Yesterday, we shared George Dooley's report on Orbitz's new program that offers commissions to professional travel agents on Travel Agent's Facebook page and were not only pleased with how many agents responded so quickly but also delighted to see Brian Hoyt, Orbitz’s vice president, corporate communications and government affairs, join the discussion. If you're not already a fan of ours on Facebook (what are you waiting for?) and haven't seen Hoyt's exchange with agents thus far, take a look below at what has been asked and answered for more details about the program and what it might mean for travel agents.
First, some general points made by Hoyt, who posted:
It is clear there is space for online and offline travel agents. Hell, we even employ actual human being travel agents today in our telesales business and within our corporate travel team. We intend to build on this service following today's launch. Important to note that you can add your own mark ups and service fees. But let us know what we can improve on this version 1.0 of this service.
As some points were made and questions asked, the Orbitz VP went on to directly communicate with individual agents.
Margaret King was the first to post something to which Hoyt would respond, saying:
I've used their affiliate link in the past, but I see this as maybe a last minute alternative, if at all. I don't see it as my daily booking engine. And I certainly wouldn't book a complete package for 4%.
@ Margaret, I think you will find there is more customization than just our affiliate program.
As more agents joined in, Hoyt provided more answers.
Yvette Mullins agreed with Margaret, asking:
Are you going to have a dedicated travel agent help desk for when our clients have problems? or will we have to call the same number as the consumers...also how would marking up the package give us an advantage? The client could then just come to you and gt it for less then what we are offering it through you. I am not sure if this is going to be a good fit for myself, but I am willing to give it a try.
@ Yvette - to confirm Orbitz for Agents will have a dedicated service desk line for agents that is separate from our customer line. See www.orbitzforagents.com for details, but the customer relationship stays with you! and we have dedicated support for travel agents that sign up.
Meanwhile, Tracee Grammer Williams was less about questions and more about a challenge, writing:
I am skeptical, and I will be cautiously optimistic about the opportunity. For some reason, my cynical side thinks this is just a way for you to capture my customer data, and market direct to them. I've signed up, so I want to see you put your money where your booking engine is.
@ Tracee, I promise you that we want the booking, not your customer. And as the service evolves, we will find new ways to better serve your customers. @ Yvette, I know our intent is this -- make sure you own the front line customer relations support and our global customer service will be additional support. Thanks for giving us a shot.
Mary Engram asked,
Is this intended for agents who do not have a dedicated website?
@ Mary - this is intended to be another source of revenue and another tool agents can use when booking for customers. Agents have long booked on Orbitz without compensation because we do have access to so many hotel and travel package offers and deals, and now this provides additional incentive on top of existing tools should you need to use us as a resource.
Jason T Staples had two questions, and Hoyt answered both.
First, Jason asked:
Why would anyone want to book though there own competitor. Orbitz and others like them is one of the main factors as to why Agencies are struggling today. I am not knocking there business model it is obviously successful but I think Orbitz is underestimating the memory of Travel Agents.
Hoyt responded to the initual query, saying:
@Jason T, I hear you, but convergence is here and we are just another tool for you folks.
Jason followed up, asking
Will Orbitz require a credited agents or just anyone who fancy's themselves an agent?
@ Jason. We have a sign up process that Orbitz has set up and we believe we have in place adequate fraud protections. Orbitz also reserves the right in the contract to suspend an agent's service if they fail to produce documentation to us that confirms necessary information about their business.
We hope to see this discussion continue not only on Facebook but here at TravelAgentCentral.com and our other forums. What is your opinion? Post a comment below or post a comment on the original report. Add your comments on our Facebook page. Send us a tweet on our Twitter page. Join in on the discussion in real-time at AgentNation, where we've created a thread on the topic.