Last fall at our editorial advisory board meeting, Susan Tanzman,
owner of Martin’s Travel & Tours in West Los Angeles, declared
that travel agents have never been hit by so many whammies at one
time. She was referring, of course, to Sept. 11, plus more airline
pay cuts, the dot-com bust, business travel going down the tubes
and suppliers going direct. After getting bloodied repeatedly for
the past six years by the meatheads at the airlines, most travel
agents are resilient as heck, but still, just how refined is your
These thoughts are prompted by the one-year anniversary of the
terrorist attacks, when the experiences and losses and all the
horror will be smack in our faces once again. You may also think
back on what you did to help your clients during the crisis and the
subsequent shutdown of the nation’s air transportation system. This
should be an opportune time to review your crisis management
program. How did you respond one year ago? What did you do to keep
your clients? How did you get them to travel again? How much did
your business suffer and what did you do about it?
Why revisit these concerns? Because another whammy is
Chris Dikmen of the Professional Internet Travel Alliance
recently wrote a column for the PITAVision newsletter called “Are
You Prepared For War?” In it, he tells agents to prepare for an
invasion of Iraq, because it looks imminent. I don’t want to get
into my political position on this action, but the responses of
your clients by not traveling during a prolonged conflict in the
Arab world would be a mighty big whammy on your business indeed.
The world is unstable enough as it is. Travel to certain
international destinations has almost completely dried up, thanks
to the ongoing terror threat. Think Israel, for example.
Dikmen suggests that for agents to survive the potential loss of
business during this period of “irrational fear” is to leverage the
fear to their advantage. For example, international travel prices
will drop significantly, so suggest that clients buy now. Or use
the downtime to upgrade your Web site and clean up your database.
Plan, organize, remember.