As you have read, Crossroads recently attended its own
"gathering of the tribes" -- more formally, Travel Weekly
Conference '99 -- at the Adam's Mark in Denver last week. Herewith
a few morsels found amid the breakout coffees and the cocktail
And what better place to start than a tale involving the
"state bird" of the travel agency business, the free shrimp.
Skimp not on scampi
Everyone knows the insulting cliche about travel agents and
shrimp, but agents aren't the only ones in thrall to the little
crustaceans. Harold Stevens, president of New York-based Stevens
Travel Management, told us of a corporate client who'd fired
several agencies over the years because there weren't enough shrimp
at their annual incentive banquets.
When Stevens got the business,
he went to the banquet manager and said, "How much shrimp do you
usually use? Whatever the number is, double it. And if you run out,
make sure you can get more." A potential shrimp crisis was averted,
and Stevens held on to the account.
The need not to know
At the conference, Scott Edwards, antipiracy counsel for the
Software and Information Industry Association in Washington,
presented a seminar called Software Piracy and Licensing: Making
Sure Your Agency Is Within the Law. And almost no one came.
This seemed quite puzzling considering how much information
Edwards had to share on an important issue. After all, if a company
is caught violating a software copyright, it can be very costly to
However, a few more experienced delegates set Insider straight.
One participant said she had once been in the video business and
attended numerous conferences with workshops on video piracy. And,
she said, "no one" came because no one wants to hear he may be
Rock and a hard place
On the opening night of the conference, Travel Weekly sponsored
a cocktail party for all delegates at the Hard Rock Cafe. Little
did we know that our scheduled event was caught up in a local
controversy that some area agents thought might lead the Hard Rock
to cancel us out.
Since its opening last Nov. 5, the cafe has frequently rented
out its premises to private parties. It seems the events have been
too frequent to suit the tastes of local patrons. During the week
that Hard Rock shut out locals on three evenings, the local press
provided a fair amount of coverage. Ours was the last event in that
series of three.
Still, the Travel Weekly party -- a lively and popular event, it
turned out -- came off as scheduled. After all, as agents are also
sometimes painfully aware, business is business.
Insider encountered a server at the Adam's Mark who showed more
than the average amount of interest in the meeting -- at least for
someone whose job was to deliver our beer and wine. After some
discussion, we learned she has a day job -- as a travel agent at an
area Carlson Wagonlit outlet.
No, her tenure in the bar does not reflect a problem with what
Carlson Wagonlit pays. She said she simply likes being in the
convivial atmosphere of an upscale hotel like the Adam's Mark.
At one session, presenter Scott Ahlsmith shared an anecdote that
he had collected from a former head of Sabre. Ahlsmith, who is vice
president and general manager of Los Angeles-based Trams, a seller
of agency accounting, was discussing a common belief of CRS vendors
that if they could provide the accounting system to their
subscribers, the back-office installation would serve as golden
handcuffs to keep the agencies on the parent CRS.
However, Ahlsmith reported, Sabre some years ago decided to test
the theory. The vendor courted a select group of 10 Apollo
subscribers, providing lots of financial incentives to persuade
them to switch to the Sabre-affiliated ADS accounting
The reasoning was that when the agencies' CRS contracts came up
for renewal, the 10 firms would come to Sabre. Not so. Five years
later, only five of the 10 agencies had made the switch.
System, heal thyself
By the end of this year, Galileo must phase out its affiliated
TS2000 agency accounting system and has made moves to accommodate
users with alternative systems by the deadline. The reason for the
deadline? The system with 2000 in its name is not