Travel Bound

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With surprising growth in group bookings in recent months, customized bookings for agencies of all sizes and allegiance from many insiders and consortia, Travel Bound has managed to stay above the fray for almost three decades with one consistent feature in its play book: commitment.

“Travel Bound commission—starting at 10 percent on individual products/services and 15 percent on pre-set packages—is paid upon booking, while most other suppliers pay commission only at the time of travel. Travel Bound has no minimum-night stay requirement; agents can book a hotel for one night, if that’s what their client needs,” says Nico Zenner, Travel Bound’s general manager. “We offer transfers almost everywhere and thousands of sightseeing options. Plus there is a no-cost cancellation policy for most hotels just a day or two before arrival. We offer products everywhere on earth—not just in one region or country. Our vast hotel selection includes upscale, middle-of-the-road and economically priced properties, villas, apartments, quad rooms, boutique hotels, resorts and unique properties in all four corners of the world.

“And, most importantly,” he adds, “Travel Bound sells through travel agents only.”

Created in 1982 to sell mostly European products to agents a la carte, Travel Bound quickly expanded its travel menu to include services in Africa, the Middle East, North and South America, and the Caribbean. It then added Asia, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. As a brand of Gullivers Travel Associates (GTA), it receives support by over 30 local GTA offices around the world—“offices from which products are sourced and rates are negotiated,” explains Zenner. “Travel Bound passes on the buying power of GTA to travel agents and their clients.”

Agents and their clients benefit from some of the best rates and widest selection of properties around the world, he adds—more than 23,000 hotels and more than 5,000 sightseeing tours, excursions and attractions in 110 countries. “And remember, because Travel Bound is part of GTA, there are local offices in many countries that can provide assistance to agents’ clients while they are there—if they need to change the time of their private transfer to the airport or cruiseport, for example,” he states.

According to the general manager, these days pre- and post-cruise and pre- and post-escorted tour stays are popular with travelers, as are hotel stays throughout the U.S. “Agents realize it’s more profitable to book their domestic hotels with Travel Bound because commission rates are more generous and rate rules are a lot more flexible,” he says.

The company is also addressing today’s economic climate with City Break packages of two, three and four nights in cities around the world, commissionable at 15 percent. Agents can customize these to fit clients’ budgets and preferences, as well as add transfers and sightseeing tours. Also new is its first escorted land package for independent travelers, one that is more affordable and flexible than others of its kind. It’s a 5-day escorted tour to see the “Oberammergau Passion Play” in Bavaria, starting at $1,525 with two departure dates: June 15 and Sept. 3, 2010.

“There will be more of these,” says Zenner. “The company has up until now offered escorted tours only to groups of 10 or more, although quite a few of the 5,000 add-on sightseeing tours include a guide or escort—but it’s much different to provide a full-time escort for the entire vacation.”

Contrary to other struggling operators, Travel Bound recently reported a 12 percent increase in booking requests for customized tours for 10 or more in 2009 over the same time last year. “Group travel is often seen as more economical than FIT independent travel, which may explain why more people are choosing group travel now,” says Tommy Ryder, head of the groups department at Travel Bound. “We give agents rates competitive with those of escorted tour suppliers but give them a totally customized itinerary to match special interests and budget constraints. Also, since we see so much growth in Latin American bookings, it’s worth pointing out that hotel rates there are very attractive, especially in Argentina. North Americans are also looking at destinations closer to home, and the main South American countries have completely changed their images and are not considered as dangerous as they were in the past,” explains Ryder.