It's not our intention to beat a dead horse -- and an "iron" one to
boot -- but Marriott's recent move to launch a $2 million program
designed to sharpen agents' hotel-selling techniques makes Amtrak's
abrupt decision to chop commissions on point-to-point tickets look
While Amtrak's "remedial" surgery amounted to cutting off agents
at the knees, Marriott's remedy for enhancing the relationship
between the hospitality industry and the trade is the kind of
preventative medicine that goes down easy.
According to Marriott, which previewed the program at the ASTA
World Travel Congress, surveys indicate some disquieting numbers:
Only 11% of an agent's revenue derives from hotels, and only 25% of
hotels' revenue is attributable to agents -- this despite a finding
that 65% of the industry's guests seek out retailers for advice on
It is Marriott's contention that the way to get those revenue
figures pointing in the right direction is by further educating
agents in the art and science of selling hotels -- all hotels, not
just its own. To this end, the company will distribute -- for free
-- training workbooks through its Web site, the CRSs and its
Among other things, the courses will focus on showing agents how
to conduct a sale by qualifying a customer. To gain certification,
participants must achieve a satisfactory score on a 25-question
test included on a computer disk that comes with the workbook.
To be sure, Marriott will not reward "certified" agents with an
enhanced commission rate on sales. The hotel company, instead,
believes that the payoff to the trade will come when effective
sales training translates into increased bookings and, in turn,
greater aggregate commission earnings.
We applaud Marriott's initiative.