In a decision that could ramify throughout the travel industry,
Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have concluded
that agents will be recruited to play an integral role in their
Internet-based consumer booking engine when it gets rolling in
Just when the phrase "it's just a click away" has become the
mantra of Internet entrepreneurs selling everything from comic
books to caviar, the cruise lines said they will pay retailers to
complete Web-based bookings because dealing directly with consumers
proved inefficient and time consuming in trial runs.
One small step for agents, one giant step for agent-kind.
Although many of the details remain to be worked out, the
imposition of the trade between the consumer and the vendor in the
virtual world sharply underlines the invaluable role the travel
agent plays in the traditional sales equation.
After all, implicit in the move by the cruise companies is the
bottom-line recognition that it is better business to pay agents to
service Internet bookings than to waste time and effort doing it
Cruise lines, tour operators and, yes, the airlines should take
notice. While retailers have long contended that they provide
value-added service to their clients, it is sometimes forgotten
that they provide equal -- and bankable -- value to suppliers.
The Independent Travel Agent Support Network says it will pay
owners selling small shops substantially more than their businesses
are worth on the open market.
The catch: No money up front and a 10-year payout based on
commissions earned. A good deal? It depends whom you ask.
Our advice to owners bent on leaving the business is simple.
Consult a good travel attorney before making a move.