Center Holidays: A Host Agency With A Family-Based Approach

Host agencies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are loud and proud, with a strong focus on recruitment and delivering ever-more revenue to preferred partners. Others go about their business more quietly, content with organic member growth and encouraging success through support.

Center Holidays falls into the latter category. With about 270 agent members, it’s not small, but you won’t see an aggressive approach to recruitment.

ADVERTISING

“My approach has always been different,” said Carlton Montaut, who co-founded a retail agency by Barbara Sasiadek in March 2003 and in 2009 established itself as a host travel agency for home based travel agents across Canada.

“We don’t do mass-recruiting. We train individuals one-on-one to ensure the service they offer is superb, and we support them in a wide variety of ways. We treat everyone as a family member.”

The family approach is fitting, as several key members of the Center Holidays team of 15 staff are members of Carlton’s family. Jillian, his wife of more than 40 years, is manager of administration and recruitment. Daughter Kristen is administrator, accounting and son Andre is the manager of marketing and technical support. Andre creates the company’s marketing materials, including an attractive and easy-to-navigate website.


Center Holidays' Jillian Montaut
Carlton Montaut describes his wife Jillian as “the brains of the operation” at Center Holidays.

“She’s the brains of the operation,” Carlton says, referring to his wife Jillian, as TravelPulse Canada interviewed them aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas during a recent Air Canada Vacations Seminar at Sea sailing.

“Working with your partner has its challenges. We don’t always agree, but otherwise it’s a walk in the park,” adds Carlton. Jillian chuckles at that last statement, adding: “No, we don’t always agree, but there are other voices among the staff and members that are heard, and most of the time we get along just fine.”

The COVID pandemic of 2020-2022 wasn’t the first business-shaking event that Center Holidays survived.

“We are proud to say that we have overcome some of the most turbulent times in the travel industry and not just survived, but grown,” says Carlton. “During the economic recession in 2009, many travel agencies closed their doors whereas we grew from a two-agent organization to roughly have over 250 home based travel agents associated with us since January 2010.”

Home-based agents join host agencies for a number of reasons, but education, back-office support, marketing assistance and access to higher commission levels are among the leading incentives.

“We give our home-based travel agents priority on all educational and ‘FAM’ trips because we feel that the more educated they are, the easier and more effective they will be at selling,” Carlton says.

“We have regular in-house webinars, one-on-one training sessions and presentations by various travel suppliers. We strive to constantly provide all our home-based travel agents with quality customer service and support so that they can concentrate on their customers.”

Carlton says the company is only as successful as its members. “We will do whatever we can to ensure that they have all the tools and support they require to grow a profitable and rewarding home based travel business.”

That means being accessible to members when they need help most. “Members are always welcome to call, and sometimes my son will be fixing an IT problem at one in the morning,” Carlton says. “There’s never a time when an agent says ‘I haven’t been able to contact him.’” Jillian adds quietly: “Call me, and Carl will react.”

Just as home-based agents join host agencies, most host agencies belong to a consortium, giving their members access to enhanced training, marketing tools, booking engines, lead-generation and blocked space on cruises and tours. Center Holidays is a member of the Travel Leaders Network.


Center Holidays TLN Host Agency of the Year 2023
Center Holidays was named Canadian Affiliate Host Agency of the Year at the 2023 TLN EDGE Conference.

“We’re a very independent host agency, with in-house marketing, IT support and back-office accounting,” says Carlton. “But we get a lot out of the TLN relationship. The price difference with blocked space can be enormous, and the lead generation Agent Profiler program is incredible. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t see leads, including group leads too.”

Center Holidays agents are clearly making use of the TLN booking tools. At this year’s EDGE Conference in Nashville, Center Holidays was named Canadian Affiliate Host Agency of the Year at the Power of the Partnership Awards. Last year, Center Holidays took home the TLN Chairman’s Pinnacle Award, presented to the Canadian Affiliate Member agency with the highest preferred supplier sales.

Born in India, Carlton joined the travel industry in 1979, working in several different countries before emigrating to Canada and opening Center Holidays soon after. “It was tough at the beginning, being new to the country and trying to adapt to different ways of doing things.”

He has no regrets about making travel his lifelong career, and he believes the pandemic revitalized the value of a travel agent in the eyes of both consumers and suppliers.

“Travel has been my only career and marketing and management have been my forte,” Carlton says. “I am a firm believer in the importance of travel professionals and that they do make a difference handling customer travel requirements.

“I never had any doubts about this industry. Travel is always going to be there, and there is nothing that can challenge the human touch.”

Similar Posts