n 1993, Beatrice and Kendall Smith
bought Lafayette Travel & Cruise in West Lafayette, Ind., near
Purdue University, from Beatrice's father, James Irvin, who had
been a co-owner since 1968. Beatrice herself had served five years
as manager of this leisure agency, which was founded in 1948.
The $5 million Lafayette Travel is the official agency for
Purdue's athletic department. It has an on-campus branch office run
by the Smiths' daughter, Carina Biggs, who is a Purdue graduate
with a degree in tourism.
But the agency is involved in more than just Purdue's athletics
department. It also books travel for the school's study abroad
programs throughout Europe and other destinations and has sent
professors on summer research projects to places like Malaysia.
In January, the agency escorted 900 fans from the university on
a four-night trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to see the
Boilermakers play their first Rose Bowl in 34 years, against the
The agency chartered four planes for the event and used two
hotels to house all the students and their friends and
Aside from its proximity, the agency has many other points of
contact with Purdue.
Six members of the staff are Purdue alumni, including its
president, vice president and assistant on-campus manager.
Plus Lafayette Travel employs a continuous stream of interns from
the university's school of restaurant, hotel and tourism
According to the Smiths, the success of the agency can best be
attributed to its experienced agents and managers and its close
relationship with the faculty and students of the university.
Beatrice Smith, who has hired a few recent grads from the
college's hospitality school, added, "We are very flexible with
hours and scheduling and hire some agents on a part-time basis,
allowing them to work from home at times, using remote-location
She added that the agency has been garnering quite a bit of
attention from this university town because of the efforts it has
made to bring its physical appearance up to date.
"When I first started here in 1989, the place was entirely run
down; it looked more like an abandoned building than an agency.
"So in 1993, we gutted the whole building, painted it, bought
all new furniture and framed art for the walls. Now it's a fun
The agency also installed creative landscaping, sidewalks made
with paver bricks, antique lampposts and a new parking lot.
"The village liked what we were doing so much that they paid for
half our costs and adopted the antique look for the rest of town,"
-- Michele SanFilippo
Getting the word out
afayette Travel & Cruise in
West Lafayette, Ind., has had its own Web site at www.lafayettetravelandcruise.com for five years and
has redesigned it twice.
"We get a lot of interest from the site from clients and others
who have moved away but remain loyal," said agency president
"We are always trying to capture more business on line."
About six months ago, the agency
started marketing its group travel business nationally by way of a
specially designated Web site, at www.grouptravel.net.
The agency also features an air consolidator business with its
own site, at www.theconsolidators.com, that focuses on flights to
Central and South America. Spanish-speaking agents handle this part
of the business, which caters to the area's Latin American
One of the specialists is department head Olga Sego, who hails
from Mexico City and has a large following among the Latino
In addition to its Web sites, the agency promotes its services
through radio and print ads and direct-mail campaigns with the
preferred suppliers of its agency network, American Express.
Also, in October 1999, agency vice president Kendall Smith
co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Planning a Trip
Online," which teaches consumers how to research on line but
suggests buying through agencies for the service and assistance
He said that the decline in the profitability of air sales
motivated the agency to branch out and focus on different aspects
of the business.
"Selling air is not worth it anymore, so we charge service fees
and sell value-added packages instead," he said.
"We even encourage clients who just want airline tickets to
visit our Web site with its direct link to Sabre."
Ten Commandments of agent fam trips
laudine Dervaes, president of
Tampa, Fla.-based Solitaire Publishing, offered the following "Ten
Commandments" for agents participating in familiarization
trips:Thou shalt dress and act appropriately at all times as you are
representing the agency and the professionalism of the
industry.Thou shalt participate in all functions as failure to do so
without permission is not only rude but inconsiderate of suppliers
and organizers.Thou shalt be prompt, courteous and considerate.
Thou shalt appreciate the differences one finds in foreign
surroundings and not expect things to be as they are at home or
complain about the differences.Thou shalt not overindulge in temptations -- whether food or
drink or sun or shopping or companionship. Don't do anything that
embarrasses yourself, your agency or your hosts.Thou shalt treat the hosts and people of the destination with
respect. Honor customs and social ways and do not expect special
treatment.Thou shalt take notes and photos (when permissible and
appropriate) and leave only footprints. Be considerate of nature
and ecology.Thou shalt endeavor to learn as much as possible and to enjoy
the destination for its advantages -- realizing that every place is
a home to someone.Thou shalt be responsible for tipping and other fees or charges
as necessary and be aware of what is expected.Thou shalt share the knowledge and experiences of the trip with
the agency staff upon return.