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This issue’s cover story, “Inside the GDS Wars,” page 16,
examines a topic that has been simmering beneath the surface of the
travel industry for some time. Occasionally it boils over with
heated claims and counter claims exchanged between rival executives
and the public gets a glimpse of the competition between these
industry titans. It will continue to heat up as many airline
contracts come due for renewal this year, and the resulting changes
will have an impact on agents’ businesses for years to come.
In the meantime, agents should find encouragement from the fact
that these powerhouse tech companies are willing to invest so
strongly in a business model that has travel agents at its core.
It’s a good sign of the vitality of our industry and of the
importance of agents.
It reminded me of an article I read recently by Christopher
Elliott, titled “Racing to the Connecting Gate” (National
Geographic Traveler, September 2005). The story was about a
honeymooning couple that missed their connecting flight to
Auckland, New Zealand, due to an after-purchase change in their
itinerary that didn’t leave enough time to make the flight. As a
result, the entire trip was put in jeopardy.
The flights were booked online through Orbitz, and Elliott
points out that the couple would probably have been better off
using a traditional travel agent.
“Is there a difference between a virtual agent like Orbitz and a
real one?” Elliott asks. “Yes, in the sense that you will probably
get more personal attention with an individual travel agent instead
of talking with a scripted call-center employee several time zones
Elliott goes on to suggest solutions and concludes the piece by
stating, “And if you want more personal attention for oh, I don’t
know, probably the most important vacation you’ll ever take,
consider hiring a person instead of a dot-com.”
You’ve got to hand it to Elliott for recognizing what the GDS
companies clearly understand: Technology is a fine tool for travel
agents, not a replacement for them. K.S.