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Letter to the Editor

August 13, 2007 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor Travel Agent

I found your recently published column, "Sell Me
Something, Please!
" (July 30, 2007) very interesting.

Your experience with the vet and the thoughts you expressed
as a result of that experience exactly parallel the feelings and thoughts I
have every time I leave a trade event/training function. Unfortunately, this
conceptual, almost sterile thought process does not square with today's
day-to-day reality in the trenches.

I have absolutely no doubt you were very excited about the
possibility of an upgrade in both geography and service levels of your
veterinary provider. Both of those things are, however, very tangible
attributes, which the vet has available to provide to another customer if you
opt to place your business elsewhere. Even with this realization, the vet's
front-line personnel could not get past the fact that your sincere interest as
a potential customer probably represents less than 10 percent of their similar
encounters—the other 90 percent yielding "no sale." As travel
consultants, we don't have the luxury of better boarding facilities, and our
geographic advantage is only as good as the length of a telephone or other
electronic connection. Our stock in trade is our knowledge, our contacts, and
most importantly, our time. Once we expend that time with a potential client,
we have absolutely no way of getting it back, regardless of whether that time,
knowledge and expertise yields a relationship and a sale with the resultant
commission or fees.

When my first son was born, my wife and I
"interviewed" pediatricians. Interestingly, the pediatricians all
charged us for an office visit. We were glad to pay, considering we were
embarking on an 18-year relationship. The pediatricians all sat down with us to
answer our "new parent" questions, convey their philosophies and talk
about office procedures. One of the pediatricians "won" our business.
All of the pediatricians—not just the "winner"—were compensated for
their time.

A veterinary relationship should be a long-standing
relationship. A travel consultant relationship should also be a long-standing
relationship—based on mutual trust and respect. Part of that respect must be
respect on the part of the traveler that the travel consultant deserves to be
compensated for their knowledge, contacts and time.

I would love nothing more than to provide a fresh, spirited,
insightful dialogue each and every time the telephone rings. That is the
enthusiasm I bring to bear after returning from those trade seminars and
training sessions. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to sustain those levels
when the other end of the phone considers the travel agent a commodity and only
wants the lowest price on the "Ship of Fools," sailing December 15 in
Category XYZ.

Larry D. Swerdlin, CTC
Burton Travel Ltd. Owings Mills,

I just read your editorial about the value of suppliers to
the agent community ("Suppliers and Agents," August 6, 2007), and
believe me, I agree completely. I have many, many colleagues and friends who
are truly experts in their fields, and who like nothing more than to share this
knowledge with their travel agent friends. Each time I attend an industry
function (and I have been to more than I can count), I see colleagues I've
known and worked with for decades.

It's this collective knowledge that continues to make our
travel agents more professional in every part of their day.

Thanks for your support!

Bill Lawrence Director,
Supplier Strategies CCRA International, Inc.

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