Preparing for the Next Whammy

Robert Carlsen, Executive Editor 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 cut

By: Robert Carlsen, Executive Editor

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 anti-whammy plan?

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 looming.

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.

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