Seduced by a mile

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Can't book a corporate client without hearing the words "frequent flyer miles"? You're not alone, of course.

Greg MooreBut 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

'Seduced' bookCorporate 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 News

  • Worldspan. 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 [email protected]

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