ime for a pop quiz. Question No. 1:
Can you do business without a Web site? Question No. 2: Can you do
business without a telephone? If you answered "yes" to both
questions, Dan Bohan, chief operating officer of Fairfax, Va.-based
Omega World Travel, offers his congratulations.
If you didn't, you should give the Internet another thought.
According to Bohan, the brains behind Internet powerhouse Cruise.com and Airdeals.com --
along with 47 other Web sites -- your Web site is
got to have a Web site, whether you're leisure or corporate," he
said. "It's the first thing a large portion of your clients will
Bohan shared a few Internet insights, directing them at fellow
"The majority of Web sites that I've seen of travel agencies are
not very good," he said. "That's a mistake.
"When I go into something, I tend to go into it all the way,"
Bohan explained. "I really delved into [the Internet] and really
felt I had to do it... I went to seminars, read a lot."
And the secret to his success? "We didn't want to electronically
sell; we just wanted to present an electronic [version of our]
brochure," Bohan said. It apparently worked, he added, because "we
got people to call."
In fact, the Web
and telephone work together to enhance agents' business. Don't hide
your phone number at the bottom of the screen or on an inside page,
"I don't think most agencies can, by themselves, get a booking
off a Web site without using the phone," Bohan said. "I don't think
it's desirable, frankly."
To be successful, agents have got to narrow their focus and sell
a niche market on the Web, he maintained.
"The biggest problem is that most agents don't have a niche, and
they try to be all things to all people."
And don't worry
about competing with Orbitz or Hotwire for air deals. "There are
100 Web sites out there trying to do it, and they're getting
killed," Bohan said.
• Build a better Web site; have it designed by a
• Make sure your site loads quickly; don't overload it with
graphics, which slow a site down.
• Update your site at least once every two weeks.
"Content is king. You've got to have good content," Bohan
• Don't get discouraged. "You're probably not going to make
money off your Web site, at least not right away. But you've got to
keep doing it anyway."
• Your agency's Web site must look and be professional. That's
the most important thing, according to Bohan.
"And you need to have one, no matter who you are," he said.
"[The Internet] is not going away. Regardless of the downslide,
it'll be there for a long time to come. And it'll get stronger and
-- Rebecca Tobin
Some advertising adages
hen it comes to advertising
your Web site, there are a lot of ways to get lost in the World
Wide Web's vortex. But Dan Bohan, who is behind Cruise.com, Omegatravel.com,
and Tourdeals.com, among others, has a few tricks up his
First, there's the power of e-mail: It's easy and cheap.
Cruise.com, for example, sends out 180,000 e-mails per week.
Bohan said agencies get the best results if they can target
mailings toward their clients' interests.
But make sure clients have asked to receive these e-mail
notices, he said.
"Otherwise, they'll hate you to death," Bohan said.
If people respond by e-mail to the Web site, Bohan said he tries
to get his staff to respond by phone.
But, he quipped, "If somebody e-mails us about Silversea Cruises
and there's no phone number, you can bet we'll get back to
Your agency probably doesn't have the bucks to partner with
Yahoo! or America Online, but getting a top ranking with a search
engine is key.
Bohan said he has a full-time employee that is responsible for
making sure Cruise.com is listed near the top on major search
The more focused an agency is on selling a niche product -- and
its Web site reflects this -- the better chance it has of popping
up on top when someone types keywords into the search box. You'll
have less competition from other listed sites.
Bohan suggested signing up to become a "sponsored site," which
gets the Web site prominent placing on a search page.
How it works: You sign up with a placement company (like
GoTo.com or FindWhat.com) and then pay a nominal fee each time
someone clicks through to your site (Yahoo's sponsorship program
requires a monthly fee.)
Depending on the keywords you use, the click-through cost could
be as low as five cents. Again, having a niche keeps the cost low
and drives specific traffic to your site.
"The cost is very low when you talk about [a niche like] Condos
in Italy, and not so low when you're competing in one like cruise,"
"Because then you're competing with me. And we feel we can do
Taking advantage of Web weaknesses
tudies show that the number one
product sold online is travel.
We've all heard the predictions that the Internet could, in the
not-too-distant future, surpass the travel agency as the primary
outlet for sales of many travel products.
But the Internet offers as many opportunities as challenges.
any new medium, the Web has its weaknesses, and we can use them not
only to retain our current clients, but to attract new ones, as
Here are four ways to take advantage of the Internet:
• Focus on your expertise. The Internet can be overwhelming to
travel novices, with literally thousands of available Web sites and
billions of bits of information.
Your strength is your knowledge and experience.
You can quickly sift through data, finding insights that it
might take your clients days to do. Time savings are a huge plus in
our over-stressed times.
And if your clients can reach you on line as well, they'll
retain all of the benefits of that expertise, while at the same
time reaping the rapid-communication benefits of the Internet.
• Think. The Internet can't. Your client might be able to book a
flight online, but he won't be sure it's the best for his
You can solve these problems for him, saving your clients both
time and money with your ability to "out-think" the computer.
• Create your own Web site. This may take a little effort and
involve a little expense, but it can bring incredible results.
A client who lives in California can book a trip online through
an agent in Florida. It isn't only the providers who are competing
for Internet business today -- it's agencies, as well.
Through the Internet, you can now broaden your client base far
beyond the limits imposed by geography.
Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles