Why Exclusive Group Travel Sells Exclusively to Agents
PHOTO: Elyse Elkin of Exclusive Group Travel (Courtesy EGT)
Exclusive Group Travel (EGT) continues to turn the tour operator market on its head, thanks to its travel agent-centric (read “exclusive”) business model and unparalleled customer service that extends from travel agents down to agents’ clients.
“Our philosophy is all about service and providing the best products and service in the industry,” Steve Gorga, EGT president and CEO, told TravelPulse.com. “It’s not about answering calls by the second ring 80 percent of the time or anything like that. It’s a whole mentality – to make sure we do such a great job for agents that their customers in turn have a great experience and want to come back and work with them again. Our biggest satisfaction is having a client come back to their agent and the agent coming back to us.”
That commitment to customer service has been present from Day One, explains EGT founder Elyse Elkin.
“We were able to start something because of our experience. We weren’t starting by tossing up some rice and seeing what stuck to the ceiling,” she said. “We know what works. We listened to agents. This company was created for agents by agents, meaning we started with the idea that we would do things the way agents want them done. Even today we continually ask what agents want and need to help increase and improve their business.”
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Long before they opened, Elkin set out to develop a “very creative online group sales technology that today is still the best out there,” says Gorga. “Agents really appreciate that our technology reduces the burden of having to do things manually. It’s a great functionality that makes it simple for them. Nobody else has done that. No one has gone to the extent we have.”
Group sales are a big part of EGT’s business model, but not the only part, Gorga notes. EGT offers full FIT travel to all its properties. Elkin was able to leverage her relationships at the most senior level to create a carefully curated portfolio of 450 leading international hotels and resorts.
“We have the ability to select who we work with,” she said. “We know they understand the service we require and that it needs to continue once they sign a contract with us. We want to make sure the agent’s client is well taken care of. A happy travel agent is what we all want.”
Making sure agents are happy takes on new meaning at EGT. Gorga freely gives out his cell phone number, exhorting agents to call him whenever they have a problem. He might not be able to help them directly, he jokes, but he knows who to call to get the job done. And get the job done they do. One agent called because their client was having difficulty checking in at a property in Mexico. A few calls later and Elkin was on the line to the resort’s owner in Spain to make sure the problem was resolved.
Agents booking with EGT also can expect very competitive commission rates, whether they are new or long-time clients. Another key difference?
“Our business development managers are dedicated to travel agents,” says Elkin. “They are there to service all agents, who know they have a BDM they can call, not just some res center.”
So why book with EGT? Gorga sums it up: “Unmatched service in the industry. The fact that an agent will never lose customers to direct bookings. And incredible technology backed by people who really care about their success.”
More by Kristina Rundquist
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