Some Questions To Ask Travelhost Magazine Before You Become An Associate Publisher…

I get a lot of requests as to what questions people should ask (Travelhost) when doing their due diligence on the Travelhost Magazine opportunity. This blog post contains some basic questions, that when asked, should produce the results you’re looking for.

Travelhost will undoubtedly try and avoid most of these questions, as the answers are probably not going to be positive ones that tout the successes they usually claim. Under each proposed question, I’ve provided an explanation, a link, or further questioning that will help you along in your due diligence.

While there are many more questions to ask, I believe that by the time you’re done with these, you’ll be ready to make a decision. Perhaps even after asking only three or four of them.

As always, please understand that this information is for due diligence purposes only, and I’m not a lawyer giving anyone advice…nor do I claim that the information here is 100% accurate to each detail. (That’s why I encourage prospective AP’s to ask these questions, especially since no one (not Travelhost or ANY current/past Associate Publisher) has provided proof that anything in this blog is FALSE.)

And…to this day, I still get nasty letters from Travelhost telling me to stop this blog…basically telling me that I’m not entitled to my opinion.

I wonder why?

Why does Travelhost go so far out of their way to withhold this information from you, when it’s so pertinent to your due diligence?

And why do they claim I’m harming them with false statements, when they can’t even tell me what statements are false?

Just because Travelhost doesn’t LIKE the information in this blog, doesn’t mean it’s “false. ” And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m slandering, defaming, or “tortiously interfering” either!

I’m just trying to protect new investors from being harmed by Travelhost.

In fact, I encourage you to show these questions to your legal council, and ask them via conference call with a Travelhost representative!

My bet is that you won’t get half-way through this list before Travelhost decides your line of questioning is too much for them to handle, and they’ll disqualify you as a candidate.

Q: What is the main benefit to publishing an in-room travel publication with Travelhost?

(Hint: It can’t be the huge network of Associate Publishers, as that has dwindled down to HALF of what it used to be. Could it be that Travelhost advertises itself as a FRANCHISE, but doesn’t follow franchise laws? Or, perhaps it’s the special “WHOLESALE PRICING” you’re entitled to as an AP? (double what everyone else in the biz pays))

Q: How many Associate Publishers are there in the US?

(Ask how many AP’s are actually actively publishing today? And, what is the benefit of the optional Associate Publisher agreement, since there are so few AP’s in the Travelhost network now? Meaning, if AP’s couldn’t sell NATIONAL AD SPACE when there were 135 publishers, how can they sell it when there’s only HALF that many now? What value does that agreement have today?)

Q: How many associates did Travelhost lose in 2009?

Ask how many:

1. Quit outright,

2. Disappeared without a trace,

3. Went broke, or

4. Were terminated because they couldn’t pay their (Unusually High) printing bill anymore. If they tell you it’s any less than 40, they may be lying to you.

Also, ask to speak to a few of them, for due diligence purposes! In the event that Travelhost forgets, here’s a partial list of those people you might want to contact:

Dead markets for 2009:

Monterey. Baton Rouge. San Luis Obispo. Cincinnatti. Charlottesville. Denver. Gainesville. Rockford. South Bend. Lafayette, Indiana. New Hampshire. Ann Arbor. Charlotte. Knoxville. Rochester. Waco. Westchester. Orange County. Houston. Minneapolis. Bloomington. Santa Barbara. Long Beach. Modesto. Boston. DC. Atlanta. Puerto Rico. Hawaii. Ogden. Kansas City. Bend. Ruidoso, nm…San Diego North, Sioux Falls, Stockton, Toronto.

Q: How many new associates joined Travelhost in 2009?

(Ask how many new investors joined the Travelhost franchise, and how many of those are still around today. Also, ask to speak to a few of them, for due diligence purposes. Ask them to speak to markets that represent the majority, not the minority…)

Q: What is the failure rate for new AP’s?

(They wont give it to you, because it’s miserably high. To figure it out yourself, ask:

1. How many new AP’s joined Travelhost for each of the last 3 years: 2007, 2008, 2009.

2. Then ask how many are left from each of those three years: 2007, 2008, 2009.

(Hint: My research shows that Travelhost has a tendency in past years, to lose about 30-40 franchisees per year, and then recruit 30-40 new franchisees per year. Over the course of 3 years, that’s 90-120 AP’s lost, and 90-120 AP’s gained! Since they USUALLY carry about 125 AP’s in the network…do the math!

The FAILURE RATE is nearly 100%!

Q: Why does Travelhost NOT consider itself to be a franchise?

(They’ll most likely tell you it’s due to lack of a specific marketing plan for it’s Associate Publishers. So ask them this: When I join Travelhost as an AP, do you provide any training or marketing advice?

Then ask them if you’ll be required to sign a document that says they don’t provide that help…you likely will be. Ask about “section 3 of the Travelhost Distributorship Agreement on Autonomy, and why you have to sign something that says they don’t offer marketing help, when they clearly do?)

Q: How much money does the typical associate publisher make yearly?

(Travelhost will show you a case study or two about markets that do really well, like Branson or Ft. Lauderdale. Make sure you ask if they are representative of the network as a whole.

If they tell you yes, they’re lying!

Most Travelhost Associate Publishers go broke in the first couple years of publishing. A few select markets do well, where tourism is high, and the AP is really savvy. The rest go broke from overcharges and lack of disclosure from Travelhost, IMHO.)

Q: How many people have operated in my geographical territory before me?

(You may find that your proposed “territory” has been worked many times over, unsuccessfully. Due to the high failure rate, Travelhost “comes and goes” in many markets, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of hotels and advertisers. This can make life difficult.

Be sure to consider this, as some markets have other publications in the rooms as competition. These companies most likely put out nicer products, and have far less overhead…leaving YOU in a bad spot. Travelhost effectively puts its Associate Publishers at a competitive disadvantage, in my opinion, by putting all of the financial burden on the Associate Publishers.)

Q: What is Travelhost’s definition of “wholesale” pricing?

(Ask about point number 6 of the optional “Associate Publishers Agreement.” It gives you the “right” to what Travelhost calls “WHOLESALE PRICING.” Ask what their definition of wholesale is, and whether it’s cheaper than the printing and production you could get anywhere else. If they tell you it is…check it out yourself. My research, and the research of many other AP’s has shown Travelhost pricing to be DOUBLE, IF NOT TRIPLE, in some cases.)

Q: Does Travelhost offer discounts to any of their Associate Publishers?

(Recent survey results on this blog show that they do, but some AP’s get discounts, and most don’t.

Why is that?

Ask them about this, and ask them if you will be one of the lucky ones?

While you’re at it, ask them why they don’t treat all franchisees the same?

And, ask them if they’re discounting some AP’s in order to keep the market going. Then ask them why they don’t try to keep ALL markets going.

Finally, ask them why one market is more important than another…and what is the criteria for being a “salvageable market.”)

These are just a few questions that you might want to ask, during your due diligence on the Travelhost opportunity. There are many more, but I think you’ll have enough information with these questions, to make a fair and balanced decision about Travelhost.

Good luck, you’ll need it!

P.S. Ask them one more question while you’re at it…

Ask them how many AP’s they’ve recruited so far this year. (2010)

Then ask them why so few?

They may blame it on an “extortionist.”

Personally, I believe it could be because of the due diligence now available online.

Since Travelhost won’t disclose what you need to know, someone has to do it.

Until then, you have The Publisher’s Advocate.

P.P.S.

Remember my posting a couple months back, entitled “where in the world is Jeff Loudon?”

Well, it seems that after a long Winter, he’s back in the saddle again!

Only, he never printed a Winter issue???

(For those who don’t remember the situation, here’s a bit of background:

When Jeff Loudon got extremely frustrated with Travelhost (because he was repeatedly lied to by Portenor and Buerger) he recruited ME as a “liaison,” because he refused to talk with Travelhost directly. Jeff Loudon figured any direct contact with Travelhost could lead to them lying about what he said. At the time I was in relatively good graces with Travelhost, so I agreed to try to mediate the situation. Jeff trusted me because we both fruitlessly spent hundreds of hours together trying to get Travelhost to change, met by lies and stalling. Jeff, like me eventually, wanted to force Travelhost to stop ripping people off, including himself. When Loudon concluded that both Buerger and Portenor were hopeless liars, with no hope for trust, he started his blog and told me that he wanted ONE of 2 things: a lot of cash…(mid six figures)-to divorce himself from Travelhost, OR Travelhost to stop ripping him off, by LOWERING his printing costs by HALF and allow him to only print as needed. His overall goal was to prevent others from meeting his fate, so he blogged away. I later got an email from Jeff saying in effect that I was fired as his liaison, and he would no longer discuss Travelhost with me….total silence for a couple of months, his blog goes down and the only thing he would say was a chant: “I look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with Travelhost….with a noticeable chuckle.

We still trade emails every once in awhile, but Travelhost is taboo for Jeff. Let’s fast forward to now. His last issue was in October…yes, I’ve been watching!)

Jeff Loudon must have gotten exactly what he asked for…see, Jeff Loudon wasn’t going to continue with Travelhost, unless he got:

1. A price reduction, so that he pays actual wholesale printing prices, and…

2. A flexible printing schedule, so he didn’t have to print a magazine during the “off season.”

So it seems that Jeff Loudon got what he wanted. (Three issues per year, and discounted pricing??) It’s plain as day, when you look at the magazine online…

Wouldn’t it be nice if Travelhost would treat EVERYONE in the AP network with the same respect.

It seems you have to be a lawyer to get what you’re contractually entitled to, when dealing with Travelhost. I asked Travelhost for WHATEVER SPECIAL DEAL JEFF LOUDON GOT, but they won’t even bother to respond to me about that. It must be special, or TOP SECRET!

And everyone thought Jeff Loudon disappeared!

I guess we all know what he means when he says “I look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with Travelhost.”

Here’s an idea…Mr. Buerger, why don’t you give EVERYONE in your network the “Jeff Loudon Deal,” so that THEY TOO, can look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with Travelhost?”

3 Responses to “Some Questions To Ask Travelhost Magazine Before You Become An Associate Publisher…”

  1. Janis Chamoun Says:

    Thanks again, Brian, for your hard work toward trying to save the lives of others who would be fooled by Buerger and his band of thieves in Dallas.

    I have one more trick up my sleeve, so wish me luck. Whatever happened to David Portner?

    • bdhickey Says:

      Hey, good to hear from you…hope all is well. I guess David P. got a pink slip like the rest of them, unless he finally realized that he was liable for what TH is doing down there and actually quit. Strange how a guy who is so smart, and so savvy at marketing could leave a company in such shambles after only a year of destruction, isn’t it?

  2. sistertongue Says:

    I’m not sure why people even get themselves involved in ANY franchises. From gas stations to massage therapy, every single person I have talked who invested in a franchise has lost their money and has said its always a fail fail adventure because the rules are ALWAYS for the benefit of the mother company.

    You folks are all just throwing money willingly into a situation of indentured servitude. Better to invest your money in your own, sovereign company close to home that actually serves you and the people in your local community.

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