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New Booking Tool Announced at Conference

July 9, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent

mood at's ninth
annual conference, which took place late last month at the Hilton New Orleans
Riverside Hotel, was enthusiastic, as the consortia announced a new booking
tool and new supplier relationships.
 Agents give the new booking tool a try at's ninth annual conference

During the conference, Steve Tracas, president and CEO of, announced the
launch of EZGuider, an integrated web-based platform for booking leisure
travel, built exclusively for
and available at no cost to members. This no-charge news garnered a round of
applause from travel agents during Tracas' keynote speech at the conference,
which was followed by a performance by Rain, a popular Beatles cover band.

"We feel we can drive a significant amount of sales
through the product to pay for it," Tracas said at a press conference held
earlier that day.

Agents who use EZGuider can research, plan, quote and book
cruise, tour and other ancillary products; the ability to book air, hotel and
car is expected in first quarter 2008. Accessible on AgentNet,'s desktop portal,
the tool houses all cruise lines through E-Cruise, an Amadeus product—also's parent
company—as well as tour operators Globus and Travel Impressions. Tracas said he
expects to have between 10 and 12 more suppliers signed up by the tool's full
launch in November.

"It gives the opportunity to hire people who aren't 100
percent trained and gives a new venue to hire a sales person," said Kate
Murphy, owner of Uniglobe Wings Travel in Blue Bell, PA and a advisory board

Travel Agent
checked in with Tracas after the conference, and he noted a strong interest in
EZGuider by the agent community. "The members expressed confidence in our
direction," he said, "and I continually heard, 'This was the best
conference ever!'"

The crowd seemed to agree. Despite a weaker turnout due to
weather-related flight delays and cancellations, sessions—even ones at 6:45
a.m.—were full, noted Eric Ardolino, president of A&S Travel in Wallingford, CT,
who also is a member of Vcom's advisory board.

"At the trade show, people were hanging around until
the end," he said. "The hands-on sessions were totally different from
most of the things I've gone to in the past." Of the sessions' content,
Ardolino said, Vcom managed to "keep up with the times."

Awards and Announcements

Also during the conference, announced the winners of its first POP, or
"Power of Partnership," awards. Agent-selected winners include Royal
Caribbean as Contemporary Cruise Partner of the Year, Globus as U.S. Tour
Partner of the Year and SuperClubs as Resort Partner of the Year. At's next conference
in Las Vegas
June 16-19, 2008, perhaps new
suppliers Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the recently announced Viking River
Cruises venture, Viking Tours, also will have a shot at winning a POP award.

In that vein, Starwood's director of global accounts, Jon
Hodges, alluded to a forthcoming agent-centric announcement in August, but
declined to give further details.

"Starwood is committed to travel agents, and we realize
our future lies in incentivizing the agency community," said Becky Casey,
senior director of travel industry sales for North America
for the hotelier. —Jennifer Merritt

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