Laura Del Rosso
Laura Del Rosso

Andavo Travel, the host agency division of Salt Lake City-based Christopherson Andavo Travel, beefed up its management team to accommodate the growing number of independent contractors that it is attracting.

The company recently promoted Meredith Price from leisure travel manager for the Southeast to leisure operations manager, a new position for the company.

Price, who has been a travel agent since 1974, came to Andavo from All Seasons Travel in Birmingham, Ala., an agency purchased in 2013 by Christopherson Andavo, No. 28 on the 2015 Travel Weekly Power List. Price will be in charge of Andavo's professional development and resources for independent contractors.

“In the last couple of years, we've grown considerably,” said Kirsten Little, Andavo Travel's general manager, who handles business development and vendor relations.

“The acquisition of All Seasons Travel brought in a mix of in-house and independent agents. In 2014, we brought in 10 more independent contractors, and this year we've had 13 join us so far.”

Andavo Travel, which is based in Denver and is a longtime Virtuoso member, hosts 108 agents throughout the country and in five parent company offices: Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco and Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.

With its Christopherson Andavo Travel parent, the company had $510 million in sales in 2014. The company's sales mix is 70% corporate and 30% leisure; however, Andavo Travel host agency is a luxury leisure specialist with about 95% of its sales from leisure, said Little.

Andavo Travel was recently recognized as having the top year-over-year percentage growth in sales of all the agencies in the Virtuoso network. Sales figures for Andavo Travel are not disclosed.

The new independent agents who have joined Andavo Travel in the last two years are 40% new to the industry and 60% industry veterans, a few of which are former brick-and-mortar agency owners who decided to leave their agencies for independent, home-based work, Little said.

“Those who are new to the industry generally have sales or marketing backgrounds. We look for people who are looking for a second career and have traveled a lot,” she said. “They generally are looking to us to take advantage of vendor relations and Virtuoso's training platform.”

Andavo doesn't charge monthly fees to its independent contractors, who generally work on an 80/20 commission split (except for new agents who work themselves up to the 80/20 split after they receive agency training and build their clientele).

“We recommend that new agents start off with a narrow focus so that they can learn everything there is to know about their niche,” Little said. “There's a lot of know and, if they can focus on something like river cruises or the South Pacific, it gives them the opportunity to target their training and product knowledge and get comfortable in selling that product. That helps in their marketing and confidence level and then, as they build their clientele, they can expand into other areas.”

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