Al Minkoff, the founder of consortia giants GEM and Cruiselink, was inducted posthumously into ASTA's Hall of Fame today. The award is the highest honor that ASTA presents to individuals. ASTA's Travel Hall of Fame Award was established in 1971 during the 41st World Travel Congress in Sydney, Australia. Its purpose is to recognize and honor individuals whose careers have greatly influenced the development and expansion of the travel and tourism industry.
"Al was known as a catalyst for change within the industry," said Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO. "Throughout his 30 years in the business, he became an industry icon, and his efforts to advance the cause of travel agents, be it through education, technology or lobbying within the halls of government, have made an enduring impact."
Minkoff got his start in the travel industry in 1972, when he and his wife Vivian opened their first travel agency, Pequa Travel in North Massapequa, NY. Over the years, the agency grew to include three branch offices. Later that same decade, Minkoff went to work for Travelsavers as the office manager, where he started and ran the first 24-hour travel helpline for Travelsavers' member clients.
Along with Paul Elhoff, he went on to open TIME, a consortium, and later branched off on his own to start the consortia GEM and Cruiselink, which were listed as the top and third ranked consortia in the country at one point and the first to have their own websites. During this time he established TravelClearingHouse, to provide group blocked space to GEM and Cruiselink agency members. In 1998, Minkoff sold these businesses to Travel Agents Network and Vacation.com. In 2000, Minkoff started Travelink 2000 as a host-based agency.
Minkoff is credited as being a leader in the technology field, building the first consumer-based agency referral phone system and launching one of the first "click to call" systems through a travel agency's website. He was a charter member of the American Travel Affairs Council and the Coalition for Travel Industry Parity.
Minkoff joined the National Guard in 1946 and was drafted in 1952 to serve in the Korean War. He graduated from Hofstra University in 1962. He and his wife Vivian had three children, Peter Joseph, Katherine Ann and July Ann.