In travel and tourism, a consortium refers to an organization made up of independent travel agents and agencies. They join together to increase their buying power, commissions, and amenities they are able to provide clients.
Agents and agencies must meet a threshold sales volume requirement in order to be invited to join a consortium. Member benefits include marketing programs, commission overrides, agent training and education, FAM trips, technical tools, client referrals, and networking opportunities.
Consortia negotiate with hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and other suppliers on behalf of their agent members. The resulting "preferred supplier" relationship benefits agency clients in the form of upgrades, room amenities, and special promotions not available to the general public.
Some of the most well-known consortia include Virtuoso, Signature Travel Network, Ensemble Travel Group, and Vacation.com. Here's a little information about them.
Virtuoso is a network of luxury travel agencies, with more than 11,400 travel advisors across the globe. It also includes 2,000 preferred suppliers, such as cruise lines, hotels, and tour operators. Together, they work for a common goal: Providing exclusive travel experiences for consumers.
Virtuoso prides itself on those exclusive experiences. Clients often receive VIP treatment, with special amenities upon check-in. The company is helmed by CEO Matthew Upchurch and has offices in Fort Worth, Seattle, and New York City.
Virtuoso is known for hosting the most show-stopping week in travel. Virtuoso Travel Week is an annual event that takes place in Las Vegas. It draws thousands of Virtuoso members and suppliers, such as cruise lines, hotels, and tour operators. The event is all about mixing and mingling. It brings agents together with the suppliers in a "speed dating" format of four-minute appointments.
It's a high energy and super-efficient way for members to discover the latest product offerings in the travel world. They, in turn, can use the info to help clients plan their travel.
Signature Travel Network
Created by a group of agency owners in 1956, Signature Travel Network has grown continually since then. It includes more than 6,000 agents in the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand.
Signature is a member-owned cooperative. Members receive benefits in the categories of marketing, technology, and training. The company is headquartered in Marina del Rey, California with offices in New York City.
Vacation.com is North America's largest travel services marketing organization. It serves independent retail agencies in the US and Canada. The consortium is owned by Travel Leaders Group, America’s largest travel agency company.
Vacation.com services include enhanced commission programs with over 180 supplier partners, proprietary technology, booking systems, unique vacation products and Engagement, an award-winning turnkey marketing program – all designed to increase member productivity and profitability. Vacation.com is headquartered in Alexandria, VA.
Ensemble Travel Group
Established in 1968, Ensemble Travel Group is a member-owned and member-run organization of independent travel agencies in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Member benefits include unique consumer vacation products; integrated marketing programs that include database segmentation; the latest technology platforms and tools as well as business coaching, training, and collaborative networking.
The ultimate goal of Ensemble (and indeed, every consortium) is to deliver vacations that consumers couldn't get on their own. How do they accomplish this? By leveraging a global presence and offering attractive profit-sharing and commissions.
It also comes down to high sales volume. Consortia can deliver huge volume, thanks to a large number of members. That provides an incentive for suppliers to offer preferred benefits that are exclusive to consortia clients.
Ensemble is based in New York City, with Canadian offices in Toronto and Montréal; and an Australia/New Zealand office in Sydney.