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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Melanie Gring at 561-417-7559
August 4, 2011 – Overland Park, KS – In July 2011, Global Connections, Inc. (GCI) celebrated its 15th anniversary as one of the most respected travel club developers, service and fulfillment providers in the vacation industry. What began with a vision from company founder Tom Lyons to provide superb vacation experiences through a flexible membership club has evolved into one of the industry’s leading travel clubs … from a handful of employees to nearly 145 professionals … from leasing condominium inventory for fulfillment to owning and developing five resorts in three states as well as owning multiple condominium units in destination vacation areas throughout the U.S.
Global Connections traces its roots back to 1971 when it began as a Kansas-based buying service. As a result of high interest in membership-based travel, GCI was formed in 1996. Today, the company has expanded from two sales offices in 1996 to 17 sales centers across the United States, representing the distributors of its Global Discovery Vacations (GDV) and more recently, Vacation Quest (VQ) travel club products.
Currently, more than 170,000 families enjoy membership in the GDV and VQ travel clubs, saving on vacation accommodations, cruise programs, specialized tours, leisure benefits, and name-brand merchandise purchased through the GCI buying service.
In January 2009, GCI moved into a new company-owned 25,000 square foot corporate headquarters, doubling the size of its previous building to accommodate its growing business and enabling the company to house all of its nearly 80 corporate headquarters employees in one building. Additional offices located in Daytona Beach, Clearwater and Orlando, Florida, and in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, service the members, resorts and property management division.
With the growth of the club membership base, demand for resort locations increased. In 2003, GCI began developing resorts and offering investment opportunities in the second home real estate market. They purchased the 37-unit Sea Shells Beach Club in Daytona Beach, Florida, turning a failing hotel into a thriving condominium resort location. Within months, Global purchased its second resort – a boutique resort in Sunset Beach, California renaming it Beso Del Sol. In 2005, the company acquired 17 acres in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and began development of White Oak Lodge & Resort, a master-planned community featuring 60 vacation log cabin homes, 12 condominiums, and recreational amenities. Three years later in 2008, GCI purchased Beso Del Sol Resort, located on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida, and later provided a multi-million dollar renovation project to the nearly 80 units and common areas.
GCI also offers property management services and has long-term leases for condominiums in 21 states, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. Partner alliances with cruise organizations, along with owned and leased resort properties, provide additional on-demand locations and alternate vacation experiences for the company’s expanding member base.
Global Connections President Tom Lyons reflects, “It’s been an amazing 15 years in terms of company growth as well as changes in how people vacation. We have been privileged to have a front-row seat in witnessing changing consumer preferences and adapting to those changes.”
To add more value to the membership, in 2007 GCI introduced its exclusive Global Discovery Elite customer loyalty and concierge program. This program encouraged purchasers to select the highest level in the GDV travel club, resulting in a significant increase in sales and upgrades benefiting both members and distributors alike.
Recalls Cathy Wunder, VP Operations, “Initially, we did everything manually. After researching existing travel-based computer programs, we found there wasn’t anything on the market that could handle all the elements of our travel club, so we designed our own.” The Global Technology Services department went to work to design an inventory management and reservation system. Named GCI Prop, the system was introduced in early 2002 offering more efficient servicing to the member base.
The development by the Global in-house technology team in 2009 of the online booking system to the members-only website enabled instant access to vacation inventory. With the combination of the company website, the members-only website and those for each of the Global resorts plus social media presence, GCI has been successful in presenting the diversity of the company, its resorts and products to its members and interested viewers.
As GCI grew and prospered, the company and its employees reached out to their local communities assisting many charities and causes. Financial and physical support has been provided for Quest-to-Walk, an exercise-based spinal cord injury recovery center founded by one of its employees; several fund-raising initiatives serving abused and neglected animals through SPCA; participation in Florida beach cleanup activities on Earth Day; hosting Blooming Place For Kids events to provide abused foster children with a summer camping experience; raising money for cancer research; and providing complimentary condominium vacations for various national charity auctions.
Along the way, the Global staff and various departments have been recognized for professional excellence in resort management, technology, marketing and advertising in addition to providing support and sponsorship of several industry organizations.
Concludes Lyons, “We believe the cornerstone to our success has been the dedication of our employees, management and sales distributors to help our members fulfill their vacation dreams.”