With airlines posting negative revenue reports, and their “zero commission policy,” the future of the travel agency industry was considered in doubt last year. But some agents have found ways to prosper amid all the uncertainties. Agencies now specialize, sell vacation packages, add service charges and work closely through the Internet instead of concentrating on airline sales.
Travel agents must be constantly looking for new ways to gain business, say the specialists. It doesn’t matter, they say, if the airlines pay commission or not since they are no longer needed for an agency to survive. Nor do you need a CRS system to do business, not even ticket stock, they say, just the Internet.
As an example, they cite a successful travel agent in the U.S. “Stop crying about the commission cuts and move on. It was a bad marriage. The airlines wanted a divorce. It’s time to stop crying and find a new spouse or enjoy the single life playing the field.
“About three years ago I saw the handwriting on the wall and embraced the Internet. Guess what, it works as we’re doing over $6 million a year in sales selling vacation packages and cruises with an average commission of 13% and we don’t discount, we even tag on a $25 per person service fee.
Other agents disagree. The commission cuts hurt us dramatically, says one. “The airline advice was to charge our valued clients since they ‘appreciate’ our services and would be willing to pay. Charging clients for services is nothing new but the premise of the travel agency was to work ‘with’ the suppliers and to be compensated for those efforts. To eliminate that premise midstream should allow all agencies to invalidate all contracts and agreements with the suppliers and renegotiate.
“To ask that the travel agency community continue to sell airline tickets at no cost to the airline is not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines predicts that the downturn will last until 2004 pointing to “sluggish economy” as the culprit.