A few years ago, one of the big computer magazines did a piece on
how the Internet is changing our lives. When it came to the on-line
revolution in do-it-yourself travel, it bluntly declared, "Your
travel agent is toast."
Travel Weekly's biennial survey of the U.S. travel agent
industry hits the street today, and it shows that all that toast
out there managed to increase its travel sales by 13% to $143
billion between 1997 and 1999. Toast, apparently, can still move
Toast increased its leisure sales by 22% to $78.5 million, or
55% of the total, while reducing its reliance on air sales. Cruise
sales by toast increased 20%.
Toast is adaptable. Most toast imposes service fees on leisure
and business clients, something unheard of only a few short loaves
Toast is wired. Virtually all toast uses the Internet to make
bookings, gather information and communicate with clients.
Toast is no dummy. Almost no toast regularly pays rebates to
business travelers anymore.
Toast understands the risks of independence and the rewards of
solidarity: most toast belong to a consortium or association.
Most toast was profitable in 1999. Not so much as in 1997, but,
hey, the industry is changing.
Toast, however, is durable. The average piece of toast has been
in the business 20 years, 14 years under current ownership.
And one of the Web sites that was going to turn you into toast
was acquired by a travel agency that's been in the same family for
Unlike the computer magazine, this newspaper is staking its
future on the future of the U.S. retail travel industry, and our
assessment is based in part on 30 years of research, which
culminates in the special issue you receive today.
Take it home and read it over breakfast, with toast and a little