If you are looking for a model of a successful travel agency that has met the challenges of achieving profitability and passed the tests of innovation and managerial excellence while delivering high-integrity services to a diverse client base, you should take a hard look at Montrose, CA-based Montrose Travel.
In an interview with Travel Agent, Joe McClure, Montrose’s president, said that 2007 set a new sales record well in excess of $110 million and that the first quarter of 2008 had seen a 26 percent gain in sales and a larger increase in the full-service agency’s profitability.
Andi McClure-Mysza, head of Montrose Travel's MTravel.com, with her children at Disneyland.
While cautious about the economy and the balance of 2008, McClure believes that Montrose, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, is in a strong position to survive any downturn and will continue to prosper. This year will also see Montrose launch new initiatives and build on its 52-year record of profitable growth.
With seven operating divisions including powerhouse MTravel.com, Montrose’s host agency division headed by Andi McClure-Mysza, Montrose has shown that it has the management skills to benefit from diversification—and the ability to win in one of the world’s most competitive markets.
Making Montrose Tick
McClure also sees Montrose benefiting from early adoption of new technologies that have given it a competitive edge. This includes more than 400 private-label websites, online booking tools and e-mail promotions integrated with management information systems and controls that every agency needs. He gives significant credit to Revelex, Montrose’s key technology partner.
Key to Montrose’s success (the agency has been managed by the McClure family since 1972) is its ability to serve diverse clients. Its Loyalty/Rewards and Credit Union Division, for example, handles more than 7 million Visa and MasterCard members’ rewards program transactions. Montrose also recently won a very large contract from a major financial institution to manage a similar travel rewards fulfillment program.
“Montrose has been able to handle the mainstream corporate travel management responsibilities and to expand into leisure travel sales, as well as specialized areas compatible with our core competencies. Expertise and technology often give us a competitive edge, as does a strong management team with an exceptional ability to execute new strategies designed to cement our future,” says McClure.
Among Montrose’s successful individual divisions are units focused on servicing credit-card rewards programs, credit unions, entertainment accounts, groups and incentives, honeymoons and corporate travel management, all run by seasoned and skilled managers.
MTravel.com, another Montrose Division, is among the agency’s crown jewels. And like Montrose, it has enjoyed profitable growth under McClure-Mysza’s leadership. With 350-plus agents, MTravel.com has a reputation for innovation, quality and integrity of operation. Mysza also serves as the president of the Professional Association of Travel Hosts (PATH). “Early on we saw the importance of independent and home-based agents and the role of host agencies, and have done a good job at benefiting from the opportunity,” Mysza said.
The brother-and-sister team of McClure and Mysza stresses the need for any agency to have solid financials and a strong, experienced management team and staff. Good leadership means that the agency has core competencies that allow it to perceive and exploit marketing opportunities quickly. They emphasize no debt and a positive cash flow as basics. Both executives have MBAs from the University of Southern California.
McClure also recognizes that technology gives agency managers needed controls over productivity and performance down to the individual agent level. When mixed with strong motivation and solid skills, the result is a staff of more than 150 with agents that are profitable, productive and committed to their careers.
What does the future hold? Montrose Travel has gained recognition as one of the top agencies in the U.S., but like all agencies, it is going to continue to face competitive challenges, McClure says. This includes an often-uphill battle to recruit, train and motivate quality people.
Yet McClure is optimistic that the travel agency industry is tough and resilient and that Montrose (and MTravel.com) will continue to provide a model for performance. With a reported 156 percent increase in profitability for the first four months of 2008, few will doubt his professional judgment.
Headquarters: 2349 Honolulu Avenue, Montrose, CA 91020-1821
Phone: 1-800-MONTROSE or 818-553-3200