Eric Altschul has more than 25 years of travel industry expertise in both leisure and corporate travel distribution, and a strong track record applying innovative marketing and technology strategies to help travel professionals work more effectively and efficiently. Prior to becoming CEO of ABC Global Services, Eric managed Thomas Cook North America’s Consumer Distribution business, growing the company from $120 million in sales to $650 million in sales. He joined Thomas Cook North America in 2006 as a consultant to the CEO, and became Senior Vice President in 2008, overseeing several divisions, including ABC Global Services. Eric also held senior-level positions with American Express and has been twice named a rising industry star by Travel Agent magazine. Prior to Thomas Cook, he was an independent consultant, working for clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cendant Hotels, Forte Hotels and Pegasus Solutions.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What inspired you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Eric Altschul (EA): Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio as a fifteen-year-old, I worked for a travel agency in downtown Cleveland delivering tickets and promoting specials during lunch. I was a typical “travel geek”, I loved reading about destinations, hotels, and airline timetables. I don’t know if a light bulb ever went off, but travel’s been in my blood and I’ve loved travel my whole life.
I worked at Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) at one point in my career, and there’s an old saying by one of the former executives: “Being in the travel industry is worse than drugs: once it’s in your blood, you can’t get it out.” I think I was born with it already in my blood.
TRO: How have your previous positions held within travel industry, such as American Express, and your time as an independent consultant, prepared you for your current position as CEO of ABC Global Services?
EA: I’ve learned something from every job, whether it was from American Express while running their corporate consulting, being an independent consultant working with companies like Delta Airlines and Ramada Hotels, or at Thomas Cook dealing with commerce in the North American division business. In every job I’ve learned something new, whether it was about the industry, about the people, communication, marketing, finance, e-commerce, etc. I don’t care who you are, or what job you’re in, if you open your ears and eyes and are open to hearing what other people have to say regardless of what position you’re in, or they are in, you’re going to learn something new everyday. I haven’t stopped learning since I came to this position, I still learn every single day. Those positions certainly helped prepare me over the 25 years I’ve been in this industry, but it really comes down to that I continue to learn something new everyday, even now.
TRO: You worked for Thomas Cook for 7 years before you acquired ABC Global Services. How has ABC Global Services changed and grown since you parted ways with Thomas Cook in 2013?
EA: One of the interesting things about ABC being owned by Thomas Cook was that Thomas Cook was in quite a financial mess, and didn’t invest in any of its own businesses here in North America. There was very little innovation and no creativity going on in the business at that time. What attracted me to ABC was that it was a great business with great people in a great industry and yet the company wasn’t investing in itself.
We have invested significantly in the business, expanding staff, growing our hotel program, developing unique and interesting programs that other companies don’t have, and have invested heavily in ezBOOK. We now have over 600,000 different hotels, more than anyone else in the space, and it’s simply the best hotel booking platform out there.
We’ve also invested in other offerings that greatly benefit our customers, such as CommissionPro to help agencies collect their hotel commissions and 24/7 service to our agencies. We’ve expanded our marketing capabilities and invested in our own technology that allows us to manage our business more efficiently. So from a customer perspective, what you see is that our hotel program is by far the most dynamic, creative, and largest program of it’s kind out there. For the independent agent, ezBOOK is without a doubt second to none in the breadth and depth of what it can offer. We’ve made real, tangible investments that our customers can benefit from.
TRO: Consumers are bombarded everyday by celebrities advertising a “book-it-yourself” website or bidding on your trip, making it harder for travel agents to keep up. How is ABC Global Services creating products to counter this book-it-yourself trend and help keep travel agents relevant?
EA: The number one thing is if we deliver the right product at the right price to travel agents, we have done our job right, we are doing everything we can to keep agents competitive and relevant. It’s interesting because many hotels will provide, through a business-to-business channel, better rates and amenities than you could ever find in a business-to-consumer channel. We deliver those to the community, who in turn deliver them to their clients. What many consumers don’t realize is that they can often get much better deals going through a travel agent as they are able to provide expert advice and have the know-how to go out there and get better deals.
TRO: What can travel agents expect when they book using your services?
EA: We have two key programs to meet the needs of travel agents. First is our Premier Hotel program which is delivered through the global distribution system (GDS). We have direct relationships with over 33,000 hotels available, over 19,000 of which offer better than bar rates and 15,000 have additional amenities. So when agents book an ABC rate they get better rates and amenities delivered to their customer.
Second, for independent agents using ezBOOK, there are over 600,000 hotel options through multiple inventory sources. We provide a wide range of options that deliver the best rates, the best commission levels, the best set of amenities, and we put the power of these decisions in the hands of an agent by giving them all the information they need to be successful. When it comes to booking hotels, it is a great platform that empowers agents.
TRO: What is your favorite travel experience or destination to date?
EA: That is the toughest question you asked, as there are so many incredible places to visit! However there is a place a few hours north of Toronto, Canada, called Muskoka. It is beautiful lake country, and I love going there with my family to relax and get away. It is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the world.
TRO: What can we look forward to from ABC Global Services in the future?
EA: We are going to continue to innovate and offer more for both our GDS and ezBOOK clients. We are always focused on staying ahead of the curve, and having the most dynamic and best hotel program out there. We will continue to deliver unique, differentiated, exclusive products that nobody else offers.
To learn more about Eric Altschul and ABC Global Services, visit their website at http://www.abcglobalservices.com