Eric Butterman

Eric Butterman

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Travel agents today have grown from advisors to website mavens and Internet marketers. Still, with estimates of repeat business at only between 20 and 30 percent, it is clear that home-based agents aren't taking advantage of the tech boom as much as they could.
The life of a home-based agent can be a lonely one. While you take in more of the reward, you also encounter all the risk when it comes to so much of what you buy. Host agencies can be a helpful alternative, offering technological advances in return for a one-time fee or a piece of the commission. But which host agency—if any—is the right option for you?
Let's face it: You're measured by your clients' entire overseas travel experience, and that covers everything from the plane trip to the hotel bedding. But it also includes their ability to stay in touch with home and the office-and that means a cell phone. Cell phone rentals can bring you not only repeat customers, but possible commissions.
There can be no doubt that technology is constantly changing the travel industry. Beyond the obvious convenience of how e-mailing has cut down on your calls and the manner in which e-tickets have saved your absent-minded clients, there are many technology tips that could improve the efficiency of your business.
Creating an itinerary is a proposition that might vary from client to client. For some customers, it's a slam dunk: They tell you specifically what they want and you put it together effortlessly. For others, it might be a casual thought about "possibly" doing a trip to Europe-now you have to quickly create a possible trip itinerary while the interest is there and make sure it's strong enough to seal the deal. Travel may not be an impulse buy like that magazine at the grocery checkout counter, but many deals are decided by agents who act quickly, rather than those who sit on their hands and hope the customer will sell themselves. Here are some resources to make that itinerary jump off the screen as fast as you need it.
Databases are critical to the success of customer relationships and leveling the agent playing field. Remember when customers came to you even for that simple ticket to Houston? Then came the rise of the online travel sites and, with it, clients booking for themselves. But that just meant a challenge for agents to prove that a computer couldn't replace the individual attention they could give. Ironically, such personalization requires employing something only a computer can truly offer: a thorough database. Here, we look at the databases available and approaches needed to maximize profits.
The travel industry has its share of complaints: delays, lack of personal service, cutthroat methods. And that's sometimes referring to the agent side of the business, not just the airlines who try their hardest to hold on to what little market share they can muster. The GDSs are down to three players and the jury's still out on whether consolidation has strengthened technology or weakened the spirit of competition, something necessary to further the legacy of companies once married to the Legacy system. Here, we look at the latest booking solutions and strategies-and how online competition continues to change the playing field.