POWERLIST LTSIL REWOPI S T P L R T ESW IO P L TSILREWOP
Inthe case of the travel agency industry, neces-
sity is the mother of reinvention. It is man-
datory in the age of technology for agen-
cies to con tinue to make themselves valuable to
travelers and corporations, and this year’s list shows that
if sales are any ind ication they are doing that very nicely,
thank you. Here are some of the highlights:
• As the number of the world’s billionaires proliferate, so do the numbe r of billion-dollar travel
agencies, as 13 companies achieved that heady level
of travel bookings.
• Despite all that heft at the top as well as continuing consolidation, there were still 55 agencies
achieving the minimum level of $100 million to
attain a ranking on the 2008 Power List.
• Midsize to large agencies continue to affiliate
with global groups like HRG, BCD and American Express. While the last couple of years have
seen the entry of companies built on network
and franchise models, those continue to appear.
A new one this year is Nexion, a subsidiary of Sabre Holdings.
• Similarly, globalization cont inues to allow
regional agencies to affiliate with global companies and associations to establish an international
• Hosting is fueling growth at many agencies,
which are capturing significant sales through independent travel sellers.
• Through a combination of hos ting and smart
technology, many agencies are able to produce
higher sales with a smaller staff.
• The biggest did get bigger, but in the face of the
slowing economy, at slower rates of growth. American Express moved from $24.2 billion to $26.4 billion and Carlson from $22.1 billion to $24.9. E x-pedia did take a somewhat more significant leap,
from $17.2 billion to $20 billion.
• Despite the larger number of agencies overall,
there continued to be mergers and acquisitions.
Christopherson merged with Andavo Travel, which
has been on the Power List in the past, to form a
corporate entity called Christopherson Andavo
Travel. As for acquisitions, Travel and Transport
purchas ed Abacus Travel (in January, so those revenues are not included), which had not been a Power List company but was sizeable nonetheless. Travel Acquisitions Group (formerly Carlson Leisure)
purchased TraveLeaders, which is maintaining its
brand identity. And with America on sale, foreign
interests movedin. in. In one large deal, Flight
Centre, an Australian company, bought
Liberty Travel, which will also maintain its own
• Several companies were taken private, or their
parent companies were taken private. Among them
were Tzell Travel, bought out by its own management, and Travelocity, as part of S abre Holdings,
A phenomenon that has now taken hold and is
escalating is the hosting of outside agents in efforts to save on costs and take advantage of technology. More agencies reported hosting agents,
and those that already were hosting reported hosting more. Some companies, like Nexion, are basi-
cally hosting entities. Otherwise, some companies
reported hosting large numbers of outside sellers.
They included: Travel Acquisitions Group (408);
Tzell (270); Ovation (55, representing $60 million in sales); Valerie Wilson (195); and the Travel
And again, while most of the Power List companies are business-oriented, many of the largest
focus on leisure, frequently because they are In-ternet-based. Among those online leisure leaders
were: Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline; traditional leisure leaders (though of course with their
own online bookings) were STA Travel, Travel Acquisitions Group, Travelers Advantage, AAA and
The Power List is all about size and represents
an effort to rank the nation’s top travel sellers in
terms of the total dollar volume of annual sales.
That simple starting point, however, quickly leads
• What is a travel seller? For this list, Travel
Weekly defined travel sellers as intermediaries
that sell travel products through any medium
(electronic and telephone, for example) directly
• Why were some companies treated as single entities and others as conglomerates? That depended
mainly on whether a company had a unified ownership and/or corporate structure.
Travelocity, for example, is part of a larger entity (Sabre Holdings) but reports its own sales
separately. AAA is treated as one entity, because
it has a national structure and is a not-for-profit
organization. While individual clubs have a great
deal of autonomy, they operate collectively under
a national brand.
• YTB has to be singled out because it faced another year of controversy because of the structure
of its business — losing IATA and Royal Caribbean
accreditation. Editors checked with the company
multiple times to ensure that its reported total
represented only direct travel sales, not referrals or
any other nonqualified revenues.
With all the changes to this industry, the Power
List remains remarkably stable year to year, though
bigger changes periodically appear, as with the
emergence of online agencies. Ironically, one of the
two entirely new entries this year is Linden Travel,
a luxury travel consultancy that has managed to
maintain its luster as a “boutique agency” while
growing to more than $100 million.
With these figures representing 2007,
when the economy was slowing but had not
yet hit a trough, it will be interesting to see
if these powerhouse companies can sustain
their momentum when the 2008 rankings appear
a year from now.
R E W