Travel management company Frosch International Travel (FROSCH) has announced it has received a substantial growth investment from EagleTree Capital.

FROSCH will continue to be controlled by the Leibman Family, Bryan Leibman will be President & CEO of FROSCH, and EagleTree will hold a minority position.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. FROSCH did $2.4 billion in sales in 2019, and most recently came in at No. 14 in the 2020 Power List from Travel Weekly.

TravelPulse had the chance to chat with Bryan and his sister Lara Leibman, Executive Vice President, about what FROSCH delivers for the world of travel, how this investment will shape their future and more.

TravelPulse: For those who may not know you, who is FROSCH?

Bryan Leibman: Who is FROSCH? We’re actually somewhat still of a secret in the industry. But we are a company who has an impeccable reputation for doing what they say, for delivering on it, for operating with the highest levels of integrity in everything that we do. I think when you look at it, I think it's very important that we look at our core values. Our core values are respect, integrity, communication, commitment with passion about our agents and our employees and our partnerships with our clients.

We have a culture that rewards and recognizes people for going above and beyond. So, we're a company really built on a foundation of these critical core values to what we are, and excellence is obviously one as well. We want to be the very best in the industry. So FROSCH as a company who's been around – we are lowkey, we haven't had the profile, but we have pursued excellence throughout in the premium space. We've created an incredible global platform to support different kinds of agents, you know, the high-end leisure agent, the high-end corporate agent, the corporate customer all on this fantastic single global platform and a superior platform. So, quietly we've been working very hard to develop this and I’m very proud of who we are as an organization. TP: What should travel advisors know about FROSCH?

Bryan: I think what's important for travel advisors to know is that we are all about excellence. You know, we're a company that's built up an infrastructure really second to none. We built up this infrastructure and relationships with suppliers, content that we aggregate, an entire platform that really is second to none and allowing (advisors) to partner with us and succeed. We just have been quiet about it, and they need to know that we really strive to be the very best in the industry and that they have an opportunity to partner with us. I think also it's important to know that you know we've always, and again I go to these values, but today in these very difficult times, we are operating with a strong balance sheet, we've always taken responsible decisions in how we operate and so we've done these things, and then on top of that we've layered investments in leading technology, layered investments in ways to improve business platforms for the agents, platforms for our end users and the consumers.

Lara Leibman: And I think if you take that a step further, I don't think there is anyone else in the industry like FROSCH today. And as we head into the future, with the points Bryan’s raised about having the financial wherewithal and having the infrastructure, the technology, the culture, and the service-oriented model, all of that combined, plus supplier relationships, I don't think there is anyone else that can offer that.

TP: FROSCH has grown an average of 20 percent a year since 1998, through internal growth as well as strategic acquisitions. Do you expect to continue to acquire other businesses and travel agencies as aggressively and will that pace of growth continue? Will this EagleTree investment accelerate that growth? Bryan: We do. We're a company that's going to stick to what we've always done well, which is to grow our organic business and also grow via acquisition. So we will use these funds to continue to invest in our platform and things like I said in our infrastructure, in our technology to make a better user experience for our agents, better user experience for their customers, etc. We’ll continue to invest in that and we’ll also continue to acquire leading companies. We’re all about our values and people who share the same passion and commitment to people and their customers. We'll continue to acquire leading businesses in the industry, absolutely. It's an area we've handled extremely well. We're fortunate to be able to bring them on and integrate them onto our platform extremely well. We have an exceptional team and we happen to be exceptional at that integration process, so we will continue to do that. Lara: To that point, I think it's interesting because as Bryan said, we’re a secret, so he's not going to be the one to share this with you, but I think that what it goes back to who is FROSCH you know, it's a very humble company in the sense that Bryan's leadership style, that is who he is as an individual. It was the same thing with our father, and so it's a continuation of that but obviously it's a much larger scale business today than when dad started the company. But I think you need to keep that in mind with the growth that you just referenced of 20% per year, there have been tons of acquisitions that Bryan has done over the years. I would say only a handful, at most, have probably been publicized to the industry. And that’s specifically because that was his decision, you know, we just stayed very low key about all of that. So now it's a new day in the sense that we have so much that's fantastic to offer, why not share that?

TP: Do you think travel agency consolidation will continue at the fast pace we’ve seen over the past year or so? Or has the COVID-19 pandemic slowed that down?

Bryan: This is an industry we love. We love the people in it, we love the relationships that we have with suppliers and our partners and our agents. We wake up every day very, very fortunate to do this for a living. It's just been, you know. to see the stress, the financial stress placed on us as a sector, you know, look I'm not going to touch on the bigger implications of the pandemic, but focusing on the impact to the businesses is enormous you know and you have so many agencies trying so hard just to make it through.

There are not many businesses that can go through this amount of time with so little revenue and still and still having to support expenses. So it's just being obviously incredibly stressful for business owners certainly in the TMC side and a whole lot of the other sectors to weather this, and they're trying to see if they can get to the other end of this crisis and it always seems the goalpost keeps getting moved out further, right. It started as a couple of weeks, then a couple of months, then a year then we thought 2021 will be better. Now you start hearing about more new strains of the virus in the UK, lockdowns, considering further lockdowns and so it keeps going right and when does this recover? I think because of the severity, I think you're going to see significant consolidation, enhanced consolidation. Businesses just cannot make it through this amount of time in this kind of crisis. FROSCH has 40 offices around the world, but you work with independent contractors – how many, roughly? Are you finding it more difficult to find qualified, experienced travel agents these days or have you seen an increase in new advisors like some other companies?

Bryan: Yeah, we have nearly 1,000. You know, we've found most of them have stayed with it, stayed focused on it. Again, each one dealing with the circumstances but each one understanding the situation, doing their best to retain business and try to prepare for new business, etc. We've also seen a nice growth of IC's come and join us in all sorts of different markets. It could be either as individuals, sometimes smaller agencies join us as an IC, all of that has been happening for us and again we have a great team to onboard and bring them on with us. It's a family culture, it’s a boutique feel, it's a quite excellency we all aspire to, but yes. that's what we were seeing.

TP: How do you see FROSCH continuing to evolve into the future?

Bryan: I think the world has changed so much, you know. We can't forget our past and who we are, and I started the conversation to say we're very proud of the reputation, the infrastructure and our core values, everything that we've built and that's really important because you have to have that. I think many of the new entrances are just tech companies that just don't understand that piece. And I think you're going to need to heavily evolve with technology, right. It's all about the end-user and really facilitating their experience in travel.

Travel is something everybody cares about, so it's all about creating the proper platform you know for the end-users, for the agents to make that make it a fantastic experience. We've accelerated so much that move to technology during this crisis and travel is all about leveraging that and we need to continue to accelerate those investments in that technology front. We've done that, we have some amazing things and that's why I think you're going to see us continue to evolve with the world that way and leading them in that regard. Lara: And one of those examples was investing to ensure that we can assist travelers for safe travel and meet the requirements and protocols for each trip. So as we evolved that's been something that's been incredibly necessary. TP: What is your forecast for the travel industry in 2021 and 2022? Bryan: It's a great question that everybody's trying to figure out and it's so hard with so much uncertainty. We just don't know exactly what things will look like. I think we all know we've still got a hard first half of the year, we'll start seeing a recovery in the second half of the year. We don't know what pace it's going to come from at and hopefully, it's more positive from there, you know. And again, I think we're incredibly bullish on travel. You know, there's so much pent up demand, we're all aligned with that, we just are in a time where we don't know what's going to happen. We're obviously excited with the vaccine, we think that's the light at the end of the tunnel with it being distributed, but again we still have uncertainty and we probably have more certainty two years from now than we do over the next couple quarters. Lara: I would add that the service experience has to be the immediate focus and ensuring that we're giving our clients the very best service and giving our advisors everything they can possibly need right now. That's the focus for 2021, given that there is so much uncertainty and making sure that we meet the demands for every trip. TP: And my last question here, how is it working with family? Because I don't know that I could work with my sisters, I don’t think they’d want to work with me, so kudos you guys for having such great success with that. Bryan: Yeah, we are very fortunate. We’re a close family and it has worked out really well. Lara: I will say that I feel very fortunate, but I also believe that Bryan is an incredible leader. When you look at his track record for how he's grown our business over the years, I think that in itself says it all. But the leadership style and I referred to already as him being very humble, I think when you look at why someone should want to join FROSCH, that’s probably one of the best reasons to join FROSCH because of what he represents as a leader and how our company has evolved under his stewardship. And as his sister, I'm very lucky because I think we complement each other and I love that he runs the company, I could never do it, and I don't want to, but I also just believe that he has that strength and so I feel fortunate to work alongside him.

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