Q&A With Tom Baumann, Owner of Cruise & Travel Experts
- Q) Can you tell us about Cruise & Travel Experts?
- A) Sure, Cruise & Travel Experts is a boutique travel company formed by my business partner Mark Schiffner and I to meet the needs of experienced travel agents and those serious about building their business. We have each been in the travel industry for over 30 years and have served individual travel agency owners for most of those years.
We know what type of home-based agent programs are out there, and we wanted to create a company that we would want to join ourselves. Based on our 30 years of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, we created something amazing by using the best of the best tools and people. Our agency members are part of an elite travel team who are all truly “Experts” in the travel industry.
- Q) What makes your program different from others?
- A) I think our focus on high-touch personal service for our members is our largest differentiator. We treat them the way we would like to be treated, and we really get to know our members on a personal level. They are not just a number to us. Our friendly support team personnel have all worked in the travel business for many years, and more importantly, with independent business owners, so they are extremely knowledgeable on the questions and issues our members have. We are not just a “help desk”, we are your business partner!
We also offer our members a fantastic program with an online CRM tool, internal member intranet site that’s fully interactive, customizable business website, highly competitive airline program, unique group booking tool, agent vacation coverage, supplier marketing, Golden Parachute option and more.
- Q) What is each of your prior travel agency experiences?
- A) I started my own travel agency in 1987 and grew that to become one of the largest and most successful franchises of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. I sold the company to Carlson in 2000, and joined their team to lead the Carlson Vacation & Business Travel division with Carlson Leisure Group which later spun off to Travel Leaders Group. This division encompassed a variety of business and leisure travel brands. Having been on the corporate side of travel management as well as an agency owner gives me a unique hands-on perspective on how I can help members grow their business.
Mark Schiffner has spent 30 years building companies focused on helping small business owners manage and grow their operations. Mark spent 24 years at Cruise Holidays, a travel franchise business which was part of the Travel Leaders Leisure Group, and the past five years of which he served as COO. He led the creation and improvement of a variety of new programs and initiatives to help franchise members improve and grow their businesses.
- Q) What sorts of training do you offer your members?
- A) We offer regular training opportunities including a weekly “Experts Connect” class that covers important information, announcements, tips and tricks, shortcuts and more. We also offer optional in-depth three day training courses on our travel technology, and host an annual retreat for our members. This year we are excited to be meeting at a GOGO Worldwide Vacations Resort in Cancun, Mexico. There, we will provide training on destinations and suppliers, our technology platforms and hands-on expertise from our leadership and support team.
Additionally, we offer our members the opportunity to join the Ensemble Travel Group national convention held each fall. This annual convention offers members intense sales and marketing training, supplier training and tradeshows, experiential learning tours, and a variety of social events. Prior to the convention start date, we hold a one-day meeting just for our Cruise & Travel Experts members.
- Q) How do you connect with your members?
- A) We have a really neat intranet site called One World available to our members and it is not like any other intranet you have seen. It looks like a social media website with all of our members’ photos and bios, a news page, a library and more. Our members can read our company and industry news stories, check out upcoming events, contact each other, start discussions with a group, and access important documents all in one place. It’s truly an amazing one-of-a-kind tool!
- Q) What is the “Golden Parachute” you mentioned earlier?
- A) If one of our members wants to retire or simply exit the industry, we will buy their book of business. We will then continue to market to their clients on a regular basis and provide an experienced agent to service them. This provides comfort to our members that their clients will be well taken care of, and also provides them with financial compensation for their years of hard work.
- Q) After a successful career, why did you decide to jump back into running Cruise & Travel Experts?
- A) Travel is my passion and helping small business owners become successful is what I do best. I also wanted to have fun again in a business atmosphere that feels more like a family, similar to what I created in my original agency, and similar to the amazing atmosphere, culture, and ethics of Carlson Companies.
- Q) How can people learn more about Cruise & Travel Experts?
A) If you are a business owner who cares about your travel business and want it to grow while having fun along the way, you’ve found the right place. Visit joinctegroup.com, or call us at 800-590-1578.