Doing a deep dive into the 'Travel Shark Tank'

Richard Turen

Today, dear reader, I’d like you to pull up a chair — it could be Mark Cuban’s or Barbara Corcoran’s — as we play “Travel Shark Tank.” Each contestant who is seeking our investment presents a new idea for a travel agency-related business. They summarize their plan, and I respond briefly (in italics). But I really want to hear what you have to say about these new approaches to our business and whether or not you think any of them are viable.

The Travel Dining Club: Our agents can work from three to five days a week. They can schedule a luncheon or dinner appointment with potential clients with a minimum spend of $5,000. They have great tables at great restaurants. We pick up the bill and share our knowledge, and we know the end result will be a 90%-plus conversion rate. We even get the chefs to create special dishes for our club guests.

There are just too many clients who don’t have the time for this. Your minimum spend is far too low. But I suspect that you are right about the conversion rate. I don’t see this as investible, but it could form an interesting component of an existing business.

The Fiduciary Travel Agency: We will meet the legal criteria to become an agency that meets the same general requirements many personal finance advisors must meet. The client’s needs will come ahead of profits. We will redefine the travel consultant option.

Establishing “nonprofit” motive in the travel arena would, we believe, be a daunting task. How would you ever prove you were always putting the needs of the client first? Count me out.

Minimum-Maximum Travel: We would have a minimum spend of $10,000, waive all fees and guarantee 100% refund of all legitimate discounts and amenities. So, minimum spend and maximum benefits.

Perhaps change the name, but there are elements of this concept I do like. I think that all travel advisors should set a minimum transaction requirement, and I like the concept of the price guarantee.

Night Travel: Most of our clients work or enjoy retirement activities during the day. Our office will be open between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. in a lovely neighborhood. Light beverages, desserts and snacks will be served during travel-planning appointments. We will make a “date” at our agency a really enjoyable activity.

I wonder about what you and your agents might be doing from 9 to 5 when the rest of us are working. Won’t your European and cruise tour suppliers be closed for portions of your hours? Sorry. Not for me.

Cruise and Riverboat Stateroom Travel: Anyone can book a cruise or riverboat reservation. But our clients will have access to listings of every cruise ship and riverboat with our curated lists of the best staterooms in every category. It would sort of be to cruising what SeatGuru is to airline seating. Once we help them find the best location, why wouldn’t they book with us?

Not sure cabin selection is all that complicated. I also can’t quite see how you would protect your listings if the public has access. “Mr. Wonderful” suggests you take this one out back and shoot it.

Welcome Travel: Our idea is that many worldwide destinations are already overtouristed, and the situation is only getting worse. Our agency will totally devote its efforts to sending clients to countries, islands and cities where tourists are still welcome and where overcrowding in-season is not an issue.

Hate the name, like the concept. We are going to see governmental restrictions on travel within certain countries and cities. This concept is related closely to growing interest in sustainable travel, and I think it has legs.

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