Travel wholesaler All About Tours will stop taking new reservations on January 31, as its owners prepare to close its doors and retire. In so doing, they are showing the industry the right way for a tour company to go out of business and protect the travel advisors and customers they have long served.
While the unexpected demise of a few tour operators in the past few months left travel advisors and customers in the lurch, All About Tours has followed its 40-year tradition of service and dedication to the industry.
“All About Hawaii and All About Tours celebrated 39 years in the travel industry on July 17, 2019. We have survived by always striving towards our values of Sales, Service, Competitive Pricing, Flexible Booking policies and Financial Strength,” the company said. “After much consideration we have decided that 40 years of business in the industry will have been a great Travel Career, and we want to let you know of our retirement during the coming year of 2020.
“We will continue to take bookings departing this year through January 31, 2020, and will staff current bookings through 2020. It is our intention to oversee the last booking with the same pride and excitement as the first booking.
- All About Tours will retain staff to assist travel advisors with current bookings through 2020.
- All About Tours will allow the transfer of bookings to another travel partner - contact us for more information.
- All commissions will be protected and paid in full.”
That’s surely good news for Nancy Herron, owner of Island Journeys in Lake Oswego, Oregon, who has been using All About Tours for about 80 percent of her mostly Hawaii-bound business, and is happy to know her customers will be looked after and her commissions will be protected. But it’s bittersweet, as her favorite supplier departs the industry.
“When I heard All About was leaving I didn’t know what I would do,” she said. “I thought maybe I just need to retire, but I’m not ready. But I’m not going to enjoy my job the same way any more.”
Nowadays Herron is booking Hawaii through Pleasant Holidays and Blue Sky Tours, suppliers she has used in the past. As always, she books the Four Seasons direct, in order to get the Virtuoso perks, but everything else “I still try to do through packages with wholesalers; it’s so much easier.”
She misses the All About Tours booking engine, where she “could whip out a quote in half the time it takes me to book on VAX,” as well as the relationships she had, where her BDM would stop by and shoot the breeze once or twice a month.
Overall, though, the closings of a number of tour operators over the past few months make Herron nervous. “You want a company that’s going to be there, and in this scary world, I don’t have the trust I used to have. I feel pretty confident with Pleasant Holidays, and Blue Sky Tours almost as much. But it is scary. You have to have a back-up plan in case something goes awry.”
In the end, she is considering booking direct with some of the Hawaii hotels, where commission is lower but clients get perks.
“Sometimes I wish I still had a CRS right in front of me, like I did in the early days, and I could just look things up myself,” she says.
She is surely not alone in looking more carefully at the suppliers she uses.
Make New Friends When You Can’t Keep the Old
The closing of All About Travel is due to retirement rather than financial issues, so it offers an opportunity to take things slowly and carefully, and gives travel advisors plenty of time to prepare. That’s not been the case with some of the other recent closings, from Thomas Cook to Excite Holidays, that had travel advisors mourning both the loss of long-time partners and the commissions they were owed.
In this environment, many said, choosing the right new partner is more difficult than ever.
“I’ve been in the industry for 23 years; my background is in revenue management; I used to work for Expedia. So I get the other side,” says Loulu Lima, owner of Book Here, Give There Travel in Houston. “But these closings freak me out.”
In lieu of about $1,000 in commissions owed her by Excite Holidays, Lima has a letter from KPMG, stating “our preliminary investigations indicate that only Australian Travel Agents may be creditors of the Australian entities within Excite Group. As you do not appear to be an Australian Travel Agent, you would therefore not be a creditor in the voluntary administration.”
Luckily, she had called the hotel she booked through Excite for her client’s honeymoon, and when told the reservation was canceled, rebooked everything directly, at 10 percent commissionable rates. So her losses will be limited mainly to the reservations that already have traveled (plus, of course, her time and aggravation).
She has been interviewing new suppliers including Go Global, TBO and Team America, as well as Beds Online, which she had dropped because of poor customer service.
“I had a great conversation with my BDM there, and I’m giving them a second chance. I gave them some reservations as a test to see how they do,” she says.
In the end, though, she has seen once again that there is nothing like handling all the details yourself. “When it’s a package, I’ll go to Vacation Express or go on VAX, those are no-brainers. But for the kind of customized FITs I do, I tend to not use tour operators much. I feel much more protected when I curate relationships myself, so I know and touch every part of the itinerary, and help other small business owners just like me in other countries.”
She is considering direct bookings—but acknowledges those “are hard to chase; you have to sign up with the vendors that the suppliers use. But it’s the easiest way to make sure you get paid.”
She has signed up with Onyx, TAPS and PayModeX.
At Promal Vacations LLC, meanwhile, owner Helen Prochilo is giving more business to her existing partner, Goway, and two she has used in the past, Pleasant Holidays and Classic Vacations. “I am heartbroken All About Tours will be closing; they were the only supplier I used for Hawaii and they were wonderful. But they are going out with class and taking care of their agents and clients,” she said.
Danielle Wann and Jenny Holmes Senter will send their business to Blue Sky; “their product is great,” Wann says. Emily Muise likes Blue Sky and Classic.
Maxine Ezra has been using GoGo for Hawaii bookings “for years, with no issues and great commissions, as it combines my Caribbean and Mexico bookings. GoGo has been faithful to the agent community forever, takes no direct bookings, and is reliable. Their website is not great but I book with a GoGo res agent who is amazing.”
And while independent advisor Mary Barrett could use a preferred supplier of her host, Cruise Brothers, she prefers to “ask around to other agents and then compare what they offer with what the client wants.”
But for $200-million agency Luxe Travel Management President and CEO Craig Carter, it’s all about protecting commissions and clients by finding a partner that is financially stable.
After working for two long years to bring Delta Vacations into the Signature Travel Network family as a preferred supplier, and watching the careful way in which Signature checked into its finances, “I rely wholly on Signature,” he said. “I believe they vet our partners quite well and understand their financial stability.”
Carter said he has “been very lucky and never had an issue” with a supplier going out of business.