Firm offers 'parachute' to exiting owners

NOVATO, Calif. -- Travel agency owners leaving the industry can receive income from their client lists through a program offered by Golden Bear Travel, a cruise wholesaler subsidiary of American Express.

The firm's Golden Parachute Retirement program is available to former agency owners who turn over their client lists to Golden Bear.

It is the second time that Golden Bear has offered the program.

The first time, about eight years ago, three or four travel agency owners who were leaving the industry provided their client lists to Golden Bear, said John Bell, company president.

Golden Bear collected some 4,000 to 5,000 names.

"It worked out very well. In fact, we're still paying those owners for the business," said Bell, in a telephone interview from Camp Okizu, the summer camp for cancer-stricken children that he operates in Oroville, Calif.

"We decided to offer this again because we understand many agencies are closing," he said.

To participate, retiring agency owners notify their clients about enrollment in the Mariner Club, which offers discount cruise fares and hosted sailings with special events, parties and shipboard credits.

The clients can opt out of enrollment in Mariner Club. If they don't opt out, they begin receiving Mariner Club direct mail pieces.

Travel agents who provide client lists receive 30% of Golden Bear's cruise commissions of their former clients who book directly with Golden Bear for the next five years.

"The clients' names are coded in our computer system and every time they book, the former agents receive a monthly check when their people have sailed," said Bell.

"Agents can feel good knowing that their cruise clients will continue to receive excellent service from a large, established agency, while the agent receives retirement income," said Bell.

For information, contact the company at (800) 551-1000, Ext. 156.

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