A group of travel industry veterans have joined forces to launch Four Hundred by Design, a new business-to-business platform for travel advisors that promises higher commissions and faster payouts, among other benefits.
Co-founded by Tony Abrams (founder of membership-based lifestyle-management company Four Hundred) and Tony Shepherd (Four Hundred CEO and former Protravel executive), Four Hundred by Design is a standalone venture focused on luxury travel, offering advisors access to a curated collection of high-end hotels, resorts, villas and private residences.
Rounding out Four Hundred by Design's leadership team is former Virtuoso executive Karen Goldberg, who has been tapped as the program's senior vice president of brand strategy and business development, and Villas of Distinction founder Robert Eastman, who serves as executive director for luxury villas and private residences.
The program's inaugural portfolio of 200-plus accommodations includes J.K. Place Rive Gauche in Paris; Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica; Castello di Reschio in Umbria, Italy; Cap Rocat in Mallorca; and the Newbury Boston. A large number of Four Hundred by Design's partners are boutique and/or independent hotels.
Suppliers are vetted and pay a fee to join the Four Hundred by Design network, but advisors can sign up to use the platform for free.
Complementary to consortia
Once registered, advisors can request and manage bookings via Four Hundred by Design. Each advisor remains the agent of record throughout the full booking process, with the experience designed to be "complementary" to an advisor's existing industry affiliations.
"We are a conduit between them and the supplier to make the booking on behalf of their client," said Shepherd. "And many of the agents joining may be in Virtuoso or Signature or Ensemble or other consortia, but they can still use this program, because it gives them benefits that they don't get through their other programs."
According to Shepherd, Four Hundred by Design has established "enhanced commission programs" with its suppliers, with advisors able to earn more than they would typically make on a standard booking.
Additionally, Four Hundred by Design advertises "more timely revenue structures," pledging that earned commissions will be paid out no later than 10 days after client checkout.
"Prior to launch, we focus-grouped Four Hundred by Design with a carefully selected group of agency owners and independent contractors," said Shepherd. "While the additional revenues on bookings was important to them, a recurring theme was, 'How quickly will I get paid?'
"We believe deeply that travel advisors need to be paid for their work as quickly as possible, especially after coming off one of the toughest years in the history of travel."
Shepherd added that the process behind the company's 10-days-or-fewer payout guarantee is "somewhat proprietary," but that "agents should feel comfortable that collecting owed monies will remain the responsibility of Four Hundred by Design."
The Four Hundred by Design platform is currently open for registration, with the program onboarding its first 400 advisors at the end of September.
Update: This report was updated to remove potentially confusing information about how much more travel advisors could earn on commission via Four Hundred by Design's "enhanced commission programs."