PHOTO: Three generations of McClures, flanked by Joe McClure, Jr., and his wife, Julie (left), and Andi McClure-Mysza (right) celebrated Montrose Travel’s 60th anniversary in July. (Photo by Mimi Kmet)
Montrose Travel reached a couple of big milestones this year: the family-owned agency in Montrose, Calif., turned 60 and was acquired by a major international company.
The acquisition by Brisbane, Australia-based Corporate Travel Management (CTM), which operates in 53 countries, represents a big growth spurt for Montrose Travel, but it is certainly not the only one. The agency opened in 1956 as a leisure-only shop, but it wasn’t until Joe and Leora McClure bought it in 1972 that it really started to grow – from $300,000 to $6 million in gross annual sales by the time they sold it to their two children and daughter-in-law in 1990.
Today, with the couple’s son Joe McClure, Jr., as president, his wife Julie as CFO, and his sister Andi McClure-Mysza as president of MTravel, the company’s hosting division, Montrose Travel employs more than 200 people and grosses more than $300 million annually – which translates into a 1,000-fold increase over its 1972 numbers.
Besides leisure and hosting, Montrose operates five other divisions focusing on romance travel, business travel, entertainment industry travel, groups and loyalty/rewards (travel fulfillment for financial institutions’ credit card loyalty programs).
Meanwhile, the next generation of McClures is getting involved in the business: Joe and Julie’s daughter Marissa McClure is relationship manager of the loyalty/rewards division, and their son Joey McClure works at the agency during summer breaks from college.
At Montrose Travel’s 60th-anniversary party in July, which was combined with its annual employee awards and SnowPalooza (with a toboggan-ready snow hill), three generations of McClures celebrated with 300-plus guests.
Family plays a big part in Montrose Travel’s success, and MTravel is a prime example. “First and foremost, we’re a family, and we live it and breathe it every day,” McClure-Mysza says, noting that MTravel hosts 500-plus independent contractors (ICs) nationwide. “Family attracts people who are looking for more of a personal relationship with their host.”
MTravel looks for a strong entrepreneurial spirit in potential ICs: “We aren’t interested in people who want to join us because they want the perks and benefits of the travel industry. We want people who are serious about starting a travel business, whether it’s full-time or part-time,” McClure-Mysza says. “It doesn’t matter whether they have experience. We will work with people who have potential.”
MTravel provides ICs with a portfolio of comprehensive training and technology tools, which are continually updated. Training includes mentoring, business coaching, webinars, online courses and an annual conference. All webinars and live training sessions are available on demand via MTravel’s Agent Connex back-office portal, which also provides marketing information and support, sales and commission tracking, invoicing tools and other benefits.
ICs receive their own customizable websites with an online booking function and a link to MTravel’s website. They are also privy to database support and targeted marketing initiatives via direct mail, email and other means. Additionally, Montrose has a blog on its website, plus a presence on several social media sites, including Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.
On the heels of the acquisition, MTravel is completely redeveloping the Agent Connex support site with new features and functions, says McClure-Mysza. Additionally, Montrose Travel is redesigning its website, as well as the Allure Travel by CTM (CTM’s leisure division) site and the private-label sites for its ICs with “responsive, image-rich design, enhanced content and industry-leading marketing features,” she says.
The success of Montrose Travel and its hosting division has not gone unnoticed by CTM. While the overall branding strategy was still under discussion at press time, the hosting brand will remain as MTravel. “MTravel is the most established brand of all of the North American acquisitions,” McClure-Mysza says, noting that CTM has acquired a total of seven agencies on the continent recently. “The MTravel brand is here to stay.”
The hosting divisions of the acquired agencies are being integrated under the MTravel umbrella, with McClure-Mysza at the helm. She also is heading up the U.S. in-house leisure divisions of those agencies, including the Montrose Travel and Travizon Travel brands, and Allure Travel by CTM.
Strong marketing and branding is a major driver of Montrose Travel’s success. Both Joe McClure and Andi McClure-Mysza have MBA degrees in marketing, as well as product management experience in other industries, all of which provides them with an edge in that arena.
And MTravel helps its ICs brand their businesses, teaching them “how to develop their own personal brand so it doesn’t sound like a ‘me too’ brand,” McClure-Mysza says. “You have to be able to differentiate yourself from the masses, especially when you’re a small business.”
For information on becoming an MTravel independent contractor, call 800-870-5799 or visit www.mtravel.com.
MILESTONES TO SUCCESS
Here are just a few of Montrose Travel’s milestones during its 60 years in business.
More by Mimi Kmet