It's a sad, but true, fact: Some agencies will not make it through the pandemic.
But LaMacchia Travel in Kenosha, Wis., is doing something to mitigate that loss by creating a host agency, LaMacchia Jet Stream, where others can find a home.
"We really would hate to see anybody with experience, a book of business or somebody who really cares about the customer service experience as much as we do go by the wayside," said Tom Karnes, who co-owns LaMacchia Travel with his wife, Monica.
The LaMacchia Jet Stream logo.
The name LaMacchia is one many in the industry are likely familiar with -- Karnes' uncle, Bill LaMacchia, founded the Mark Travel Corp. in 1974. But the history of LaMacchia Travel predates Mark Travel by many years.
Karnes' grandfather Edmund LaMacchia started the business known as LaMacchia Travel in 1931, but even before that, his great-grandfather Eugenio sold steamship and rail travel out of a grocery store before 1900. The agency has remained in the family's hands since it was founded.
Karnes himself started working at LaMacchia Travel in 1983, when he was 16. He did a stint at the Mark Travel Corp. as a vice president while simultaneously managing the agency.
Ultimately, in 2009, the Karneses bought LaMacchia Travel, making them its third-generation owners (fourth, if you include Eugenio's grocery store side hustle).
Today, LaMacchia Travel still exists as a brick-and-mortar agency. Last year, the agency did $14 million in sales. Its business mix is 90% leisure and 10% corporate.
A few years ago, LaMacchia Travel launched a brand focused on luxury romance and destination weddings, LovinAway. Now, LaMacchia Jet Stream will become its second division.
Karnes said he wants to host agents who are like-minded when it comes to customer service. He wants to keep the traveling public using advisors, not migrating their business to OTAs.
"Our endgame here is a consumer game," he said. "We want agents that know how to take care, facilitate and make sure that their customer experience is as good as it can possibly get so that they'll continue to book with a local travel agent. That's really what we want."
LaMacchia Jet Stream has started accepting advisors' applications. It will begin accepting advisors Dec. 1. Karnes hopes to add 50 independent contractors in 2021. All sign-up fees will be waived for the time being. The structure of commission payouts will be based on revenue generated. Karnes said the host will negotiate one-on-one with advisors based on what they believe they can sell, not what they've sold this year. There are no monthly affiliation fees, though some upgraded marketing initiatives will be available for a fee.
In addition to the Karneses, LaMacchia Jet Stream is being supported by program director Lisa Pease, marketing and operations manager Nolan Flynn and brand administrator Brooke Alfano.