Yes, you can fight back against the threat of the Internet.
Consider the two documents below, both written by your peers.
Each does a good job of positioning "high touch" against high
tech. The Churchill & Turen ad, from Richard Turen's agency in
Naperville, Ill., makes many specific points about the personal
service clients can get from a real agency when booking
"Everyone sits by and lets the Internet merchants assume the
mantle of respectability, but they don't provide the best services
and the best price," said Turen.
Question No. 3 of his ad (see below) turns standard practice
from cruise lines into a major benefit the average agency can
provide clients. "When I make the reservation, I get an immediate
fax from the cruise line confirming it," said Turen. "So when I
quote you a fare of $1,776, I can hand you the cruise line's
confirmation and show it to you in writing. When you have a rebater
who's going to cut that price by $50, you have nothing in writing
to show that [new price]."
With question No. 4, Turen attacks what he calls "the most
pernicious threat to the distribution system: the perception that
Internet pricing is superior to that offered by retailers who see
clients on a face-to-face basis."
"That is simply not true.We have people printing out offers from
the Internet and bringing them in -- and nine times out of 10,
there's nothing special [about the offer]," said Turen.
And as for the 10th question, about the complimentary limo --
limo service to the airport is one of the services Churchill &
Turen provides clients who sign up for a package of agency
The ad has run several times in the Chicago Tribune and
generated favorable responses from consumers who "call and ask us
questions about our policies," said Turen. He shares it with other
agencies now "in the hope they, too, will be motivated to take on
The other piece, from the Travel Store in Dallas, Ore., shows
how consumers are severely limited when trying to book airline
tickets through Priceline.com. Agency owner John Davis has been
using the piece as a ticket stuffer -- but since that means the
message goes out to current clients, "I feel a little like I'm
preaching to the converted. I wish I could get it out to people who
use the Internet. We have a weekly newspaper ad, and I'm probably
going to run it there as well."CONSIDERING BOOKING YOUR NEXT CRUISE ON LINE OR WITH A
MAY WE.....SUGGEST THAT YOU ASK THE "AGENT" THE FOLLOWING
QUESTIONS BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER?
1) How do you propose to get to know me in order to make the
very best recommendations for my vacation?
2) When will we be getting together to discuss my options as
well as the pros and cons of the cruise ships you are
3) Can you fax a copy of the price you have quoted along with a
receipt from the cruise line showing that price and the category
4) If you have such low overhead, how can a cruise firm in
Naperville, Ill., guarantee to meet or beat any legitimate price
that you quote in writing?
5) Can you tell me the specific ships you have sailed on and
inspected during the past three years?
6) Since my annual vacation is a major expenditure, when can I
assume that you will be sitting down with me and my family to
discuss the vacation in detail, along with port recommendations,
documentation review and on-board activity suggestions?
7) At what point will you be discussing health and safety issues
related to my cruise?
8) Since all cruise line executives acknowledge that the cruise
"decision" is not conducive to "order-taking" by a clerk but
requires the knowledge and experience of a seasoned cruise
specialist, why should I assume they support the manner in which
you conduct business?
9) I still haven't received the confirmation from the cruise
line with the price you previously quoted. When can I expect
10) Oh, one more thing, exactly what time will the complimentary
limousine be picking us up should we decide to plan some of the
best moments of our life with someone we've never met?
Churchill & Turen Ltd. Where your vacation is planned by
human beings who have been there -- instead of computers that
haven't.A comparison between priceline.com and travel agency
1. You must travel roundtrip.
2. Your coach-class tickets are nonchangeable.
3. If an airline meets your request, tickets will be issued
immediately and charged to your credit card.
4. Tickets issued through priceline.com are not eligible for
frequent flyer miles or upgrades.
5. Priceline.com cannot guarantee that your special needs or
requests can be accommodated.
The Travel Store
1. An agency can provide for any travel to meet your needs,
including one-way arrival at one city and departure from
2. Agency tickets can be changed for a fee by the airline. Your
tickets may be valid for a year from the date of issue if your
travel plans change.
3. In our agency, you are given an opportunity to decide if you
still wish to travel at the price stated before tickets are
4. All tickets issued by a travel agency are eligible for
frequent flyer miles, and upgrades do apply.
5. The Travel Store will provide for all special needs of the
client. Our individualized service will accommodate needs for
wheelchairs, special seating, or for children traveling alone.
Purchasing on the Internet does not guarantee the lowest fare,
nor do you receive the personal service of a travel counselor to
assist you with your booking. The bottom line: Can you trust your
credit card number to the World Wide Web?A refreshing look at the world
By Phyllis Fine
The second edition of "Travel Around the World," published by
Austin, Texas-based Weissmann Travel Reports, is available.
In the past, the report was used mostly as a geography textbook
in travel schools. The volume has been updated and can now work
well as a refresher course for working agents.
Using material adapted from Weissmann Travel Reports'
agent-oriented guides, the book focuses on major national and
international destinations, beginning with a crash course in
geography terms and reading maps.
Each chapter includes review questions; a map skills exercise,
and a selling exercise (for example, "What would you say to
persuade friends considering a golfing vacation that Bermuda would
be an excellent choice?").
"Travel Around the World" is the first travel textbook to have
its own dedicated Web site www.travelaroundtheworld.net.
The site includes such features as photo tours of major travel
destinations and Web links to key tourism sites. Also included are
maps of important world cities and charts and articles from Travel
Weekly, which is under the same corporate umbrella as Weissmann
The site also features software that readers can use to complete
activities and exercises in the book.
"Travel Around the World" costs $39.95, with volume discounts
available. Call (800)776-0720, ext. 210, for more information.Want to be in our pages?
You, too, can be featured in Agent Life if you have a story you
think would be helpful, enlightening or entertaining to your
For example:You can toot your own horn a bit. Have you developed a
marketing or advertising strategy that stands out from the crowd
and makes big bucks for your agency?How about the brilliant way you've handled a supplier or client
problem?Maybe you want to tell the story of a particularly great
trip.Is there an agent friend you think we should feature, whose
business strategy combines smarts and persistence?
We're particularly interested in unsung agents who are not high
profile but do things with a twist. We're also always eager for
pictures and stories of especially good-looking agencies.
E-mail details to Agent Life editor Phyllis Fine at [email protected] or fax
her at (201) 319-1947.