ccording to Karen Killebrew, director
of marketing for $30 million Bridge Travel Alliance in Emeryville,
Calif., the agency's strategy of local mergers and acquisitions has
been successful because "agents know they can do a lot better by
coming together and becoming part of a larger firm."
Killebrew and Sheila Dorey were co-owners of Escape Artists Travel
and Holtz Tours in Oakland, which respectively focus on artist
tours and senior travel, until they sold their merged company to
Bridge Travel in May 1999.
She said the parent agency gives agents tremendous support. "The
openness to new ideas and willingness to try different things has
been a big part of making this work."
Escape Artists Travel's art tours are designed strictly for
serious artists, meaning dedicated amateurs or professionals.
"The idea of organizing these types of trips first came when I
was approached by Charlotte Britton, a famous local artist from the
San Francisco Bay area," Killebrew said.
then, Killebrew has organized many trips escorted by artists from
her local area. Her groups have visited New York's Hudson Valley,
coastal Maine, Scotland, Spain, Mexico and the Cotswolds in
"I've started working with three local artists, whom I ask to
provide a list of 100 prospects who might be interested in
attending one of our trips," said Killebrew.
In fact, her art mailing list now totals approximately 1,500 art
Artists who escort tours get their trips paid for and earn fees
for the workshops they provide.
About three or four months after the trips, the art produced
from the tours is displayed at local galleries.
Killebrew said she likes designing these tours because they are
not "normal" vacations but working trips where sellable art is
Holtz Tours, on the other hand, focuses on the over-70 crowd,
offering 10 trips a year, most of them domestic. Its tour
coordinator/escort has been with the company for 17 years and has
become a big hit with the senior clientele.
"Clients love traveling with her and her enthusiasm for
exploring America," added Killebrew. "She focuses on regional
events, special activities and festivals, and encourages people to
push themselves further than usual." Not surprisingly, all of its
2000 tours were sold out.
Bridge Travel co-owner Grant Miller said bringing these
diversified agencies on board has been a big focus for the company.
"Our goal is to build the leisure [segment] to 40% in the next two
years and add more automation and technology," he said.
-- Michele SanFilippo
ormer California agency owner
Jan Lambert of LamBauer Travel in Cameron Park once started her
days at 4:30 a.m. and worked until 1 p.m. to accommodate her roster
of runners, hikers and walking enthusiasts on the East Coast.
Lambert described how she got started. "When I went to work for
my first agency in 1976, I thought running would be a great stress
reliever, and like Forrest Gump, I've been running ever since." But
her real passion is running in ultra-marathons, which comprise
anything over 26 miles.
"One year I was running a marathon a month, but typically I only
participate a few times a year and train for six to nine months,"
she said. Part of the training also includes 16-mile runs to see
her family because typically she likes to "go somewhere and
Lambert has exclusively been focusing on her passion for running
ever since the first commission cuts hit in 1995. She has sold
numerous trips to races in exotic locales such as India, Morocco,
South Africa, Tahiti and Peru. But due to family illness, Lambert
recently sold her specialty business to Bridge Travel Alliance of
Emeryville, Calif. However, she will continue to organize active
groups on cruises and tours, as well as her celebrated running
trips on behalf of Bridge Travel.
In fact, there's almost nothing Lambert doesn't do for her
running groups, which usually consist of about 11 to 20
participants. She handles all travel, meals and lodging; she also
provides tips on helpful exercises, letting her runners know how
far along they should be in the training process.
Some of the more popular races she has participated in and sold
include India's Himalayan Run & Trek, which covers 100 miles
over a five-day period, and Morocco's Marathon de Sables, which
covers 150 miles through the desert in six days.
Clients usually pay between $2,500 and $4,000 per person for
these experiences, including air, accommodations, transfers, most
meals, race fees and sightseeing and/or safaris.
Coming up next: Lambert is offering a February 2002 active
cruise to New Zealand to visit the Milford fjords and a December
2002 trip to Peru to run the Inca trail.
The Web: Getting past all the hype
t's time to take a deep breath,
folks, and look at the Internet mania and ask if the hype is
There are lots of dot-com analysts who have been accurately
measuring the steady, but not inexorable, rise in the number of
people going on line for travel.
But the number of people using traditional agencies also is
increasing, and the number of folks who have abandoned the Internet
is not at all insignificant.
This is a
good time to calmly evaluate how much of your resources you want to
devote to enhancing or developing a company Web site and how much
of your budget is going to be allocated to technology.
There is one fact that I want you to always keep in the back of
your mind. Today, 96% of all travel arrangements are made off line.
By the most generous projections, 92% of all travel arrangements
will be made off line in 2005.
Even Priceline spokesman William Shatner has been sweating as
headlines scream that the travel dot-coms have hit a brick wall.
The bottom line turns out that Web-based advertising is drying up,
partially because of good hard data proving its success is just not
Your clients are using the Web for the same reasons you are --
to ferret out obscure information and read on-line brochures.
Now let's look to see exactly who couldn't make the Web
ByeByeNow filed for Chapter 11. It had Regis Philbin as its
spokesman, a former NBC executive as its chief executive officer
and the president of Carnival as a board member. But that roster of
talent couldn't make it work.
Disney closed down its Go.com site, and the entire Disney
Internet Group has been losing money. Even Disney couldn't get it
to work the way it wanted.
Priceline stock plummeted, and Wal-Mart dropped its on-line
So allow me to suggest that now might be a good time to ask
yourself this question: "What makes me think that I can get it to
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
president. Contact him at [email protected].