The Travel Corporation’s Brand Leaders

The Travel Corporation’s brand presidents set the tone with products that appeal to a wide range of travelers By: Kenneth Shapiro
The presidents of TravCorp at the Montage Beverly Hills.// © 2011 Volker Corell/TravelAge West
The presidents of TravCorp at the Montage Beverly Hills.// © 2011 Volker Corell/TravelAge West

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TravCorp is one of the largest travel companies in the industry — it moves more than a million travelers per year worldwide — and it’s made up of several unique brands aimed at a variety of customers. We took a closer look at TravCorp through the presidents that guide its brands.

Richard Launder, President, TravCorp, USA

As president of TravCorp, Richard Launder has to perform a balancing act on a daily basis — by supporting all the TravCorp brands individually, while making sure that they work together. After talking to him, it’s clear that Launder’s calm and easygoing demeanor makes him an ideal person to take on this challenge.

“On a personal level, I have a great job,” Launder said. “I get to work with a lot of talented executives. I used to be a brand president myself, so I think I can really understand when it makes sense to share and when it doesn’t.”

Launder — an Australian who started as a bartender with TravCorp when he was just 23 years old — has to balance two competing corporate philosophies: “the sanctity of the brands” versus “the strength of one.”

“The value of our organization is the strength of our brands,” Launder said. “We are all about building and supporting individual brands, keeping them separate and letting the brand presidents operate them as their own.”

At the same time, Launder explained that certain services are shared by all brands where it makes sense, and “if we learn something about a best practice, we share that across all the brands. We absolutely want to take advantage of the experience of some of the brands.”

Despite being part of the same company, the brands also engage in a healthy amount of “cooperative competition.” Launder said he celebrates that spirit of competition but, at the end of the day, the brand presidents also get a lot of support from each other.

“When presidents join TravCorp, they often say they really appreciate the added resource of being able to call on others for counsel,” Launder said. “I think in life and in business you need to be able to have some fun. We are a good group of friends, and we do have some fun. And that makes the harder days and the tough conversations a little easier because we like each other and we support one another.”

Paul Wiseman, President, Trafalgar

Years With TravCorp: 12

Brand Description: Established in 1947, Trafalgar offers clients distinctive experiences that set the company apart from other tour operators, including Be My Guest — dining experiences at a local family’s home — and Hidden Treasures, off-the-beaten-track sightseeing excursions. Trafalgar aims to delve deep into a destination, providing perspective on the people, places and history that guests will encounter. Experienced travel directors and expert guides provide local expertise and knowledge, which helps to create an unforgettable experience that clients could not have on their own.

Customer Profile: The ideal client for Trafalgar is a married couple in their mid-50s or a single female traveler. They are well off — but not necessarily extremely affluent — social and adventurous. While the typical client is curious about the world, he or she is also aware of the benefits that come from traveling with a group.

Agent Tips: “Travel agents can complete our eLearning modules, attend our weekly Tuesdays with Trafalgar training webinars or call their district sales manager to set up in-office training. Better yet, take one of our guided vacations through our Experience A Tour program to really understand the product and the unique experiences we offer, so that you can convey the uniqueness of the experience to your clients. Take advantage of the tools we provide — including marketing support, training webinars, special promotions and offers for clients — and use them to convey the value of a Trafalgar guided vacation.”

Marc Kazlauskas, President, Insight Vacations

Years With TravCorp: 9

Brand Description: Insight is a premium escorted tour operator. The tour operator features smaller groups; specially selected premium hotels in the most desirable locations; exceptional included must-see sightseeing; authentic dining experiences; unique and leisurely itineraries; and business-class seating on all coaches.

Customer Profile: Insight is perfect for clients who want the finest, hassle-free way to experience a destination. Insight’s typical customer is a well-traveled, empty-nester around 50 to 60 years old.

Agent Tips: “We are always looking out for travel agents — more than 97 percent of Insight’s business comes through the travel agent — and our average agent commission for a booking is more than $800. I suggest agents seek out past Mediterranean cruisers and offer them Insight as a more in-depth, experiential way to revisit Europe and really get to know it as an insider. Another way to sell more Insight is to offer our tours as an alternative to a multi-city FIT package. Let Insight do the driving, worry about gas, figure out where to park and handle any language issues while your clients sit back and relax.”

Nico Zenner, President, Brendan Vacations

Years With TravCorp: 1

Brand Description: For more than 40 years — and with travel products in 60 countries — Brendan Vacations has offered highly immersive and experiential travel products that encourage a personal connection to people and places, and which are reflective of its “Taking You Personally” credo.

Customer Profile: Because Brendan Vacations offers various types of travel, including Guided and Customized Vacations, and hybrid travel products — such as Boutique Escorted Vacations and Locally Hosted Vacations — the tour operator is able to cater to the entire spectrum of traveler. Whether a client is looking for a fully-planned vacation, led by a skilled Travel Guide, or a more intimate guided experience, with the tour operator’s Boutique Escorted Vacations, Brendan can deliver on the experience.

Agent Tips: “Agents should fully familiarize themselves with the types of travel and destinations we offer. Travel preferences range with every consumer, so it is important to be able to match the needs of your clients to a tour operator that is renowned for personal service and great value, no matter what type of travel is preferred.”

Guy Young, President, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Years With TravCorp: 11

Brand Description: Uniworld says it is the world’s only authentic boutique cruise line, due to the unique partnership and bond it has with its sister company, the Red Carnation Hotels, an award-winning collection of luxury boutique hotels.

Customer Profile: Typical Uniworld customers are baby boomers between 55 and 70 years old. Most are married, well-traveled and enjoy international travel experiences. They are educated and often arts and history enthusiasts, or food and wine connoisseurs, have taken an ocean cruise previously and belong to different group affiliations.

Agent Tips: “The all-inclusiveness of a Uniworld river cruise is an important selling tool for travel agents. Included in the price of a river cruise are all meals onboard the ship, fully hosted daily shore excursions, wine, beer and soft drinks at dinner (and lunch starting in 2012), 24-hour specialty teas and coffees and bottled water in the staterooms. There are, therefore, very few out-of-pocket vacation expenses and clients also get to prepay their river cruise in U.S. dollars. Agents should check out Uniworld’s comprehensive and easy-to-use online River Cruise Specialist Training Program accredited by CLIA. This program offers many important benefits such as bonus commissions and inclusion in the River Cruise Specialist Locator Program. Agents can also earn a complimentary seven-night river cruise based on booking six cabins within 60 days of completing the program.”

Jim Holden, President, African Travel, Inc.

Years With TravCorp: 1

Brand Description: African Travel Inc. is a niche brand focused on the safari destinations of Southern and East Africa together with Egypt and Jordan. It offers FIT custom travel for moderate to premium budgets, operating solely through travel agents.

Customer Profile: Well-traveled clients looking for something new and different with a sense of adventure are perfect for African Travel Inc.

Agent Tips: “Mine your database for well-traveled clients who have probably taken a cruise and done Europe, and offer them a safari. Take advantage of African Travel’s three-way conference call, whereby the agent can get an African Travel Safari Consultant on the phone with their client to help convert the sale.”

Greg Fischbein, President, Contiki Vacations

Years With TravCorp: 3

Brand Description: Contiki is the worldwide leader in tours for 18- to 35-year-olds, operating in more than 40 countries. Contiki aims to create hassle-free vacations with an unbeatable mix of sightseeing, culture, other young travelers and free time. Contiki offers cultural immersion, self-discovery and a social event wrapped into an amazing journey.

Customer Profile: While Contiki customers range from 18- to 35-year-olds, the majority are twenty-somethings, with a predominantly female skew. These young adults travel to experience something different and new. The nature of Contiki’s touring product lends itself well to first-time travelers. Contiki takes care of the transportation, accommodations, most meals and sightseeing so travelers can spend more time exploring and enjoying.

Agent Tips: “For travel agents, Contiki is an easy cross-sell. Their core customers are the parents and grandparents of the Contiki traveler. With Contiki, those parents can give their kids an amazing gift — a life-changing experience. Traveling with Contiki broadens horizons, widens perspectives, is culturally enriching, provides an education outside of the classroom and is simply good fun — all tucked under the umbrella of safety and security that comes with 50 years of experience.”

Terry Holmes, Executive Director, Red Carnation Hotels

Years With TravCorp: 5

Brand Description: Red Carnation Hotels is a family-owned and managed collection of four- and five-star hotels. Its decor is personally designed by the president and owner Beatrice Tollman. The hospitality company is recognized as operating some of the best hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, and its London hotels are consistently ranked in the top five by Trip Advisor.

Customer Profile: Red Carnation’s client profile is that of well-traveled and discerning guests. They look for high quality of service and decor, as well as value.

Agent Tips: “Travel agents are our lifeblood. We encourage agents to come and stay with us to experience for themselves our high standards of service and accommodation. Our websites are very descriptive and contain the names of key staff, including general managers, concierge, front-office managers and more. Agents should get to know these people and form relationships. Also, agents should share with their clients the awards that we have earned — this will give their customers bragging rights over their friends that don’t know us.”

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