At least 50% of all travel agency hotel bookings worldwide are made over the telephone -- notwithstanding airline computer reservations systems and the Internet. It's an astonishingly high figure.

For sure, as agents have come to rely on airline computer reservations systems, the percentage has been dropping in the U.S. to about 25%. Phone bookings represent a huge waste of time and resources, tying up agents on both ends during a transaction.

The Hotel Clearing Corp. -- a firm that processes and reconciles commissions for 75,0000 travel agency locations worldwide -- and TravelWeb want to cut phone talk further while drumming up additional business. The two companies, both units of Dallas-based Pegasus Systems, have unveiled a Bonus Buck incentive to entice agents to book hotels on TravelWeb through the end of the year.

With each agency's monthly commission statement, Pegasus will include a bonus buck for each booking, payable within 30 days after a client has checked out.

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Pegasus' web site, Travel Web's www.travelweb.com, was launched in 1994 as an electronic catalog to display facilities of participating hotels, but it barely has commanded agents' attention as a booking tool. Only 80 agencies used it to book in the month before the bonus buck incentive was announced. More than 1.8 million bookings a month are made by HCC's subscribers.

The site offers not only real-time inventories of 22,000 rooms at the Hotel Clearing Corp.'s 100-plus hotel firms.hotels but a vast array of information, including photos of properties that agents can download and include in brochures for clients.

With an estimated 30 million reservations made annually through airlines' computer res systems by 120,000 agencies, the potential for the Web page is huge. There may be good reasons to still use the telephone. If tempted, agents may find that they can book a reservation into a participating property while they are on hold.

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