SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Whether to establish an agency Web presence or
not is no longer much of an issue. The more fundamental question
is, "How does one go about doing it?"
There are numerous companies -- including Crossover Consulting,
OnlineAgency.com and TAedge -- that create basic sites
for agencies and offer hosting and marketing services.
Most of these companies offer rudimentary templates that
agencies can tweak and update to meet their requirements. One of
the newest players to target the travel industry is
The privately held company, based here, released its Structuredtravel.com service several months ago. For
about $50 per month, agencies can work quickly through a modular
application to customize their own Web sites.
The cost also includes hosting services, marketing tools and
some content. Among the features Structuredtravel.com offers are a
link for Worldspan agency sites to the CRS firm's My Trip and More
consumer itinerary service; nontravel-specific news feeds from
Screaming Media, and vacation packages and promotions from Passport
Online's VacationPort service (for an extra $8 per month).
In the near future, StructuredWeb said it plans to introduce
cruise-booking functionality on the agency sites it creates through
CruisePath (formerly GoCruiseDirect.com).
It also said it expects to offer Structuredtravel.com bundled
with CruisePath at a promotional rate of about $100 per month.
Other than the future cruise-booking capability,
Structuredtravel.com's agency sites offer no other online booking
capabilities. However, integration with the CRSs is a goal, said
StructuredWeb product manager Stuart Kerty.
But right now, when consumers visit an agency site and want to
book a trip, they have to complete a form and e-mail it to the
agency, he said.
That process is meant as a stopgap, Kerty said, before
integration with the CRSs can be negotiated.
Gary Bilbao, an owner of travel technology firm TravelHub, which
custom-builds agency and supplier sites, said booking functionality
for agency Web sites is not a key issue.
"There is no money in it," he said, because Internet commissions
are so low.
One way agencies can make money on line, Bilbao said, is to
promote consolidators' fares on their sites and then book them off
One of StructuredWeb's key partners is Holiday Marketing, whose
businesses include the Marketing Alliance for Retail Travel
consortium and Traveler's Choice for non-ARC agents.
Holiday Marketing is promoting StructuredWeb technology to its
agents under the brand Expertrip.com. The company's pricing of the
product is considerably cheaper than StructuredWeb's rates.
Tom Ogg, the owner of agent-training company Tom Ogg &
Associates in San Diego, said template-created agency sites might
be the way to go "if an agent doesn't have a clue."
"But it's nuts to pay someone else to do it," he said, because
Web publishing tools are so easy to use today that anyone can
master them in a few hours.
In addition, Ogg said, agency sites need to promote their
specialties in ways that mass-produced sites can't.
"Clients don't use the Internet like the Yellow Pages," he said.
"Generic advertising is going to make work and not create