Can't book a corporate client without hearing the words "frequent
flyer miles"? You're not alone, of course.
But while frequent
flyer deals "seem on the surface like a fairly harmless, cost-free
perk that businesses can allow their travelers to collect," these
programs do cause problems, said Greg Moore, director of the travel
industry program at the Wilmington, Del.-based management
consulting firm Integrated Technology Research. Ultimately, the
more travelers book one carrier in a market, the harder it is for
other carriers to break in, which puts corporations "in an
undesirable negotiating position," he said. "Companies using an
airport dominated by a single carrier can't get deals because
there's no competition." In addition, a one-carrier market means
higher fares, especially for business travelers.
In order to raise awareness of this issue within the travel
industry, Moore wrote "Seduced by a Mile," which he is calling a
"factual novel." It's the story of a corporate travel manager
trying to negotiate a better deal with his preferred carrier, while
also dealing with employees who constantly abuse the system,
booking inconvenient flights with extra legs to get more miles.
Moore drew on his background as a former corporate travel manager
at Du Pont to write the book.
"Seduced by a Mile" started as a factual report Moore wrote as
part of his company's ongoing research into "various industries,
particularly those undergoing systemic change, such as the travel
business." The only problem was, a colleague checked out the report
and pronounced it "boring" and unlikely to interest other readers.
Experimenting with ways to liven things up, Moore used the case
study format, personalizing the action with a fictional hero. The
final version is perhaps most accurately still a case study rather
than a novel, complete with lengthy footnotes and sometimes marred
by too much corporate jargon. There's little in the way of plot,
though Moore's sense of humor comes out in some funny character
development and an ironic ending.
Still, the book could be a useful way to learn more about the
problems facing your corporate clients, and the industry as a
whole. "Seduced by a Mile," priced at $24.95, is available directly
from the publisher at (800) 596-7727.
Handling 'seduced' clients
clients may be "seduced" by frequent flyer programs into spending
more money to get as many miles as they can, according to Moore.
The savvy travel agent can help guide a corporation through the
ramifications of this issue, he said. "Travel management firms need
to be aware of [the frequent flyer] effect and be prepared to
assist corporations in understanding it, to help them make the
right decisions on policy," Moore said.
The first step in this task is to "understand what the
cost/benefit ratio looks like," Moore said. How much could the
corporation save by changing its policy, maybe taking miles away
from individual travelers and setting them aside for future
business travel? That would change the relationship the corporation
has with the airlines, he noted. "The individual travelers [would]
no longer have the incentive to either travel unnecessarily or to
get involved in the decision of which airline to fly," he said.
Such a policy "could generate even more savings than you might
think because [the corporation] is also encouraging competition
among carriers in the market," he added.
After running the numbers, Moore said, a corporation could
decide that the benefits of changing policies wouldn't result in
significant enough savings to warrant such a drastic (and with
employees, unpopular) change in policy. But corporations should "at
least do the numbers first."
Bill's and Hill's adventure
by Jennifer Dorsey
OK, maybe it's a lost cause. But where would you send the First
Couple to get away from it all and perhaps reconnect
romantically?"I'd put them on a sailboat charter with just a captain. I
think they need to be together without any outside influences." --
Joanne Gardner, independent contractor, Wheaton, Ill."Bali, to the Chedi, a small, quiet hotel, so they could be
together in a romantic setting with superb food and a very sensual
culture." -- Cynthia Albright, independent contractor, St. Charles,
Ill."The southern coast of Turkey, to sail on a small boat with
only 10 people on it, mostly from other countries. Even your
captain and your cook don't speak English. No telephone, no
television. -- Jane DeWitt, Air Land Sea, Joliet, Ill."Las Mananitas in Cuernevaca, Mexico. It's a really quaint
little place, a very small luxury property. Bill can go running
during the day on the streets." -- Rita Poklacki, Pleasure Travel,
Chicago"I would send them to Curtain Bluff in Antigua, a small,
intimate property with excellent service." -- Charlie Sturm,
Lindstrom Travel, Rockford, Ill."A winter booking on the Trans Siberian Express, which takes
six days to run from Moscow to Vladivostok. The compartment is very
close. They'll be surrounded by a very unhappy, frustrated
population [the Russians]. That and the freezing cold outside will
make their frosty relationship feel like it's warm." -- Rex
Fritschi, Rex Travel & Cruises, Chicago
Latkes and ships
Miriam Fish specializes in groups at Regency Travel in San
Diego, but she also has a subspecialty: Jewish theme cruises. This
is the fifth year that she'll be taking a group of clients sailing
on a trip focusing on Jewish history or culture. Since there are
many repeaters, "we try something new every year," she noted. She
started with a cruise about the history of Yiddish.
The 1998 version, from Dec. 13 to 20, will celebrate Hanukkah
aboard Carnival's Elation, on a seven-day Mexican Riviera run.
Yiddish actor and cantor Hale Porter will conduct Hanukkah services
as well as perform. Fish advertised this cruise on the Jewish
Communities bulletin board on the Internet, attracting the
attention of the magazine Bon Appetit, which may publish an item
complete with Fish's recipe for potato latkes.
A woman's place in travel
by David Wilkening
Ever thought about specializing in women travelers? "That would
be a fantastic niche if somebody took it on. I would go to an
agency that understood and related to females," said Heather Shea,
chief executive officer of Inspiritrix Inc., speaking at the annual
Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism in Naples.
Shea said studies show women make 80% of the decisions on
leisure travel. But not only that -- women increasingly are
business travelers. "An interesting statistic is that women made up
only 1% of business travelers in 1971, but by the millennium they
will make up 50% of the market," said Shea, who travels frequently
as a consultant for her Orlando, Fla.-based company that
specializes in motivation.
To be successful with women travelers, agents should have a lot
of information about their habits and preferences, she said, adding
that agents also should consider trends such as the fact that 70%
of children today are raised in single households. Shea made the
point that women are a good market to cultivate because they're
loyal and promote word-of-mouth business.
Net NewsWorldspan. The CRS vendor made the first major revision to its
home page since the site premiered in 1996, making it easier to
navigate and adding links to other travel sites. Agents can get
information on Worldspan products and training programs, including
on-line tutorials. An "agent finder" feature lets consumers plug in
a ZIP code to find a local Worldspan travel agency. Visit:
www.worldspan.com.Equitour Worldwide Riding Holidays. Are your clients interested
in a horseback-riding vacation? Take a look at this site, suggested
by J.J. Lasne, a leisure agent with Sundance Travel in San
Francisco. You'll find lots of color photos, detailed itineraries,
pricing details and contact information, all in an easily navigable
format. Gallop to: www.ridingtours.com.
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to