Leisure Travel Alliance (LTA), a consortium with 300 member agencies, has acquired International Tours of Houston (ITH), a host agency.
ITH, which hosts 140 independent contractors, will become the foundation of LTA's host agency operation.
ITH founder and owner Ron Sanders will assume the title of president of Leisure Travel Alliance Central, which will be LTA's host operation. He will report directly to Stuart Godwin, president of LTA.
Godwin said that the host agency program will not replace or change LTA's business model.
"We are talking about two different business models," he said. "Both options are available. It's up to individual agency owners and individual agents to choose the channel that best fits their needs."
Sanders said that the acquisition will benefit consortium and host agency members, who "will shortly have access to a broader range of GDS, back-office and CRM platforms."
Steve Kaplan, LTA's vice president for industry relations, says that LTA executives had reached out to key preferred suppliers "early on" to test the waters for a host-agency component.
"We have received good input and great support on the supplier side of the equation. Quite obviously, we anticipate that LTA's allied suppliers will be the preferred supplier group for [the host agency]", said Kaplan.
Godwin said that LTA plans to acquire more small and midsize travel agencies, with a goal of having a network with 700 agents, either in travel agencies or as independent contractors.
Before founding LTA in 2007 with the late John Shands, Godwin co-founded and served as president of Consolidated Travel Services, a 400-member regional travel agency consortium based in Houston.
After Vacation.com acquired Consolidated Travel Services, Godwin served as Vacation.com's senior vice president for the Western region from 1999 to 2006.Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.