he European Travel Commission has done
a lot of good things for its member countries and for the U.S. tour
operators and travel agents who book most of the 13 million
American travelers who crossed the Atlantic this year.
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But, like many destination promotional bodies, the ETC wants to
cover all of its bases. Thus, at the recent Transatlantic Travel
Marketing Conference in New York, ETC chairman Einar Gustavsson
popped a little surprise by mentioning that the 30-nation
promotional body wants to make its Web site a "major booking site"
The details are sketchy because negotiations are ongoing, but
the idea is to partner with an on-line booking service such as
Travelocity, which would have a direct link on the ETC's site, Visiteurope.com. The ETC assures agents that consumers
who want to find a local travel agent will be able to do so with an
enhanced search function. Agents who want their listings to include
a Web link will be able to do so.
Gustavsson said one of his goals for 2001 is to "reach millions
more Americans likely to consider a transatlantic trip." From what
we can tell, the ETC's Web strategy doesn't look like a slam-dunk
plan for generating that kind of business. More likely, it will
move a little market share for one lucky on-line travel
The ETC's Web site attracts unique visitors at the rate of less
than 1 million a year. That may grow in the years ahead, but, at
the current level of usage, and at current look-to-book ratios,
harnessing that Web site to drive bookings is a bit like hooking up
a plow horse to a Ferrari: the U.S. travel industry already is
delivering 13 million annual visitors to Europe, and this year's
peak season traffic was up 15%, without an ETC-sponsored booking
option on the Web.
We won't go so far as to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But we will say this: "Save the last dance for the person who
brought you to the party."