Size matters? Perhaps.
Last week, at a lunch hosted by One&Only to promote its Cape
Town property, I found myself seated at a table with executives
from four New York-based agencies on Travel Weekly’s 2009
Power List: Jack Ezon, president of leisure travel for Ovation (No.
17); Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure sales for Altour
(No. 19); Priscilla Alexander, CEO of Protravel (No. 22); and Valerie Wilson, CEO of Valerie Wilson Travel (No. 30). Their combined travel sales
surpass $1.8 billion.
Also at the table was Nathan Devore,
co-president of Rich Worldwide Travel, an
agency that did not participate in this year’s
survey but was No. 37 last year. Across from
him were Bill Fischer, travel agent to the rich
and famous, and Bobby
Zur, founder of Travel
Artistry, a Virtuoso agency in Franklin Lakes, N.J.
The talk among these
competitors began small. Alexander gave two
thumbs up to a documentary film about Mike
Tyson, and Wilson spoke about her daughter’s
involvement with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The table was informally polled about
whether anyone had heard of Bernie Madoff
before his scandal. (Two had.)
Then came the inevitable question:
FROM THE WINDOW SEAT
Ezon said there was a positive change in
the conversations his agents were having
with clients. There was no longer a deep
sense of impending doom regarding the
Wilson responded that she hadn’t even
seen a positive shift in conversations.
a hindrance. Which begs the question: Is
there something special about how travel
agencies work to suggest that, for now, size
can be helpful?
Fischer professed that not
much had changed for him and
that the very wealthy were still
traveling, and not necessarily
looking for deals.
For others, transactions were
up, sometimes significantly, but
revenue was down, sometimes
What struck me as remarkable
about this conversation was that,
whether talking about Mike Tyson or short booking windows,
the tone remained the same. Yes, concern
was expressed about business, but everyone’s outlook stayed somewhere between
hopeful and patient.
This year’s 61 agencies on the Power List,
all of whom sold more than $100
million in travel in 2008, is a record
number. The list has consistently
grown over the past six years, with
new agencies appearing despite
many mergers and acquisitions
among agencies already on the list.
But the true measure of the im-
portance of size for travel agencies
in 2009 won’t be known until the
2010 Power List is released.
Some of you may remember that
the Power List was once called “Top
50 Agencies.” But then came 9/11, and by the
end of 2002, there were only 43 agencies re-
maining with sales of $100 million or more.
Editor in Chief
That’s not the tone I hear from many
smaller agencies these days. Many are on
the edge, with no reasons to be hopeful nor
the resources to be patient.
As it turned out, size alone was not powerful enough to save some very large agencies in 2002. Stay tuned to see whether the
same will hold true for 2010.
In this recession, large companies have
frequently found themselves in the biggest trouble. For General Motors, scale was
Contact Arnie Weissmann at aweissmann
@ travelweekly.com, or follow him on Twitter at
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