On July 2, 2009, Travel Weekly ran a story entitled Veterans Affairs OKs Travel Institute test. It states that the Veteran’s Affairs office is endorsing a licensing program that is in effect allowing TraVerus, a self-proclaimed MLM host agency the ability to sign up anyone that takes the test to become part of its MLM pyramid scheme. This is a very dangerous precedent and I feel it is a huge disservice to the wonderful military and government men and women who have worked hard to serve our great country. I’m still in shock that the Travel Institute would have anything to do with this.
Once I finished reading the article, I immediately responded via the website’s comments section:
I say – military personnel and vets – BEWARE!!! This is a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company and the travel business is NOT about just having a website and getting people in your down-line hoping that one or two of them will do some selling to make your money. Being a REAL travel agent is about being a counselor to your clients and knowing what to recommend to them to make their travel dollars provide the best value they are looking for. You need to be able to tell your client why something will not work, as well as why something else will work. You are their advocate and advisor. Some states do NOT allow MLMs to sell travel in their states. If you are looking for a “Get rich quick” scheme, getting rich is NOT what you are getting with any MLM. With the last travel MLM company that recently made headlines, it was shown that their bottom line agents (the majority of their agents) made less than $30 per month which did not even cover their monthly costs of being with them. There are plenty of good host agencies that do not practice MLM tactics to get you trained to sell travel. Please do your research before investing your hard earned money. Do a Google search on the words “TraVerus Scam MLM” and read this article dated Feb 09 all the way thru, titled – “TraVerus Travel: Online MLM Scams Proliferate”. The rest of the links go to TraVerus agents trying to get you to join under them – their REAL main business. The BBB has TraVerus rated at D+. Being a travel agent the right way is a lot of HARD, but rewarding work – when it’s done right. AND one test doesn’t make you a travel agent. A real travel agent is continuously training for further knowledge with suppliers and destinations. If you are looking for a good host agency and are serious about becoming a travel agent, talk to someone at a professional travel agent organization like “American Society of Travel Agents” (ASTA – www.asta.org), “Outside Sales Support Network” (OSSN – www.ossn.com), or “Association of Retail Travel Agents” (ARTA – www.artaonline.com). I am not trying to recruit anyone, unlike the others that have posted here that belong to TraVerus. I just want everyone to know what TraVerus is NOT telling you. I have been a travel professional since 1995 and have been a military spouse and am a retired government employee and have learned enough to NOT get suckered in.
I think a Congressional letter writing campaign may help to halt this travesty. Typically, agencies are required to respond to Congressional inquiries within ten days. I’ve been on the receiving end of Congressional inquiries and they get serious priority from any agency that receives one.
Below are some tips; and feel free to use whatever content from this article; but please keep it professional and in context.
Be sure to include include the link for the Travel Weekly article (http://travelweekly.com/article3.aspx?id=197050) so they can fully understand.
Here are some websites to get you on your way:
- How to write a letter to Congress: http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa020199.htm
- Write your Congressman: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
- Write your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
- Write the President: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
- The Defense Department website is at http://www.dod.mil. They also have a Facebook page where we can post comments.
As I was discussing this with a colleague and fellow OSSN member, she recounted her experience with the TAP test administered by the Travel Institute. “I took the TAP test before I entered Travel School. I wanted to know the extent of my knowledge. I passed it. The test covers the Intro to Travel & Tourism (TNT 101 class at my college). It is NOT enough education to become a travel agent, it is just ONE CLASS.”
She agreed with me and is also taking her letters one step further. “I have decided to write my congressman about this scam. They will task the Department of Veteran Affairs to respond, normally within 7-10 days. This will be run right up to the Director’s office and be reported back to Congress. If the congressman thinks it merits it, they will order an investigation into the matter.”
If your happen to have a Representative or a Senator on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, all the better. To check that out, here are two sites:
- http://veterans.senate.gov/committee-members.cfm (SENATE)
- http://veterans.house.gov/about/members.shtml (HOUSE)
The comments left on the Travel Weekly site were very indicative of the type of operation they run. One of the TraVerus posters on the Travel Weekly article said something about the need to diversify with this comment:
With TraVerus, you get to sell travel, use the benefits and savings of our member trips and condos, which by the way start at $100 a week. We also sell lifestyle products, so you can diversify your income. The way we sell more travel is by opening more outlets. McDonalds and Wal-mart [sic] does it. And do you think McDonalds only sells burgers and fries? No, they diversity[sic]. So does Wal-mart.
To compare a travel agent to Wal-Mart and McDonald’s is so outlandish that I just had to say something. So I responded with:
A good travel agent does diversify – but it is with travel related items like insurance, excursions, passport and visa service, currency exchange. We also differentiate ourselves with our service, not just low prices, so don’t compare us to Wal-Mart. I have too much to learn about with travel than to worry about learning what a nutritionist needs to know. Ever heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”?
If you agree with me, please write to your Congressmen and Senators. Time is of the essence as the implementation date is at the end of the month.
Helga Leoonard, ACC is the owner of A Dream Trip 4U in Saxonburg, PA and is a Chapter Director for the Pittsburgh Chapter of OSSN.