Consortia Executives Stress Strength in Unity

by Michele McDonald

There is strength in numbers. There also is strength in unity. That’s why the push to attract consortium members to ASTA makes sense, according to chairman Roger Block.

“Without ASTA, this industry will be regulated and taxed,” he said. “We need the most united group we can have.”

In politics, money talks, but so do votes, Block said. An example is the Maryland bill that would have imposed a 6% sales tax on travel agency fees for booking hotel rooms in the state. It was passed by state legislators but vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan after an intense lobbying effort by ASTA.

Block, who is president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, spoke at a breakout session at the ASTA Global Conference in which six consortia executives outlined their models and their approaches to branding.

Independent agencies looking to link with a group should take a careful look at which model best meets their needs, he said.

Block said the franchise model is subject to a variety of regulations.

“If we license you to use a brand and charge more than $500 a year, we are a franchise,” he said.

But there are many differences in the ways franchisors run their organizations. McDonald’s, for example, tells franchisees what vendors they must use, where they must buy potatoes, how they must store potatoes and what oil to use to fry them, Block said.

In contrast, Travel Leaders recognizes that “each of you has an individual brand. We allow you to use our brand with your brand, but we don’t require it. And we don’t tell you what hours or days of the week you have to be open,” he said.

Alex Sharpe, president and chief executive officer of Signature Travel Network, said, “We are the anti-franchise. We’re white label. We’re going to do $11 million in direct mailings this year, and none of them mentions Signature.”

If an agency is a startup with no brand recognition of its own, “this may not be the way you want to go,” he said.

Ensemble, which began life as the Greater Independent Association of National Travel Services (GIANTS), has a very simple business model, Lindsay Pearlman, co-president, said: “Revenue, costs, check.”

As GIANTS, the group was among the first to unite to increase agents’ buying power, commissions, and clout through preferred supplier arrangements.

Pearlman noted that agents, owners, and suppliers all need to get something out of the relationship.

He said Ensemble chooses its partners carefully.

“Some suppliers have a consumer-direct strategy,” he said. “We’re very careful about that. Do they support the agency channel?” If so, he said, “We’ll stand by suppliers in good and bad times.”

Ensemble’s job, he said, “is to give you the tools to make money. There is money to be made in air, in FIT.”

MAST Vacation Partners is a small consortium of agencies in the Midwest, but it uses its size to its advantage.

“Because of our size, we can customize our programs,” John Werner, president and chief executive officer, said. “We can tailor our marketing programs. The biggest thing for us is relationships, with our suppliers and to one another.”

Virtuoso agents, who specialize in the luxury market, share the consortium’s brand.

“Our name is born out of our shared goals,” said David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships. “It is the power of a shared brand and ethos.”

Kolner said Virtuoso’s consumer-facing components generate “tens of thousands of leads for its members.”

Virtuoso stresses the need for power in numbers, he said. “Are we growing as fast as Crystal Cruises is adding ships? When we don’t grow, our relevancy is diminished. We must band together as a channel.”

  2
  0
Tip of the Day

We, as advisors, have to start looking at different avenues that will pay better for us, so you can continue to at least be profitable.

Nicole Mazza, Travelsavers

Daily Top List

The Best Travel Pillows

1. Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow

2. Travelrest Memory Foam Travel and Neck Pillow

3. Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow

4. J-Pillow

5. Bcozzy Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Source: Jetsetter

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=0ffb8b62-8a96-e911-be17-782bcb66a2f2)

What You Need to Know About Selling Cruises to Foodies

Travelers today increasingly seek out authentic culinary experiences, wanting to go beyond restaurant lists and celebrity chefs, to experiences that are more varied, more three-dimensional, immersive and real.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
State Department Advisory for Dominican Republic Remains the Same
State Department Advisory for Dominican Republic Remains the Same

ASTA is recommending that travel advisors leave the decision whether or not to travel there to the individual traveler.

U.S. State Department Now Requiring Social Media Details from Visa Applicants
U.S. State Department Now Requiring Social Media Details from Visa Applicants

The rule is expected to impact about 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants per year.

Cruise Ship Collision Halts Traffic At Venice Canal
Cruise Ship Collision Halts Traffic At Venice Canal

The incident sent onlookers running from the scene, but only minor injuries were sustained.

Rescuers Search for Missing After Danube Boat Collision
Rescuers Search for Missing After Danube Boat Collision

The collision, just outside of Budapest, involved one river cruise ship and one, smaller, sightseeing boat.

IATA Will Now Require Travel Agents to Enter Passenger Contact Information During Bookings
IATA Will Now Require Travel Agents to Enter Passenger Contact Information During Bookings

An old IATA recommendation has become a mandate and will require all travel advisors and travel agencies to enter passenger contact information when booking air tickets.

Two Float Planes Crash During Alaska Cruise Shore Excursion
Two Float Planes Crash During Alaska Cruise Shore Excursion

At least four people were killed and another 10 were hospitalized from a midair collision for which the cause is not yet known.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks