Contributing Editor George Dooley has been reporting on the controversial Illinois-based YTB International, which is currently the focus of a pending legal action by the state of California's attorney general. The attorney general alleges that YTB has made deceptive claims to consumers. The accusations against YTB range from its being a multilevel marketing (MLM) plan focused on network-building rather than the sale of travel, to being a card mill that encourages YTB agents to scoop up free or reduced travel. Charges that YTB is also an illegal pyramid scheme are commonplace. YTB critics see the company as a scam for the unwary seeking free travel benefits.
J. Kim Sorensen, YTB's founder and president of YTB, counters this by saying, "We are not a card mill...we are a perfectly legitimate multilevel travel- marketing firm that is moving supplier products and putting money into the pockets of our agents." TravelAgent www.Central.com, the official website of Home-Based Travel Agent, opened the issue up for discussion. Below are a few comments from readers:
• "It's about time someone took action against YTB. I applaud the [California attorney general]. I only hope more states follow. YTB is a pariah in the travel industry. Companies such as YTB hurt our reputation and our integrity."
• "It is a shame that we, as professionals, have allowed our industry to become so weak that MLM scams can prosper."
• "I'd also note that it is possible to find a host agency that will give you a travel website nearly identical to that provided by YTB (both powered by Revelex), along with an 80/20 split of commissions (vs. 60/40 with YTB), and charge you no monthly or yearly fees. Why would anyone even remotely serious about travel want to continue to pay $49.95 per month and only get 60 percent of commissions instead of paying $0 per month and getting 80 percent of commissions?"
Not all comments were critical of YTB, however:
•"I started off with YTB and from there, I've learned how to sell travel and make commissions for my own home-based travel agency...YTB opened the doors to all of this for me. I just took it all to another level. I can't complain."
•"I am a CRTA with YTB and I've been paid for all travel booked on my site. I couldn't help but notice that it seemed like all the negative postings about this article were done by 'Travel Professionals.' I understand that it would be difficult to accept that your career may be obsolete, but...if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"
Montrose Introduces New Services
FlightStats. With FlightStats, clients can track their flights and receive notification of significant delays or cancellations on their itinerary. For information, visit www.flightstats.com or www.mtravel.com.
Cliqbook. Cliqbook allows agents to simultaneously book air, car, hotel and rail reservations. Other benefits are lower travel booking costs and fees; automated pre-trip approval; booking inventory from GDSs; and exclusive direct connects.
Travel GPA Report Card. This tool enables home-based agents' corporate customers to assess how well their travel program is being managed. It benchmarks air, car and hotel spend against millions of transactions, and grades success in each area. In other words, it compares clients' goals and how well they measure up to their peers.
TPI Acquires Travel Source Network
Travel Professionals International (TPI) (www.canadiantravelconnection.com), Canada's largest network of home-based travel agents, announced its acquisition of Toronto-based Travel Source Network (TSN). TSN's network consists of 150 home-based agents; they will bring TPI's membership base to about 750. In accordance with the merge agreements, all TSN staff and agents will immediately begin teaming with TPI through a transition program, which is expected to take 30 to 45 days.