Using The Restart Of Travel To Launch Or Redirect Your Travel Business

June 3, 2021

By Keith Waldon, Founder & Owner of Departure Lounge

Five years ago I fell off a ladder and crushed my elbow into pieces. That was not fun. But it made me slow down and stay home for several months. During that time, I changed my storefront business model and changed retail locations. All really because I had some time to think.

Four years later, the world fell off a ladder, so to speak, because of the pandemic, and we all had a year to ponder and think. Having learned from my elbow saga, I made full use of the “down time” and achieved some key advancements for Departure Lounge that I otherwise would not have had time for . . . including expansion into Europe, a new modern booking platform for our team and our own preferred partner program. All three are key to our future.

I also had time to really “zoom” in on what I wanted the future of Departure Lounge to be. What will our DNA be? What will set us apart?

Here are the key elements I focused on:

  1. Departure Lounge is and always will be modern in our approach and our toolsets.
  2. We will continue to be a great starting place for those highly qualified individuals looking to start their luxury travel advisor career, as well as an awesome place for seasoned veterans looking for the resources and culture that Departure Lounge provides.
  3. Departure Lounge will be a highly vetted group of travel advisors, who are consistently professional, nice and kind. Kindness is key to our culture, we’re proud of that without any unsavory attitude. We practice sharing is caring daily.
  4. Our compensation options will be highly competitive, and our commission levels will be industry-leading.
  5. With our common thread of kindness, we otherwise celebrate and embrace diversity . . . in people, business approaches, geographic locations, age, race, gender identity, gender preferences, lifestyles, career paths, advisor brands and specialties, favorite sports teams, whatever.
  6. Relationships are key to our success.
  7. Our reputation in the industry is of great importance, and each one of us lifts that weight.

With the above things in mind, here are changes we’ve made in Departure Lounge’s offerings post-pandemic:

  1. Each of our travel advisors is provided access to a modern customized booking tool, CRM platform and a subscription to Travefy, and that technology package costs the advisor $100 per quarter. It also gives them the most efficient and advanced technology platform offered.
  2. Departure Lounge continues to offer a very competitive commission-split contract with incentive tiers to improve the advisors split based on gross commission generated throughout the year For those who reach $1 million in annual travel sales – either with us or elsewhere – we will continue to offer a flat fee program that allows advisors to keep 100% of their fees and commissions, but while our our flat-fee program is competitive with other host agencies, it is not the least expensive in the marketplace, and it covers up to $2.5 million in annual sales before monthly fee increases kick in. This combination of commission-split and flat-fee offerings provides a very competitive option for new advisors and those who have worked to grow their sales to top-producer status. And it doesn’t force Departure Lounge to pursue hundreds of flat-fee advisors to have any hope of agency profitability. In short, it allows Departure Lounge to remain carefully selective and strengthen its unique culture.
  3. Given how busy many of our advisors are now, Departure Lounge is now offering admin assistance at $25/hour for CRM data input . . . allowing our advisors who want to focus on selling to do so and have support in making sure the necessary back-office work is done so that commissions and fees can be paid.
  4. We will continue our annual agency retreat with a focus on best practices and new platforms and functionality to always keep improving our skillsets and evolving at the pace of the world.
  5. We will further develop our preferred partnerships and those relationships to be a win-win-win for our clients, advisors and partners, while fostering meaningful friendships as well.

So what did you dream about for your business during the pandemic? Do your plans align with ours? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at

About Departure Lounge

Departure Lounge is an Austin, TX based luxury travel host agency established in 2013 by Virtuoso senior executive, Keith Waldon. Departure Lounge is open to agents of all experience levels. Departure Lounge is a Virtuoso-member agency with both innovative storefront locations in Austin and San Antonio, as well as advisors across the United States and Europe.

Founder Keith Waldon serves on the Travel + Leisure magazine Advisory Board, the magazine's A-List, Virtuoso's Hotel Committee, and other hotel brand and tourism board advisory boards. Waldon won the 2019 Most Innovative Advisor in North America for the Virtuoso network. Departure Lounge has been featured in the Wall St. Journal, Forbes, Fortune, USA Today and Travel + Leisure.

Departure Lounge is a non-GDS agency that utilizes a modern booking platform, CRM and operating system, making the agency ideal for new travel advisors. The agency has a track record of helping advisors start from scratch and develop $1 million+ annual sales. Departure Lounge has preferred status with all the leading luxury brand preferred-agency programs along with the agency’s own preferred partner program.

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