Predicting that the past year’s challenges could result in as few
as 15,000 travel agencies in the United States within five years,
Carlson Leisure Group President and CEO Michael Batt nevertheless
encouraged agents to “look at today as the biggest opportunity to
At the Carlson Wagonlit Travel National Meeting in Dallas, Batt
told the 550 agents in attendance: “You don’t need the economy to
be booming to do well. Don’t rely on the economy, and please don’t
waste effort by hating the airlines, as we need them to
In his annual state-of-the-industry speech, Batt characterized
the demise of airline commissions and the growth of Internet travel
sites as positive developments for surviving agencies, which he
said are fewer in number but stronger than they were in the
“Zero commissions and the Internet have stimulated consolidation
rather than destruction of the industry, and this is really
benefiting us,” said Batt, who also predicted that 2,000 to 3,000
of the remaining 15,000 agencies will be Carlson associates.
Batt hailed Carlson’s new customer-relationship management
software, Q3, which he said helps gives Carlson associates a
competitive edge over the increasingly popular online travel
Carlson also hosted a panel discussion with businesspeople from
other industries that, like travel agencies, are perceived by the
public as being beleaguered with financial woes.
The panelists a real estate executive, a manager at a
financial-services company and the president of a marketing firm
said they distinguish themselves from their Internet-based
colleagues with strong customer service, and they view the Internet
more as a tool than as competition.
Carlson supplied video profiles of successful associate agency
owners, including two from the West.
Angie Lepley of ETI Travel in Kirkland, Wash., was hailed for
her agency’s motto “one step further service” and her commitment to
zero turnover of her agency’s staff.
The other agency owners from the West, George and Becky Kingston
of On The Go Travel Services/Choice Vacations in Orange, Riverside
and San Diego counties, were cited for shifting to using home-based
agents, consolidated operations and personalized e-mail
communications with clients from their eight locations.