HRG starts affiliate network in N. America

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Hogg Robinson Group, the U.K.-based mega-agency with representation in nearly 100 countries, has launched an affiliate network in North America with four founding agencies.

HRG, tied for No. 4 on the 2007 Travel Weekly Power List with 2006 sales of $12 billion worldwide, already has a foot in the market with its HRG North America, which was created by combining BTI Canada with two travel agencies purchased in the U.S., New York-based SeaGate Travel and Connecticut-based Robustelli Corporate Services.

Chris Dane was named as president of the new affiliate operation. Dane has been with several agency groups in recent years, including Vacation.com and the Travel Management Alliance.

The four founding affiliates are Short's Travel Management in Overland Park, Kan., which ranked No. 37 on the 2007 Power List; Casto Travel in Santa Clara, Calif. (No. 47); Austin Travel in Melville, N.Y. (No. 50); and Avia International Travel in Houston.

Dane said HRG launched the program to build revenue and extend the brand because there are "many places where we're not so well known." Besides, he said, it is fairly common for the megas to have affiliate programs.

He estimated the maximum potential was 12 agencies in the U.S. and Canada, adding that selections would not be revenue-based but rather driven by participants' "mindsets and their clientele." He said some smaller agencies were interested because of their focus on the international market.

The program will carry "strict branding requirements," he said, whereby any interface with clients involving HRG "will have to have the look and feel of HRG." Otherwise, the affiliates will combine HRG with their original names.

Participants will have access to HRG's after-hours services and hotel program but will not be required to use them. They also will have access to HRG proprietary technology when serving shared accounts.

Jeff Austin, president and COO of the $125 million Austin Travel, said the agency, a former Hickory agency and former World Travel Partners affiliate, turned to HRG for its focus on international business.

Besides, he said, HRG is keeping this "fairly small, so we have a major presence." 

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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