Did you check out that headline: Exclusive Group Travel? I’m sure by now you’ve heard of this startup tour operator that debuted last year selling vacations to the Caribbean and Mexico, and which is headed by industry veteran Steve Gorga—he’s CEO and president—and was founded by Elyse Elkin. But we wanted to know what made them so “exclusive” and why “group” when they also sell FIT. So we picked up the phone to call Gorga for a quick chat so he could answer these questions and tell us what makes Exclusive Group Travel a company travel agents should partner with.
“We like to call ourselves the oldest new company in the industry,” points out Gorga. “We have a lot of people in leadership roles, and even on the phone and online, who’ve been in the industry for a long time. We know the industry well and we know that travel agents appreciate that they can work with a company that they can’t lose to a consumer directly.” Did you read that last line carefully? You should because it’s important to your business: Exclusive Group Travel sells “exclusively” to travel agents. Gorga points out that “we feel that travel agents just feel more comfortable working with companies that they know they aren’t going to lose their customer to. So it’s a promise we made in the beginning and we want to keep Exclusive Group Travel exclusively for travel agents because of that reason.”
Exclusive Group Travel, which currently offers bookings in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and is expanding into Hawaii, Aruba, and the Bahamas, as well as other parts of the Caribbean, is focused primarily on all-inclusive resorts.
The reason, points out Gorga, is because “we think the all-inclusive product in Mexico and parts of the Caribbean has become an extraordinary value to travelers in the U.S. and we find quite often that travelers, and even some travel agents, aren’t totally knowledgeable about the all-inclusive product.” The company is also very cognizant of the fact that group business is very important to travel agents. “Often group travel is very complicated, it’s onerous, and we decided to try and develop some great group technology that will help travel agents transact their business with us easier than with anybody else. Additionally, the group is a wonderful transaction for a travel agent—multiple people traveling together and they have the opportunity to earn significant compensation by that group. Once you get that group, everyone in that group has a future birthday, anniversaries, etc., and if you do it right and you treat it right, it’s a future opportunity for you.”
But, as I wrote earlier, the operator also sells FIT. The reason? Simple…there’s demand. “When Elyse started the company, she thought she would just focus on groups, then shortly after going into the marketplace, travel agents said, ‘we love your product, can we do FIT as well,’ so she enabled the website to do FIT.”
sound technology and service
According to Gorga, two of the components that have made the company a hit with travel agents in a short period of time is the service the company offers and its online technology. “Many travel agents are telling us that we have the best online group technology. You can send us an e-mail and we can respond under an hour sometimes. We have a nice, easy way of asking for information and then, once they have the booking, we have the ability for them to add passengers, make changes, and create customized transfers.” Travel agents can visit exclusivegrouptravel.com, click on “agent login” and register, and they’ll have access to weekly webinars that explain the company’s online technology. “Within 20 minutes they’ll know how to make a booking with us, both in FIT and groups.”
That easy-to-navigate online technology, points out Gorga, is part of the equation, the other part is the company’s top-notch service, he says. “It’s all about service. And that service is not just answering the phone on time. I really think we have the travel agent’s back and it’s nice when things go well, but when things don’t go well, I want the travel agent community to realize that they have somebody who is going to work with them to try to help them. We are there for them as, I believe, nobody else is. My business phone rotates to my personal phone when I’m not in the office. People have access to me 24/7. I have met some travel agents in the past who said, ‘I remember you answered my call on Christmas Eve at 10 o’clock. I’ll never forget that.’”
Exclusive Group Travel: exclusivegrouptravel.com