Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightIt seems like almost daily, another agent offer, incentive or enhancement is being rolled out by this wholesaler or that one, a competitive momentum that has been snowballing ever since Apple Leisure Group acquired Travel Impressions last summer.

Combining the inventory and trade relationships of two major vacation package companies surely put some pressure on the competition, so it's no surprise that everything from improved commissions, better incentive deals and agent-focused technology upgrades have been announced by companies such as Mark Travel, Classic Vacations and MLT Vacations.

Michelle BaranJust look at the last few weeks. Earlier this week, MLT Vacations rolled out a new rewards program that enables agents to earn points redeemable for personal travel year-round. 

Funjet Vacations is now guaranteeing 5% commission on the air portion of all international and Hawaii packages that include scheduled service from Delta, US Airways, American, AirTran and Alaska Airlines (as opposed to the 5% or less on scheduled air Funjet was paying before). 

Last month, MLT Vacations came out with a more aggressive price-match policy that enables agents to get more immediate price-match confirmations. 

And after four years of allowing both agents and consumers to book its vacation product online, Classic Vacations in November restricted its online booking capability exclusively to agents, requiring consumers to contact their travel advisers in order to book.

At the time, Classic Vacations President David Hu summed up what appears to be the motto being embraced by packagers these days as the competition heats up. Said Hu, "We're making a big bet that we're going to get a bigger share by being more relevant to the travel agent sector."

As the dark cloud of the recession lifts and wholesalers return their focus to the trade, rather than on multichannel marketing, they are pulling out all the stops to court the agent. So, embrace it -- it's a trend that likely isn't going away anytime soon.

Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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