New at Travel Counsellors

Peter Rasmussen has hit the ground running in his new role as general manager of Travel Counsellors USA. We caught up with Rasmussen, who is the former senior vice president, sales and marketing of Auto Europe, on his first full day in the company's Lake Mary, FL office. While just a few days past his official start date, Rasmussen had already ventured to Manchester, England, to visit Travel Counsellors' headquarters, as well as to Fort Lauderdale to attend CLIA's cruise3sixty conference, where the company had a presence in order to speak with potential network members.  Peter Ramussen

Growing Carefully

Rasmussen told us that his goals for Travel Counsellors USA include increasing the company's network of home-based travel agencies here in the United States while growing the amount of business that those network members deliver.

Though Travel Counsellors is new to the U.S. (it launched last September), it's been in business for 14 years, with a worldwide presence of 800 full-time agents. While there are currently just 12 agents in the U.S. network, Rasmussen says he is not setting a date or a goal that he wants to meet any time soon for expansion; his main purpose is to grow the network carefully.

In the Lake Mary office, he was already working with staffers "to make sure that our service delivery is exactly what we want it to be," Rasmussen says. "There are always a few tweakings."

The new general manager picks up from Graeme Clarke, who has left to develop his own tour-operating program. What lies before Rasmussen now is to follow up with a "very large group" of agents who have expressed interest in joining Travel Counsellors "to make sure they fit us and that we fit them," he says.

Travel Counsellors' Ideal Recruits

What is the profile of the agent Rasmussen will pursue? He says he is looking for full-time agents only, who already have a travel agency background.

"We require a certain experience level," he says, noting that Travel Counsellors will foot the bill for any agent joining the network to earn their CTC through The Travel Institute, if they have not already done so. "That sets a level of what we are looking for," he says. Rasmussen suggests a Travel Counsellors candidate could include "perhaps a person who ran an agency who maybe decided to take their book of business and work from home. And they would sell every type of travel, from a single airline ticket to a full-blown $45,000 cruise."

The fee schedule for being a member of Travel Counsellors is flat, meaning all agents pay a monthly $75 fee and retain 60 percent of their net revenue. In return, Travel Counsellors provides all back-of-the-house systems and maintains all client paperwork, so that agents can forge ahead to grow their businesses. Upon joining, new members are trained and "hand-held" until they are ready to go it alone.

"My feeling is, if you run an agency today and keep 60 percent of what you earn, you've done very well," he says.

Jeanie Leonard is one of the first U.S. members of Travel Counsellors. Based in Vermont, she says Travel Counsellors has "made me feel that helping my clients find that perfect vacation that they wanted, not what I had to sell, really was what it is all about." Leonard says some of the benefits of working with the company include an Intranet service and back-office support. —Ruthanne Terrero

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