*Due to court order, TravelAgentCentral has removed a comment that was published February 18, 2009 and allegedly submitted by Peter Stilphen
While travel agents' attention has been focused on the well publicized problems of Joystar/Travelstar and YTB Inc., online offers of free or reduced travel benefits and income from travel sales remain a mainstay of internet business opportunities. It’s also at the heart of the ongoing problem of multilevel marketing scams, card mills and network marketing that plague the industry.
Today, offers are being made to the public to become a travel agent, enjoy travel perks and earn income that does not match the hard slogging, professionalism and high skill levels demanded of travel sales familiar to professional agents. Free or reduced travel benefits are being used as a lure, as are ID cards.
TraVerus Travel Network is one current example. (Also known as Traverus Travel) TraVerus’ online offer invites consumers to “Join Traverus Travel, Become A Traverus Certified Travel Agent, Get Access to Traverus Travel Member Trips, Travel The World and Have Fun Doing It!” The basic cost: $199.95
The Allen, TX based company, headed by David Manning, CEO and founder, says Traverus Travel (formerly known as TravelWorks) is one of the “leading providers of travel services and education in the world. With their International online travel radio show - Traverus Celebrity Travel Talk - and leading edge travel portal, Traverus Travel is changing the future of travel.”
TraVerus Travel says it is a 26-year-old travel agency that implemented its Network Marketing division in November 2006. “This move has allowed people like you and me to become a part of Traverus Travel's worldwide network of Independent Travel Agents.”
There is no accessible financial information on the company or verifiable data on annual sales or members by category.
TraVerus Travel says it is a “ full service travel corporation that operates retail travel agencies, (and) a discount cruise division.” The company says it is bonded and approved by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). It is unclear if TraVerus is an accredited agency or is using another agency’s accreditation.
“TraVerus Travel is an affiliate based international travel company with tens of thousands of agents spanning over 90 countries. TraVerus Travel is one of the leading providers of travel services and education in the world and is the exclusive travel partner of 5CTV and China Clicks2." The company also claims to have an “international online travel radio show—TraVerus Celebrity Travel Talk.” A press release was sent out ‘confirming’ the relationship with 5CTV and China Clicks2 in May 2008.
TraVerus offers several levels of participation. By becoming an Associate (for an Associate fee of $20 and a $40 annual renewal) members benefit by earning commissions on personal sales. Associates are able to have a personalized TraVerus website for an additional $19.95 per month.
TraVerus also has more expensive Referring Travel Agent and Certified Travel Agent packages. Associates can earn $50 for sales of Referring Travel Consultant packages or $70 for the "Certified Travel Agent package": Associates can upgrade their status at anytime to become a Referring Travel Consultant or Certified Travel Agent and take advantage of TraVerus's commission program.
The buyer is urged to purchase the "Referring Travel Consultant Package" for $199.90, (This includes the signup fee, Associate fee and the first monthly fee of $59.95.) Another alternative is the “Certified Travel Agent Package" for $399.90, which includes the $319.95 CTA Signup fee, $20 annual Associate fee, and $59.95 first month Website fee. The use of the CTA designation is also confusing as it duplicates a program offered by The Travel Institute. (Repeated attempts are being made to reach TraVerus’ management to gain insight into the company’s operations.)
TraVerus also make it convenient for buyers to compare other offers. It has a side-by- side online cost comparison chart of TraVerus’ offer and those of two other online marketing companies -World Ventures and Your Travel Business YTB. Commission levels and benefits vary by class of affiliation.
Like many online offers the TraVerus site is slick and elicits information on the potential buyer via pre qualification questionnaires. It also refers inquiries to a TraVerus associate. The presidents phone number is a pre-recorded message. TraVerus also has other web sites that feed into each other and in one case appears to be a direct booking site.
The TraVerus site reveals little of substance about the company. There is no verified financial information, no data on sales, earnings or staffing, or its agency, GDS or consortia affiliations –if any. TraVerus does list Florida, California and other state Sellers of Travel numbers. The company is not publicly held and thus no financial reports. The consumer is left buying into a largely unknown company with a slick sales platform.
For travel professionals, TraVerus’ offer can be quickly identified as a multilevel network-marketing scheme offering rewards for building the network’s membership as well as for travel sales. But to the unwary consumer the offer appears a legitimate business opportunity - and in an economic downturn a possible source of added income. Its doubtful that the average consumer is aware of the bankruptcy of Joystar or the allegations against YTB by the attorney generals of California and Illinois.