If you have ever doubted the future of independent agents or the agencies that host them, meet Mike Cameron, CEO of Andavo Travel, a host agency with 58 independent contractors who is reporting annual sales, for this division, of $35 million. “We see opportunity in expanding Andavo as a host and investing in our independent agents,” Cameron told Travel Agent.
“By choice Andavo specializes in luxury travel and we see luxury, leisure travel sales migrating to the skilled professional independent agent, backed by strong hosts and consortia affiliations,” Cameron said.
Cameron admits that Andavo has advantages, including size. He acquired Andavo in 2010. Andavo now has independent agents throughout the U.S. and offices in Denver, Salt Lake City and Larkspur, California.
“Andavo is a stand-alone host that is profitable and growing,” Cameron said. Its sister company, Christopherson Business Travel (CBT), ranks as the 12th largest travel management company; their combined sales are $341 million.
"We have the advantage of size and market power which translates into advantages and clout for our independent contractors," Cameron says. "And there are synergies –especially in technology -from CBT." 2012 saw an increase of over $50 million over sales from 2011, Cameron notes. Cameron serves as president and CEO of both Christopherson Business Travel and Andavo Travel.
One advantage cited by Cameron is Andavo's AirPortal technology that offers Andavo's independent agents real time customer relations tools to manage their businesses. Christopherson Business Travel agents have a similar system but focused on travel management.
AdvisorCare, Andavo’s host technology system, gives Andavo’s agents tools to track clients, track bookings and in the future track commission flows. “It essentially empowers the agent and complements their own considerable expertise. It also enhances our professional agents value to their clients. To me, hosting agencies must invest in infrastructure that boosts the IC’s effectiveness.”
Christopherson Business Travel - like Andavo - is headquartered in Salt Lake City, with 250 team members and 35 offices and supports more than $340 million in annual travel bookings. Christopherson provides travel management services to more than 900 companies and is an affiliate of BCD Travel.
Another key advantage of Andavo's agents is Andavo's affiliation with Virtuoso Travel Network. "Virtuoso has broken new ground in luxury travel sales and our IC's clearly gain from this affiliation. Virtuoso has an outstanding track record and a respected brand appreciated by our IC’s who are experts in their specialties."
"In my view host agencies have to invest in their agents - including technology and marketing tools that allow them to deliver superior client services,” Cameron says. “The competition for luxury travel clients is fierce and demands the agent to be able to deliver high integrity personalized service.”
Cameron’s concerns with the future include short falls in qualified, experienced new entrants in an increasingly demanding profession. Also many experienced agents with destination expertise are retiring. “We want to increase the number of professional IC’s and offer commissions and other incentives that encourages superior performance.”
Despite the global economic problems and sluggish U.S. growth, Cameron is bullish on the future and is targeting $500 million as a goal within three years, including proportionate growth in Andavo Travel. “Our air and hotel programs are excellent – delivering value to clients and rewards for IC’s sales.”
“We have succeeded because we offered incentives to our independent agents and our staffs, rewarded performance and helped motivate them. This will be a basis for future growth and contributions.”
In addition to its affiliation with Virtuoso, Andavo/CBT is a member of the BCD Travel global network and a member of ASTA’s influential Corporate Advisory Council. Cameron himself is a Certified Public Accountant and has been named CEO of the Year by a Utah business publication.
Cameron also serves on the advisory boards of Travelport, Delta Air Lines and BCD Travel.
“We are proud of our growth – since 1990 we moved from two agents and $1 million in sales – to become a formidable competitor on a national level. We have benefited from changes in technology and strong relations with suppliers as well as from the talents of our staffs and independent agents. This will continue and accelerate in the future.”’