Apr 30, 2008
YTB appoints Burt Saunders and Bob Dickinson to Board of Directors.
I am not sure if the people who insisted Burt Saunders was on the Board in August were clairvoyant or not, but apparently he has been appointed to the Board effective today. Not sure what connection the Florida Senator has to travel, but probably a very good appointment.
In more surprising news, apparently Bob Dickinson has also been appointed to their Board. Bob had led Carnival Cruise Lines for many years and retired earlier this year. While very curious, it is an outstanding addition to their Board. This will finally place someone with travel industry experience in the upper echelons of YTB. This goes a long way to legitimizing their business. Still a long way to go, but for now KUDOS to YTB!
Several people asked me about Phil Piccolo and who he is and what he did. I do not know the man personally, but from what I read, he is the King Zealot of MLM. If it is not MLM, he is not interested. Apparently, he has had some less than reputable programs over the years and was officially retired until Coach Tomer requested that he come check out YTB and help recruit more reps. YTB flew Phil from Florida to HQ in September 2007 two times and Phil signed up.
Within a month, he was a Level 1 Director and by the end of the recruiting period for the Birthday Bash had recruited enough people to steal the number one spot on the cruise.
For a more detailed description, here is a comment from this blog:
It seems that everyone wants to know the truth about Phil Piccolo and YTB and they don't feel they'll ever hear it until Phil leaves. Wrong. I happen to know the truth and everyone can take it for what it is worth -- even those who drone the Piccolo mantra about Bob Burtis having his bankruptcies. What Bob Burtis has or has not done does NOT change who Phil Piccolo is, what he has done and what he IS doing one iota. Phil stole the birthday bash away from whomever the second place winner was. This is how he did it: Phil started another one of his famous (or infamous?) programs and called it DubaiMLM. He made inferences to Dubai Dollars and free money and people went totally nuts signing up into the program from all over the world. Switch to YTB for a moment. Phil is doing his darnedest to sign up RTAs. He is also DYING financially because he has no income streams coming in. He needs money. So, he devises a clever plan to separate people from their money at $500 a whack. He starts telling everyone who signs up into YTB that they can be an RTA for free. He has access to a Florida travel agency (K & E International, Inc/KE Travel located at 4607 Lake Worth Rd, Lake Worth, FL 33463-3451 Phone: (561) 966-9808 who begins handing out FREE travel ID cards to everyone and anyone who signs up with Phil. Now, because Phil is giving away these RTA positions, he's not making any money. So, everyone who does this RTA thing must also participate in his "lead program" - $500 a pop. They are "GUARANTEED" ten sign ups a month and 3 conversions out of those ten. He tells them he is getting these super qualified leads from a high-end source and says they normally go for $1500 a month but that they are running a "special" and he'll get them in on the lead program for just $500. So people begin jumping on it. Phil is now raking in $500 from each person signing up as an RTA. I'm sorry, how many RTAs did Phil sign up? Each of these paid him $500. So, instead of YTB getting the money, PHIL PICCOLO got the money. Back to DubaiMLM. Everyone and everyone from all over the world is signing up into DubaiMLM. Since YTB is USA only, Phil can only use those leads that are here in the USA. Phil then takes the leads that have come into DubaiMLM and slams these people into YTB via a small sentence in one of his infamously long, boring and poorly worded emails that says they will be placed into a travel opportunity. So, the people from DubaiMLM are getting slammed into YTB, and the people from YTB who are paying $500 for ten leads are getting CRAP leads who know absolutely nothing about anything and are only interested in *free* money from DubaiMLM. Isn't that nice? THAT is who Phil Piccolo is. THAT is how he won coach's birthday bash. THAT is how he cheated the second place winner out of their RIGHTFUL place. It makes me sick. I can't believe that whoever the second place winner was really worked the program and DESERVED to win -- yet slimy con-man Phil Piccolo gets the free pass right under YTB's nose. I hear that he went to YTB headquarters to plead his cause and apparently fooled them into thinking he's just such a swell guy and is really just helping people. Right? I mean, after all, he has probably told them, "Look, I GAVE away the RTA positions and I made NO MONEY." When in actuality he was making $500 a month off of each person as long as they participated in his program. Phil Piccolo is the consummate con-artist and don't allow anyone to tell you anything differently.And in a subsequent comment:
I'm anonymous for a reason. It isn't because I don't have proof -- I just prefer to remain anonymous for my own protection. Your wonderful Phil Piccolo last year set up some guy who crossed him and duct taped him to a chair, put duct tape over his eyes, and he and his "henchmen" slapped the snot out of the guy. I think there are a number of charges that would arise out of something like that, like probably felony kidnapping just to name one. Of course Piccolo was stupid enough to photograph the event -- and I just happen to have obtained one of the copies of that photograph. What is it about stupid, arrogant criminals that drives them to photograph or otherwise document their crimes? The funny thing about this is that there are a number of other people who would be able to independently verify the person in the photo I have and it is certainly authentic. Also, Piccolo had bragged about it to someone I know. Phil Piccolo is nothing but a common criminal who at some point will end up in jail.After this post appeared, the anonymous poster contacted me with the following email:
Hi John. Please forgive my caution. You simply cannot be too careful out there. I took a look at your sites and read some articles you've written -- you're extremely talented and, I think, in no way connected to Phil Piccolo. What I would like to do is give you a call tomorrow sometime, if that is okay with you, and discuss my experiences with Mr. Piccolo from a first-hand point. You may, from there, make your own determination. It would be nice to have someone with some credibility help to address some of these issues. I will be happy to, after our conversation, provide you with the photograph in question. Also, when we talk tomorrow you'll know the story behind the photograph and the "why" behind it. From what I understand now, the authorities are breathing down Piccolo's neck and it is very likely that something will come to a head. At any rate, let me know your thoughts on tomorrow. Do you mind providing me with the best number with which to reach you? Thanks John.Well, apparently when old Coach realized that Phil had scammed the scammer--by not legitimately recruiting RTAs, he was canned from YTB. Back in February when I asked about this, here is the response I received:
I know all about the crap on the internet about Phil. I got flooded with e-mails from other RTA’s to ask if what they read was true. He’s one of those “Professional Networkers” that everyone just hates cause he’s an MLM junkie. He’s been terminated, but what I don’t know is if it was because of all the fuss we made or something he did. (I even had a couple Directors ask if I could find something on him, that’s how bad they wanted him out.) I know the guy who brought him in and from what I hear, Coach was a little upset about the e-mail concerning him and Phil getting together. Apparently it was fabricated. I don’t know if Peter knew about his history or not, but he’s not responding to my e-mails. Here’s Piccolo’s rep site: www.ytb.com/themillionairementor, it’s no longer available. His other two marketing sites are also down. (http://www.sell3travelfree.com & www.joinforfreetravel.com )So there you have it. The story of Phil Piccolo!
Apr 29, 2008
This is just developing, but it seems that (is everyone sitting down?) a YTB RTA has collected money from Seniors at local high schools for their Senior Year Graduation Trip. Well, it seems that the buck stopped at the RTA's bank account and the seniors are out of a trip.
From what I hear (as I said I am still working on this) YTB has terminated the RTA and there is not much further info. Stay tuned.
I wonder if this was in conjunction with their new "acquisition" of ADI?
UPDATE: Not Nashville proper but here is the news report:
Parents Victimized In Alleged ScamI wonder who Anderson is? Is she a rogue RTA? Or is she one of those Power Team Leader? I recall one RTA stating that RTAs "had" to make all bookings through YTB Headquarters. Well, I guess not so much.
Parents Make Payments For Bogus Trip
Reported by Jennifer Johnson
POSTED: 8:14 pm CDT April 25, 2008
UPDATED: 3:12 am CDT April 26, 2008
LaVERGNE, Tenn. -- A group of high school seniors in Rutherford County may not be able to take a class trip with their friends after a woman allegedly took their money.
The trip they were planning to take has imploded and now police are looking for a woman who may have stolen thousands of dollars from unsuspecting parents.
For many seniors in high school, it's become a rite of passage for every student to be able to go on one last trip with their classmates before graduation.
But some students from LaVergne High School are learning that their dream vacation has become a nightmare.
"My son came home and was telling me about a trip that was being scheduled. Initially, I was under the impression that it was a school sponsored trip, so I started sending in money and whatever deposits he needed," said parent Uvonne Gooch
Over the past nine months, Gooch sent more than $500 to a woman named Cynthia Anderson, who said she was organizing a senior trip to Jamaica.
Last month, Gooch learned the tour company that Anderson was supposed to be paying the cruise to hadn't received a dime.
"YTB told me themselves, 'We didn't know anything about a trip, but let us research and see what's going on.' They got back with me and said, 'Yes, Cynthia is affiliated with us, but we didn't know anything about the trip,'" said Gooch.
Not only are Gooch and the other parents out of their money, but the graduates now have no place to schedule a vacation to in such a short period of time before graduation.
"The trip is off. It's cancelled. I have the e-mails. It's cancelled," said
What concerns Gooch the most is that some parents still think the trip is on and may still be making payments to Anderson.
The alleged scam seems to have affected more than just LaVergne High School. Anderson had reportedly approached every high school in Rutherford County with the same offer.
Go on and quote the rogue TTAs (we realize we have them and they suck), but as I have said, when you bring in 131,000 untrained people in a year that are handling the travel dreams of clients, it is a recipe for disaster. Now this woman has been selling this "scam" to all of the high schools in the area--funny this seems like the instructions offered by ADI on their website--and we know they are at least a partner for YTB.
In his book “False Profits” FitzPatrick examines the persuasion techniques of these mlm recruiters, and devastating effects of mlm addiction. We caught up with Mr. FitzPatrick to get his take on the travel mlm model, and the effects that mlms have had on other industries. We are also trying to understand why so many YTBers are so defensive of YTB, despite the fact that over 80% receive zero income. Here is what Mr. Fitzgerald had to say. I wonder if Dr Seligman would like to respond…
“ My book, False Profits, is all about the power of these schemes to lure, seduce and persuade. I boil it down to their ability to manipulate beliefs and values that we treasure. Financial independence, freedom, individuality, a higher purpose for work, a destiny of better times, is part of a supportive community of "winners." In American we tend to equate wealth with goodness. So, when a scheme promises wealth it is like promising salvation, a validation for living. Many of us harbor deep seated longings for wealth and independence and are also deeply frustrated and disappointed that we have not achieved it. MLM unleashes these desperate hopes, frustrations and longings. As you see, it is a shameless manipulation. MLM goes after your very soul. It does indeed have the power of a cult. It uses many techniques -- repetition of aphorisms, strong hierarchical leadership, bombardment with recognition, a phony "community" and a promise of financial salvation, and most of all strict control over thinking and behavior -- that are classic brain washing and cult tactics.But it all starts with our own longings, hopes and beliefs. MLM is an American invention. It taps into special America values and beliefs. As these values and beliefs are spread worldwide in a global market economy, MLM is right there along with them to do its work of exploiting and manipulation. It is like our dark shadow.As you see, it took me a whole book to fully address this "mystery." It is indeed mysterious. But once you examine the claims, promises and techniques used by MLM and understand the beliefs, feelings, hopes and values that are so common among us, the reactions of people are more understandable.What we are speaking about, then, is a terrible kind of fraud. This fraud, like all frauds, steals money. It does so by deception, like all frauds do. But, more importantly, it also grossly manipulates people's hopes and dreams. It steals time and energy and its exploits a person's closest relationships, family, friends, and neighbors. So, it can not only steal money but literally destroy lives.This is, therefore, no ordinary scam. It is a virus that can negatively affect entire industries and communities and have very long term negative effects on people's lives and financial conditions. We talk with victims frequently who attribute their divorces, bankruptcies, family strife and loss of friends to MLM. I have been in two court cases where people committed suicide after being ruined not just financially and but socially by their MLM involvement.”
It's not just that travel & mlms are a bad mix, mlms and anything can be a bad mix when the people who get involved don't understand that they may not be the one driving the cocaine white bently.
Apr 26, 2008
Wanna know what everyone is reading? Here are the week's top 5 blog posts:
5. AN IATAN Rehash--Let ME Get This Straight
4. YTB's Appeal To IATA: DENIED
3. It's All About Travel--Right!
2. Hardballl Questions For MLM "Agents"
and the number one blog post of the week........
1. So, What About Cars?
Apr 25, 2008
NOTE: Of course after this posted, the original post was deleted, so the link is no good. Apparently, she does not stand by her words, but that is OK because what you see below is the complete content of the original post.
Duck! Look out! Rogue RTAs are on the loose again. I guess EAB is busy "dating" up a storm in Honolulu and they needed a replacement! Ladies and gents, I give you Regina Osei. I know she reads this blog so perhaps she may shun her anonymous moniker and come clean. I was reading her blog a few days ago and saw a headline that surprised me. YTB Travel Merges With American Destinations. How the hell could I have missed that one? Even worse, how could YTB have missed the opportunity to issue a press release. Well, after a quick phone call, I discovered that her post is a lie. More on that in a bit, but for now, here is what she has falsely claimed:
YTB Travel Merges With American Destinations The YTB Travel Network , has again edged out the competition by merging with 27 year old experienced, professional tour operator, American Destinations. American Destinations specializes in 'educational group travel' throughout North America, and it has a similar business model to YTB Travel, which makes for a fantastic union. This merger between YTB Travel and American Destinations is also great news for YTB Travel clients and RTAs (Referring Travel Agents) because it allows YTB Travel to offer even greater tour and group packages. Click here for more information about American Destinations.Well no doubt Regina is more interested in recruiting people on her own Power Team. That alone seems to be reason to allow truth and honesty to fall by the wayside. I would expect more from someone who, in her own biography on her blog, claims to be a "wife, mother, minister, businesswoman, mentor, and coach." Just picture that, a minister and spreading mis-truths all for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Well, if you check out American Destinations, Inc. you will see that they have not been acquired or merged. They are merely one of the "thousands" of vendors that have made a decision to work with YTB. I called and spoke a representative of ADI and they categorically denied any relationship with YTB other than paying them a finders fee for any referrals. Additionally, they have been doing business with YTB for several years. My contact also added, "if you can call the amount of referrals 'business'" Here is their policy on YTB:
1.) Referral Commissions: As an RTA with YTB you can earn referral commissions on groups that you refer to us. In most cases, this is a one time referral commission. Example: You visit or call South Middle School. The 8th grade class is planning a tour to Washington, DC. You call ADI with South Middle School's contact information and we proceed with the selling process from this point. If the group travels with us, you will receive a referral commission. 2.) ADI Travel Consultant: You have the opportunity to earn residual income and build a lifetime business. ADI has groups that have traveled with us for up to 10, 15, 20+ years. An information packet is available that is designed to teach you how to represent ADI and effectively market student and adult group tours that will position you for tremendous growth in the travel industry; therefore, helping you to realize substantial residual income. We feel that when properly trained to sell group travel, you will be more confident to approach group leaders. The more confident you are the more tours you will sell; therefore, the more financial success you will realize! ADI wants to help you build a relationship with your clients to ensure repeat business. We encourage you to take full advantage of our vast knowledge and great experience in the group tour industry by purchasing our American Destinations, Inc. Travel Consultant Training Packet for a one-time investment of $199.00. We are so confident that you will benefit from thi s information that after you sell three overnight tours (minimum of thirty passengers per departure) ADI will refund your investment plus include a bonus of $199.00! You will double your investment! Example I: South Middle School calls ADI directly and wants to do another trip with us. Since you are a registered ADI Travel Consultant and South Middle School is one of your past accounts, we will notify you of the Trip Order so you can follow up with the group leader and therefore, receive the commission if they travel. Example II: Someone from South Middle School knows a teacher planning a trip at Rosemont High School. He/she encourages him/her to call American Destinations, Inc. for a tour proposal. Since the referral came from one of your accounts, you will be contacted immediately to follow up with the group leader at Rosemont High School to begin a relationship with him/her. At the completion of the tour, you will receive the commission for this account. Please remember, no matter which opportunity you choose, travel proposals are FREE OF CHARGE. A member of our staff (referred to as an ADI Account Manager) will be assigned to you to assist you as much as possible. Also, please ask about "in person" training seminars in your area for you and your team. Again, we are very excited to help you grow your business. Do not hesitate! Call ADI now (800-369-4986) and begin to build a group travel business that will last a LIFETIME! To become an ADI Travel Consultant, please email or call with the following information: * RTA Name * Business Name * YTB ID# * Mailing Address * Home/Business/Cell Phone Numbers * Fax Number * E-Mail Address * Polo Shirt Size (Please mail check or money order to American Destinations, Inc., PO Box 2228, Clarksburg, WV 26302) Note - Services NOT Provided By ADI: * Motorcoach Charters: ADI does NOT provide services for motorcoach only charters.So, nothing here. Old news. More misinformation that is being propagated by a rogue wife, mother, minister, businesswoman, mentor, and coach. Not sure if the real Coach would be proud or ashamed. Maybe she will make the correction; but then again that might hurt the recruitment effort.
Apr 24, 2008
Discovered this blog called Everything Real Estate in Michigan where someone has devised a method to build their own power team. Now, granted, this is probably a great way to do it..essentially you pay them from the proceeds you earn from the bonuses from YTB. But I am pretty sure this was one of the reasons master scammer Piccolo was tossed from YTB.
What is notable (although not particularly earth shattering) is that the only time "travel" is mentioned is in the name of his "company" and his websites. Become an RTA and earn more money from me. Money For Nothing! Well at least they are not selling the perks---oh that's right, they are dwindling as well!
To all the RTAs reading this, apparently he is offering this to new and existing RTAs so you might wan tto switch your upline and get paid!
$100.00 YTB Rebate Announced
Team Travelmore challenge you to spring into action with our Spring into YTB Challenge.
Become a RTA with Team Travelmore and you qualify for a $100.00 rebate for joining YTB by 05/31/2008.Now through May 31, 2008 we will pay you (current and new RTA's) an additional $100.00 for every new RTA sign up from now until May 31, 2008.
New RTA sign up: YTB pays $50.00
Team bonus pays: $100.00
Total payout: $150.00 per RTA!
6 new RTA's:
YTB pays $300.00 (6x$50.0) plus $1,000 leadership bonus after 6.
Team bonus pays: $600.00
Total Payout: $1,900.00
Plus you are now in your Power Team an qualify for 50% match on your own team.
How will you get your business? Travel Parties!
The goal is for each RTA and REP to host at least 2 travel parties by May 31, 2008
All that is required to is contact your team leader and request the"Mike the Travel Guy" DVD and travel vouchers to entice guests to attend!
The travel DVD does all the work, just play on your TV. (lasts about 30 minutes)Hand out fliers announcing your travel party and request them to RSVP.
Provide snacks and beverages for your quests.
You may download these fliers from http://www.travelparties.ws/. No computer?Contact Brent Vanderstelt at 231-206-5333 or firstname.lastname@example.org have him create your flier for you.
What ever you need to make your party a success and help you grow your business, we are here to help you achieve financial freedom.
This contest is open to all current and new RTA's and REP's that join YTB through Team Travelmore.
Interested in join team Travelmore, join here for your $100.00 rebate (new RTA's) and become eligiable for the $100.00 team bonus for each new RTA you sign up by 05/31/2008.
To be eligible, you must join YTB through this link only to qualify or be an existing Team Travelmore member.
Apr 23, 2008
A little bird just told me that Coach and Scott are meeting with the Executives of Hickory Travel Systems this morning and may be finalizing a deal.
It remains to be seen what form of deal it is. One report was claiming YTB was acquiring Hickory Travel Systems and I heard another that said YTB was looking to utilize some of the technology that Hickory has developed.
My guess is that this may be a shopping trip for a new IATA number. Stay tuned, story developing!
Apr 22, 2008
I want to take some time and ask some questions of the MLM fans that read this blog. It is not about YTB but any of them. It is obvious that I do not understand what it is you see in this program. You are not making any money and to be honest, there mare more people that shun you than accept you. So let me pose a few questions and comments to you.
You have invested some money and a good amount of time into your new "business" and this presumably was based on the assumption that with money and time invested, you could be making a respectable amount of money. Why is it that the vast majority of you are not earning that $5000 a month you expected? I venture to say that at this point you would be happy with $5000 a year--right? What about your downline? I Bet you figured you would have a lot more in your downline than your have. Right? I also bet you thought you would have more travel leads than you could handle because of the fabulous website provided for your hard earned money. Right? Of course you did. Remember, it was the perfect opportunity at the right time? Well then why aren't you making any money?
I have heard the pitch and seen the fervor. I am guessing when you signed up, your Upline told you to make a list of 50 or 100 of your friends and family--hand out brochures, CDs, magazines, and business cards. You probably distributed another $1000 worth of collateral. What are you seeing for that $1000?
What about your website? And that fantastic back office that would handle all the financial aspects of your slice of the 7 trillion dollar travel pie? Did you buy some professional looking business cards--after all if you are claiming to be a professional, you ought to at least look the part. Did you figure that your website would be churning out the commissions while you slept? Did you envision walking into the local Mercedes dealership and plopping down $70K in cash for a new car? Maybe buying that dream house for cash? Of course it was all possible when you see the directors making two, three or four million dollars in a year.
How did you drive business to your site? Did you purchase some "guaranteed" leads that were "on sale" for a "limited" time and available only to "you"? How much did they cost? How many $10 admissions did you pay to see a recruitment presentation at a local hotel? How many times did you attend some seminar or other to reinvigorate your business? Did you pay to travel to one of the conventions or a training program or two, three or four?
Do these words make you think? Do they hurt?
I am not looking to negate any dreams of riches you have. I am all for the success of everyone. But, let's face it, if you are anything but a superstar, you are not making any reasonable money. One of the MLM companies freely admits that 80.92% of their participants make no money. And more frightening is that 99.6% of the participants earned less than $1850 for the year. Are you beginning to think something may be amiss here yet?
Here's another question to ponder. If the business of selling travel via a website is so lucrative--after all all you need to do is refer people to it--why wouldn't the company just do it themselves? Hmm, makes one wonder doesn't it? And suppose the website does not perform as promised or expected? Well, maybe that is one of the secrets that management is not telling.
Have you listened to the tales of success from the directors? I have listened to several of them and the story was all the same. They told you what to do. How to work the MLM program and you too could be wealthy selling travel. But do they practice what they preach? Are they out recruiting their family and friends, or are they merely putting pressure on their downline to feather their pockets? With such a small number of people making money in the MLM program, it seems that these people may not be telling you all you need to know to succeed. Do you think? Maybe they are teaching you what to do, but not what they are doing. There is a difference.
So, why do participants of the MLM model just blindly follow the leader? I don't mean to pick on Doug, but here is a guy who presumably got into YTB to make a buck. I remember reading a press release when he "fired his boss". I am sorry, but unless I had every intention of being successful, I am not sure I would have taken that step--unless there was a trust fund or a gravely ill wealthy relative lurking somewhere. So it is reasonable to assume he wanted to be successful. The guys is eloquent. He is intelligent. He does not put up ridiculous YouTube videos. I don't think he drives a Cocaine White Bentley--or if he does he has enough class to no brag about it. He seems genuinely interested in helping his customers plan their travel. He has been doing this for over three years and seems to have been left in the dust. Looking at averages, he should be a Level 3 Director earning an average of $459,000 a year from recruiting alone. But after more than three years, he is a Coaches Corner member earning an average of $20K. I am not knocking $20K..hell it is more than I took home in 2002. But if I had fired my boss and after three years I was making less than $10 per hour, I would have to think long and hard prior to investing more time and energy.
So with 246K people not earning any money, why aren't you asking questions? The facts hurt, I know. But as everyone has said you need to treat it as a business. Isn't it time to be businesspeople and start demanding answers to some very basic questions?
Apr 21, 2008
One of the premises of this blog is that the MLM crowd are mere opportunists. Once travel becomes unprofitable, too complex, or is drawing too much scrutiny, they likely will be off to decimate another industry.
Last fall, they postured for their next industry--the automobile industry. The initial pitch to the public was "buy any car at any MLM website and save money." The pitch to the MLM members was "refer your friends and family to your website and make an easy $500 when they buy a car. Everyone needs a car."
I will give credit where credit is due, and the MLM industry is not afraid to try something new. But, at what point does "something new" border on ridiculous?
One company proclaims to be a travel company, but they are selling cars? So, what are they? They are also selling tents and flowers. Seems they are grasping for straws (or revenue) from any source rather than concentrating on their core business.
The same company came up with an Olympic package only to not do their due diligence and left someone holding a $3 million bag of Olympic tickets that are not to be distributed to non-Chinese nationals.
But the whole car concept boggles the mind. Are they really selling any cars? How big is the network?
After some investigation it became it was apparent that the program was run through one dealership in Wood River, IL. And only on a few brands. And only when it was picked up at the dealership. SO, is this now such a good deal for the California customer?
So, I guess the question remains, how is that car program working for all the RTAs? Or is this just another cockamamie idea that did not work? And what about the licensing issues brought up by Ted?
Apr 19, 2008
Wanna know what everyone is reading? Here are the week's top 5 blog posts:
5. More "Old" News
4. Orbitz Customer Service: Even THEY Get It!
3. Did You Remember To Deduct These?
2. YTB's Appeal To IATA: DENIED!
and the number one blog post of the week........
1. YTB To Purchase Hickory Travel Systems
Note: Still interesting how Ted Lindauer still keeps among the top 5 posts!
Apr 18, 2008
Late yesterday afternoon, I got my daily dose of travel news from Travel Trade where they discussed the failure of YTB's appeal for the return of their IATA number. When I began to really think about this, I have to laugh.
Back in October of 2007, IATAN was THE credential to have according to YTB. It was all over their recruiting material and everyone was looking to have the IATAN card for the free and discounted travel.
November rolls around and YTB gets tossed to the curb by IATAN and Royal Caribbean. The response from YTB is "we don't need no Royal Caribbean or no stinking IATAN."
January 2008 enters the picture and it seems that the provisional license to sell travel in Canada is predicated on having an IATA endorsement. Well all of a sudden, "maybe we do need that stinking IATAN". But that does not seem possible because Scott Tomer ran his mouth off saying that IATAN tossed them because YTB was a competitor of IATAN. So they bought a travel agency. But it seems that they were unaware that the IATA numbers are not necessarily transferable.
February 2008 finds YTB hiring a big gun travel lawyer Al Anolik to plead their case for reinstatement to the Travel Agency Commissioner. Wow, YTB must be beginning to understand that IATAN is kind of a big deal.
Late March and early April, YTB is convinced that if they maybe buy a travel company in the US, like say Hickory Travel Systems, the Travel Agency Commissioner will HAVE to see it their way and give them back their number.
And here we are to April 16th. A no go. It ain't happening. The Commissioner completely held up the original ruling.
So, what was the response from YTB? Well, let me quote Al Anolik:
The decision is actually a victory for YTB. We are using the code and can use it because we got it from ARC. IATA cannot control a YTB in the US that is fully accredited by ARC. We quit using the IATA symbol a long time ago. We are are going to continue business as usual and as for flashing the IATA card. we won't have any IATA symbol on our cards. IATA cannot interfere with our relationship with ARC and if they did, they wil have an antitrust suit.
Wow, so it seems like YTB is back to the "we don't need no stinking IATAN" again! And it seems that Mr. Anolik may have drank the kool aid in the YTB cafeteria because only YTB logic can somehow say that losing a legal challenge is exactly what they wanted. I wonder if that is the tactic they would use if the FTC, SEC, or the IRS came after them?
So what is it guys? Is IATA something you want or not? Seems like you wanted it for recruiting. Seems like you wanted it enough to hire an expensive attorney to go get it for you. Seems like you wanted it enough to buy an agency in Toronto. Seems like you wanted it enough to open negotiations to purchase Hickory. But your attorney says that the denial of the IATA number is really the victory you all sought in the first place.
Wow, that is almost as clear as the compensation plan!
Apr 17, 2008
This just in from Travel Weekly. It seems that IATA is one of the few organizations in the industry to stand behind their convictions. YTB has been denied any reinstatement. I suspect that this will drastically impact their Hickory acquisition and quite likely affect their Canadian operations.
April 16, 2008
By Nadine Godwin
YTB Travel Network won assurances that the company can continue to use its IATA numeric code as an ARC-approved agency, but it did not win reinstatement at IATA.
YTB had challenged IATA's termination of the agency before IATA's agency commissioner for the U.S. The commissioner, James Johnstone, found that YTB had "lent, subcontracted to or hired to a third party" its IATA numeric code and that IATA had taken "the appropriate step to enforce its right in the code."
Johnstone cited an IATA exhibit in which YTB told its referring travel agents (RTAs) that their ARC/IATA number identified them "as an industry professional allowing you to become eligible for potential perks, preferred pricing and other courtesies."
On the other hand, the commissioner said there was "no issue" on the matter of YTB's option to continue using the same numeric code as an ARC agency. He cited an IATA memorandum issued on April 10, which stated IATA was not claiming that its termination of YTB's accreditation "results in any impairment with respect to its ARC accreditation."
Therefore, YTB can use its ARC number but not with any reference to IATA, and the agency is no longer eligible for any IATA products or services, said the commissioner.
Also, YTB was directed to immediately cease using the IATA codes, including in connection with any ID or other credentials, and to immediately recall all IDs or credentials that include the IATA code. YTB also was directed to immediately cease using the IATA trademark.
YTB's attorney, Al Anolik, said YTB had already ceased using the IATA trademark on RTA cards and elsewhere.
On April 1, there was a funny April Fool's prank started by a colleague of mine and I picked up on it and posted that YTB was being acquired by Travel Acquisitions Group. A few days later, in a press release, YTB announced that they were seeking a company to purchase. Through some investigation I posted that the intended target was Hickory Travel Systems of Saddle River, NJ.
This will be an interesting acquisition , if it ever takes place and I wonder what YTB would get in the long run. I spoke with a mid-level colleague at Hickory and the word of YTB is spreading like wildfire. While the company will not comment specifically, I was told that on March 25, 2008, Scott Tomer and The Coach spent an entire day in Saddle River behind closed doors. I cannot say it was them with 100% certainty but I was told it was "a guy in a Hawaiian shirt and an older man wearing a YTB polo-type shirt". Toss in the fact that their jet filed and flew a flight plan from St. Louis to Teterboro, NF (6 miles from Saddle Brook) and I think we can all figure it out. Employees were told of a possible acquisition on April 8th, but no one officially named names.
But, Hickory has a long history in the travel industry and is composed of, get this, Traditional Travel Agents. Nervous agents. Agents who are frantically putting resumes out on the steet and actively looking for jobs. These same employees have seen Hickory picked apart over the years and recently lost Travel Leaders to TAG (ironic that the April Fool's prank involved TAG as well huh?).
I am not so sure how much is actually left of Hickory, but it seems that YTB may be circling the skies like a vulture to pick up what they can. But, if the employees are actively seeking new employment, what is the attraction? I know YTB is has tried to purchase their IATA accreditation by buying the small Ontario travel agency. Maybe this is just upping the ante? Maybe the loss of IATA accreditation was more of a big deal than they cared to admit?
But, I woudl hope that IATA is a bit smarter than that. After the accreditation does not automatically go along with the change in ownership. Hopefully YTB discovered this in their due diligence (which seems lacking to me considering the fiasco in China), or they likely will be buying an asset with few employees with a travel background and not much else. Just picture it now--it will be a clone of the existing HQ. A big building with very few years of combined travel experience.
Apr 16, 2008
It is Tax Time! Of course this is the time when the MLM crowd will dig deep for any excuse to deduct ANY expense on their taxes. Of course we all know what is an is not allowed, but there is so much more. Did you remember these:
- Cable television as long as it has the Travel Channel
- Automobile because you have to drive to meet your recruits
- Trips to Walmart because after all it is a trip--who says trips need to be distant
- Private school education and college as long as the schools have maps
- Plasma televisions as long as they have cable access
- Hookers, because they were "South American Hotties"
- All meals in any ethnic restaurant because you need to get a taste of the destination
- Subscription to Penthouse and Playboy because of the exotic photo shoots--and Sports Illustrated too
- Children's soccer team registration because soccer was started in a foreign country. Baseball and American football are exempt
- The $10 you pay each time you load a room up for a recruiting meeting
- Any "bling" you buy as long as it has "YTB on it. If not, use a fine point Sharpie (also deductible)
- The value of your time for the amount of time you spend defending you scam on websites
- Pepsi Cola because it sounds foreign
- Your share of the $3M in useless Olympic tickets
- The illegal alien cutting your grass for language skills
- Any taxi fare worldwide
- Any movie as long as it was not filmed at your home
- Any magazine with Tom Cruise in it
Apr 15, 2008
From Travel Trade this afternoon, they are stating that an editing error gave the wrong impression. Not wanting to be accused of not telling the other side of the story, here is the excerpt:
Carnival Item Was Wrong Tue Apr 15 2008, by TravelTrade Staff In the Travel Trade email blast on Monday, April 14, the news item under the headline "Carnival Increases Direct Communications" was wrong because of an editing error that resulted in incomplete information. Carnival Cruise Lines is not moving to more direct marketing as the item wrongly implied. Rather, its contract with SAS technology, which the news item reported, aims to analyze the effectiveness of its existing marketing programs. Based on an editing error, a section of the Carnival quote within the SAS release, which discussed driving business to travel agents, was deleted. The full quote from Shannon Balliet-Antorcha, director of database marketing and customer data integration at Carnival, stated, "We increased berths and we want more cruisers to ask travel agents to book their cruise on Carnival. Customers appreciate Carnival's wide range of vacation choices. More effective marketing campaigns will build brand preference and contribute to filling this new capacity. Using SAS Marketing Automation, we expect a better return on marketing investment."
Now, I am not buying it 100% yet; but hey it's their story and they can stick to it. Remember, Carnival was in the malls at one point. I am wondering if this is a correction...or a backpedal.
Back on January 18th, shortly after Vicki Freed's departure from Carnival, I pulled out my crystal ball and speculated that Gerry Cahill (the new Carnival CEO) was more about the bottom line than anything else. I suggested that the travel industry would see a shift to an elimination of commissions or a more direct to consumer approach.
Well, in case anyone missed it yesterday, it appears that Carnival has been investing heavily in that exact model. From yesterday's Travel Trade announcement:
In what could be a move toward stronger direct bookings, Carnival Cruise Lines has been working with a technology vendor for automated and targeted marketing and predictive analytics. Using the new technology from SAS, the cruise line is able to create and execute more effective customer-focused marketing campaigns, as well as improve direct communications with customers.
Well, with the price of fuel and the general state of the economy it is not surprising. I certainly cannot lay the entire blame at the feet of the MLM companies; but I can certainly state that they have accelerated it.
You see, as I have stated since inception, MLM is about recruiting. It is NOT about travel. This has been proven time and time again. They do not offer any help to the customer--they refer them to the vendor when there is trouble. Even when they decided to have a big sale, they could not staff it entirely and leaned on the vendor to support their sales efforts. If you recall, when someone wanted to buy an actual cruise from one MLM company, they were instructed to call Carnival.
So, if the vendor is now handling the actual sale and now the service to the sale; why pay an agent? And when Carnival does shift a bit more to the B2C model and eliminate commissions; what will happen to the MLM company that has put all of its proverbial eggs in one basket?
Apr 14, 2008
One of the keys to success in travel is relationships. It does not matter if you are physical or virtual; home based or corporate. In travel, I have found that most executives are very approachable. Look at Vicki Freed with Royal Caribbean--she will give out her cell number and a direct line to her office.
Relationships with clients are essential to survival as well. There must be a level of experience, expertise and customer service provided or the client is going to go away the next time. It is the old "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" mantra.
However, one MLM company just does not believe in relationships it seems. We have heard stories of their upline offering no support, we have been shown the level of experience their home office support has shown by a former RTA as well as from watching them operate under pressure. Their attrition levels in their 10K Filing support this and I imagine the quarterly filing (due soon) will further support this.
I would think that they might know who is running the show of their "suppliers"...but not so much. In a March 27, 2008 announcement to over 131,000 of their agents, they quoted the "president" of Trafalgar Tours in response to the new eLearning Program.
"The agents who complete the eLearning program sell
25% more than agents who have not taken the program."
- John Severini, CTC President, Trafalgar Tours
NEWSFLASH: Severini left Trafalgar in September 2007! While this might (and probably is) an oversight, it does pose a problem. When communication comes from HQ, it is taken as gospel. I can picture it now...131,000 people running around insisting that John Severini is president of Trafalgar. Why would I expect less? They feel Dr. Seligman exists. They feel the 2 Fly Free Program is exclusive. They feel that they can earn a lot of money in this program.
Come on, if you are going to play thye game, at least get the names of the players right.
Apr 11, 2008
Wanna know what everyone is reading? Here are the week's top 5 blog posts:
5. Act First, Think Later. A Tale of Olympic Proportions
4. My What Strange Bedfellows
3. A Word On Corrupt Travel Agents
2. A Very Good Year? Maybe Not!
and the number one blog post of the week........
1.This Will Be Interesting
I can't help but notice that the post about Good Old Ted Lindauer is still intriguing to many. One really does indeed wonder what was involved in his finally seeing the light!
After a week of listening to the MLM crowd say that what they offer is no different than Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity, I found a great article on Travel Weekly that sort of spins it a different way. Seems that Orbitz is migrating away from the "go to our website and book" mentality and are providing service. Just Picture That! Did you hear about Expedia opening a brick and mortar cruise store in Redmond? Hmm, Just Picture That!
As the TTAs have been saying for the past year, consumers are getting tired of the websites. They are looking for service and are migrating back to agencies. For those opposed to agencies, they will migrate to customer friendly websites that offer service. Unlike this one. FYI, all of the big online agencies have always had trained support for the customers. The MLM crowd seems to overlook this fact. Seems that MLM is just making one mistake after another when it comes to travel, but I guess that is to be expected when most of the recruits and all of senior management has no background in the business.
Orbitz said each of its specialists has completed training and spent significant time in their select locations.
Destination experts are currently in place for the Hawaiian Islands and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel). Orbitz plans to add specialists for Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, the Dominican Republic, Orlando, Miami, the Florida Keys, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Southern California and Puerto Rico.
"For new visitors to popular places like Orlando, Las Vegas, Hawaii or Cancun, access to a travel expert with local insider knowledge can be invaluable in helping make decisions that will ensure a memorable trip,” said Tom Russell, Orbitz Worldwide’s group vice president of brand marketing.
Apr 10, 2008
I asked a question a few days ago and there was no real definitive answer as to what the MLM crowd was doing for their clients on ATA, Skybus and Aloha. The closest I got was a comment from Proud To Be YTB who said he received this via "wire" from HQ:
As you may be aware, yesterday ATA cancelled all service effective immediately. This impacts Funjet Vacations' Value Flight customers from Midway to Cancun and our ATA scheduled air customers to Cancun and Hawaii. As a customer-centric vacation company, Funjet Vacations is protecting our customer's vacations by: - Helping customers find alternate air service - Applying the value of their ATA airfare to the new reservation
Well, he thought that answered the question, but had he scrolled down on the "wire" a little bit more, there was a second half to the story. You see, as I knew, this was a communication from FunJet (as I got the same one) and they did specifically lay out what the agent was to do.
How can you help? To expedite obtaining alternate flights, we are encouraging travel agents to book their own flights for the same travel dates and receive a refund from Funjet Vacations for the cost of the original ATA airfare purchased. The rest of the Funjet Vacation will remain in tact. To receive a refund and ensure transfer service can be fulfilled, travel agents or customers who choose to book their own alternate flights need to e-mail us at email@example.com with the following information: - Original Funjet Vacations reservation number and passenger names - New flight information including airline, flight numbers and flight timesBut as we all suspected, Proud To Be YTB only told half of the story and of course, their clients were left to figure it out on their own. YTB has been screaming all week about Orbitz and Travelocity and Expedia doing nothing, but you know what--that is not true either. But more on that later in the week---probably Friday!
Apr 9, 2008
Over the past month YTB has had quite the run on their stock. It went from well under a dollar to over $4 and settled in around $3.60 for a recent close. All of this is in anticipation of, and response to their annual report which was released on March 31, 2008.
First off, congratulations to YTB for pulling out of a stock slump. Secondly, congrats for selling more travel this year than last.
I have skimmed the 123 page document, and while comments and other blogs are all cheering the reported $414M in sales and the recent stock trading levels, I want to point out some parts of the document that are being overlooked by the YTB zealots and should be a concern to anyone considering investing in this company or considering joining as a Rep or RTA.
- Regarding the recent run up of the stocks. I have said I am not an expert in the market by any means, but according to page 9 of the annual report, there are only 366 shareholders of record. With director bonuses all being paid out in stock, it appears that the vast majority is held by executives and directors--the report does not say, but I would venture a guess at 75%. With that type of influence, and that much riding on the success, any manipulation would be easily attained.
- Another interesting tidbit is that YTB is losing a ton of RTAs each year. At the end of 2006 YTB had 59,736 RTAs operating sites. During 2007, they recruited 139,239 more. Yet at the end of the year, they only had 131,065. Do the math...59,736 + 139,239 = 198,975 (potential RTAs). 198,975 - 161,065 = 67,910 RTAs that dropped out of the program. That is a huge number and really disproves the rhetoric espoused at other blogs.
- YTB claims to be a travel company, yet once again, recruiting accounts for the vast majority of their income. 73.4% of the income comes from recruiting. 14.5% comes from travel sales. Even more concerting is that almost 10% comes from selling marketing materials to RTAs. And even more interesting is that while most traditional travel agencies saw an increase in their income in 2007, YTB's numbers were flat in terms of a percentage of income. However, their percentage of sales for recruiting rose 1%. Certainly with the addition of all the RTAs, the base commission and overrides should have increased. So where is the focus here? I think we all know the answer.
- And to just put this in perspective to the non-YTBers, the total commission paid to RTAs was only $13.4 million--or an average of about $100 a year for each RTA. The total commission paid for recruiting was $80.5 million--or an average of $265 a year for each Rep. Participate in both programs and you too could earn $1 a day!
- But let's take a look at the travel sales and commissions. YTB earned $20.4 million in travel commissions. Everyone has agreed that 10% (across the board) is a good number for commission percentage. With this number in commissions, their sales would have to be $200,400,000. Now I know all about the not paid till traveled argument, but I think it is safe to assume that all travel booked in 2006 has now been traveled...and this number does not even match last year's sales figures. The true sales figures from YTB are likely to never be disclosed. And I suggest that anyone should treat any of these claims with skepticism.
- The management practices also have a lot to be desired. Some quotes from the filing:
- We did not maintain sufficient competent personnel to maintain an appropriate accounting and financial reporting organizational structure. Specifically, we did not maintain personnel with an appropriate level of accounting knowledge,experience and training in the selection, application and implementation of generally accepted accounting principles commensurate with our financial reporting requirements.
- We did not maintain proper internal controls over expenditures and accounting for certain liabilities which resulted in unrecorded liabilities and expenses.
- Our Board of Directors failed to maintain documentation of actions that it had approved. Formal Board of Director meeting minutes were not maintained during this reporting period. As a result, certain share-based transactions were not recorded or were recorded incorrectly in our financial statements.
Apr 7, 2008
This afternoon, YTB filed the following with the SEC:
YTB International, Inc. (the "Company") is considering the acquisition of a wholesale travel company to complement the existing travel offerings to its Referring Travel Agents (RTAs).
At the current time, the negotiations for the potential acquisition remain at a preliminary stage and no assurances can be provided whether the acquisition will be consummated, and, if so, upon what terms (including the structure of the acquisition and the purchase price therefor).
The Company will not respond to questions or provide any further updates concerning the potential acquisition unless and until the Company enters into definitive agreements with respect to the acquisition.
It has come to my attention that the target is Hickory Travel Systems out of Saddle Brook, NJ. I have not received any response to an inquiry to YTB or to Hickory, but it makes sense in that I heard specifically that the target acquisition was a $17 billion dollar travel company. Furthermore, the jet flew to Teterboro, NJ on March 25, 2008 and was there all day. Maybe the acquisition might come with an IATAN endorsement?
Story developing and it will be interesting!
Remember back in November when all the world was abuzz about fabulous Olympic Packages and a commission of 25%? Remember when I pointed out that none had been sold early on? Remember when I pointed out that later still none had been sold?
Well there is a good reason. Apparently YTB has partnered with an agency that had no right or authorization to sell tickets to the Olympics.
As I suspected, but only had confirmed from the IOC last week, tickets purchased by Shanghai Spring Tours must remain for sale to residents of China--not tourists. You see, 75% of the tickets are allocated for the Chinese!
Even Sorenson agreed when he told Travel Weekly last month that, "YTB is no longer marketing Olympic tours with tickets to the games in Beijing."
But the story gets more interesting as all the RTAs and Reps were saying that they were still offering the trips, but just calling the Olympic tickets "special events". As is typical, the YTBers had all sorts of stories about this. It was a copyright issue. They had such a response that they had to pull back and do the sales by lottery. And I even heard that they were completely sold out.
Well, I spoke with a man named Joe Jarvies who is the International Coordinator and Liaison to YTB, for Spring & Mandarin Tours a few weeks ago and he shed some additional insight. Apparently, Shanghai purchased $3 million dollars worth of Olympic Tickets for this program. Yet as China's "largest tour operator" they did not know that they were not for sale to non Chinese? And no one at YTB looked into this either? I wonder who will ultimately eat the $3 million? Joe indicated to me that their "workaround" was to not sell the tickets and to offer them as a "gift" for visiting China--so all the YTB clients could be given a "gift" when they landed. Yeah, I can see consumers flocking to that special deal!
When I spoke with the IOC, I was told that in order to use the term Olympic in any marketing or sales promotion, you needed to get approval from the IOC. This is mandated by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. The IOC said they had not given Shanghai or YTB permission to use the logo or name and had issues a Cease and Desist letter. In addition, they have apparently turned over the improprieties on behalf of Shanghai Spring to the "proper" authorities in Beijing.
Not sure what that all means, but in a nutshell, YTB partnered with a company that had no right to sell Olympic packages. Someone is holding the bag on $3 million dollars. And once again, an exclusive program by YTB is disproved. I just wonder if any RTAs or their family purchased these trips and how they are handling the refunds!
Apr 5, 2008
Wanna know what everyone is reading? Here are the week's top 5 blog posts:
5. MLM & Aloha
4. Travel Acquisitions Group Acquires YTB
3. A Zealot Sees The Light
2. YTB And IATAN (Again)
and the number one blog post of the week........
1. My What Strange Bedfellows
Apr 4, 2008
It is such a shame when you see things like this. It really makes me mad that this industry has allowed people like this to operate. You can read the article and see the video on the Houston Click 2 Website:
HOUSTON -- As planes flew over the Houston sky, Ruby Bell and Josephine Alix thought about where they should have been -- on a spring break getaway with 100 or more fellow HISD bus drivers. But they never made their trip. "I'd never been to Vegas," said Bell. For Bell, it was a supposed to be special. She planned on taking her mother to celebrate her 65th birthday. "So she could say her daughter done taken her on a nice trip, once in her life," said Bell. Instead of hitting the slots, she and her colleagues were still in Houston on Friday, out a lot of money. "I lost $658.37," said Bell. "$374," said Alix. They said they booked the trip through a travel agent named Tonya Covington, who claimed she worked through XXXXXXX. They received some flight confirmations, but became suspicious when booking took too long. "When I called the airport, they said I had a one-way ticket, no hotel reservation, just a one-way flight," said Alix. "I done text-messaged her nicely, left messages, but still no response from this woman," said Bell. KPRC Local 2 tried to find her, with no luck. The station only got her voicemail, still advertising the travel agency. "So what's the most disappointing thing about it?" asked KPRC reporter Elizabeth Scarborough. "I wasn't able to show my mother how much I love her," said Bell. The bus drivers said they are now working with attorneys to try to get their money back in court.
The accompanying video is even more compelling as the group seems to be out about $37,000. Anyone care to venture a guess as to the agency? Want a hint?
And before anyone jumps on the bandwagon about rogue traditional travel agents, I do fully realize that there are bad apples in every bunch. However, you need to understand that YTB recruited 131,000 people last year which is effectively doubling the number of "travel agents" in the nation--if not more. Add to this that these same 131,000 people are untrained and not really equipped to service a client's needs. And the third, and most volatile, ingredient in this recipe for disaster is that the vast majority of these 131,000 people are not making any money, when they likely were promised riches--unless they attended Proud To Be YTB's Seminars. I Can see where it would be very tempting to just take the money and run. Why is YTB any more susceptible to do this than a TTA? Well, in the TTA world, they are making an income. Remember in 2007, the average RTA earned $102 and the average Rep earned $265. This is the tip of the iceberg.
And I do need to shout a loud "WTF?" to the bus drivers. Apparently paying her in cash, and responding to a "hand written" solicitation. Apparently she missed the Marketing 101 class at YTBU!
PS: After watching the video, one wonders why YTB seems to have a policy of not returning calls to the media. Perhaps they are only willing to talk about the good things! It is the same MO that happened in Baltimore.
Apr 3, 2008
Well, since no one had any answers as to how the MLM crowd was responding to the Aloha issues, ATA apparently has decided to give them a second chance.
In a statement, ATA has said:
ATA Airlines has discontinued all operations and cancelled all current and future flights. Following the loss of a key contract for our military charter business, it became impossible for ATA to continue operations. Unfortunately, we were not in a position to provide our customers or others with advance notice. We apologize for the disruption caused by the sudden shutdown of ATA and regret the impact on passengers, employees, suppliers, and other parties. ATA customers should seek alternative arrangements for current and future travel.So, again, I know what the traditional travel agents are doing this morning. I also know what the online biggies are also doing. The question remains, what is YTB and the other MLMs doing about customer service. With almost a half billion dollars in reported sales, certainly some of your customers are impacted.
What is the answer? Call YTB HQ? Go to my website? Or is it that it is not your problem because you are just a privately branded Travelocity site and it is their problem? Welcome to the realities of being a travel agent folks---referring or otherwise!
Apr 2, 2008
The other day, Travel Weekly ran a column about YTB fighting with IATA to get their cancellation rescinded. Now after all the posturing and all of the RTAs and Reps screaming that YTB does not need IATAN and so forth, it seems that management has a different view.
I suspect this about face has a lot to do with their provisional certifications in British Columbia and Ontario. But I also have to question how receptive IATA will be to reinstatement when you hear things such as this:
After labeling the IATAN program "the biggest card mill in the world," YTB said IATA's refusal to let the agency attempt to change practices in order to regain the IATA endorsement was an indication that IATA was trying to eliminate YTB as competition "for being a perceived threat to [IATAN's] monopoly in the travel card industry."As one MLMer might say, LOL too funny. Now YTB thinks that their issuing their IATAN number to 140,000 people that paid them $449 was not the issue but that IATA felt they were a threat to the existence of the IATAN card. Are the executives at YTB drinking the Kool Aid too? I thought they just served it!
Here is a tip, when you are looking to affect change and you are not in control of it; it is wise to not piss off those who are in a position to affect that change.
So, why is IATA endorsement now all of a sudden such a big deal? Is Canada onto the scheme?
PS: Blog note--yesterday was indeed April 1 and for those TTAs and MLMers that believed the story about TAG acquiring YTB, it was false. The story was created by a colleague who will go unnamed and I applaud him for his creativity and sense of humor. Secondly, I am not ignoring the 10K--I am reading it. Not the most exciting bathroom reading material, but there is some interesting insight to be gained. Stay tuned. After all it is like 125 pages!
Apr 1, 2008
Apparently, this was the news that YTB was all excited about in February. Remember the USA Today announcement? I picked this up as a comment on my blog and also saw it on a reputable travel board so there is at least some credence. I have calls out to verify this. Very interesting development for sure:
Travel Acquisition Group Acquires YTB
Tuesday April 1, 7:10 am ET
By Dan Caterinicchia, AP Travel Writer
Eden Prairie MN-The Travel Acquisition Group (TAG), a newly formed travel franchise in conjunction with J.P. Morgan helped with the financial backing on acquiring YTB. YTB's Scott Tomer said this was a needed boost for all of our RTA's and affiliating ourselves with a group that only sees growth in the coming years. YTB had some setbacks last year with several cruise lines as YTB was referred to an industry cardmill. Mike Batt (chairman of the board for TAG) said he welcomed the merger. Once we were able to split off from Carlson Companies, we sought travel organizations that would fit our mix with our existing franchise group. With YTB's current 131,000 agents, they will be able to interact with local TAG franchises who will be their hosts on travel transactions. Batt and Tomer both stated that a late 3rd quarter transition should be finalized. The amount of financing wasn't disclosed.
Someone brought up a good point to me yesterday with the news about Aloha Airlines. How is the MLM crowd handling this? Certainly there are people flying Aloha who had the misfortune of purchasing tickets from one of the "agency in a box" firms.
I know what the traditionalists have done and will continue to do. I also know how the online biggies are handling the issue, but I wonder how the MLM agencies are handling it. What are the clients hearing when they call the toll free number provided? What are the clients thinking? Are they getting what they paid for...or just saying Aloha to their vacations?