Travel Agency Groups Boom in Weak Economy

Travel agency marketing groups – consortia, franchisers and agency owned groups – appear to be booming despite the nation’s economic problems.

The evidence is fragmentary and hard numbers are scarce – none of the groups are publicly owned or required to go public with financials – but for several major groups 2011 may prove to be a banner year.

A good example is Signature Travel Network who has reported membership growth with 18 new members and 30 new locations in 2011, totaling 202 members with 375 locations across the network. Signature now covers 38 states in the U.S. and 4 provinces in Canada.

Significantly, Signature released the results of a recent survey of Signature members who reported a 19 percent year on year revenue growth.  Signature Travel a member-owned, travel cooperative, says collectively, Signature members generate over $5 billion in annual travel.

Another solid example is Ensemble Travel Group, who reports that 67 new member agencies have joined since January 2011, reflecting the largest nine-month gain in member acquisition for Ensemble in the last decade. This includes 42 new agencies in Canada and 25 in the United States. Ensemble now includes 850 professional travel agencies in the U.S. and Canada and is member owned.
Travel Leaders Franchise Group is another example, reporting it has attracted nine additional travel agencies with over $205 million in annual sales volume to its Associate (franchise) Program so far this year. That gain is in addition to the more than $2.35 billion Travel Leaders Associates reported last year, the company says.

Coupled with parent Travel Leaders Group the group is now part of a $16.62 billion-plus enterprise., a major force among consortia, is also reporting growth, noting that the consortia is nearing the 300 mark for additions -271 -to its ranks, year to date. is estimated to have 5,000 plus agency members.

Another powerhouse, Virtuoso, recently estimated $9.6 billion in revenues in 2010 an increase from $5.1 billion. Overall, the network, which is comprised of more than 300 independent travel agencies in 22 countries (with 650 locations including branches), reporting a 31.3 percent increase in annual sales over 2009.

Nexion, a Travel Leaders Group member  - the group estimates that it represents nearly 30 percent of all retail travel agencies, - has reported growth to more than 2,900 independent, U.S.-based travel professionals this past year.

Results! Travel, a 700 member franchise agency network, is also part of Travel Leaders, and reporting growth.

CruiseOne, a major home-based franchise travel agent network (founded in 1992), reports more than 750 locations and when sister company Cruises Inc., a cruise travel host agency, are included it includes 1,200 agents. Both are part of World Travel Holdings (WTH).

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