A survey by the Travel Management Group, an Alexandria, Va.-based
consulting firm, appears to spell generally good news for the
corporate travel manager-agency relationship.
Of the 30 leading corporations responding to the survey -- they
average $27.9 million in annual air travel volume -- about 80% said
they would maintain their agency relationships even if future
commission cuts force them to pay for services out of their own
pockets rather than through diminished rebates and the like.
Some of the survey's other numbers, however, should raise
warning signals to the trade. For starters, about 70% of the
respondents said they would consider corporate travel department or
rent-a-plate configurations to counteract the rebound effect of
Although only one company, the Republic National Bank of New
York, is participating in the Airlines Reporting Corp.'s pilot
program, which enables a company to book travel under its own ARC
accreditation, it is safe to assume that other major entities are
looking on with interest.
As for rent-a-plate deals, under which a corporate travel
department processes bookings through its agency's ARC number,
their implications seem to render the traditional client-trade
relationship hollow indeed, with much of what makes an agency an
agency -- providing consultative services, quality control, 24-hour
service, travel expertise and experience -- a rapidly fading
Perhaps most ominous among the survey's findings is that about
half of the travel departments contacted would like to create
direct links to air, hotel and rental car vendors.
Perhaps the survey findings suggest that it is time for
corporate agencies to decide whether they are in the transaction
business or the travel services business.