Dutch treat: Netherlands ups specialist program

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NEW YORK -- Going Dutch may never have been a better idea for agents, as the Netherlands Tourist Board here refines its specialist program and implements a new call center application to speed consumer leads to accredited Holland Travel Professionals.

The call center system, launched in early November, automatically locates the three specialists nearest a consumer who calls the tourist board's (888) GO-HOLLAND toll-free information number, said Conrad van Tiggelen, director, North America for the Netherlands Tourist Board, at an exclusive viewing of the system for Travel Weekly.

If the caller agrees to a referral, those three travel agents receive an instant e-mail advising them of the potential client's interests, tentative travel plans and contact information.

In turn, a letter accompanying any materials mailed to the consumer highlights the names and addresses of the three referrals. "We used to pull the referral information from a spreadsheet [program] and then send leads via fax, so it took more time," said van Tiggelen. "But now the information goes immediately to the travel agent."

The new lead-generation system, developed jointly with the Scandinavian Tourism Board, is just one aspect of a renewed emphasis on graduates of the Netherlands specialist program, he added.

For example, "we used to send out stacks of posters and our popular pop-up tulips to all agencies," van Tiggelen said. "But now only specialists will receive them."

Holland Travel Professionals, who enjoy their own hotline to the Netherlands Tourist Board at (888) 4-HOLLAND, also should benefit from the organization's redesigned Web site, set to launch on March 1. The address is www.goholland.com.

Although the content-rich site will feature online booking engines for restaurants, hotels and event ticketing, "there will always be the option to contact a Holland specialist agent," van Tiggelen said. "Sometimes consumers want to book immediately through a Web site, but those who want more guidance always will be steered to travel agents."

In any event, "Holland specialists will be seen immediately on the first page" of the site, he added.

On the down side, the Netherlands Tourist Board will not print a travel agent-specific guide for 2002, while a travel trade page under development for the new Web site will cater more to tour operators.

The enriched main site, however, will feature enough novel information of use to agents to compensate for the canceled guide, van Tiggelen said. For example, it will highlight the addresses of the latest and most popular restaurants in Amsterdam.

"These are places we pick ourselves, where we want to eat with our friends," he said. "We want to prevent people from going into tourist traps, especially since there's more FIT travelers visiting."

Also, new speciality subsites will address Amsterdam, suggested itineraries, the arts, active vacations, gay and lesbian travel, Jewish interest and World War II tourism.

"These are the areas we get loads of requests on," van Tiggelen said.

For information on the Holland Travel Professional program, call (888) 2-HOLLAND or Monica Gasch Kuhne at (212) 370-7360, ext. 27.

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