By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC
We interviewed Ken Gagliano in early-June and asked him about TPI’s success as a Host Agency, and what specifically differentiates TPI from other Host Agencies.
Tell us a little about TPI and how you got started?
Travel Planners International (TPI) is a leading Host Agency dedicated to providing travel solutions and fulfillment services to both leisure and corporate agents. Founded in 1988 by the Gagliano family as a tour operator/travel agency in an office no bigger than 250 sq. ft., TPI has grown to be a premier Host Agency in the US by staying true to its corporate values.
What is the biggest misconception out there about what you do as a Host Agency?
We often hear that the agent is going to lose their identity and have to operate under our name. This is completely untrue! In fact, agents maintain their individual brand name and operate independently of our host agency. The customer wins because of our overall purchasing power (special offers, access to book into groups, etc.) and the agent wins because we help them focus on selling travel while we handle all of the other stuff behind the scenes so they end up making way more money with us than they would on their own.
How well is TPI doing in 2013?
Amazing! We are on track for record breaking growth with all of our preferred suppliers. Every supplier is thrilled with our numbers and the individual success our agents are having selling their products. In the end, the agents are making way more money.
How is TPI different from other Host Agencies?
Our success as a Host Agency is solely dependent on the success of our agents. We offer three hosting plans paying our agents 70%, 80% or 90% commission. All commissions are paid electronically either weekly or semi-monthly. With our exclusive TPICentral.com website, our agents have access to instant commission tracking for their business, thus allowing them to manage their day to day sales and earnings, as well as a variety CRM tools and point and click booking tools. An agent can actually set commission alerts (email or text message) when tracking specific sales! Add in our Marketing and Business Development tools and one can see why TPI is a leader in the hosting industry. We have on-staff designers and a web developer to help agents build logos and websites custom to their business needs. We are not aware of another host agency out there offering this level of support. Our agents get more access to preferred suppliers than they would ever get on their own!
Can you tell us about the booking tools and consumer websites you offer?
Each of our agents receives a free consumer website with optional consumer booking tools as well. The site has up to date content and special offers from 120+ suppliers and requires no maintenance or updating by an agent. Plus we offer Nexcite, AgentStudio and custom sites as well. Each agent has access to various booking tools like Amadeus Cruise and Sabre Cruise as well as air booking engines from FareBuzz, Ensemble Air and Amadeus. If an agent sells mostly corporate or large volume air, we offer Amadeus, Apollo, Sabre, and Worldspan GDS tools.
What training do you offer?
Our Marketing and Business Development Department provides weekly webinars on preferred suppliers and business building. Additionally, we offer continuous education opportunities using CLIA, The Travel Institute, and BrandUCoaching along with motivational videos from industry veteran Stuart Cohen. Not only do we provide training, but also design and implementation when it comes to starting your travel business. We have dedicated support just for the newbie to the industry.
What can you tell us about your relationship with Ensemble Travel Group?
Ensemble Travel® Group is an organization of independent travel agency members who utilize their combined selling power to grow their businesses and achieve more sales. TPI ranks as the Number 1 member agency nationwide. As a member of Ensemble, TPI offers an agent access to a wide range of products from luxury to mass market to special interest. Ensemble is dedicated to creating outstanding marketing programs and superior training and networking opportunities. They specialize in client-focused marketing programs both traditional and online to keep your clients loyal, make your brand shine, and help you compete for business at the highest level. They create expertly produced pieces, with your agency’s logo and contact information as the call-to-action, direct to your client’s door. They cater to the affluent customer with the beautiful four-color Ensemble Lifestyles magazine and a rich selection of proprietary products not easily shopped elsewhere. In addition, Ensemble offers:
• Air by Ensemble features exclusive net agreements with 70+ domestic and international carriers. Ramp up your profits with impressive commissions of up to $1,000-plus per ticket not to mention significant savings for clients
• Ensemble Hosted Cruises feature hundreds of sailings with exclusive shore events, private cocktail parties, and the services of a gracious onboard host
• Ensemble Hotel & Resort Collection extends VIP benefits to your clients at 500 four-and five-star premier properties worldwide
• Ensemble on Location experts are a go-to network of more than 70 on-site professionals worldwide with the insider access to help you design the unique experiences affluent clients see
• Ensemble Villas & Vacation Homes feature thousands of exquisite accommodations worldwide – perfectly suited to the profitable family market
• Ensemble Portals provides your cruise clients a range of two-night pre- and post-cruise hotel stays in ports around the world and help you realize more profits
What are TPI’s fees for joining?
TPI offers agents 70%, 80% or 90% commission including a no-cost program. Each plan is inclusive of the tools and ongoing support needed to run a home-based business successfully. We are currently waiving our $195.00 setup fee for experienced agents, so now is a great time to get on track to earning more commission. We also offer hosting services for the travel agency looking for only ARC fulfillment or just hotels, car rentals, etc. For those individuals that are new to the industry, we offer two training programs, Express and Enhanced training, both jumpstarting the agent in their new business. Both were designed to cover all aspects of learning the basics in the Industry to getting a new travel business off the ground. The rest is up the individual business owner on where they take it as TPI has no minimum sales quotas.
Why would an agent join a host versus sell direct with their own industry identifier?
All of TPI’s Independent Contractors maintain their own identities and business models. Each agent is unique in their specialty or niche. TPI does not sell travel nor directly compete with our agents. Our program has its advantages over a franchise model in that the agent gets to operate and build their own brand and can sell all types of travel. All we do as their Host Agency is support the agent in that effort. Why would an agent want to be 100% independent and be completely alone when it comes to selling travel? We have 28 employees in our offices, all here to help the IC sell more travel. It is a FACT that an agent can streamline their business by allowing us to manage the preferred supplier relationships, booking/invoicing systems, which by doing so, will allow the agent do what they do best (sell travel). In the end, they will earn much more in overall commission because of what we do for them.
Overall Philosophy: Developing, supporting, and strengthening our relationships with agents and suppliers is key to our success in the travel industry. It is our goal at TPI to make sure that our relationships are mutually beneficial and every employee of our organization works hard to achieve this.