Agent Numbers Down for YTB Convention

YTB International expects approximately 5,000 travel agents, representatives and guests to attend its annual national convention in St. Louis later this month, reports the St. Louis Business Journal. That’s 3,000 fewer people than in years past.

The convention is scheduled for August 17-21 at America’s Center and the Renaissance Grand Hotel, according to a list of August conventions released by the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.

An estimated 8,000 people attended YTB’s annual convention last year. This year’s total reaches only 60 percent of that mark.

The Wood River, IL-based marketer of travel agent websites, which is led by CEO and President Robert Van Patten, has restructured its management team, and trimmed overhead and corporate expenses in response to losses.

YTB lost $423,000 for its first quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of $1.9 million a year earlier. Total revenue for the quarter ended March 31 was $9.3 million, less than half of $21.4 million in revenue in the prior-year period.

Former Chairman J. Scott Tomer became the company’s chairman last fall after his father, founder J. Lloyd “Coach” Tomer, resigned.

Lower attendance at trade shows in general has been common over the last two years due to the economy, and YTB has suffered from cutbacks in travel and commissions during the recession. But, and perhaps, more importantly it has also been busy defending itself against highly public charges that it operates as a pyramid scheme. Either of these factors—or a combination of the two—could be blamed for the precipitous drop in attendance.

In May 2009, YTB International Inc. agreed to pay $1 million and to stop charging agents for its travel web sites to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit filed by the California attorney general. The company also faced another lawsuit from Illinois Attorney General LisaMadigan , who alleges that YTB violated state laws regarding unfair competition and advertising.

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