ONSITE: Vacation.com Conference Sees Launch of New Booking Tool and Supplier Awards Program

New Orleans-Steve Tracas, president and CEO of Vacation.com, took the occasion of the company's 9th annual conference to announce 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, taking place this week at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans. "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. EZGuider is accessible on AgentNet, Vacation.com's desktop portal. Through it agents have the ability to research, plan, quote and book cruise, tour and other ancillary products, with the ability to book air, hotel and car forthcoming in first quarter of 2008. The tool is now accepting agencies for beta testing, with a full launch planned for this November. Currently, 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 November. "We have a tremendous amount of interest from suppliers," Tracas said, adding that, "products like this also stimulate a lot of agencies to come to us, too." The product also features "shopping basket" technology multiple search criteria, such as by destination, type of trip and length of vacation and also will allow agents to turn a quote into a booking through only a few clicks. "Some of the challenges facing agents today are that they have too much information, too many supplier sites, too much time spent on the phone, causing a loss of productivity,' Tracas said at the opening session. "Our vision is to provide you the tools to meet those issues through easy access to all preferred supplier information in one location via AgentNet." Members who begin using the product will be eligible to earn up to $1,000 in performance-based incentives from different preferred suppliers after EZGuider's fall launch. Also during the opening session, Vaction.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 next year's Vacation.com conference in Las Vegas June 16-19, 2008, perhaps new Vacation.com suppliers Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the recently announce
Viking River Cruises venture, Viking Tours, also will get a shot to win a POP award.