Got future shock? One way to stay on the crest of change is to
shake hands with technology, according to Ron Peri, chairman and
chief executive officer of Radixx Solutions International Inc. in
The company created such agent-friendly products as WinScape,
which allows retailers to put a customized Windows front end on any
CRS, then attach it to a local database or Internet site.
But lest you
be tempted to dismiss Peri as just another tech head, consider
this: He also is part-owner of a travel agency called Pathways
Unlimited in Westfield, N.J.
"I've been involved in the technology end of many different
businesses, including insurance, finance and pharmaceuticals," said
"But my interest in owning a travel agency is a nostalgic tip of
the hat to my grandfather, who owned an agency for many years in
New York City."
Describing his agency as "small and focused on select business
accounts," Peri said he is sympathetic to agents who feel that the
world -- particularly as represented by airlines and technology --
is out to bypass them.
"I am personally amazed at the numerous attempts that are being
made [by airlines] to bypass the travel agency channel," Peri
"Travel agents have been an excellent sales channel for years,
and personal service will always have value."
While bullish on the concept of service, however -- which he
thinks the right clients will always pay for -- Peri is not
optimistic that the majority of agencies can make the leap into the
brave new world.
"Doing complex bookings on the Internet today is difficult, but
it's only a matter of time until that becomes easy," Peri said.
"I believe that the Internet will take 50% of bookings in the
next few years, and many agencies will go out business.
"At the same time, we are already starting to see the advent of
a new breed of agent."
How can agents become part of that new breed?
Peri suggested retailers stress what makes them unique, such as
their personal contacts and their ability to qualify clients.
"Agents need to see themselves as more than order takers," he
"And," he added, "they need to become technology savvy."
Catching some air
While agreeing that it's tough to make a living relying on
airline commissions, Ron Peri suggested that agents not overlook
one untapped source of airline revenue: the smaller, newer
"Quite often the smaller lines are very anxious to work with
travel agents," Peri said, noting that his technology company
worked with some of these carriers to make such relationships
"We put in place the linkage that gave Spirit Airlines the
ability to have agents book on their CRSs, and we've done the same
for other small carriers that otherwise would not be available to
He cited Shuttle America,
Pacific Wings and Rio Grande Air as among those carriers with whom
he has worked.
"There is a proliferation of these small carriers nowadays, and
agents might be pleasantly surprised to find what commission rates
they are offering," Peri said.
He touted Shuttle America as a carrier with unique routes in the
Northeast -- such as Hartford, Conn., or Wilmington, Del., to
Buffalo, N.Y. "Those routes work well for business travelers," he
How can such small companies afford to pay commissions?
Peri credits technology, which he said eliminates the need for
multiple "middlemen" between the supplier and the agent.
"Our goal is to save money for the suppliers in other areas of
the distribution chain, so we make it easier for them to justify
paying commissions to agents," he said.Do-gooding ideas
Are there any other ideas for charity gifts besides free tickets
-- which I can no longer get from the airlines?
There is a valuable commodity you have to share other than
tickets: your time. Most nonprofit organizations can use all the
manpower they can get. Consider giving employees time off, with
pay, to do volunteer work. They can help at a fund-raiser, collect
canned goods or build a house for those less fortunate.
Allowing your employees to give to the charity of their choice
will give them a sense of pride in your company. It will raise
morale and, perhaps, give them an opportunity to learn new skills
that could be useful at your agency.
Ask them to
wear an agency identifier, such as a T-shirt or cap. Of course,
don't strong-arm anyone to participate; just give the
Q: We had a small "fender-bender" in our truck.
Shouldn't we report the accident to our insurance company?
A: Some insurance companies have found that
individuals who file small claims are more likely to do it again
and again. For this reason, many are refusing to renew policies
with many small claim filers.
If you've ever been "dropped" by an insurance company, you know
how frustrating and time-consuming it can be to replace the policy.
Not making small claims is one way to avoid this.
If you have an insurance claim that's quite a bit above your
deductible, by all means file it. That's what insurance is for.
However, if you find you are filing more than one claim per year,
consider increasing your deductible (thus lowering your premium) or
using insurance more as a disaster recovery policy.
Also, if you are making that many claims, you may want to
consider ways that you can prevent those events from occurring in
the first place.
Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the
newsletter The Successful Worldspan Agent. Contact him at[email protected].