cruises have seen the largest increases since 2019.

Beyond these numbers: In the “down time” during the pandemic, Sharpe said the network doubled down on member support, restructured its team, grew its marketing portfolio—especially in the digital space—focused on preferred partners, and connected members who sought refuge in other agencies (such as through mergers and acquisitions). Since the last Owner’s Meeting, the network lost 6.1 percent of its revenue through departed agencies but added what amounts to 39 percent in new advisors and agencies (a 32.9 percent net increase).

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