Beating the household names

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Travel Network has been having a banner year -- one that actually started in September. Since that time, the Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based franchiser has been awarded two major honors.

Most recently, it was named the No. 1 franchise company in North America by the magazine Income Opportunities, a ranking that will be announced in the March/April 1999 issue of the publication for budding entrepreneurs.

With that rating, Travel Network beat out such "household names as McDonald's, the Gap and Burger King," said Stephanie Abrams, the company's executive vice president.

Among the criteria used to develop the ratings were the quality and quantity of programs and services for the franchisee, the relationship between franchiser and franchisee, the financial stability of the franchiser, the longevity of the senior management team and the track record of successful franchisees.

This was the first time Travel Network made it to first place, though "we've been in the top 10 every year for the last five years," said Abrams.

The company's other honor was having its Web site, www.travelnetwork.com, ranked tenth among travel Web sites by Gomez Advisors, which runs its own site (www.gomez.com) where it ranks Web sites.

Gomez rates travel sites on such criteria as ease of use and customer confidence and satisfaction.

Abrams is particularly pleased to be in the company of such top-ranked Web sites as Microsoft Expedia, Travelocity and Yahoo! Travel, since for most of these companies, being a Web site is "what they do for a living," she noted.

For Travel Network, however, the site is "one more foot on a centipede whose other 99 feet are tap dancing in different areas," as Abrams described the agency franchise business.

And while some agents are still railing against competition from the Internet, Abrams sees it in her own way.

"It's no different from nuclear power or fire. It can warm you or burn you up. Our goal is to keep our franchisees on the cutting edge, so we use the Web as one more avenue for successful marketing and sales development."

Hobby horse

As executive vice president of Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based agency franchiser Travel Network, Stephanie Abrams has a tough job, so she really needs a restorative hobby.

She has two: writing and doing needlework. Both are "relaxing and fun and give me a chance to have another creative outlet," she said.

The travel industry also plays a part in her downtime -- most actively in her needlework, where she'll create designs based on brochure covers. Her newest project is a cover from the tour operator CIT, an Art Deco drawing of revelers in costume for Carnival.

Abrams likes the fact that needlepoint permits other activities. While her fingers are flying, "I can have a conversation or watch a film," she said. That's not the case with her other avocation, writing, which totally absorbs her. In her current project, a novel, she finds, "the characters have taken over and are writing the story themselves."

Abrams is currently searching for a literary agent for this novel, which focuses is on a group of people who all belong to the same synagogue. The travel industry may play a part in her next novel. She also plans a book on family travel.

"I was traveling with kids when it was a lot harder than it is now," she said.

Competing on price

By Lucy Hirleman

How can small agencies compete in price with larger agencies? asked a reader in a letter which also brought up the topic of handling shoppers.

This week I'll address the price question; later, I'll attack (figuratively only) shoppers. But if we all pray very hard, maybe shoppers will disappear off the face of the planet and I can do a column about something more enjoyable!

For better airline fares, check out domestic and international consolidators. Another way to add value and lower prices is to talk to tour companies about "bulk" discounted fares in an "air-plus" package -- a method that works best for last-minute fares. The "plus" could be something the client needs or a "throwaway" such as a one-way airport transfer.

If you want lower prices on cruises and tours, it's vital to join a consortium or co-op. Your annual investment will be returned many times in higher commissions, and the sales assistance and educational benefits are invaluable.

If you already belong, are you taking advantage of all that your consortium has to offer, such as special deals and group space?

Have you thought of arranging your own cruise and tour groups to offer clients?

Many cruise lines will allow you to hold group space without a deposit. Tour companies usually require a small deposit based on the number of air seats.

Do not think customers care only about price; most are looking for service and value.

And remember to sell yourself, too. Tell clients about your industry accreditations; mention recent seminars you or the staff have attended.

If we project a confident, professional image, coupled with a focus on service, price shouldn't be an issue.

Lucy Hirleman, CTC, MCC, owns Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, N.J. Contact her at [email protected]; fax (973) 208-1204.

Happy agents

Why do Gabrielle Williams, president of International Travel Consultants Inc. of Rockville, Md., who is in the center of the photo at the right, and the agency's director, Gary Baker, right, look so happy? It's because they are holding a replica of the actual check they received for $16,933.33 from Heinz Niederhoff, left, executive vice president of sales for Kemwel Holiday Autos.

That sum -- in addition to commissions of over $80,000 -- was awarded to Williams' agency for topping the list of agents entering the 1998 Kemwel Holiday Autos Miles incentive program, whose 1999 edition runs through Feb. 28.

In another Kemwel offering, every time an agent makes a booking, the agent's name is entered in a drawing for a free one-year lease on a BMW.

On-line job recruiting

"The well-written, targeted, longer on-line job ad achieves something special: It tends to attract fewer total resumes and more excellent resumes." In addition, on-line recruiting can be cheaper than running ads in the local paper and attract a national talent base.

That's the wisdom from "The Employer's Guide to Recruiting on the Internet," written by Ray Schreyer & John McCarter, experts on this topic.

The book also includes case reports and success stories, with cautions on how to avoid the pitfalls of this new method of recruiting; tips on how to develop and maintain a database of job candidates; information on the best Internet job and resume sites, and hints on how to compose an effective on-line job ad. Other topics covered include why a Web page seldom works for recruiting and how to use resume databases most effectively.

Published by Impact Publications, the paperback volume is $24.95. For more information, check out the company's Web site at www.impactpublications.com.

Net News

  • Washington State Ferries. Check out schedules, fares and crossing times for all the routes these ferries take. You'll also find links to pages describing things your clients can do at various destinations -- everything from biking to birding. www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries
  • BC Ferries. This ferry system services up to 47 ports of call on 25 routes throughout coastal British Columbia. The site includes information on the summer Discovery Coast Passage route between Port Hardy and Bella Coola as well as service between Prince Rupert and Queen Charlotte islands, referred to as as the Canadian Galapagos. Also on the site: fares, maps and a reservations mechanism. www.bcferries.bc.ca
  • Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]

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