The Departure Lounge Culture: Kindness & a Code of Conduct

March 3, 2021

By Keith Waldon, Founder & Owner of Departure Lounge

Many know Departure Lounge as a host agency that is innovative and modern, since we only use modern technology platforms and systems. But what really makes Departure Lounge special is a focus on kindness and true partnership.

What does that mean? Our reputation as professionals who are genuinely nice is extremely important to everyone on the Departure Lounge team. It is reflected in how we treat and support each other, how we interact with our clients, and how we collaborate with our supplier partners.

The focus on kindness starts with my first talk with a prospective new advisor. We talk about luxury travel experience, skill sets, personal connections and kindness. Yep, we talk about being nice. If the candidate is uncomfortable talking about the need for niceness, then that’s a sign Departure Lounge is probably not the right fit.

Contrary to the old saying, being nice actually does pay. Departure Lounge advisors are among the top-compensated in the industry and can select either a commission split or flat fee/100% commission contract.

What does our Code of Conduct in our independent contract agreement cover? We outline how to prepare for, dress and behave at client meetings, industry conferences, site inspections, supplier-hosted gatherings and familiarization trips. That may sound strict, but we’ve determined it’s best to set specific expectations, especially for those key situations that can be make-or-break for our brand reputation.

We also do not allow our travel advisors to ask for or demand free travel or services from our supplier partners. If the supplier partner offers a complimentary stay or service, then the advisor may accept it, but asking for it is not allowed. And that goes for me as the owner as well. Asking for an industry rate is fine, but we don’t believe in asking for freebies. That’s not our style and not how we want to be defined.

While we do have rules for behavior, we absolutely celebrate and encourage diversity. We are fortunate to have a range of more than 50 years in advisor ages, along with many different cultures, styles and backgrounds. Each of us on the team benefits greatly from this diversity of knowledge and experience as we help each other navigate the role of being a top travel advisor for our clients.

Does Departure Lounge have a structed mentoring program? Yes and no. No, we don’t assign a mentor to you. But we all truly mentor each other daily through our private Facebook group, which is a busy forum for sharing, asking and recommending. While our team is now spread across North America and Europe, we are close-knit. Twice-monthly Zoom happy hours also provide a face-to-face forum for relationship building, discussions and laughs.

As the owner, my mentality is that I work for every one of our travel advisors and not the other way around. That keeps my mind focused on resources and opportunities to help all my bosses achieve their goals in the easiest, best ways, often times with a selling advantage in the marketplace.

There are many great host agencies to choose from, and I believe host agencies are leading the way to elevate our industry and move it forward. Choosing the right host agency culture and team is key, and we are committed to preserving what we’ve carefully created as we continue to grow and expand geographically.

If Departure Lounge sounds like a potentially good fit for you, I look forward to hearing 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.

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