Travel Leaders Network and World Travel Holdings are expecting to mutually benefit from the latter's new membership in the former.

World Travel Holdings' membership extends to its entire portfolio of brands, not just its travel agency brands.

"We were not affiliated with any type of consortium, and we were one of the few, so [affiliation] has always been on my mind," said David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations at World Travel Holdings. "You know, why does everyone belong to a consortium but us, pretty much? What are the benefits?"

Crooks said those benefits -- ranging from more hosted cruising options for its travel advisors to its companies potentially becoming preferred suppliers with Travel Leaders -- weren't made clear until he had some casual conversations with network executives.

"We all know that they're a huge player in the travel space," Travel Leaders Network president Roger Block said of World Travel Holdings. "But it doesn't matter how big you are. A group such as Travel Leaders offers additional services and products that allow them to focus on their core business."

Block said World Travel Holdings' core business might not focus on the same things that the network does, like consumer-direct retention marketing or the partnership it has with American Express, and those focuses on Travel Leaders' end will complement what World Travel Holdings does.

"It's purely a win-win for everyone," he said. "It doesn't matter if you are a smaller leisure agency or someone the size of a World Travel Holdings, what we offer is additive to the portfolio of services or sophistication that that agency may have."

Parent company Travel Leaders Group is No. 8 on Travel Weekly's 2018 Power List, reporting $7.08 billion in 2017 sales. That figure includes sales from businesses outside Travel Leaders Network, including Nexion Travel Group, Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group.

World Travel Holdings is No. 19 on the 2018 Power List, reporting 2017 sales of $1.2 billion. It is home to the host agency Cruises Inc.; the franchises Dream Vacations and CruiseOne; online cruise and vacation sellers, including and; several resort day-pass distributors, including Resort for a Day; and villa providers such as

"Being as large as we are, we believe we have world-class technology and marketing and promotions and supplier support," Crooks said. "But Travel Leaders can enhance what we do today."

Crooks said Travel Leaders Network will provide things many home-based advisors have been asking for, including more hosted cruising opportunities, more group space and private shore excursions. World Travel Holdings was also attracted to Travel Leaders Group's Apex program, in which any advisor can undergo training to book travel with American Express Membership Rewards points and still get a commission.

Supplier partners and travel advisors alike have expressed excitement at Travel Leaders Network membership, Crooks said. 

World Travel Holdings is also hoping some of its other brands will get a boost, including its resort-pass and villa companies.

"We talked about those divisions becoming preferred suppliers within Travel Leaders," Crooks said. "Some of those discussions were already underway."

While World Travel Holdings is a large travel company, Block said Travel Leaders Network is the largest leisure network in the U.S. and Canada. World Travel Holdings' sales will be "additive," but it likely won't mean much change in the way of supplier negotiations.

"What we will get out of it is a very beneficial financial and rewarding relationship," Block said.

Existing Travel Leaders members reacted positively to the news, he said, as did suppliers, who "were totally enthusiastic and encouraged World Travel Holdings to take a serious look at us."

Industry analyst Jack Mannix, founder of Jack E. Mannix & Associates, said that "both organizations" have "built real powerhouses."

While Mannix said he had not anticipated the news that World Travel Holdings had joined Travel Leaders Network, he did expect both sides to realize benefits. World Travel Holdings will enjoy some "strength in numbers" by joining the network, even though it is already a strong company on its own, he said. World Travel Holdings will also likely see benefits in the areas of technology and marketing, Mannix said.

"And conversely," he said, "I'm assuming they have an alignment now that further enables all the Travel Leaders sellers, whatever the brand happens to be, to be more supportive of some of those other wholesale tour operator, villa-type brands that [World Travel Holdings] has," he said. "I've got to believe there are some good synergies there."

Mannix said he did not think the move would be necessarily concerning to suppliers.

"By the same token, I'm sure that it's on their radar," he said. "I'm sure they're watching it closely." 

Block emphasized that Travel Leaders Network's goal, as it is with other members, is to help World Travel Holdings grow its business.

"We're here to assist them in ... becoming more profitable," Block said. "So again, whether you're a small agency or a billion-dollar corporate agency, we can offer additive services. And no matter how big you are, everyone has limitations to resources, and this allows agencies to use their resources in more effective ways than having to duplicate all the things that Travel Leaders offers."

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