During the conference, Steve Tracas, president and CEO of Vacation.com, announced the launch of EZGuider, an integrated web-based platform for booking leisure travel, built exclusively for Vacation.com 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, Vacation.com's desktop portal, the tool houses all cruise lines through E-Cruise, an Amadeus product—also Vacation.com'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 Vacation.com advisory board member.
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
"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, Vacation.com 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 Vacation.com's next conference
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