Editorials Down time E-mail comments email@example.com By Arnie Weissmann / December 11, 2001 Share 1 -- Executive editor Donna Tunney is away for a few weeks. In place of her usual "Wandering" column, TWcrossroads brings you "From the Editor's Desk," written by editor in chief Arnie Weissmann.n Aesop's fable, the short-sighted grasshopper lived the good life when food was abundant, with nary a thought to tomorrow.During the same period of plenty, the industrious ant spent time gathering and storing food for the harsh winter ahead.Naturally, when winter came, the ant was well-stocked with provisions while the grasshopper starved.End of story, as far as Aesop was concerned.But wait a minute. This ant was clearly a strategic, long-term thinker with an understanding of cycles, and he anticipated and planned for shortages when times were good.Given the present economy, I'd find it more instructive if the fable had continued and told what the ant did during the lean winter months to prepare for the better times that he knew would eventually come.Aesop can no longer help me, but I recently had a conversation about preparing for better times with Jim Tyner, chairman of the World Key Agency Group. He said his association of about 135 primarily leisure agencies was taking specific steps to be well-positioned when business picks up.With some agencies experiencing down time, "there's opportunity to work on supplier relationships," Tyner said. "Our agencies are cleaning up their client lists. Suppliers want to work with an agency that manages a detailed, accurate list so that, together, they can make sure promotions are properly targeted. We want our agencies to fire rifle bullets, not shotgun shells."OK -- ants can be working on their databases. What else?"Work on cementing supplier relationships," Tyner continued. "Don't wait for supplier reps to call you, call them. Get on their radar. Tell them you want to know the most effective ways to sell their products."And, finally, he said, spend time "learning technology and creating habits that'll increase profitability later. If your agency is still using the phone to make certain reservations, learn to do it through the CRS. Compressing booking time is a key to increasing profits."None of these actions, he notes, costs an agency money, yet agencies will reap financial benefits once business revives. Consumers, Tyner believes, are delaying travel decisions, not making the decision that they will never travel again.Tyner predicts the thaw may come as soon as the first of the year. And he believes that, cumulatively, bookings may not be down as much as current trends indicate. He thinks instead that more bookings will take place in a shorter period.The moral: When pent-up demand is unleashed, ants will once again be better prepared than grasshoppers, who, perhaps, now spend their time at their terminals, clicking on CNN.com to read the latest bad news they believe will never end.