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YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender

July 29, 2009 By: George Dooley
 


YTB International’s annual convention opens this week at the America’s Center in St Louis, with 5,800 plus YTB agents and representatives expected. Among them will be Doug Bauknight, one of YTB’s most articulate defenders who has stood by YTB in good times and bad. Bauknight’s web site, www.justpictureitnow.com, is available to help interested parties understand the ever-controversial YTB and its future.

“Its frustrating for YTB’s critics,” Bauknight said in an interview with Travel Agent. “But YTB is still standing with $425 million in sales and a loyal cadre of travel selling agents. Worse, for our critics, YTB is growing despite the economy and despite its critics. Even at 5,800 attendees, the convention—our fifth—represents the largest gathering in the travel industry.”

YTB’s convention agenda includes training in group cruises, booking procedures, making websites work, understanding cruise pricing, student travel, travel insurance, selling Alaska, golf vacation sales and more including training on YTB’s program.

“I speak as an individual YTB agent, not for YTB," Bauknight said. "My view is that of an entrepreneur who has benefited from YTB’s program personally and professionally. I am both a seller of travel and a YTB Representative. I get two 1099 [forms[: one for travel sales and one for rep sales. I am one of thousands of YTB agents who benefit from YTB’s program.”

Bauknight sees a new YTB emerging or YTB 2.0. “The California Attorney General’s legal action hurt," he said. "It cost YTB money and we lost some good agents. And it cost us momentum. But we are going to emerge stronger. We have strong, visionary management and we have the power to learn and adapt. The Convention will help clarify and define our goals.”

Earlier this year YTB settled a lawsuit brought brought by California’s Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., who called YTB “an elaborate pyramid scheme.” The agreement ordered YTB to stop what the state said was “deceptive marketing of its largely unprofitable travel websites” and hit YTB with $1 million in penalties. The decision forced changes in how YTB was organized and promoted membership.

The core of California’s complaint argued that the annual median income for those selling travel was $39.00, less than one month's cost to operate the website. Brown said the majority of consumers who purchased YTB websites made no money through the sale of travel as many lost money through continued website operations, but those who recruited others to buy websites were much more profitable.

A New YTB?

One key to YTB’s future will be adopting a franchise model. YTB Franchise Services, Inc. was formed in March 2009, to serve as the corporate entity to offer the proposed/contemplated franchise offerings for YTB. “We see franchising as one way to expand business and compete for quality agents," Bauknight said. "Franchising will be the core of the new YTB.”

Bauknight admits that franchising is a tougher sell and that franchise offers are closely regulated both at the state and federal level. “I am confident that YTB’s offering will be innovative and rewarding to franchisees. And yes, I think we can compete head on with other travel franchisers," he said.

Bauknight does not believe the recent spin off of YTB’s REZConnect technology subsidiary will adversely impact YTB agents or reps. “We will have state-of-the art technology essential to booking travel via agreement with World Choice, Trav-Tech, and direct access to other vendors and suppliers," he said. "We are also currently beta testing new technology in Canada with Convergentware. It’s my understanding that YTB has agreements in place to provide support for agents.”

The new YTB 2.0 will have three—rather than four— distinct, wholly-owned subsidiary divisions, including YTB Franchise Services.

YTB Marketing, Inc. (formerly known as YourTravelBiz.com, Inc.) does the marketing, training and support of its rep sales force, who are responsible for marketing and selling websites to TSOs, formerly known as referral travel agents (referring travel affiliates in Canada).

YTB says its reps are independent contractors who primarily work from their homes. In addition to earning compensation on personal ITC sales, reps may also build a sales force from whom they receive override compensation on ITC sales.

Under the new plan, post-California decision, reps may utilize a number of methods to sell ITCs including the use of informational meetings and events, local advertising, and one-on-one meetings. It is a referral marketing compensation program, YTB says. YTB Marketing charges an initial fee of $449.95 for the setup of an ITC plus $49.95 per month for web-hosting fees.

The second unit is YTB Travel Network, Inc. which operates home-based travel websites which book online travel transactions, collect payments, collect licensing fees, and pay travel sales commissions to the approximately 73,801 (as of 3/31/09) TSOs’ ITCs that it hosts. TSOs are educated through travel training courses via conference calls, e-training modules and hands-on certification seminars. TSOs earn transactional compensation from travel purchased from their respective ITC’s.

YTB Continues to Impact Industry

Bauknight believes YTB has been subjected to a lot of unfair criticism and has been singled out more so than other marketing firms. “This is regrettable," he said. "YTB offers income opportunities to individuals that make a difference in people’s lives. Critics dwell not on the opportunity YTB offers but on the negatives. In my view we compare favorably to other host agencies and compete fairly. There have to be new approaches to how travel services are sold. To me YTB has and is breaking new ground.”

The recession is a worry for Bauknight who, like other agents, sees eroding yield on cruise sales and sluggish consumer demand. Supplier support remains strong, however, and he believes YTB agents are delivering sales in sufficient volume to gain suppliers support and encouragement. “As with any host agency the drive and determination of the individual agents make the difference," he said. "No one can take this market for granted. YTB agents have to promote themselves and travel.”

Year-to-date, Bauknight admits that YTB has had some tough going. But he believes that YTB’s management is backed by quality agents and representatives and has an evolving, dynamic and rewarding program in place. “We have a settlement in place in California, the class action in Illinois has been thrown out, and we expect new initiatives to be announced at the Convention that will build momentum to help us realize what we can achieve,” he said.

Bauknight believes that the roll out of YTB’s Franchise program will start in California as allowed as part of the settlement with the Attorney General and follow in other states. “Our key weakness has been the perception of our being a multilevel marketing plan," he said. "They are nothing more than common misconceptions and stereotypes. But by complying with the California state judgment we have learned how to change that perception and better mange ourselves.”

For Bauknight, the downside to being a defender and advocate of YTB it is the often angry, "poorly informed" and sometime "malicious" criticism that a YTB champion such as Bauknight attracts. “Many are very sensible," he said. "But some commentaries are obsessed and verge on the irrational. YTB has struck a nerve in the travel industry. One such indication of its success is the anger and frustration directed at both myself and the company. Time will tell. But my guess is that YTB will be here next year; bigger and more successful.”

Travel agents can learn more about YTB at www.ytb.com, the company’s official site that includes YTB’s reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. They can also visit Bauknight’s website at www.justpictureitnow.com.


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RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Simon
on:
July 30, 2009 - 7:26am

I bet Bauknight has a big box of pagers for sale, or maybe a garage full of vitamins. YTB is dead. Attorney General Jerry Brown killed the beast and nobody is willing to admit the corpse is rotting.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: bruce
on:
July 30, 2009 - 7:26am

85% of YTBs income comes from recruiting. Less than 15% of YTBs income comes from selling travel. their own income disclosure statement shows that 90% of YTB TSOs earn enough to make any of their investment back. Even Kim sorenson said that YTB knows 85% will not do well, but for YTBs sake it is important that they try. In other words, pay for the opportunity. And the suits are not over. The Illinois Attorney General has not made her case as of yet.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: cassie
on:
July 30, 2009 - 10:56am

Mr Bauknight seems to have oerlooked the fact that the Illinois AG has not finished with YTB. Her intent is 'to shut them down'. @@@@@@@@@@@@While this industry could certainly use some new blood an MLM modle is not the way we're going to get it. YTB TSOs are sold a package of make millions selling travel, YTB will make 10,000 millionaires, it's easy, travel like a Travelpro (Mr Bauknight), take big tax discounts...and on and on. YTB is for dabblers, at best consumers looking for commissions on sales to themselves. The average YEARLY earnings of any TSO is 111.00. They spend up to 1700.00 to earn this. That is a very poor ROI. Mr Bauknight shouls have presented the YTB income disclosure statement as now required by California law to show us all the great opportunity this is. @@@@@@@@@@@@Mr Bauknight has been with YTB for 4 years I believe and has succeeded by recruiting others into YTB - hence his 'Coaches Corner' status. There are no YTB awards for selling travel.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: vadbear@aol.com
on:
July 30, 2009 - 11:02am

Anything new always brings controversy & YTB has certainly had their fair share. But they have weathered the storm & will continue to do so. You would think - from the criticism - that every one in the travel industry was a "professional" & doesn't enjoy the benefits! As a proud YTB travel site owner, I am conscientiously & professionally building a travel business. I am so grateful to YTB for this opportunity & would suggest that others in the industry just focus on their own business in these challenging times.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: jay
on:
July 30, 2009 - 11:28am

Whether you like what YTB does, or hate what they do, much to much time is wasted talking about it. If people spent as much time sharpening thier skills, and working hard, vs bashing a business model they dont understand or wouldnt survive in, they would flourish despite hard times. Stop crying, get selling!


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: bety
on:
July 30, 2009 - 4:25pm

Noone makes money without hard work. If YTB isn't for you stop complaining about it. Seems like they must be showing success if there is so much talk and concern about it. It works for me and many of my friends so worry about your own business and leave mine alone.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Mike
on:
July 30, 2009 - 4:25pm

Using Bauknight's own figures - $425 million in sales and 5800 attendees at the conference - that is an average of $73,000 in sales per year per YTB attendee. Gee, they really are big professionals!


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Suraj Zutshi
on:
July 30, 2009 - 4:25pm

I have no idea why the conversations got so vitriolic from both sides. As a CTC and CTIE, I do resent just anyone being able to sell travel and there is consulting, advising and professional counseling. To the good RTA's lots of luck, you will probably make it but please take pride in what you do and act as professionals. Stickers on the car saying 'travel like a travel agent' is an insult to anyone in our exciting industry. When you approach the bartender, bus driver and mailman to sell a website, is NOT selling travel. That is pure hustling and that is what experienced Travel Professionals do not like. Good Luck.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: what
on:
July 31, 2009 - 5:38am

so who is the best home-base travel company to work for???


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Rabbi Pedro Goldstein
on:
July 31, 2009 - 5:38am

The convention is drawing 1/3 of the people who showed up last year which was 1/2 of the people who attended the year before that. MAN THE LIFE BOATS ! !


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Lou Sthul
on:
July 31, 2009 - 5:38am

It looks like some of the rats haven't jumped the sinking ship - YET.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: MO
on:
August 1, 2009 - 3:57pm

It seems that the people who don’t have a clue about YTB are the ones who do the most spouting off. IF they really understood the business model, they would either say, yes I like it or no, it is not for me. The level of emotion they portray smacks of jealousy. Yes, we had people who gave their own spin to their presentations - they are being weeded out. Yes, the company made mistakes, but they have always been very diligent in correcting them.@@@@@@YTB Travel and YTB Marketing have always been two separate businesses. Those who quote the Income Disclosure Statement do not know the facts - it is about the Marketing business ONLY. It has nothing to do with the Travel business. All the statement shows is that anyone who is a sales person only earns if they do just that - sell the product, which is Travel Stores. This IS NOT the “average income” of TSO’s - it is the income of REPS (sales people). The statement “income disclosure statement now required by CA law” is incorrect. This


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Sandi
on:
August 2, 2009 - 3:42pm

Mr. Bauknight-Please explain why YTB has had an F rating with the BBB for years? Please explain why the complaints continue to pour into the BBB about YTB's business practices and recruiting?


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Joe
on:
August 6, 2009 - 10:53am

Mr Bauknight's blog is very revealing, and I am sure that the IRS would be interested in reviewing some of YTB's offerings to their so-called "Independent Contractors". @@@@@@@@@@@@According to his blog, he challenges traditional agents to show one host agency that provides "complete cost of your Medical Insurance and provides a $150,000 Life Insurance policy." What he doesn't realize is that host agencies can't, don't, and shouldn't provide these items to their Independent Contractors as the IRS would then classify them as employees of YTB, and YTB would then be responsible for paying federal withholding tax and other items.@@@@@@@@@@@@A finding of this nature from the IRS could do major damage to YTB.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: DB
on:
August 7, 2009 - 4:53pm

How reliable can a source be when he is plagiarizes other people's work?@@@@@@@@@@@@http://notravelmlms.blogspot.com/2009/08/nothing-is-as-it-seems-more-deception.html


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: JJ
on:
August 9, 2009 - 10:52am

George-The next time you interview Mr. Bauknight please ask him about plagarizing articles he writes for the Atlanta Examiner. Mr. Bauknight is about as credible as Bernie Madoff. From Yale to Jail--that is YTB's mantra.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Joe
on:
August 12, 2009 - 7:13am

Much has been written in travel trade magazines about these IRS Independent Contractor vs Employee rules, they should be read by all who run a travel business.@@@@@@@@@@@@Mr B should complete the IRS SS-8 form to get an official IRS ruling on if these benefits from YTB blur the line between Independent Contractor and Employee. I'd be interested in their reply.@@@@@@@@@@@@See http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss8.pdf for the form.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Many hosts pay between 80%-100% commission. See http://www.myhosttravelagency.com/proplans.html@@@@@@@@@@@@I can get between 70% and 90% for a startup fee of $299 and between $19.95 and $39.95 per month.@@@@@@@@@@@@OR@@@@@@@@@@@@I can join Nexion for $199 and NO MONTHLY FEE and get 80% commission - or pay $20/month and get 90% commission.@@@@@@@@@@@@Others exist too, these are just 2 examples.@@@@@@@@@@@@BTW, both hosts above allow booking with RCCL and a few other suppliers that YTB can't. They also allow you to earn your IATAN card when qualified.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Joe
on:
August 20, 2009 - 2:27pm

Mr B probably still hasn't read and understood the IRS pages about IC vs Employee - its not the IC that would get in trouble when audited by the IRS - that's never been the problem - the IC could actually benefit if the IRS found that he was being treated as an employee.@@@@@@@@@@@@The distinction needs to be made when the IRS looks at YTB as the company - and does it have IC's working for it or are they employees? The IRS has a list of 20 guidelines. Its my belief that many of these are being broken.@@@@@@@@@@@@IF the IRS were to find that YTB was treating the IC's like employees IN ANY WAY (bonus/medical insurance?), YTB could be responsible for paying FICA and other withholding taxes for their "employees" - and this would need to be back paid for the length of time that the IC was "employed".@@@@@@@@@@@@This is why other host agencies don't offer these benefits.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Taylor Ainsworth
on:
July 29, 2009 - 12:14pm

If Doug Bauknight is doing so well at his ytb business and earning money, why is he being sued so much by credit card companies for not paying his debts? I think Mr. Bauknight is as delusional on his earnings as the rest of the ytb crowd.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: DB
on:
July 29, 2009 - 12:38pm

That is good that Mr. Baughknight has met with success in YTB. The facts still show that he is in the VAST minority. Even the income disclosures that they are now legally required to show demonstrate that.@@@@@@@@@@@@I woudl be interested to know if his TOTAL compensation was what most might consider a "living" say $30,000 and up depending on where he lives, and how his TOTAL compensation was broken down? Is it mostly from the YTB Marketing side or the YTB travel side? If it is from marketing, the question remains why Travel Agent is interviewing a recruiter as representative of a self professed travel company?@@@@@@@@@@@@I'd like to see a follow up. My guess is that there will be very few answers!


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: JJ
on:
July 29, 2009 - 2:29pm

Mr. Bauknight lives north of Atlanta so $30,000 probably isn't going to do much for him. Of course his wife is the main breadwinner. If they had to rely on his income from YTB they would be homeless. What's really sad is all those who buy into YTB that were counting change and taking Greyhound to get to the convention.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Chris N
on:
July 29, 2009 - 2:29pm

"YTB Is Growing" - Hmmm it seems like mr Bauknight needs to do a little research and drink a little less koolaid@@@@@@@@@@@@1) The convention had 15,900 attendees last year - about triple what they are expecting for this year@@@@@@2) In January 2008, YTB had 131,802 RTAs. In March of 2009 they were down to 73,301 RTAs. A net loss of 58,501 RTAs. In Q1 2009 - over 26,000 RTAs quit.@@@@@@@@@@@@They are far from growing......@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@But here is the key to YTB. @@@@@@In 2008, YTB's RTAs paid over 122 million dollars in fees. Those same RTAs only earned about 20 million in travel comissions. The net result of over 100,000 RTAs working in 2008 was a loss of 100 million dollars. Not exactly a good opportunity.


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Rosie
on:
July 30, 2009 - 7:26am

Reading what this guy says reminds me of the disingenuous discourse of Enron execs just prior to the grand demise of that scam. YTB is nothing more then a ponzi scheme - no matter what kind of costume you try to dress it up in. It's not like other host agencies. Other host agencies do not charge you $450 to join an MLM operation full of know nothing about travel dupes who are looking for a way to make easy money or get "free" travel. Regardles of what ole Doug says every time I encounter one of these folks - they're busy trying to recruit me, they all have other jobs and this is their side business and they know nothing about travel! How can they serve a client except by getting them to purchase through them because their buddies or...whatever. This "model" is full of BS...but seems like alot of America likes feeding on BS these days. One "bona fide" agent who got duped into joining this ridiculous organization - left as soon as she wised up - and I'm sure she's not the only one


 
RE:YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint from YTB Defender
by: Boen
on:
July 30, 2009 - 7:26am

Hey all you guys out there. @@@@@@After YTB went through 2 battles with Ca and Il, they are now on the recovery process. People may say anything they want, but YTB is going stronger every day. Like a sick person, he needs a time to heal. It is the nature of the business. No reason to argue or debate here. If you are not satisfied, why don't you ask the founders themselves directly, I am sure they are very open minded people and love to share the victorious news with ALL of you out there. Find out directly from the source. Why creating a gossip room here. YTB will be the leader by 2020, no doubt, they are on track for this massive succsess.