Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend and exhibit at the Baltimore Home Based Travel Agent Show & Conference. All in all it was a good show and some good quality vendors. I was disappointed that Denyse and I did not connect as I would have loved to hear her impression of my challenge to her.
I asked Denyse to simply approach a variety of vendors and without identifying her host, just begin a conversation about YTB. I did, and the result was as expected--they feel YTB is a necessary evil. (Those are my words and not theirs) Many of the smaller niche suppliers were unaware of YTB.
I spoke with many YTB people and many are very happy with the program, but there were also many there whose purpose was to find a new host. I know for a fact that 4 RTAs signed up with Travel Planners at the show. One RTA that I had had a very contentious email fight several months back, actually hugged me and said I was right all along and she was done with YTB and her four friends who were in YTB are going to be getting out as well. To be honest, as she was coming up to me, I was not sure what to expect and hoping for a kick to my good knee! To Nia, if you are reading this--thanks for your honesty and for the hug. For the record, I do not hug and kiss men as some others may.
I did not see any YTB Police presence. If they were there, they were well undercover and likely not doing their job. There were no green t-shirts, and at the travel events (classes, meal functions, trade show) there was no recruiting. But up near Einsteins Bagels, a Rep was running what amounted to a three card monte game. He had his laptop open and was showing the presentations--he was surrounded by other Reps and RTAs all hanging on his word and agreeing that it was the best investment anyone could make, etc. Then he offered to to pay for a CLIA membership to anyone that signed up under him before the end of the show. Granted, this was not at the show technically, but it was in a high traffic area where those attending the show (and the NeoCon conference as well) would pass to get to the classrooms and ballrooms.
Which brings me to the point I made yesterday about the huge loophole for CLIA and their membership. This YTB Rep was offering to pay $399 for a membership because he earned much more from having the downline. The new RTA then needs no training, no enrollments in the ACC or MCC program to obtain the identification card. This loophole will not work in a SOT state (MD, VA, DC, NJ, and DE are not). CLIA acknowledged this loophole but felt that few RTAs would pay the additional $399 to become members.
Let's take a look at getting a CLIA card the right way through YTB, the loophole way, and Monte's way:
Option 1: Attend FCT at a cost of $149. Take a CLIA exam online at a cost of $30. Enroll in the ACC or MCC program at $65. Apply for the identification card at $49. Total cost is $293.00. Now keep in mind, in order to maintain this credential, you need to complete the ACC or MCC program which include numerous courses (additional money), numerous ship inspections at your expense, several personal sailings at your expense, and actually selling. Without knowing the details, the cost of these extras is probably close to $2500 at a minimum.I had the pleasure of overhearing many of the questions being lobbed at CLIA at their booth and one I heard a lot was, "What forms do I need to fill out to get the free cruises/discounts?" No inquiry on the requirements, what CLIA does, the training, the changes. Mostly about how to get the perks. A Traverus member even argued with the CLIA representative that he indeed did have a CTA because he bought the Traverus website. I am still at a loss why The Travel Institute allows that to go unchecked. There was another argument from a current CLIA cardholder that was very upset about the production requirement for her to renew the card through YTB. The end result was she was told to "suck it up and sell some cruises".
Option 2: If you are in a non SOT state, open a business checking account and pay CLIA $399 for an agency membership. Apply for the identification card at $29--it's a reduced price for the first two cards. Total cost is $428. Yes it is more, but there are zero requirements at this point. Yes you need to renew it annually, but renewals are discounted. And if you are in it for the perks (as most are) one reduced rate sailing would more than pay for the membership and the card. And if the ACC requirements are $2500 you can renew CLIA for nearly 7 years!
Option 3: Let Monte pay your $399 and you fork over the $29 for a card. Total cost $29