Holiday Travel of America – America’s Oldest Travel Incentive Company Speaks: ‘Volume’

When it comes to the travel incentive and lead generation, volume is the name of the game. Holiday Travel of America founder and CEO Rich Romanello states, “Our premiums – air fare, cruises and accommodations – have generated over 2 million land, campground and timeshare tours since the beginning of our company.” And that speaks volumes.  Celebrating its twenty fifth year in the business, HTOA seems to be without peer, when it comes to the business of providing clients with travel incentives that work. "We are leaders in both sales and customer satisfaction. Consistent delivery of a sound product is one of the keys to the success of Holiday Travel,” says Rich. “Another tenet is having a solid infrastructure.  We’ve worked hard to develop great relationships with providers and clients so that our advertisements provide facts, not fluff.”

“In addition, HTOA complies with the State of California regulations that state we must place all consumer deposits in a non-interest-bearing client trust account. This sets us apart from many competitors who can get into trouble when they commingle consumer deposits with their operating funds.” The company’s list of past and current clients include some well-known names: Amana, A & P Foods, American Express, Grand Pacific Resorts, Nob Hill Foods, Healthy Choice, Meijer Supper Stores, Weight Watchers, Tropicana Twister, NASCAR, Kodak, Shell Vacations Club, Welk Resorts and the Walt Disney World Company. Interestingly, Rich Romanello’s career began in San Francisco as a nightclub owner, concert promoter and artists' manager. He was responsible for two gold singles, "Laugh, Laugh," recorded by the Beau Brummels in 1965; and later in 1968, "Dance to the Music," by Sly and the Family Stone, which shot to the top of the charts. From that experience, Rich realized he had a remarkable talent for putting promotional deals together. He began to create incentive travel promotions that would attract prospective customers for recreational land, campgrounds, timeshares and other vacation properties. By 1988, he had amassed the contacts, experience and backing to launch Holiday Travel of America. He negotiated accommodations at the world’s vacation hotspots, which he then packaged in colorful, high-gloss travel incentives. These were then sold to clients such as Amana, Healthy Choice, Weight Watchers, Ford and Mazda for use as closing incentives or employee rewards.

Again, it’s all about volume: The hotel and resort managers recognized they could put ‘heads in beds’ that might otherwise remain vacant. At the same time, they could generate revenue from food-and-beverage, entertainment or, in the case of timeshare developers, the sale of weeks. The continuously-expanding volume means they can offer an ever-increasing inventory of travel and accommodation incentives. Holiday Travel has the distinction to have been the only incentive travel company to have developed a specific package with Walt Disney Resorts. In addition, the company has negotiated rates with Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The company is particularly adept at fulfilling the demand for niche markets in Orlando, Hawaii and Mexico. In fact, many of the materials are printed in Spanish. “Our products have enabled our clients’ sales and marketing efforts to reach record-breaking volumes,” Rich observes. “For example, Holiday Adventures Land Sea & Air, a book we launched in 1994 with 40 vacation offers, is being used as a ‘first day incentive’ and has closed more than $2 billion in sales for the companies that have used it.”

“Holiday Passports (www.holidaypassports.com) is another example; it’s a ‘flagship product’ we designed for timeshare developers in 2001. It allows consumers to book their reservations online and includes 30 vacation offers with over 40 free room nights. It’s being used as an exit program and has generated more than $10 million in additional revenue for our clients.

Holiday Travel is a member in good standing with Airline Reporting Corporation [ARC], the International Travel Agent Network [IATAN], the American Society of Travel Agents [ASTA], Cruise Lines International Association [CLIA] and the Cooperative Association of Resort Exchangers [CARE].) “Our challenge in this business is not only to run an efficient operation that fulfills promises, but to continually come up with exciting new lead-production opportunities for our clients,” says Rich. “Right now, for instance, we are in the midst of launching a product that will appeal to the upscale, fractional market. We’re designing a first day incentive offering two hours on a private jet. This idea will eventually be expanded to include the use of private yachts.” “Another ‘first’ for us will be to attract international visitors from Canada and the U.K.,” he adds. “And, why not? We certainly have the products with plenty of ‘wow’ factor. For instance, we offer a stay at a well-known Cancun property that recently won notice from Condé Nast magazine as a five-star resort.”

“Many of our programs rely on mailing in a coupon, but we’ve also created a ‘state-of-the-art’ online program with which customers can book reservations in real-time, called ‘A Suite Week’ (www.asuiteweek.com),” continues Rich. “We launched A Suite Week in 2003. Consumers can access unused timeshare inventory and take advantage of major discounts. A Suite Week is currently being used by American Express in their Rewards Program and by NASCAR to increase the membership in their fan-based club.” “Another example of a big hit was when we worked with A&P – a large grocery chain in the East – to offer cruises to their courtesy cardholders for purchasing the A&P’s America’s Choice breakfast items,” he notes. “This promotion created a 32 percent increase in sales.” Holiday Travel has launched a retail division, opening up incentive travel directly to the consumer. All of this delights Rich, who explains, "We're seeing average working people taking vacations in all corners of the world by making these offers accessible to them. They have a great time, and we are able to deliver a travel product that really works for our clients. That gives us great pride and satisfaction."

“Many members of our staff (consisting of fifty people) have been with the company since the early days. Our team is another reason for our success,” adds Rich. “There is a strong sense of community within the company.”Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer Anne White is sixteen years with the company, having originally joined the company after occupying senior executive positions within several large corporations. She is involved in every aspect of HTOA’s financial and operational functions and has made a significant contribution toward the success of the company. “Our Randy is like a diamond; the more pressure you put on him, the more he shines,” says Rich, speaking of Executive Vice President Randy Fish, ARP. “From product development to assisting clients in customer relations, every area in which he’s involved winds up that much better.” Another invaluable employee, Estela Frias, who has been promoted through the ranks to General Fulfillment Manager, began as a receptionist.  Another example of a team member who is well-suited to her work is Travel Agency Supervisor Katherine “Kathy” Griffin. Being responsible for all travel documents for a travel incentive company is a huge job and Kathy handles it all with a smile. Similarly, Nuvia Preciado approaches her position as Fulfillment Supervisor of the Premium Department with a ton of experience and, most importantly, a “can do” attitude. 

“We know we have to remain on the leading edge of creativity,” adds Rich. “This is an extremely competitive business, with the Internet, hotels, travel agents and companies of all kinds clamoring for the consumer’s attention. We cannot afford to grow complacent. That’s why we’ve focused on hiring talented people who join us in making fulfillment the keystone of our business.” “Our success is all made possible through exercising creativity, introducing unique product designs, forming solid partnerships, hiring and mentoring great people and remaining committed to fulfillment,” says Rich. Holiday Travel’s dedication to providing innovative products and vacation fulfillment have resulted in retaining clients for many years. “It’s been up to 21 years with Shell Vacations and 18 Years with Welk Resorts and there are many more,” Rich observes.

Holiday Travel is based in a 12,000-square-foot building located on 2.5 acres in Carlsbad, California, purchased from Bank of America in 1996. It was completely redesigned to provide an impressive corporate headquarters, with the original bank vault housing the travel incentive inventory.  Holiday Travel currently employs more than 50 reservations and administrative customer service personnel, whose loyalty and longevity is a large part of the company's success. Rich has demonstrated his commitment to their local community by assisting with many charities, particularly those that benefit children. Some of the special organizations they have helped include The Boys and Girls Club of Carlsbad, St. Claire's Home (for troubled families) and Children's Hospital. Rich serves on the Honorary Board of the Angel’s Depot, which supports underprivileged senior citizens.

Holiday Travel of America can be reached by calling (760)431-8600 or (888)732-2479.

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Thank you for your help and support over the past years. We are looking forward to a continuation of our association for the foreseeable future.
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Richard M Fischmar
CFO
ARI Ltd.