et's get to the bottom line: The
Internet can help travel retailers boost Hawaii interest, sales and
profits. Agencies that don't use the Web will see their Hawaii
According to New York-based Forrester Research, U.S. consumers
will book $20.4 billion in travel on line this year, about 10% of
total retail travel sales.
By 2006, estimates have the Internet accounting for $33.8
billion in direct travel sales, about 14% of U.S. leisure travel
Online sales are just the tip of the retail iceberg. Jupiter
Media Metrix said that for every dollar spent on line, U.S.
consumers spend another $3 off line that was influenced by
something they saw on the Web.
That means online marketing will sway $81.6 billion in leisure
travel spending this year alone. The logical conclusion: Travel
agencies that aren't on line will be fighting for a steadily
shrinking share of that business.
Weave it in
Using the Internet doesn't mean abandoning traditional marketing
and sales channels. It means integrating a Web presence into a more
In Los Angeles, Montrose Travel has three people working full
time on the agency's Web site, located at www.montrosetravel.com.
However, across town, the Travel Store (at www.travel-store.com) doesn't have anyone devoted to
Yet both agencies are among Giants' top Hawaii producers, and
both get significant business via the Web.
"You need to create a rich and dynamic online opportunity for
clients," said Dan Ilves, vice president of leisure sales and
marketing for the Travel Store. "The Web is really a search tool
for people. It gets them to contact us."
Lois Shore, vice president of marketing at Classic Custom
Vacations, agreed. Shore said she is moving out of paper because
the Internet is faster, more accessible and cheaper.
"We believe in distribution on line," Shore said. "When we
e-mail specials, agents can forward them to select clients to tweak
Follow the client
More than 90 million U.S. travelers have already ventured on
line, according the Travel Industry Association of America.
Two-thirds of them used the Web to plan travel in 2000.
And Internet growth continues. Hotels.com reported an 83% jump
in room nights for the second quarter; that comes on top of a 74%
increase in online bookings during the first quarter of 2002, said
president Bob Diener.
Aloha Airlines is offering agents a 5% Web discount. Prince
Hotels Hawaii lets agents track commissions and earn free stays on
On Maui, the single-largest source of traveler referrals to
local suppliers is VisitMaui.com. The Maui Visitor Bureau gets 2,000
different visitors on an average day, said a spokesman.
"The Internet has changed the retail game," said New York
consultant Wally Boch, author of "What's the Big Idea? Business
Tips for the Digital Age."
"Internet penetration is 80% to 90% for people above the median
national income, about $40,000," Boch said. "E-mail and other
Internet technologies are how these people communicate, shop and
buy. The more you use the same technology to stay in touch, the
more successful you will be."
How do travel agencies use Web technology to stay in touch and
increase sales to Hawaii and other destinations? Here are a few
• Destination and product research. Web research is easy for
agents and the preferred research tool for travelers, Boch said.
Giving travelers useful Hawaii information is a key to selling
"Travelers visit retail Web sites for information, not
entertainment," Boch said. "Design your Web site like a
conversation that answers questions.
"You're helping travelers make choices and get involved in the
decisions. That's a basic sales tactic in any setting."
• Sales training. Putting sales and product training on line
helps agents learn at their own pace.
The Institute of Certified Travel Agents is putting its updated
Hawaii Destination Specialist program on line in early 2003.
The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau already has a
self-study destination specialist program on line at www.gohawaii.com/travelpro/kekula.asp. Vacation.com
posted the entire program on its member-only AgentNet.
"It's not just training; it's information agents can use to
market Hawaii," said Vacation.com chairman Dick Knodt.
• More competitive product offerings. Robert Zalinsky, vice
president of business development for Brentwood Travel in St. Louis
(at www.brentwoodtravel.com), puts Hawaii in the spotlight
with Passport to Travel, a collection of specials and packages from
"It's easy to manage," Zalinsky said. "The specials are updated
by wholesalers without any work by the agency."
Zalinsky also uses Passport On Line (at www.passportonlineinc.com) to let customers research
and create packages on Brentwood's Web site.
The agency controls content and customer information, and
customers can either book themselves or contact an agency by phone
• Managing the customer relationship. Tod Silbermann, chairman
of Better World Travel in Portland, Ore. (at www.betterworldtravel.com), calls it "click and
Better World's clients can buy on line, but few do. The Web site
encourages them to call or e-mail the agency.
"We give travelers a consumer advocate in the middle of the
transaction," Silbermann said.
"What people are looking for on the Internet is information they
"Our job is to help them use information more effectively to
create a travel experience."
• E-mail marketing. This technique is cheaper than direct mail
and at least as effective, according to numerous research surveys.
Direct mail cost about 18 cents a piece before the postal rate
increase, said Forrester Travel. That compares with less than a
half-cent per e-mail.
And although e-mail response rates are only about 1.8%,
according to New York Research firm eMarketer, that's still better
than direct mail.
"Targeted e-mail blasts are huge for us," said Jamie Hoff,
leisure marketing manager at Montrose Travel. "Clients don't see
anything they haven't already told us they want to hear about."
Judy Chaitman, president of Great Getaways Travel in Leawood,
Kan. (at www.greatgetaway.com), relies more on inbound
She uses a high media profile and frequent mentions in the Wall
Street Journal and Conde Nast Traveler to lure potential clients
into an electronic conversation about Hawaii.
Once she has them on line, she steers them to the telephone.
"I need to get a feel for what people are really after," she
said. "I can do that better by phone. The Internet helps, but I do
Sell like the online giants
NEW YORK -- What are the big three online travel agencies --
Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz -- doing to sell Hawaii?
Everything they can -- and nothing they want to talk about; none
of the top three players in online travel responded to Travel
But a quick search on Google gives a good clue: The first two links to
travel and Hawaii, out of 1.7 million hits, are Expedia and Orbitz.
The two giants paid to top the list when clients search the
Internet for Hawaii travel.
But behind the expensive advertising placement, the major
players aren't doing anything their smaller competitors can't
Expedia, for example, has been touting its Build Your Own Trip
feature, introduced last May, that lets buyers create a customized
tour itinerary. That's what travel agents have been doing for
Travelocity and Orbitz offer similar do-it-yourself booking
engines -- any agency can license similar services. Orbitz uses
NeatOnline from Neat Group. TravelSavers, a 2,400-agency consortium
based in Oyster Bay, N.Y., uses NeatOnline and an agency-only
engine called NeatAgent.
The agency gets its commission whether an agent handles the
booking or a client does it. United Escapes and Worldspan also are
using NeatAgent. ("Set your own commission" is one of Neat Group's
strongest selling points.)
The Big Three also are selling Hawaii packages from Classic,
Pleasant and other wholesalers. Other agencies can link to the same
wholesalers to sell the same products at the same prices.
Don't want to bother linking to multiple wholesalers? Consider
VacationPort from Passport On Line.
VacationPort gives agency Web sites a dynamic selection of
packages and specials that clients can book themselves or through
the agency. Agency commissions apply either way. Passport On Line
clients include AAA Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Uniglobe
Travel, and several Virtuoso agencies. -- F.G.