Strong partnerships elicit strong business.

C.W. Porter was born to travel. His father, Donald W. Hoffman, started travel company ATN International (ATNI) in 1992 in Midland, Texas, and Porter has since taken over. Now leading the company that represents travel giants like Norwegian Cruise Line, Porter discusses with Profile how to embrace change and the importance of strong partnerships and mergers.

C.W. Porter says, "Nothing is as constant in this industry as change. Those who choose to be flexible and embrace it will excel. Those who fail to see the need to adapt constantly are already being left behind."

The travel industry is constantly evolving, as is evidenced by many years of disruptive change. An example of this would be the transition from paper to electronic tickets and travel documents. Thus, as in any business, we need to be aware of the internal and external environments that constantly push and pull at the dynamics of how we manage bookings worldwide. Technology, however, is changing the industry and how things are managed so often and so fast that it is hard for even some agents to keep up. As technology turns over more and more, those failing to embrace it and educate themselves will be left deficient. Consumers that are uneducated in such change in processes want to think as little as possible about becoming a travel agent just to manage their own travel, so there is the ever-present service aspect of what we do that keeps us around. This is where we find our most profitable clientele right now. This service aspect extends to all business.

ATN International was acquired from a failing domestic-travel agency servicing purely corporate accounts at the time. The business was intended to be used as a hedge against our owner’s business expenses as he travels extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Our leader felt the change within the industry at the time of the acquisition and saw the need to restructure into a full-service agency for corporate and leisure accounts. He proved to be spot on as most corporate agencies failed in the mid ’90s due to cash-flow problems from commission cuts implemented by major North American air carriers.

ATNI started with two employees at HQ: my father and Victoria L. Hoffman, my mother. Operations now include four full-time staff members in our home office and five independent contractors, located across North America, serving as outside sales agents, consultants, and accounting personnel to serve our domestic and functional business needs. Through the years and over many international trips, our visionary managed to develop key relationships with some of the cruise industry’s most powerful executives and a network of retail travel agents throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. These relationships spawned the international distributorship that ATNI is now. It has allowed ATNI to become the secondary name to the primary cruise products agents sell in our focused markets.

Relationships, JV partnerships, and strategic alliances are how we accomplish our cruise distribution. It is extremely important that there be a level of trust between each party that the other is doing everything possible to make the business succeed without fail. We use trusted contacts within each international market we operate in, and our partner contacts use the existing distribution networks within their countries to market and promote products. In the end, the partnership can be measured by productivity or lack thereof.


• Develop further and continue operations in and around India for outbound cruise pax on Norwegian Cruise Line, and enter into the Chinese market

• Increase market share in countries where we are operational by providing the best knowledge and customer service available to those markets

• Develop a division for inbound travel services to offer to our existing travel partners in these countries for when they deal with US-based travel

Just as with the recent decision of Carnival Corp. to delegate Holland America Line’s management to its Seabourn brand, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Star Cruises were recently acquired by Apollo Management Group purely for back-end management. As you will find in most business books, synergies, economies of scale, and scope can be realized from centralized purchasing, information technology, etc. The biggest change we have experienced within our operations as a result of this acquisition is that most of our contacts within NCL’s international division are now in the United States, not the UK. This benefits ATNI as we see more online capability roll out so we and our agents control more of the booking process before travel takes place.

As growth is an important indicator of success in business, ATNI is constantly scanning its environments looking for new and emerging market opportunities. Just in the last couple years, we have had our eye on India and China and have begun to enter India and establish the strategic alliances needed to be successful in this market over the past year. We hope to be entering China by the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.