Future of Travel Agents on Display at ASTA Entrepreneur Competition

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Future of Travel Agents on Display at ASTA Entrepreneur Competition

Travefy's David Chait addressing the crowd at ASTA AGC. Photo: ASTA

The travel industry is constantly evolving, and the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) recent Global Convention in San Diego celebrated change in many ways this year – perhaps none more prominent than the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award competition.

Hosted on the main stage in front of the full conference’s attendees, three finalists competed in a live "Shark Tank"-style competition, before three travel agency luminaries. Each contestant had a distinct value proposition that reflects how agents need to automate and personalize service, adapt to the consumer’s demand for home rentals, and create custom, experiential travel itineraries.

The contestants were David Chait, founder and CEO of Travefy, an itinerary management and client communication platform for travel professionals; Nico and Elkie Nicholas, co-founders of RentalsCombined.net, an online vacation rental site that works with travel agents; and Jacob Marek, founder of IntroverTravels, a company whose strategy is to build unique local experiences for introverted travelers by living there first.

The award is “about creativity and innovation, in an industry whose middle name is ‘Change,’” said Gloria Bohan, president and CEO of Omega World Travel, Fairfax, VA, at the beginning of the competition.

The contest’s judges included Marc Casto, CEO at Casto Travel, San Jose, CA; Denise Jackson, president and CEO at Balboa Travel Management, San Diego, and Tammy Levent, CEO and founder at Elite Travel, Tampa Bay. The audience also weighed in with its collective vote.

After a 5-minute presentation by each contestant, all three judges unanimously voted to give the award and a $10,000 prize to Chait and Travefy.

Chait impressed the judges with a tool designed to help agents build and communicate itineraries under their agency’s branding, to “save time and impress clients.” The software integrates with customer relationship management tools like Sabre’s ClientBase, and Travefy provides its monthly subscription service both through a website and a mobile app. Clients can even receive a PDF if they prefer paper.

Travefy also lets agents add in suggestions of things travelers can do in a destination, including everything from “Shake Shack to the Louvre,” Chait said during his presentation. “You can add in your favorite tailor in Hong Kong, or start with that killer Italy itinerary you have, and use it as starting point for future clients.”

According to Chait, Travefy has “2,500 paying organizations" serving one million travelers.

Travefy plans to use the $10,000 to enhance its workforce.

London-based RentalsCombined.net operates a website designed to help travel agents feel more comfortable booking home and apartment rentals. The company works with managers of more than 700,000 properties worldwide to vet rentals for quality control, reducing fraud and misrepresentations.

“Our mission is to be the leading global platform so that travel professionals can sell rentals with confidence,” the co-founders said, noting that shared economy lodging is the fastest growing in the travel sector. “We want to help agents be a part of the growth,” the Nicholas’s said.

The company has about 2,000 agents live on the site booking properties. If a consumer books directly with RentalsCombined, agent commissions are protected.

Also popular with the audience was Jacob Marek, who presented his concept of travel agents living abroad to design supplier relationships customized for a niche traveler.


Top 5 Conversation Starters About Travel Insurance

Most travelers understand the need to have travel insurance, and most will agree to purchase it, if the option is presented in a clear way by their trusted travel advisor.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
What Travel Agents Need to Know About California Consumer Privacy Act Regulations

Learn what all travel agencies need to know about how the proposed new laws may affect the collection and use of personal information, and how to comply with the regulations.

Online Hotel Booking Scams Cost Consumers $5.7 Billion Annually

Nearly one in four consumers are deceived by online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites.

AIG Travel Guard Insurance Plan Changes Upset Advisors

The major travel insurance provider has altered its core offerings and eliminated commission protection, causing many agents to reconsider selling their plans.

First Travel Agency In-House Video Production Studio Opens in Toronto

The studio helps luxury travel advisors connect with their clients through high-end, professionally produced video content.

Travel Advisors Say They’re Unafraid of Biometrics

Despite heightened privacy concerns, travel agents are enjoying the benefits of current facial recognition technology used for security purposes, and they look forward to more.

Advisors Have to Work Harder to Deliver Authentic Culinary Travel Experiences

With more companies offering more standardized experiences, satisfying high-end culinary travelers has become more difficult.

News Briefs
Tip of the Day

"Reputation, experience and professionalism certainly come into play. But then you have to count on the X-factor, which really comes down to chemistry."

Matthew Upchurch


Daily Top List

Best Airports for Layovers

  1. Hartsfield-Jackson International
  2. Los Angeles International
  3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
  4. Singapore Changi Airport
  5. Munich Airport Centre, Germany

Source: Travel Channel

TMR Outlooks