Travel agencies

Former Ensemble travel agencies seek to collect unpaid bonuses : Travel Weekly

A group of former Ensemble member agencies have written an open letter to consortium management, asking for 2019 incentive payments owed to them.

Agencies were members of Ensemble when it was a member-owned cooperative and paid incentives to agencies twice a year. Ensemble has since been acquired by the Navigatr Group and is now privately owned.

“We are now making this matter public and ask that you do the right thing and honor your obligations to your former members,” the band wrote in their letter. “It’s simply the ethical approach to business and it can show the industry that you and your organization can be trusted.”

The agencies that signed the letter are Around the Globe Travel, ConsortiaX, Diplomat Travel Agency, Go Travel, The Travel Agent Next Door, Travel Best Bets, Travel of America, Travel Planners International and Uniglobe Travel Center.

They said “several other agencies” were unwilling to sign the letter for fear of reprisals. They also estimate that some 50 to 70 other agencies are in the same position of not having received payments, with some having closed their operations during the pandemic and others leaving Together for another consortium.

The Power List agency owed “a very large sum”

Ken Gagliano, president of Travel Planners International (No. 33 on Travel Weekly’s 2022 powerhouse list), said his agency walked away from a “very large” sum of money, but the question is more of a matter of principle now.

“We would certainly like to see that money, but the biggest thing, I think, is the smaller agencies that have been burned,” he said. “They really, really needed that money, and they never got it. And then here, all the people who stayed and signed up, they got it. It’s not good. is unethical.”

According to the group, when Ensemble was a co-op, it gave members two “profit sharing” or “patronage” payments each year based on vendor waivers and the agency’s own production. In 2020, they said, Ensemble made the first payment based on 2019 sales, but said it would delay the remaining payment while it secured loans at the start of the pandemic.

In September 2020, the group said, Ensemble announced that it would pay 50% of each member’s outstanding amount within 60 days, and a marketing credit equal to the remainder would be made available. But, the agencies said, they never received that payment.

In the open letter, they said that although they have since left Ensemble, they were members in good standing at the time the payment was due, and they believe they are still entitled to the funds. Prior to the Ensemble acquisition, however, the group said it did not want to exert pressure.

“None of us wanted to take legal action or force debate, knowing the precarious state of the organization,” they wrote.

They argued that following the acquisition of Navigatr in June 2022, the agency consortium “no longer has the financial instability that caused these payments to be delayed.”

“Many signatories to this letter have approached you to request the payments and have been turned away,” they wrote. “ASTA has attempted to resolve this situation but you maintain there is no obligation to pay. You claimed the board approved payment was dependent on the approval of loans to help you survive Covid .You did not show a copy of those council minutes to any of us.”

In a statement, ASTA said it was “reviewing claims made as part of its dispute resolution process and remains available to assist the parties in reaching an amicable resolution.”

Several of the agencies had a virtual meeting this summer with Ensemble Chairman Michael Johnson and Executive Chairman David Harris, who was CEO before the Navigatr acquisition. During that meeting, the agencies said, they were told that Ensemble did not believe he was obligated to pay the bounty.

The group also said that members who renewed with Ensemble after the acquisition received an incentive to do so, which was equal to the unpaid incentives of September 2020, although this payment was never referred to as the unpaid incentive. paid.

Together responds

In a statement sent to Travel Weekly, Ensemble explained how it handled the situation.

“During Covid, Ensemble faced a series of challenges, like all travel companies,” said Ensemble Chairman Michael Johnson. “Although we do not intend to litigate this matter in the media, the pandemic has had a direct impact on clientelism and the decisions made by the former board of directors. We fully support the priorities and decisions which were established by the rulers of the day.”

In the agencies’ letter to Ensemble, they also urged ASTA and ACTA in Canada to review the membership status of Navigatr Group companies.

“We look forward to you making payment to all former members,” the agencies wrote. “Until then, we encourage everyone in the industry to be cautious in their dealings with you and your sister companies.”