With the acquisition of two consortiums last week Travel Design
Associates of Santa Clara, Calif., and 5Star Travel Association of
Denver Austin Associates is committed to letting the groups retain
their regional identity.
The Framingham, Mass.-based Austin Associates adds these 275
agency members to raise its total to 700.
The Austin Group, headed by President Norm Cotton, also consists
of Coast Travel Group of Napa, Calif., and the original Austin
Associates consortium. According to Austin spokesman Rich Abrahams,
the average agency annual sales total is approximately $2 million,
making combined sales in the $1 billion range.
“Each group will operate under its own name in order to retain
its regional culture and focus,” Cotton said. “We plan to be
aggressive and to be the conduit for bringing more profits and
better services to everyone in our extended community.”
Abrahams said the two new groups, along with Coast, have good
working relationships with regional vendors, which makes keeping
them separate from a national group a viable move. He added,
however, that as individual consortium vendor contracts expire,
they will roll them into national contracts for the whole Austin
The acquisition of Travel Design, with its 200 members,
completes a process Austin Associates started more than a year ago,
when both companies entered into a joint partnership. The Travel
Design group will now be administered by Coast President Mike
Caplin. Dave Parkinson, founder and president of Travel Design,
will remain a member of the consortium through his agency, Nautical
Connection. Parkinson also plans to continue developing his travel
mediation training service.
5Star Travel Association added 75 travel agencies to Austin
Associates. Jim Watts, president of 5Star, will stay on to manage
the group from his Denver office and will have additional
responsibilities for recruiting new members in Colorado and
Austin, Coast, 5Star and Travel Design are also members of the
Consortium Marketing Alliance, a group formed several years ago to
pool information and promotion efforts. Other consortiums involved
with CMA include Travel Authority in Florida, Riverside Travel
Group in Portland, Ore., STPN Consortium in Los Angeles and
International Tours in Reno.
Since Austin seems to be buying up CMA members, Abrahams said
that, obviously, the shape of the marketing group is changing. He
noted that the Austin agencies are predominantly leisure-focused.
They currently have 100 preferred suppliers, most picked up when
Austin bought Coast in April 2001.
Meanwhile, the second annual Austin/Coast Convention and Trade
Show is slated for Nov. 8-10 at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco.
More than 70 vendors and 200 members are expected to participate,
according to Abrahams.