Four Hundred by Design, ‘reservation conduit’, connects advisors to luxury properties: Travel Weekly

A new platform for travel advisors, Four Hundred by Design, hopes to connect agents with luxury properties and offer them increased revenue, 10-day payout after guest checkout and more.

The product, which is called FHxD, is the brainchild of Tony Abrams and Tony Shepherd, respectively founder and CEO of luxury travel agency Four Hundred. The pair launched FHxD last October, after Shepherd said he and Abrams wanted to start a business that would help other travel advisers.

FHxD acts as a “booking conduit” between agents and properties, Shepherd said. It is free for agents, while providers pay FHxD to be part of the platform.

Its target user, he said, is a small independent contractor-owned boutique agency that books luxury travel but might not have access to supplier programs with higher volume-based commission payments.

“They don’t do enough business to be part of a preferred supplier program, but they may have two or three unicorn customers who take huge trips each year, and they want to see if they can maximize their revenue” , said Shepherd.

Tony Berger

Before Shepherd became CEO of Four Hundred, he was a consultant for Virtuoso, helping it expand in Europe and onboarding some 80 agency members there. Previously, he was COO of Protravel International for over 25 years, before it was sold to Internova (#7 on Travel Weekly’s 2021 powerhouse list) – his family founded the agency.

Rounding out FHxD’s management team are Karen Goldberg, formerly Managing Director of Hotels and Resorts at Virtuoso, and Robert Eastman, formerly of Villas of Distinction.

Currently, there are around 150 hotels and 250 villas in the program, Shepherd said, and that number is growing. The average daily rate for FHxD bookings is $1,600, and half of the bookings are suites.

What attracts advisors

While Shepherd initially thought higher commissions would attract advisors, the team finds that more are interested in the faster payout and the fact that they don’t have to chase after a commission. Travel advisors also benefit from FHxD’s team of six agents making the booking for them (they simply fill out a form on the FHxD website), saving them time and effort.

While FHxD makes the actual booking, the advisor remains the official agent for the transaction and controls everything else relating to their client’s travels. Users must provide a valid IATA number or similar code identifying them as a travel agent. This information is used to process commission payments.

Shepherd encouraged agents to sign up and check out the platform’s offerings, even if they don’t book anything.

“They can use us once a year, they can use us 10 times a year, they can’t use us once a year – it’s up to them,” he said.

FHxD also offers marketing assets, a quarterly magazine featuring a number of properties on the platform and a quarterly white paper on industry trends.

At present, FHxD has between 500 and 600 registered users. So far, Shepherd said, he’s encouraged by using the platform.

“We were pleasantly surprised at how many people came to us for help,” he said. “And, of course, not every request turns into a reservation. That’s true for every customer request. But we’re quite happy that the look-to-book ratio is very strong.”

Abdul J. Gaspar