The principals at Lee Travel Group of Westport, Conn., have never
shied away from the world of technology. Instead, they have taken
full advantage of computers and the Internet to create custom
solutions for the agency's clients, many of which are high-tech
"Since my days in
marketing at Duracell, I have been interested in the ways computers
interrelate," said Lee Travel president Peggy Lee. In fact, Lee has
been making hotel and air arrangements for many computer shows,
including what was billed as the world's largest, Internet World,
held recently in Los Angeles.
The company's visibility among technology firms was prominently
featured when a segment on Lee Travel recently ran on Business Now,
a television program that aired on ABC affiliates in four cities,
including San Francisco.
How did the company get the enviable TV spot? One of the show's
producers read a story about the agency in a Fairfield County,
Conn., newspaper and liked the idea of spotlighting an atypical
travel agency. The program included a quote from one of Lee's
clients that sums up the issues raised when dealing with high-tech
clients: "We have companies used to logging on to the Internet and
doing things instantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said
Jack Powers, conference chairman for Penton Media's Internet World
Division, in Westport, Conn.
Addressing that need for instant feedback, several years ago,
Lee helped design a computerized event reservation and registration
system (ERS). The company recently extended that venture into a
separate business with b-there.com, which enables meeting planners
and event organizers to research event venues, set up housing
blocks and manage reservations, transportation and registrations
over the Internet using ERS -- all in real time.
Once again, Lee Travel is using technology to provide
gratification for those used to clicking on instant answers. But
technology isn't everything, Lee said. "Our unique niche is to
provide a combination of high-touch and high-tech services to meet
the needs of the business, leisure and event services traveler
today. If we ever think we are a 'technology company' instead of a
'service company,' we're in trouble," she said.
Doing good while doing well
Lee Travel Group of Westport, Conn., is using the Internet to
raise money for a good cause: finding a cure for leukemia. Visitors
to the b-there.com Web site, set up by Lee Travel president Peggy
Lee, will be able to register for a raffle to benefit the Fairfield
County, Conn., chapter of the Leukemia Society of America.
"A business should be an active member of the community where it
is located, and philanthropy is a part of that commitment," said
Lee. By filling out an on-screen entry form and buying a raffle
ticket for $20, participants will be eligible to win a first prize
travel package that includes two business-class tickets to any city
served by United Airlines, a four-day/three-night stay at a
Ritz-Carlton property of the winner's choice and roundtrip
limousine transfers from the winner's home to the airport. Second
prize is a Canon PowerShot A5 Zoom camera.
Travel Weekly readers can enter the raffle, which closes on June
22, by logging on to www.b-there.com/tw.
Setting up an on-line business
Peggy Lee, president of Westport, Conn.-based Lee Travel Group,
said the hardest part about setting up an on-line business was
"limiting my focus. The Internet is such a wide, wide world, with
such immense potential, that I am always having to rein myself in
to a more manageable step-by-step business plan."
Below are additional tips Lee offers to agencies eager to create
a Web site and launch on-line services.Give employees time to get comfortable with the Internet. When
Lee installed Internet access on every employee's desktop, some
managers "wondered if they were just wasting time playing," she
"But I assured them that they need to learn how to use it.
Because my people are knowledgeable about finding important
information, they can do it quicker than a lot of our clients can.
It's part of their jobs." Now Lee agents use the Internet every
day, for everything from destination research to determining visa
requirements.Be sensitive to client's attitudes about using technology. Some
will be comfortable with on-line bookings; others will prefer more
traditional methods of booking their travel.Check out the Web sites of companies in a variety of
industries. Study how the most effective e-businesses have
traditional service and fulfillment capabilities behind them.Find out how customers, leisure or business, are using the
Internet. "For corporate clients, check out their Web sites. You'll
find out what your opportunities are," said Lee.Make sure your Web site is more than just an on-line
"Be open, keep exploring and have fun with it," said Lee.
"Whatever you do, add value. If you do, you can beat your on-line
Todd Wind offers the following tips on what to watch for when you
are negotiating for or about to sign a contract:Check to see who is signing the pact. Be clear about who is
binding whom and for how much in the way of services or money.Describe your expectations clearly and put them into the
contract.Review the boilerplate language in the document to determine
how disputes will be settled.
As an addendum to the above pointers, Wind expanded on the kinds
of boilerplate language you may see:Integration clause. This standard language says the new
agreement supersedes and incorporates all previous deals between
the parties. It has the effect of excluding side agreements, he
said.Force majeure or act of God clause. This states that
neither party is responsible for its contractual duties in the
event of an occurrence outside the control of humans. "A work
stoppage is not an act of God," Wind said.Dispute resolution. Here, parties agree what law applies and in
which state if there is a dispute. Also, parties can choose how to
settle a dispute, such as through arbitration or mediation.Payment of legal fees. In a contract, Wind said, look for
language that states when, or if, either party must pay the other's
legal fees if there is a dispute. Be sure those obligations are
reciprocal, he said.The country club presentation
out-of-office presentations can produce an unusually high rate of
return. But the venue is as critical as your presentation.
Why not discuss travel in a setting that encourages clients to
feel good about themselves, such as the nicest country club in your
area? In exchange for hosting your presentation on premises, ask
the club manager if you can obtain a copy of the membership list in
order to extend invitations to all club members. This is often
against club rules, but you may get lucky with some great additions
to your database.
Do not ask suppliers to "co-op" this evening. Instead, if
executed well, an entire event in any upscale setting ought to be
totally supplier-funded. But do think twice about turning over your
clients to a DSM during the presentation. You are selling your
expertise and professionalism -- not theirs.
Richard Turen is managing director of the Churchill Group, a
sales and marketing consulting firm, as well as president of the
agency Churchill & Turen Ltd. both based in Naperville, Ill.
Contact him at [email protected].Virtual bellhop
For clients fed up with flight-time luggage hassles (and newly
aggravated by tighter standards for carry-on luggage), TraveLite
Enterprises offers the alternative of shipping bags rather than
schlepping them. TraveLite's "virtual bellhop" will ship luggage to
and from clients' homes and their destinations.
No special packaging is required, and there is no need to weigh
and fill out forms for individual bags. Prices begin at $65, with
economy, second-day air, next-day air and corporate discount
options to and from more than 150 U.S. cities. Luggage is
automatically insured at standard airline levels; more
comprehensive insurance is available for a small additional
Travelers who are particularly well-suited for this service
include the elderly or disabled, business people carrying
materials, and sports enthusiasts who travel with unwieldy
equipment, William Cippola, managing partner of TraveLite,
For more information, call 877-BELLHOP or visit www.virtualbellhop.com.