The interlude began in 2006. With our assistance, Ambassador Travel grew from a small local business into a multi-million dollar agency and our largest client. So when the owners decided to retire, Mike bought the company.
The Internet Advertising team moved into the agency’s offices in downtown Abbotsford. The front office was home to 30 very busy travel agents. The phones rang constantly, and would-be travelers stopped by frequently.
The web team occupied the back office, and that’s really where the magic happened. The most significant work was the building of our own booking engines. While others existed, their conversion rates were pretty low. Ours were better. So much so, that in addition to marketing and selling for Ambassador Travel, we were also selling – and collecting commissions – for Air North, Air Canada, WestJet, Can Jet, Harmony, and many of the cruise lines. We also sold travel insurance, and built our own hotel booking system.
Everyone was kept incredibly busy. The web team spent much of their time on agency work, but were also still building and maintaining websites, and marketing for other clients.
Niche marketing was also key to Mike’s sales strategy. We built separate websites for golfing packages, a variety of popular vacation destinations, corporate travel, package deals, and more, all with SEO and SEM. We also created customer relationship management systems, along with email bulletins that went out weekly. In Mike’s words, “We had crazy success,” for a while, that is.
In April 2007, the sub-prime mortgage issue hit the media. The next year saw a slow, but steady decline in the U.S. economy, as the dominos of the financial crisis started to fall. At first, this didn’t have much of an impact on travel in Canada, but by the fall, the major airlines started looking at their revenues and decided they could make more money by paying less in commissions to agencies like Ambassador. Since we were making more in commissions than just about anyone else, we were their first target. A round of re-negotiations ensued, but we were still doing okay.
Then came September 2008. Financial institutions started to fail. On September 15th, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and it was as if someone turned off the electricity at our office. The phones stopped ringing. Emails from the booking engines stopped coming. Fewer people walked through the door. Full stop. And the commissions owed to us, didn’t arrive because airlines were going bankrupt.
By 2015 it became apparent that there was no recovery scenario for the travel agency. It was time to get back to our roots.
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of Us – mid-2000s
The Story of Us – The Interlude