I just found this old article from Travel Trade. The more things change the more they stay the same. Same ploys, same tactics. I see that Carnival was still a staunch supporter way back then! Maybe things will begin to change.
YTB Grows With Confab, Personal Web Site Ads
By John Stone
Travel agent readers of Travel Trade in the Southeast in recent days have reported a visible increase of recruitment activity among representatives of YTB Travel, especially in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
The current campaign was climaxed by the company’s first YTB agent network trade show in Orlando last weekend.
YTB, whose parent company is YTB International, based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, has three subsidiary business groups including YourTravelBiz.com, REZconnect Technologies Inc., and YTB Travel Network. Some of the company’s travel agency brands include Your Travel Biz, YTBnet.com, Travel Network, Global Travel Network and YourTravelBiz.com, among others.
Key promotional messages communicated by YTB to prospective members include the opportunity to “become your own travel agent” and to “travel the way travel professionals do.” The organization offers its primary earnings opportunities based on the ability of YTB members to attract other people to become members.
People who join as new YTB members are called “RTAs,” for “referral travel agents,” and among the possible layered clusters of members surrounding a YTB recruitment representative are such designated groups as “the first team,” “the power team” and “the dream team.”
Cards available for members are displayed on some of YTB’s recruitment pages. They include YTB’s own agent card with the member’s photo on it; a CLIA member card (the sample card has a picture of CLIA training director Tom Cogan), and an IATAN card, which YTB correctly notes requires qualifying sales levels to obtain.
The company operates multiple Web sites, most designed to recruit industry newcomers to become YTB travel agents and then recruit others to follow them into the network. Local representatives of YTB operate their own Web sites, under their individual business names, such as “Travel Closeouts,” “K and J Vacations” or “Partnor Travel.”
Last month YTB’s parent company, which officially changed its umbrella name from REZconnect to YTB International after the two companies merged on Dec. 8, 2004, reported net losses of $248,530 for 2004, based on net revenues of $3.8 million (Travel Trade, April 25).
Among the notable recent YTB recruitment activities were the following:
Over the weekend of April 29-30, the company hosted its “First Annual YTB Travel Network Funshine Trade Show and Conference” at the Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa in Lake Buena Vista, FL, in greater Orlando.
The event, according to a Travel Trade agent reader in attendance, attracted about 500 attendees, most of whom attended day sessions during either the Friday or Saturday all-day schedule. Most, however, were not visible in the hotel as overnight guests.
Several of the YTB Orlando attendees displayed magnetic signs on the doors of their vehicles in the Wyndham Palace parking lot publicly announcing the name of their YTB travel agency.
A weekly networking cocktail party is hosted at Orlando area hotels by YTB representative Scott Bender. Bender’s individual company is named Travel Closeouts and has its own Web site.
An invitation ad for the networking event on Bender’s site says, “Great business opportunity — Travel like a travel agent. Why pay retail for travel when you can pay wholesale? Find out more!”
Professional singles or couples meet at the parties to make new business or social contacts and, in the process, hear about how to become their own YTB travel agent.
Bender was previously an official in an airline ticket consolidator company, based in Orlando, called Airline Reservations Network.
According to a spokesman for the Airlines Reporting Corp., Airline Reservations Network and its affiliated company, Royale Vacations & Cruises, were subsidiaries of Royale Marketing Inc. The parent company held an ARC number (number 10510113) that was voluntarily deleted from the ARC system in March 2001.
Jim Sloan, a YTB rep in Flowery Branch, GA, in mid-April invited online visitors to a free seminar in the Gainesville, GA, Civic Center at which attendees heard about how to become a YTB agent from national YTB Travel & Cruises president Scott Tomer.
YTB meetings are sometimes promoted on the “meetup.com” Web site visited by small business entrepreneurs. Individuals unable to attend YTB gatherings have other ways to connect with a YTB recruiter.
ICQ Interest Groups, for example, is a Web site for personal classified ads in which people search for other people they would like to meet. Three current listings show a 37-year-old male from Texas, a 31-year-old male from Maryland and a 34 year-old female from Florida, and all are YTB agents with a similar message on their personal page.
The young lady from Florida describes herself as interested in “architecture, photography, music, Web design, video data...vacations, travel advice, romance, relationships, dreams and other interests.” Later she says, “I am an RTA (referring travel agent) for YTB Travel & Cruises. Want to have fun, earn extra money, save on travel and write it off on your taxes?”
The lady provides her Web site address for people to respond.
According to YTB recruitment information on the Internet, upcoming membership seminars, involving recruiters and membership candidates but not suppliers, are scheduled for May 7 in Memphis, TN and for June 4 in Richmond, VA.
Industry Reaction to YTB:
Caution and Non-Awareness
Travel Trade last week sought reaction from national officials of CLIA and Florida officials of ASTA to the step-up in recruitment activity at YTB Travel.
“It is quite complex,” said CLIA executive vice president Bob Sharak about YTB. “If an agency has a host agent with outside agents model, and they are maintaining the model with part-time, psuedo or quasi-agents, ethically I don’t think I like the business.
“I don’t like the idea of marketing the CLIA cards for the sake of the discounts,” he added. “But it is hard to police. There are a handful of these guys I watch closely. I go to cruise lines to ask, ‘What are your travel agent rate bookings for this group?’ A couple of these are not around now. But I have to be careful. If it’s not illegal, what do you do? I can’t terminate someone without cause. It is quite frustrating.”
Jan Hammond, ASTA’s Florida area director and an agent at Sixth Star Travel in Ft. Lauderdale, said she had not yet heard of YTB, but plans to look into them. She was asked whether ASTA is making efforts as aggressively as YTB in Florida to attract new agents to the business.
“We’ve held the ASTA World Congress for 76 years and it’s been open to non-members,” said Hammond. “From April 7-9 we hosted the ASTA Cruisefest in Miami, and not even half of the attendees were members of ASTA or NACTA. Through the trade show and other sources, we estimated between 1,200 and 1,500 agents attended. So we are doing things all the time to attract new members.”
Gerry Gregorian, the ASTA chapter president based in Port St. Lucie, FL, said she plans to check with the Florida Department of Consumer Affairs to see if there are any complaints about YTB.
Travel Trade spoke to J.R. Kelly, the Florida consumer affairs department director. “We have not yet received any complaints about YTB Travel,” he said. “But we will check to see if they are properly registered.”
A Florida Seller of Travel number is listed on some of YTB Travel’s voluminous Web site pages.
What’s a GDS???
According to the Travel Trade agent reader attending last week’s YTB trade show, there was an apparent lack of industry experience among several of the agents he spoke to at the event.
“I asked some agents whether they specialized in escorted travel bookings or FITs and was asked back, ‘What’s an FIT?,’” said the agent. “I asked others whether they work on a Web-based booking system or are connected to a GDS, and they asked, ‘What’s a GDS?’”
“Some also weren’t sure about what their commission and override programs are,” said the Travel Trade reader.
One attraction was key to the event. Free trip prizes were provided by a list of major exhibitor suppliers. The agent said many trips were given away, and many suppliers participated in the prize pool.
A list of suppliers for the Orlando show, listed on a YTB Funshine Trade Show invitation found at www.grouptravelmasters.citymax.com, included, in alphabetical order: Apple Vacations, Carnival Cruise Lines, Central Holidays, Funjet Vacations, Gray Line of Alaska, Hertz Corp., Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Sandals & Beaches Resorts, Silversea Cruises, Trade Wind Tours and World Choice Travel, a division of Travelocity.