From the Travel Weekly Conference '99...

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 weenies.

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.

Delegates at Industry ConferenceWhen 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 settle.

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 culpable.

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.

Moonlight deluxe

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.

Middling results

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

system.

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 Y2K-compliant.

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