Hurricane Update 9-2-2005

*Italiatour’s Closure Costs Clients
*Farelogix Adds Air Carriers
*New Ensemble Travel Options

Hurricane Update

As Hurricane Katrina takes a toll on New Orleans, the travel industry continues to alter plans.

United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines were among the airlines to cancel flights and also expect further delays. Katrina also prompted cruise lines to change itineraries including Carnival Cruise Lines, which recently repositioned several cruise ships.

The hurricane also hit New Orleans during its prime convention season. Meeting planners and hotel officials are working to see how many scheduled conventions the city can accommodate, and officials said they expect the city to recover quickly. For example, the 350-room Omni Royal Orleans expects to accommodate groups scheduled after Labor Day, according to reports.

Italiatour’s Closure Costs Clients

The closing of Italiatour’s U.S. office in July left many loose ends in its wake, as well as a clamor from travel agents who said their clients had been left in the lurch and had lost money in some cases thousands of dollars.

Carol Henry, an agent with Bisquane Travel in Brooklyn, N.Y., said one of her clients had lost a hard-earned $7,000 in the Italiatour demise.

“Somebody needs to do something,” she said. “My clients went to make their last payment, and they [Italiatour] were gone. What do you tell people who spent the money? It’s not our fault. We don’t see the money till after you’ve traveled.”

Pam Hartman, manager of Garber Travel in Beverly, Mass., said, “My clients had a booking, and Italiatour went [out of business]. There was no notification. They just weren’t answering their phones. It took a long time to figure it out.”

Joe Berardo, chairman of Moonachie, N.J.-based Central Holidays, said that some 500 customers had been left in the lurch when Italiatour shut down.

Italiatour, which was the private-label vacation-packaging unit of Alitalia, was sold by the airline to Rome-based CIT Tours in May 2003. At the time of the sale, Alitalia retained a 20 percent stake in the business, officials said.

CIT closed the office of its CIT brand last January, saying it was consolidating its U.S. operations under the name Italiatour. But in July Italiatour also closed.

Travel agents and customers are wondering aloud where the buck stops. CIT’s Canadian office in Toronto is still functioning, and according to its director, Diane Pothan, the parent company in Rome is still in business.

Although Alitalia retained a percentage of the business when it sold, a spokeswoman said, “Unfortunately we’re worse off than the customers. We are honoring any tickets that were issued whether Italiatour paid us or not.”

Farelogix Adds Air Carriers

Travel-distribution technology company Farelogix Inc., recently signed a series of contracts with leading airlines including Continental and United (final negotiations are being made with North-

west) establishing direct connections between airline reservation systems and the FLX Platform. Agents using the FLX Platform now have access to an expanded base of airline inventory.

The FLX Platform was developed as a low-cost distribution system that aggregates content from all four major global distribution systems (GDS) and connects directly with various airline, private and Internet fare sources.

With a distribution agreement between Radius and Pass Consulting also in place, Farelogix hopes to become the first GDS new entrant to provide a direct connection to the Radius Wheel using Pass’ Virtual Travel Organizer (VTO). Radius Wheel automatically checks for better savings with each travel booking made. Soon, agencies utilizing the FLX Platform or the VTO will have access to an expanded selection of travel inventory and discounted prices negotiated between Radius and its suppliers.

New Ensemble Travel Options

Ensemble Travel Group members can soon offer more travel options to clients with the addition of three new partners to the Ensemble On Location program.

Melitour offers cultural, educational, private and special-interest tours of Turkey and surrounding areas. Well known for its ability to connect travelers with locals, clients can visit homes (even share a meal) and observe classroom activities.

Elegant Harbors and Havens provides vacations in the less-traveled areas of Hawaii and Tahiti. In addition to unique offerings like a private geologist-led tour of Maui or exploring Tahiti’s mountains by four-wheel drive or on foot, the supplier recently expanded its product line to include professional wedding services in Hawaii, coordinating the minister and license down to the dove and butterfly release.

Excursions Ltd., offers a range of services from cruise-related touring to group and individual travel and family vacation itineraries throughout Scotland.