When armed with state-of-the-art booking tools, travel agents have a major opportunity to expand hotel sales and earnings, Eric Altschul, CEO of ABC Global Services, said in an interview with Travel Agent.
Altschul, who completed his purchase of ABC in April, reports solid gains in agent sales – including the home-based independents. “We continue to invest in the agency community and believe we offer best in class booking technology and support.”
One of the largest hotel marketing service firms, ABC has 35 years experience in a competitive but growing global market, “One key to our success has been our focus on the agency market: including business, leisure and luxury sectors. We have been rewarded by year over year sales increases.”
“Our data shows that there is increased awareness and involvement among agents of all types in the profit potential in hotel sales. With ezBook by ABC agents can earn commissions up to 15 percent plus any service fee mark-up they choose.”
ABC Global Service’s generates over $1 billion in sales for the hotel industry and serves nearly 8,000 agency locations. Altschul, former senior vice president of Thomas Cook, purchased the company from Thomas Cook earlier this year.
ABC also partners with a number of agency groups – franchisers, consortia and host agencies – and Altschul sees opportunity for more. A recent agreement with a consortium, for example, allows integration of ABC’s ezBook portal into their intranet.
“Easy to use booking technology is indispensible to expand agency sales. Systems must be flexible, easy to use and learn, and give agents sales tools that allow them to better serve clients.”
ezBook now delivers more than 200,000 hotel options worldwide. Included in ezBook are multiple rate options, commissions and services – including premium and luxury properties - in 71 countries and over 500 cities.
ezBook’s inventory, for example, includes wholesale net rates, discounted Online Travel Agent (OTA) rates, ABC and GDS rates. “Agents without direct access to GDS’s can get GDS rates via ezBook – the so-called off-GDS market is growing. So too is the productivity of our independent agents.”
In ezBook agents can search by price, amenities, location and other factors such as star ratings and price comparisons, giving agents a real time sales advantage, Altschul says.
The ABC and ezBook platforms offer the diversity of worldwide hotel options allowing agents to personalize and tailor sales and deliver value to clients. Both with ezBook and ABC Premier Privileges Program agents get access to amenities increasingly vital to spark sales.
Agents charge clients service fees in about 35 percent of ezBook bookings, he notes.
Altschul also encourages agents to look at the pre- and post-cruise market for selling opportunities. “Suggest options and ask for the sale. This is a growth market with appeal for cruisers of all types.”
Another marketing opportunity cited by Altschul is the growing use by agents of the changeable/refundable rates options on ezBook that gives clients choice to change bookings.
“ezBook allows agents – whatever their market niche – corporate or leisure- to sell up and to offer the extra amenities and value clients are seeking. Price is vital but not the only factor in sales.”
For the future Altschul promises more pro-agent initiatives that will help agents build bottom line profitability – and hoteliers build market share.
“Like much of the hotel industry we are investing in new technologies that give agents access to a growing global inventory of properties. We will expand our education program –especially for independent agents - as well as meeting planning capabilities and enhancements to our booking systems including enhanced commission collection and a international air rate and re-faring desk.”
Prior to becoming CEO of ABC Global Services, Altschul managed Thomas Cook North America’s Leisure Distribution business and served in executive posts with American Express. He was twice named a rising industry star by Travel Agent magazine.
“We grasp the competitive nature of travel agents business and see the importance of effective technology to simplify booking, generate revenues and give agents marketable, salable hotel product for their clients. Take advantage of the opportunities.”