Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Mike Hays, the president and founder of Student Travel America, believes he has a proposition that would be tough for advisors to pass up: For as low as $47 per year, he'll hand agents the tools they need to start selling student trips for between 7% and 9% commission a pop. And he's offering a money-back guarantee on that initial investment.

Hays, a former educator himself, has been leading students on post-graduation trips for decades. Now, the tour operator is looking to partner with more agents -- particularly, home-based travel advisors -- who can sell his tours to local schools for commissions.

Over the years, Hays said, he has watched the migration of travel agencies from brick-and-mortar shops to home-based operations.

"The home-based agents are getting bigger and bigger and bigger," he said, and he'd like to reach that audience with his product.

Student Travel America has created two sales packages for travel advisors: The basic package, for $47 per year, and the gold package, for $97 per year. 

Each comes with a sales manual, custom marketing materials, a list of high schools in the state and a commission agreement. Under the basic package, agents can earn 7% to 9% commission, depending on the number of travelers (a trip would need to have more than 101 to earn the top-tier commission). Under the gold package, advisors can earn from 8% to 12% commission. Commissions are higher, Hays said, if travel advisors sell educational Riviera River Cruises.

The gold package includes more details on the schools, including the names and email addresses of potential pied pipers like the principal, band director and senior class counselor (Student Travel America partners with the Clell Wade Coaches Directory to keep that information up to date).

The sales premise is simple, he said: Get someone like a coach or a senior-class advisor interested in going on a trip. If they can get 15 students to sign up, that pied piper goes for free. Then, word-of-mouth among the students will keep subsequent grade levels coming back for more year after year.

It's not uncommon to have multiple teachers or coaches in a school lead multiple groups in any given year, Hays said.

Student Travel America leads trips on Riviera River Cruises and to destinations like Ft. Lauderdale, New York, Walt Disney World and Washington.

Hays said Student Travel America is a CLIA member, is bonded through the Department of Transportation and escrows all funds at Pinnacle National Bank.


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