Giving something back

ontrose Travel, a single-location, full-service agency in the Los Angeles area with $115 million in sales, will be sending 90 inner-city children on a summer vacation of a different sort this year.

For the first time, the agency will be providing 90 asthmatic children with the chance to attend a special camp sponsored by Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles.

Montrose Travel donated a check for $20,000 to Chris Ho, president of the Barlow Medical Group and director of the Children's Asthma Camp; Margaret Crane, chief executive officer of Barlow Respiratory Hospital, and Gary Steinhauer, vice president of fund development for the Barlow Foundation.

Participants at the annual Children's Asthma Camp sponsored by Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. "We are pleased to make this special gift contribution to Barlow's Children's Asthma Camp," said Joe McClure, president of Montrose Travel. "It is a wonderful feeling to know that Montrose Travel can be involved in making children happy and carefree, the way every child should live."

Montrose Travel's contribution will provide a valuable resource to children suffering from the chronic illness. Asthma is the sixth-most prevalent chronic condition in children in the U.S.; annual costs associated with the illness are about $11.3 billion.

Since 1997, Barlow Respiratory Hospital has hosted the annual Children's Asthma Camp for residents of Los Angeles County each summer in conjunction with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Lung Association.

Barlow's medical staff of physicians, nurses and therapists provide all the medical treatment and services, supplies and asthma education and training.

The weeklong camp -- this year taking place at Camp Marston, a mountain retreat near the town of Julian in San Diego County -- targets inner-city children ages 8 through 12 who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma. While at the camp, children receive asthma management education, learn how to recognize and avoid asthma triggers and receive instruction on how to understand and properly use medications and behavior-modification techniques.

Agency owners Julie and Joe McClure, second and third from left, present their $20,000 donation check to executives at Barlow Respiratory Hospital. Supporting charitable causes is nothing new to Montrose Travel. Since 1992, the firm has been very big on contributing to children's charities and has been involved with several other causes before working with Barlow.

The agency donated travel packages to help raise more than $150,000 to build a neonatal unit for the Glendale Memorial Hospital. It also has been involved in annual fund-raising efforts for the Crippled Children's Society and helped raise more than $25,000 for the Children's International Network, $18,000 for the Foundation for the Junior Blind and $30,000 for the ALS Association.

Joe McClure added that between 20 and 30 employees at Montrose Travel are parents of young children with asthma, so the agency wanted to make a difference that would touch the children and staff members.

"Our motivation for getting involved in fund-raising is no different than anyone else who wants to give back to the community," explained McClure.

"We like to do it quietly, but always let our employees know what causes we are getting behind to give them a sense of pride."

-- Michele SanFilippo

All in the family

stablished in 1956, Montrose Travel is a family-owned agency that has grown from 14 employees in 1990 to more than 200 employees in 2000.

Since Joe McClure, his wife, Julie, and sister Andi McClure-Myzsa purchased the Montrose, Calif., agency from parents Joe and Leora McClure in 1990, it has grown from a $4 million leisure agency into a $115 million travel management firm.

Montrose's commercial division specializes in corporate travel management, with programs designed to help companies control and decrease business travel expenses. Its leisure division specializes in selling Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and cruises; its group, meetings and incentive division handles groups and meetings of all sizes.

A group shot of many of the 200-plus employees at Montrose Travel. "We're a family-owned agency with a truly tight-knit feeling and very little turnover," said president Joe McClure.

McClure knows who to credit for the firm's success.

"It is the employees who have built this business, and we are very loyal to them and try to give back whenever we can," he said.

Agents at Montrose Travel receive a salary plus monthly incentives, annual bonuses, 401K plans and medical benefits.

To foster increased productivity with agents, three years ago

Montrose Travel started a President's Club for million-dollar producers. The club currently has 27 members.

These agents and their spouses are rewarded to group weekends that feature golf, spa treatments and other activities.

The agency also hosts two success parties a year,

rewarding employees with bonuses, gifts and incentives.

Are you reluctant to sell insurance?

n an earlier column, I made an inventory of the major benefits of selling travel insurance. There are plenty. But why are many of us still so reluctant to sell it? Here are some of my theories:

  • Travel insurance feels like a complex product. Yet if you read the insurance company's informational material very carefully, it's actually fairly clear-cut. Plus sales reps can answer any of your questions.
  • Marc Mancini.

  • You had a bad experience once with a claim. This does happen, but it's often because we (or the client) didn't fully understand the rules and regulations.
  • Selling it makes you feel like an insurance agent, not a travel counselor. And few people like insurance agents.
  • It takes time to sell. Travel insurance companies, however, are doing all sorts of things to make that process far easier and swifter.
  • It hasn't become a habit yet, so you're just not used to offering it.
  • It requires us to get nosy with clients. We have to discuss things like pre-existing conditions. Surprisingly, though, most clients are willing to talk about their state of health. Some are even eager.
  • It seems to undermine the positive experience that a vacation should be. Here we are, spending all our time convincing clients that a great vacation awaits them, then we must start with that "but suppose ..."
  • I suspect this last issue might be the biggest one for most agents -- one that's rarely voiced, but I think, deeply influential. And there's actually a good way around it.

    Try to portray the need for travel insurance in positive terms, as protecting an investment. It also can be a response to a client's objection: "I can't leave for the flight until Saturday. What happens if the flight is delayed and the ship leaves without me?" Easy answer: insurance.

    The bottom line: Offering travel protection should become an automatic step in your sales efforts if you want to be earning as much money as possible.

    Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles College.

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