Orbis N. America unit aims to streamline service

NEW YORK -- Orbis Polish Travel Bureau, the North American subsidiary of Warsaw-based Orbis, Poland's leading travel firm, is in the midst of a major restructuring under its new president, Richard Cichocki.

Cichocki said he is redirecting the company toward the goals of providing seamless service and maintaining a higher profile among travel agents.

He estimated that Orbis' North America unit handled about 4,500 clients in 1999 for FIT and tour programs compared with 5,200 people in 1998, a 13.5% drop in core business.

Cichocki said Orbis suffered major setbacks in 1999 due to the crisis in Kosovo.

"We're not really losing money, but we're not generating money," he said. "The crisis in Kosovo had an effect on bookings to Europe in general, and central Europe in particular."

Orbis also had been suffering from an overly bureaucratic and departmentalized operation, he said.

"It was like the structure of a very large company, which we're really not here," Cichocki said. "The emphasis should be on the needs of the customer. If customers have a request, they don't care how the request is fulfilled, as long as they get seamless service."

"It's more efficient if one person takes care of the customer from the beginning to the end. In the past, when somebody was buying FIT arrangements in Poland and also buying a ticket, the ticket was handled by the ticketing department. Now one person will handle everything."

In addition to one-contact service for all customer inquiries, Cichocki's other key initiatives include discontinuing the firm's air consolidation function, expanding its Web site to process agents' booking requests, more aggressive attendance at European travel seminars in key markets and contracting with Susan Jawriluk, an outside sales and marketing representative based in Chicago, to represent Orbis at trade shows.

The company's restructuring includes a staff reduction from 10 to seven employees in the first quarter of 2000. Cichocki's goal for 2000 is to reach the level of revenue it achieved in 1998.

"If we'll be able to attain that number this year, we'll be fine," he said. "Anything [more] is an extra."

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