Efforts by the Mark Travel Corp. to enforce an antirebating policy
through its affiliated Vacation Together Network (VTN) is ruffling
the feathers of one of its top producers, Foremost Travel &
Tours of Chicago.
At issue is a
recent e-mail to VTN agencies informing them of a change to the VTN
agreement that prohibits agents from offering any discounts,
rebates, bonus, credits or any similar reductions off of any VTN
Unlike some tour
operators with rebating rules, the Mark Travel Corp. has a unique
power to enforce the edict because a Mark Travel affiliate, Trisept
Solutions, developed the VTN online booking system. The e-mail puts
agencies on notice that VTN will cut off their access if they dont
At Foremost Travel &
Tours, a top-producing member of Funjets 500 Club, chief financial
officer Tom Stelter called the policy anticompetitive and
anti-consumer. He said if the agency wants to give a part of our
commission back to consumers ... no one should be able to tell us
we cant do that. We earn it.
TravelWeekly.com that what the wholesaler can do is control how its
name is used. The point of power exercised by Tauck and Pleasant
Holidays, which already have antidiscounting policies, is in the
use of the brand.
president, Lynn Farrell, added, The e-mail says you cant discount,
but when you have a conversation with them, they say you cant
advertise. They come out with guns blazing, but the reality is, you
Foremost had a
similar dispute with Pleasant Holidays in April 2004 and filed
complaints with the Dept. of Justice and the California Attorney
ultimately was settled, with Pleasant allowing Foremost to
advertise its discounts and to use the name Pleasant in its ads,
just as long as we are clear that it is Foremost Travel and not
Pleasant Holidays offering the discount, Stelter said.
Foremost said it
is looking into adding Mark Travel to its open complaint with the
California Attorney Generals office but would rather work out an
agreement without calling in lawyers.
We want to work
with them, not against them, said Farrell. We do a lot of business
with them. We have a lot of things moving ahead.
Tammy Lee, Mark Travels vice president of corporate affairs, the
antidiscounting policy is Mark Travels long-standing
Lee described the
enforcement policy as a three-strikes approach, beginning with a
notification that agencies are not allowed to utilize our company
name in this manner.
discounting persists, VTN will contact the agency again, restating
the position. If they do not stop within one week, they are turned
off in our system and no longer allowed to sell our products, Lee
The policy, said
Lee, is designed to protect our agencies.
The VTN group of
agencies, originally a consortium, consists of some 175 retailers
that use a package of technology tools, including a leisure booking
system that agents can link to their own Web sites.
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].