Onsite: More Need for Agents Than Ever Before

CANCUN-Ensemble Travel Group kicked off its 2007 international conference in Cancun with an impressive "President's Panel" discussion moderated by Jack Mannix, president and CEO of the member-owned travel agency consortium. Executives provided sage advice to the agents in the audience, who hailed from both the U.S. and Canada.

Ed Fuller, president of International Lodging for Marriott International, said his company is focusing more on the retail agent to communicate the vast number of products offered by Marriott, which now serves up 18 brands and 3,000 hotels. For that reason, Marriott is considering increasing its sales force to work with agents. "The leisure market is demanding more attention when they sign up for a trip," he said. For example, spas have become a necessity. "Spas are no longer unique, they are a point of entry," he said. As such, Marriott now has 33 spas under construction in its Asia properties and 15 in the United States.

Gregg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises, advised agents not to assume that because of the Internet, clients do not need their services. "The guest, more than ever, wants full product service and that means before, during and after the trip," he said. "Boy, there's all the need in the world for you now."

Dan Hanrahan, president & CEO of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises, reiterated that travel agents need to become advisors to their clients, and not focus on price. "People need someone to whom they can entrust their vacation. You would not go to a dentist with whom you were not completely comfortable," he noted.

In turn, Mike Price, president of First Choice Canada, said that agents "need to know more than your customer. Remember that the customer can look information up on Google."

Insight provided by Bruise Poon Tip, president and CEO of G.A.P. Adventures, most likely echoed what travel agents are seeing already. According to Tip, "People are taking shorter trips and want to do more while they're there." (RT)