Housing Scam Alert Update: Elite Locations appears to be legit travel biz, but….

In a follow-up to our March 5 alert on Elite Locations soliciting business to book rooms during trade shows, we confirm Elite has a business license, according to the Better Business Bureau, and has successfully sold some room nights for Outdoor Retailer. But questions still linger.
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On March 5, we issued an alert that a travel company, Elite Locations, was contacting SNEWS® readers telling them it could book rooms for trade shows (click here to read the March 5, 2010, SNEWS story, “Elite Locations emerges as Travel House disappears”). On April 5, we received a call from Luke Samon, telling us he was one of the owners of Elite Locations and that his business was legitimate.

Samon asserted that Elite Locations had a successful business and regularly booked clients into hotels for the Outdoor Retailer trade shows in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also stated that his company only emailed and called existing clients to offer rooms.

When told that we had been contacted by individuals who had never heard of Elite Locations and most certainly were not existing clients, he did allow that his company “usually” only worked with existing clients.

After telling Samon that no hotel we contacted in Salt Lake City had ever heard of Elite Locations, he said that his company did not actually make the bookings with the hotels. Instead, the company purchased rooms from a wholesaler, Tourico Holidays -- which would explain why Elite Locations was an unfamiliar name.

Tourico Holidays is listed as a B2B business and owned by Travel Holdings in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Travel Holdings also operates One Minute Booking (www.oneminutebooking.com), Last Minute Travel, Last Minute Travel Israel, Last Minute Travel Cruises, Easy Click Travel and Travel Global Systems.

Rachel Bremer, sales director for Shilo Inn Suites Hotel, confirmed its hotel uses Tourico Holidays quite a bit. Bremer explained that Tourico operates like Expedia, where it contracts for certain blocks of rooms during a year that Tourico will have available to sell. However, she also said no room nights would be available during Outdoor Retailer trade show’s peak nights.

“When we negotiate our contracts with businesses such as Tourico, we provide them with blackout dates, and Outdoor Retailer trade shows are blacked out during peak nights. Certainly, there are some rooms available on shoulder nights, but Tourico would not have rooms available to sell for the entire show,” Bremer told us. “We also have stop-sell rules, where if we notice a company has tried to sell a room that included blackout dates, we can tell the company to stop the sale.”

Bremer also said she found it curious that Elite Locations was asserting it was using Tourico room blocks.

Dan Williams, sales director for Salt Lake City Radisson Hotel -- a hotel that Samon told SNEWS Elite Locations uses -- said he was not familiar with Tourico or Elite.

We asked Samon to provide us with a list of clients Elite Locations had booked rooms for either at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010 or Summer Market 2009. He gave us three. SNEWS was able to reach one company, and the company representative confirmed his team had used Elite Locations twice and gotten a very good discount. However, he also said his company had doubts about Elite’s legitimacy at first, and added that company representatives can be hard to reach at times.

“We would call and email, and often it would take several days to hear back from them,” SNEWS was told. “We had rooms when we arrived, though, so it turned out OK.” When asked if his company would use Elite again, he responded that no decision had been made one way or another.

The Better Business Bureau website listing for Elite Locations states, “As of 1/6/2010, we confirmed this company has a valid local business license for the locale in which they operate.” The business rating is an “F,” but given the recent reports by SNEWS on the BBB rating system (click here to read the March 29, 2010, SNEWS story, “Icon’s Better Business Bureau rating changes overnight, questions still simmering”), this rating means little in terms of confirming Elite Locations’ record of working with customers.

While all of this appears to confirm that Elite Locations has a business license and has booked at least one verified company into rooms for an Outdoor Retailer trade show, our advice remains the same. Regardless of whether you receive a hotel booking solicitation from Elite Locations or some other entity, if you want to guarantee you have a room booked for the entire trade show, stick with the official trade show housing partner. For Outdoor Retailer, it is The Housing Connection, available in North America at 800-572-9707, and internationally at 801-521-9025. If you are attending Health & Fitness Business, call 800-221-3531 to reach that trade show’s official housing partner.

--Michael Hodgson

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