FAMILY BUSINESS Travel Firm Launches Online Site By JACQUELINE FOX Staff Reporter Montrose Travel, a 33-year-old firm owned by the McClure family, hopes to send a few of the online travel sites packing, or, at least give them a run for their money. The brick and mortar travel agency, originally launched in 1956, but bought by Joe McClure Sr. in 1972, launched its own full-service travel booking site, Montrosetravel.com Oct. 24. The company, now run by McClure’s son, Joe and daughters Andi and Julie, owned and operated the Arizona-based online discount airline ticket firm, Airforless.com, but after faltering sales in the wake of the dot.com crash, sold the subsidiary in 2001. Montrosetravel.com, says Joe McClure Jr., aims to take its rightful place among the top players in the industry, including Expedia and Orbitz, and he’s projecting the move from bricks to clicks to generate between $10 million to $15 million worth of new business in its first year. Sure, it’s not their father’s firm. But, says McClure, the changes are necessary in order to extend the life of the family legacy. “Those who are going to survive in the industry offline, need to move on line to survive,” said McClure. “That’s just the nature of the way the industry is moving, and we are moving with it.” The new integrated site will offer users live booking inventory options for airline tickets, car rentals, hotels, cruises and vacation packages, as well as contracting opportunities for “at home” travel agents who refer customers to the site and its services. Webfare contracts with Northwest, Continental, United and US Airways have been secured, with others in the pipeline, McClure said. A bulk of the revenue, says McClure, will come through clicks vis-a-vis non-travel portals, such as credit unions and firms with large numbers of employees who can either click on the Montrosetravel.com website for travel help, or their organization’s own travel logo that will link users to Montrose Travel’s services. McClure said there are no plans to eliminate personalized service: customers searching for travel packages on line can always access a Montrose Travel agent via telephone, or do what they’ve always done: walk in the front door and ask for help. In addition, while the technology may allow the company to do more with fewer workers, there are no plans for laying off any of its 150 employees. “We are a family operation, and although we have many employees, we treat each one like a family member and we have no intention of changing that,” said McClure. “We kept employees informed of our plans to roll out the new site throughout the entire research process. We opened up discussions from the beginning and have been talking about our online vision and where the future of the company was headed, so nothing has been hidden.” When the siblings bought out their father in 1990, Montrose Travel had 14 employees. The first order of business, says McClure, was to buy a fax machine. The company has since grown from a $5 million to a $100 million operation. “The Christmas parties we once held in the living room at our folks house, we now have at the Oakmont Country Club, with a live band and about 300 people,” said McClure. This latest venture, says McClure, is the key to holding their father’s vision in tact, as he predicts the industry will remain depressed for at least another year.
Travel Firm Launches Online Site