New Final Four duties keep travel firm hopping
On the day of the Final Four semifinal games two weeks ago, a car crash on a highway near University of Phoenix Stadium forced event organizers to adjust routes so attendees could still make the games.
Such a task may sound routine. Yet it was anything but for Anthony Travel, the Dallas-based travel services provider that was managing the NCAA’s transportation logistics for the men’s Final Four for the first time.
The transportation logistics was only one facet of a 2017 Final Four that was both novel and lucrative for Anthony Travel, which was acquired in early 2016 by On Location Experiences.
On top of managing the NCAA’s transportation logistics for the Final Four, Anthony Travel managed housing for the NCAA for the first time on the men’s side, and worked with 30 individual teams on travel packages throughout March Madness, three of which made the Final Four. That broke the company’s prior record of two Final Four teams, and helped it sell more than 1,750 travel packages — more than double last year’s haul.
“It was the first time we had three of the four Final Four teams, but more than that, it was the breadth of the work for the Final Four,” Maggie Frantz, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Anthony Travel, said of what made this year special. “It is an excellent problem to have.”
Leslie Wurzberger, senior vice president of event services for Anthony Travel, said Gonzaga, which was in the Final Four for the first time, was the top seller with nearly 900 people buying travel packages. Oregon sold “fairly well,” she said, though she added that Oregon was on spring break the week of the Final Four, which likely hurt sales. And despite being in last year’s championship game, UNC fans still turned out in larger numbers this year, according to Wurzberger.
Travel packages to the Final Four sold for as high as $3,600 and included everything from hotel and game ticket booking to running optional tours to, on this trip, places like the Grand Canyon.
Anthony Travel, a formerly family-owned company that was founded in 1989, has more than 200 employees and has deals with more than 50 colleges. It has a deal that started in 2014 to source and manage the housing for all of the NCAA’s non-basketball championships. But this is the first year that the company was involved in the men’s Final Four beyond its myriad team relationships.
The housing management program entailed offering, selling and managing blocks of rooms across 40 hotels for around 7,000 people including teams, staff, media, officials, sponsors and coaches. The transportation logistics assignment was a seven-day program that involved transporting and tracking those 7,000 people, including 2,300 on Saturday and Monday on 95 motor coaches.
John Collins, chief executive of On Location, said he’s now looking at taking some of what Anthony Travel is doing with travel packages and housing management and applying it to the NFL, which currently works with On Location for Super Bowl packages and sponsorship.
PrimeSport remains the official ticket and hospitality provider for the Final Four and other NCAA championships.