Combine experienced independent agents, a skilled management team and the support of a top agency network and you have a formula for growth in sales that has propelled Travel Experts Inc.
With 2009 sales estimated at $175 million— primarily from its network of professional independent agents—Travel Experts, has emerged as one of five top Virtuoso member agents. With more to come this year.
Susan Ferrell, president of Travel Experts, reports that agency revenue is up 23 percent year-to-date 2010 over 2009. This includes all of the products and services that Travel Experts has to offer, including their Virtuoso product line.
In an interview with Travel Agent, Ferrell said that Travel Experts’ Virtuoso cruise production has seen an increase of 40 percent so far in 2010 over 2009. One reason: many travelers see cruising in the luxury sector as the best value overall.
Ferrell notes that Travel Experts was recently ranked number one for Silversea cruises for the entire Virtuoso network and that all of their luxury cruise partners are reporting increased revenues for Travel Experts.
Based in Raleigh, NC, Travel Experts has 200 independent contractors nationwide, most home based but a few who rent office space. “Our policy is to allow our independent contractors/agents to keep 100 percent of their commissions,” Ferrell says. “This works for thoroughly experienced, skilled and productive agents. While many host agencies and travel agencies have seen a decline in revenues, Travel Experts' agents have enjoyed rising sales. Our agents are very professional, experienced and driven by a commitment to outstanding client services.”
Travel Experts agents earnings could be anywhere from $50k to $200K per year— average maybe $100k— that's earnings. Sales per IC range from $500k to $2 million per year. They have very strong personal relationships with their clients, Ferrell reports, and benefit from referrals and repeat business from satisfied clients.
Ferrell gives credit to Virtuoso for its strong support and developing high-end luxury products that are very marketable, even during the downturn. She expects that as many as 51 agents will attend Virtuoso’s annual Travel Mart conference. “This underscores that our agents are very engaged with Virtuoso programs,” she says.
Travel Experts agents pay a flat $550 fee to belong, a fee that might be daunting to newcomers to the industry but is less significant to high producing and experienced professionals. “Its my view that we will see more and more agencies seeking to build independent agent networks – largely driven by basic economics of the business,” Ferrell says.
Travel Experts agents get access to the Sabre GDS for booking, she notes. “We do not have proprietary technology or lead generating systems. The sense among our agents is that the core of the business is building personal relationships and delivering outstanding value and service to clients,” she says.
With 21 years of experience behind her Ferrell predicts continued growth for her agency and her professional agents. “There are many host agency business models out there, but ours has proven itself and will continue to grow. The key is quality client services.” says Ferrell. “Our independent agents are the best in the industry and we remain proud to support and be a part of their continuing success that endures regardless of the economic climate. We benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates everything we do at Travel Experts. This keeps us motivated and dedicated to providing the best travel experience options for travelers and high levels of success for our independent agents.”
Travel Experts is a member of ASTA, CLIA and NACTA