down the complexities and communicate to
How has Costco Travel changed over the
last 10 years?
SP: We have become a much larger player
in most key destinations, which translates to
better overall deals for members.
MB: Costco Travel has become much
more efficient. We have automated many processes. We’ve had a lot of success that we can
be proud about. We’ve made mistakes along
the way—the key is the transition from making the mistake to learning from it and carrying that knowledge forward.
PG: We leveraged technology and our
buying volume to continue to keep our prices
down. Ten years ago our booking process was
completely manual. Now it’s completely automated. Technology gives us an advantage to
continue to get the very best deals.
A decade of deals with
By T. Foster Jones
This year, Cos TCo Travel celebrates
its 10th anniversary. The Connection interviewed those who have participated in its
inception and growth: shannon Parker, director of marketing; Kathy robinson, director of
operations; Matt Browning, director of i T
services; and Peter Gruening, general manager.
How does Costco Travel differ from other
SP: We are here solely to create value for
our Costco members, first and foremost. like
Costco warehouses, we do not offer everything—we have a limited number of products
in an effort to drive the best deals. We leverage our volume and push for special executive
Member benefits whenever possible. We have
stringent criteria and a selection process
when working with a potential supplier that
allows us to sell with confidence.
What milestones has Costco Travel achieved?
Shannon Parker: When we started the
program we did not offer many of the items—
cruises, escorted tours, Disneyland, europe,
Kirkland signature™ or Caribbean packages—
that we do now. We have created deals with
some of the world’s most popular cruise lines
exclusively for our members.
Kathy Robinson: our website. our site
allows Costco members to search multiple
hotel packages at one time and offers custom-ization with air carriers, flight times and hotel
choices. our “Cruise” search feature allows
members to compare pricing across multiple
cruise lines, all within one screen. We understand our members don’t have all day to shop
and compare pricing. We want to make it a
simple and pleasant experience so they can
focus on their trip rather than the planning.
keep up with, the growth of Costco Travel.
The program grew at an unbelievable rate. We
all had to work really hard to replace and
redefine the functions that didn’t make sense
anymore, while still operating a quickly growing business.
KR: The travel business is very unpredictable. if there is a terrorist attack, swine flu or
a volcano eruption, travel can change immediately. our challenge is to make sure we
grow quickly enough to handle the volume
that comes to Costco Travel as well as manage our business during extreme changes in
What challenges have you faced?
Matt Browning: Managing, or trying to
What was the learning curve like when you
were developing Costco Travel?
MB: immense. Trying to couple Costco’s
already successful warehouse philosophy and
business model with a business that has very
few similarities with retail has proven to be
difficult at times. it has also been fun, though,
trying different ideas and concepts out to see
Peter Gruening: Travel is a very complicated business, with constantly changing
fares, rules, restrictions, promotions, inventory, seasons, world events, etc. affecting
members’ buying choices. We must always
maintain the value, but find ways to break
What are the most important things that
members need to know about Costco Travel?
SP: Great savings on trusted brands. The
security of shopping with a brand you trust.
We specially negotiate every deal that we put
out. We site-inspect our properties with the
same care the other Costco buyers use for
KR: Using Costco Travel to book just one
trip can save you enough money to more than
cover the cost of your annual membership fee.
PG: Many members believe that we are
operated by an outside travel company when,
in fact, we are a solely owned subsidiary of
Costco Wholesale, and we are all Costco
employees, as well as travel experts.
MB: simple: that we exist. We are here to
serve as a truly great benefit solely for Costco
members. once they know about us and use
our service, the rest will speak for itself. C
JULY 2010 The Costco Connection 61
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers vacation packages,
cruises, theme-park packages, escorted
vacations, rental cars and more. For
information, visit the Travel section of
Costco.com or call toll-free 1-877-849-2730.