ARC officially announced the launch of Helix, its controversial new "members-only" program for home-based and retail travel agencies in the face of industry associations and marketing groups wary of airline owned ARC’s intentions and Helix's impact on a already competitive market.
ARC Verified Travel Consultants (VTC) and ticketing agencies can join Helix, and ARC will waive the first annual membership fee of $179 until 2012. This, ARC says, will provide agents with the opportunity to experience Helix benefits risk free, and to see how Helix will help grow their businesses. ARC reported 1,243 VTC locations in December 2010.
"Helix represents our commitment to continually add valued services for ARC’s participants," said Lauri Reishus, ARC's vice president of operations. "This exclusive program not only provides better access to a host of competitive offerings, it also supplies the tools agencies need to stay ahead of the curve and continue to prosper. Maximizing improvements in margin and revenue generation is the cornerstone of any successful business; we think Helix will do just that, and encourage all agencies, especially those unaffiliated with another program, to become Helix members."
Core elements of the Helix program include "competitive supplier offerings, multiple business services, and the professional education and training needed to operate more efficiently and become more profitable."
ARC reports it has negotiated partner agreements with premier suppliers, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Globus Family of Brands, Avalon Waterways, Insight Vacations, Travel Impressions, Marriott International, Funjet Vacations, and Southwest Airlines Vacations, among others. As a result of the preferred supplier agreements Helix agencies will have access to enhanced and, in some cases, exclusive commissions.
"Carnival Cruise Lines is delighted to be one of the select preferred suppliers for Helix," said Joni Rein, vice president of worldwide sales for Carnival Cruise Lines. “We look forward to building a strong partnership with Helix member travel agencies and are committed to help grow and develop new business in support of this distribution channel."
Hundreds of online business courses, webinars, and exclusive destination and regional symposiums will be available for Helix members. Helix Education and Training will be led by Joanie Ogg, a well known industry leader and principal owner of Joanie Ogg Marketing Group. Ogg formerly managed NACTA, a subsidiary of ASTA for home-based independent agents.
ARC said its continued commitment to enhancing travel agency operations is evident through Helix’s Business Services. Member travel agencies will have access to exclusively priced products and services offered by major service providers in the industry, ARC said. This includes ClientEase, an Internet-based customer relationship management (CRM) product and Travel 42, an online resource for reviews, destination guides, and travel alerts, including Star Services Online, Weissmann Reports, Official Cruise Guide, and Intelliguide.
"It’s important for my agency to have access to preferred suppliers that provide my business with the opportunity to make a better commission, and have an array of services and educational tools at my fingertips to help run my business at peak efficiency,” said Jennifer Kruse, owner of Journeys Travel, a New York home-based agency.
ARC noted it accredits ticketing and non-ticketing VTC agencies in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. ARC also said participating travel agencies are recognized by suppliers via the ARC Agency List and ARC Check. "They have access to a number of products and services that both enhance their business operations and generate additional revenues, including ARC Travel Agent Service Fee/Agent’s Choice, ARC MarketPlace, and ARC Memo Manager," ARC said.
More than 16,000 travel agencies and 190 airlines now use ARC’s transaction settlement services which, in 2010, totaled more than $77 billion in value.
ARC’s VTC Program has enjoyed substantial growth. ARC reported that VTC applications grew 20 percent year-over-year from 2008 to 2009.
"VTCs have stated the Program is a welcomed alternative to comparable programs, being the most inclusive and beneficial in the marketplace," ARC said. "The VTC Program offers travel agencies and travel pros within those agencies the opportunity to do what no other agency program can — generate revenue. The ARC Number is a key element to the VTC Program as it is widely respected and recognized across the industry. What separates the VTC Program from the rest is ARC MarketPlace and Agent's Choice. Both developed with the agency in mind, to boost the bottom line."
Agents can learn more about Helix and apply for membership online at www.arccorp.com/helix.