New Host Agency: We're In It For The Long Haul

TLC Travel Partners of Des Moines may rank among the newest travel agencies in the U.S. Launched February 14, by co-founders Don Anderson and Dan Adams, TLC/TP wants to position itself to become a major player in the host agency business. "We are in this for the long haul and see enormous opportunity in travel sales," Dan Adams told Travel Agent. But unlike many startups, TLC/TP is up and running from day one with a professional web site, a list of travel suppliers, a booking platform and instant credibility in the market. The key is that TLC Travel Partners is an Enterprise level member of Joystar, the national network.

"Our business model is rock solid. We are not here today and gone tomorrow," Anderson said. Adams added that as a host TLC/TP wants to recruit as many agents as possible and turn them into productive, profit-generating agents. And, he says, TLC/TP has the support needed from Joystar to achieve the objective. "My background includes real estate and computer sales skills that I think translate into travel sales. And to date, Joystar has been very supportive. It's a well thought-out program. That allows us to use our own initiative and to build a business."

Based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Joystar is a subsidiary of Travelstar, a publicly traded company who in four years has become a strong competitor with 2007 sales estimated at $100 million. Travelstar/Joystar claims 4,000 agents in the U.S. and says it grows by 300 agents a month. Its enterprise- level membership is one of four levels offered for experienced or beginning agents.

While Joystar has created strong support it, has also attracted critics who assert that Joystar is less a travel agency then a multi-level marketing company. Others view Joystar as an innovative newcomer to the industry who is delivering needed sales to suppliers with a new business model.

In the case of TLC/TP, the agency starts off with a fully developed program. This includes the benefits of Joystar's preferred-supplier program (Joystar was recently named to Carnival's Pinnacle Club) with an array of tools from Sabre, Amadeus, VAX Vacation Access, Consolidator Shopper and Revelex technology to name a few. TLC/TP also benefits from Joystar's membership in Vaation.com, the agency consortia and its membership in ASTA, OSSN, NACTA and IATAN and CLIA.

Will TLC Travel Partners realize its objectives of being a major host agency? Like any start-up it's simply too early to tell. But competent management, aggressive promotion and the support of Joystar's program give it a better than average chance of survival in a competitive business. (GD)

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