he notable events of the past week
include a preferred-supplier agreement between the largest airline,
American, and the largest agency consortium, Vacation.com.
A publicist for the consortium said the new deal means American
"has taken a major step to re-embrace travel agents," a bit of spin
that may overstate the case. Vacation.com is replacing a previous
deal with Delta by making American its exclusive preferred airline
among the majors. It intends to create what its president Dick
Knodt calls "a focused promotion." American expects a little market
share in return, and the consortium claims it can and will deliver
This is no hugs-and-kisses arrangement. In fact, it's better
than that. It would be nice if American loved all agents and all
agents loved all airlines, but in the business world we think it's
even nicer when airlines and agents demonstrate that they
understand what they can do for each other.
• • •
he Travel Institute has invited
the heads of various industry associations to a meeting in New York
early next year to kick around a novel idea: The development of
core standards for travel industry professionals.
Under the leadership of its president, David Preece, the
institute is reinventing itself to become an educational resource
for the entire travel industry, with continuing education and
certification programs of all kinds. An industry consensus on
certain fundamentals will make the task a lot easier for
The Travel Institute has its work cut out for it, but it's
worthwhile work. Objective, professional standards and broadly
recognized continuing education and certification programs won't
fix everything that's broken, but they could bring considerable
benefits to all segments of this industry.
• • •
ome months ago, we reported
warnings that brick-and-mortar agents can no longer take their
cruise and tour business for granted. The Big Web Sites, it was
said, are going beyond simple air sales and will soon be taking big
bites our of the more complicated leisure bookings that are the
stock-in-trade of traditional agents.
Now we're hearing that the Big Web Sites are going after the
business of agents who specialize in corporate travel management.
been noted over and over, has already snared the McDonald's
Perhaps it's time for somebody to serve notice on the Big Web
Sites that they can't take any of this business for granted,
either. According to a recent report on the news wires, consumers
who book travel on Big Web Sites tend to use them interchangeably,
and don't have any brand loyalty to any particular site.
It was once said of corporate accounts that they love you on
price and leave you on service. We imagine it's true of Web