AAA Travel Recognizes Top Travel Suppliers and Agents at Annual Conference

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

Viking Rivers

Guided Tour Partner of the Year

Member Choice Vacations

Independent Tour Partner of the Year

Pleasant Holidays

Lodging Partner of the Year

BWH Hotel Group (Best Western)

Best in Marketing

Cruise: Viking Rivers

Tour: Trafalgar

Lodging: Marriott International

Best in Member Service

Cruise: AmaWaterways

Tour: African Travel

Lodging: BWH Hotel Group (Best Western)

Best in Travel Agency Support

Cruise: Royal Caribbean International

Tour: Trafalgar

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

Highest Revenue

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 Selection Process

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.

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