Faster all the time

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Alan Fredericks In the days when I was the editor in chief of Travel Weekly, I was what they call hands-on, demanding to see every major story by 5 p.m and the whole days production by 6 p.m.

Decades later, Im no longer editor, and Arnie Weissmann, Travel Weeklys editor in chief, has the advantage of calling up files from wherever he is in the world. The newer, faster technology expedites the job and enables articles to be added to the paper right up to deadline.

By the same token, travel agencies are steadily gaining faster access to travel inventory as one supplier after another installs direct access. Club Med is an example. With its new Web site, Clubmedta.com, agents get access to live inventory, including scheduled and charter air fares; can check price availability 24/7; and when theyre ready to book, complete the transaction on the sites booking engine.

The inclusivity of the sites functions squares neatly with the notion of the all-inclusive resort and improves the companys marketing campaign.

It still remains to be seen whether direct access is preferable to the cozy relationship between travel agent and supplier reservationist.

In the best of all worlds, the reservationist and agent forge a close relationship on the phone, and the suppliers rep is highly motivated to get the booking straight. But over the years, there have been too many war stories of reservations information being mishandled or misinterpreted.

The best friendships wont survive bad handling of a reservation, which could cost an agent a valuable piece of business.

Speed plays a great part in todays business world and achieves some overnight miracles and even faster contact than we could have dreamed a decade ago. It also powers e-mail, which has made it possible for agents and suppliers on opposite sides of the planet to stay in closer touch.

Its amazing how close a contact in Zambia can seem when e-mail is the mode of communication. I have a friend in the Far East from whom I hear more regularly than I do from most of my contacts thousands of miles closer to me.

By and large, the travel industry has expanded and benefited from faster, longer-distance communication.

But there is more to good communication than simply connecting electronically. And the advent of miraculous technology shouldnt take the place of the most powerful form of communication: the handshake.

A firm handshake between well-meaning businessmen and -women holds the prospects of a long-term relationship and is difficult to replicate on a computer.

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