What You Need to Know About Travel MLMs

Hey Hun! I’m loving your travel content! I have an opportunity that I think would appeal to you…
Well this is an annoying blog post to write, but in the past few weeks I have been approached by a handful of different accounts all pushing the same “business opportunity”, and I’m sick of it. If you post about travel on Instagram, you’ve probably gotten messages like this before: promises for you to become an independent travel agent, be your own boss, earn money by booking holidays for yourself and others, and change your life, all by signing up for this amazing opportunity.

I hate to break if to you (if you didn’t already know), but it’s all bullshit. This is Multi-Level Marketing.

Image result for the office pyramid scheme gif

What is an MLM?

Multi-Level Marketing Schemes are “businesses” where people pay to become distributors of a product, and the structure of the company means that if you recruit someone new as a distributor, you will get a percentage of whatever that distributor sells. Because of this business model, distributors are encouraged not only to sell products, but to sign up new people below them so that they can make even more money. No matter what “network marketing” “be your own boss” business structure they show you to try to convince you that this isn’t technically a pyramid scheme because those are illegal, it’s basically a pyramid scheme.

With travel MLMs, the “product” in question is a service for distributors to act as “travel agents”, providing them with a platform to earn commission by booking vacations for people at discounted prices. In order to provide this service and make your commission, you must pay a monthly subscription fee to this service. But, if you recruit enough new people each month, you won’t have to pay this subscription fee! And you’ll earn a percentage of their subscription fee! While the way to make money by joining this business is austensibly by booking vacations for clients, but in reality, it is by recruiting new members.

The biggest two travel MLMs are Worldventures (which has recently filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy) and, the one that I get approached about often, Inteletravel.

Hey, Hun!

Since recruiting is the real way that people earn money in MLMs, distributors are encouraged to reach out to potential leads – casting a wide net of potential new recruits. This means that if you post about travel and use travel hashtags, you’ll probably get a message in your DMs that sounds a bit like:

Hey girl! I stumbled across your page and saw you’ve been travelling and was wondering if you’d be open to hearing about an opportunity for someone who loves to travel. I recently started my own travel business and became a fully qualified travel agent which allows me to save money on travel. I now help others start their own travel business and save money as well as getting an extra source of income for themselves! If you’re interested in this business opportunity, I’d love to show you how it works.

Yeah. No thanks.

Or maybe they won’t go in all at once, simply testing the waters with a “Hey hun/babe/bro/your name, how’s it going?” and hoping that you respond so that they can send you something similar to the above.

And this is by no means exclusive to travel content creators! If you post beauty content, maybe you’ve been approached by Lipsense or a Younique ambassador Maybe Monat, which is hair care (that has a class-action lawsuit against it for causing chemical burns and hair loss). Lifestyle and fitness content has Arbonne, Plexus, and It Works! More homeopathic lifestyle content gets the rabbit hole that is essential oil MLMs like doTerra and Young Living. All of these companies use the same structure of commission and recruitment.

Red Flags

I hope by this point we’re on the same page that these “business opportunities” are crap, and not to buy into them. But when someone approaches you in your DMs with a “Hey, how’s it going?” how can you tell if they’re being friendly, or trying to recruit? Here are a few of the things I look out for when I get a new message in my requested messages:

  • Visit their profile. If I get an unsolicited message, I always check out the profile of the person who sent it. If their profile says something like “showing people how to earn from travel”, “travel business mentors”, or something else ambiguous. Typically, the names of MLM companies aren’t mentioned directly because members don’t want prospective recruits to Google the company and potentially learn about the predatory tactics of the company.
  • Check their stories. There will almost always be a highlight reel titled “My Business”, “Online Biz”, “Work Online”, or something similar. These tend to have a mix of posts about the service they provide, motivational quotes, and congratulations for new recruits either joining this amazing opportunity, or advancing their rank.
  • Are they immediately trying to have you join their business? Imagine, if you will, that you are a travel agent approaching a potential client. Surely you would want to sell them a great vacation at a reasonable price. You probably wouldn’t want them to also become a travel agent, because then fewer people would need your services. Why would a stranger benevolently gift you a huge financial opportunity out of nowhere? In MLMs, it is much less profitable to sell the actual products or services offered, compared to recruiting someone new. That’s a huge red flag marking this “amazing opportunity” as a total scam.
  • Check out the income disclosure statements from the company. This is a mandatory breakdown of how income is distrubuted between members. Here is the statement for Inteletravel:

This means that 97.5% of PlanNet (the parent company of Inteletravel) representatives earned an average of $140 per year. And with the highest earning in this income bracket being in the tens of thousands, imagine how many people earned literally nothing to skew that average down to $140. Note at the bottom how they clarify that there is no guarantee of income, and that it takes “hard work” to make substantial income. If you ever need evidence that you will not make money with companies like this, here it is.

So What?

I hope that by reading this you’ve learned how to identify an MLM travel scam, should you ever be approached by one. Delete those messages. Don’t believe that people are earning bank and living their travel fantasies with this company, and if they are, they’re doing so by exploiting others. I feel like I sort of need to apologize for this rant, but at the same time I wouldn’t have to write about this if it wasn’t an issue, you know? Oh well, it is what it is.
If someone you care about is involved in an MLM of any kind, here is a good resource to help.

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