NASSAU, Bahamas -- When Jack Ezon, Julie Danziger and Eli Ashear founded Embark Beyond (No. 36 on Travel Weekly's 2022 Power List) in New York in March 2019, they didn't envision Embark becoming a host agency.
Reflecting on the company's history during an event at the Baha Mar resort, Danziger said that one of Embark's initial business plans from a few years back assumed having 20 to 25 independent contractors.
"Now, fast forward a couple of years, and we just hit 150 people under the Embark USA umbrella and 50 under the Embark Brazil umbrella," she said.
Ezon concurred, saying the founders thought hosting ICs would be "a small side part" of the business. "It's amazing how things evolve," he added.
Embark itself has evolved. Initially, the vision was for all Embark agents to own a piece of the agency, similar to a law firm's structure. Embark still does have an in-house team of advisors, but its hosting operation, called Embark Collective, has grown over the past few years.
"Some people want to be independent," Danziger said. "They want to come in, they want the tools, and they're doing fine. They're making six figures. They can grow their business. Or maybe they want to be an employee and they want to be part of our house team. … There's no one-size-fits-all."
And while Covid presented the biggest challenge of Ezon's career, he said, it also enabled Embark to build a solid foundation of tools and information sources for its advisors.
Embark gathered more than 300 of its advisors and supplier partners here for Embark Immersion, a workshop designed to help build stronger partnerships and for Embark members to "learn the products from the inside out," Ezon said.
"Not to see beautiful pictures of bathrooms and lobbies and bedrooms but to understand the soul and the approach of our partners and work as partners together to elevate our customer journey and elevate our customer experience," he said.
Each day focused on a different topic. On Day 1, it was "Emotional Impact" and included breakout workshops, larger sessions with all attendees. Ezon envisioned the event as a "future lab" for the travel industry, tackling issues like advisors and suppliers communicating client preferences and removing friction points within the client experience.
Success for new and seasoned travel advisors
Embark's advisors, both seasoned and new-to-the-industry, are doing well, said Ezon, who credited much of that to the agency's training program. Led by industry veteran and Embark partner Anne Scully, Ezon said proof of the program's success was in the pudding: Some new agents working less than a year and a half are already doing $2 million in annual sales.
Danziger singled out an advisor who started just three weeks prior to the Immersion event and had just closed a $60,000 sale -- and that was just the hotel portion of the trip.
Support from the top is also part of the equation. Danziger said that she, Ezon and Ashear endeavor to be just a phone call away from advisors and never want to grow so large that that isn't feasible.
Beyond Embark Collective, the company has a Brazilian division; an in-house leisure business and divisions handling events, tours and marketing; and its latest endeavor, the Icon Network, linking event planners and suppliers.