Salt Lake City-based Morris Murdock Travel has joined the Signature Travel Network, whose 190 member agencies generate $4 billion in annual travel sales.
By joining the network in the midst of a challenging economic environment, Morris Murdock Travel will be able to give its customers greater access to exclusive travel deals, particularly on cruises but also on niche trips such as food-oriented tours, said marketing manager Amy Ochoa.
"Being part of Signature sets us apart from our competitors in the region who do not have access to the products it has," she said. "Signature gets group space on almost all the sailings, and its group members can sell into that block."
Based in Marina del Rey, Calif., Signature has grown to include 330 retail locations since its formation in 1956. Morris Murdock is one of the five largest travel agencies in the West, with offices in Utah, Idaho and Montana.
"Morris Murdock Travel will be a great addition to our network," Signature President Michelle Morgan said in a statement. "The agency has an extraordinary reputation and has long been viewed as one of the most innovative and professional travel retailers in the Western United States."
For its part, Morris Murdock managers felt Signature's business philosophies mirrored their own. Joining the network "assists us in attaining our short- and long-term business objectives," said President Brian Hollien.
Ochoa said Signature members can access better rates from an extensive list of preferred vendors. Travel agents also can get higher commissions for trips they book. As evidence of the additional travel opportunities opened up to customers, she noted Signature recently signed a deal with the Food Network that will expand its offerings of cuisine-oriented tours.
But the biggest advantage involves cruises, Ochoa said.
Despite the recession, "cruises are still selling out. They're not making any money, but they are selling," she said, citing 99 percent occupancy rates since January 2009 on the Holland America, Carnival and Princess cruise lines. "They're almost giving cabins away to make sure they're full. They want people out there cruising."
Prices have started to rise recently, Ochoa added, "but they're still affordable."
More than 60 travel-related companies -- tour companies, cruise lines, tourism bureaus, hotel and resort corporations -- will participate Jan. 29-30 at Morris Murdock Travel's 14th annual at South Towne Expo Center in Sandy.
Cost is $5 for adults and $4 for those 55 and older. Admission is free for youths 17 and under. Show hours are 3-8 p.m. Jan. 29, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 30.