The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Friday, May 22, 2009

Problems for the "instant travel agent" business

Back in the spring 2008 I wrote about multi-level marketing firms like YTB ( and their efforts to recruit referring travel agents. In my opinion their promise of instant wealth and unbelievable reduced rate or free travel benefits was all a marketing pitch.

I was skeptical of their claims and reported later that these card mills had run into the legal system. On Aug. 7, 2008, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr filed suit against YTB (also known as, its affiliates and founders attempting to end the pyramid scheme and stop YTB's false and misleading marketing campaign. The state of Illinois quickly followed with comparable allegations.

Under a recently announced agreement by Brown YTB is prohibited from issuing travel credentials in California and must pay $1 million in penalties and restitution to California consumers. Brown stated the agreement will "stop the deceptive marketing of [YTB's] largely unprofitable travel Web sites and prohibiting the company from charging consumers nearly $500 to recruit others into its endless chain scheme."

In a statement, Brown said: "YTB falsely promised customers they could get rich quick by selling travel online. In reality, customers were reeled into an elaborate pyramid scheme and most never earned a dime. Today's settlement ends YTB's pyramid scheme by arming consumers with hard facts and eliminating the need to sign up for this largely unprofitable Web site."

I support this action of shutting down the so called card mills that issue instant credentials. I have not heard of the Illinois proceedings but I expect them to mirror the California decision. These firms are no different than the diploma mills that cranked out a degree for a certain fee.
What still surprises me is that many well educated advanced degree holders opted for the get rich, instant travel credential route. They paid their dues in grad school so why in the world did they think that could purchase additional professional credentials.

That being said I still believe that people can earn a profit while functioning as a home based/part time travel agent. I know that you can affiliate with a properly credentialed host travel agency without paying a large start up and /or monthly fee. There are some host agencies that do not have any fees.

I'll explain these options next week. The Travel Professor is getting away for the Memorial Day weekend.