toll for travel agents is relatively slight
on-line travel websites are becoming popular, traditional agencies
will still be the place to book many trips for a long time, industry
Roof, attorney for the Internet practice group at the law firm Shutts
& Bowen, said the percentage of people who make travel arrangements
on the Internet is rising but business at conventional travel agencies
is still going strong.
2005, 10% of all airline tickets will be sold on-line," Mr. Roof
predicted. "About 60% to 65% will be sold by travel agents."
1998, he said, about 2% of airline bookings were made on the Internet,
according to a e=0 y by PhoCusWright, an Internet travel consulting
on-line travel sites may not seem to pose a major threat now, Mr.
Roof said, there is still pressure being put on travel agencies to
compete with them. This is particularly true in the area of business
or corporate travel, he said.
are a few methods of handling a business trip. Mr. Roof said a company
can have an in-house travel staff and get a 5% to 10% commission or
can choose to contract with an outside agency that charges a flat
fee plus commission.
corporations, Mr. Roof said, are putting pressure on outside travel
agencies to find rates that compete with web fares, which tend to
be less expensive.
America is asking these agencies to get the lowest fares in the market,"
Mr. Roof said. "Travel agents don't get commission when they
sell web fares."
some agents search the web for fares, most don't because it's too
long a process, he said.
predict most brick-and-mortar agencies will eventually sell web fares
to compete with on-line prices. Lee Dickson, associate dean of the
School of Hospitality Management at Florida International University,
said traditional travel agencies will remain strong in the market
if their roles are redefined.
in favor of travel agents in the role of travel consultants as opposed
to ticket sellers," Mr. Dickson said. "A lot of travel agents
kind of got into the role of being ticket sellers."
agents are at their best, he said, when they are developing complex
travel itineraries and putting together innovative packages.
I just need to fly to Boston for a business trip I don't need an agent,"
Mr. Dickson said.
from some e-travel companies say on-line sites are more convenient
for consumers. Despegar.com in Coconut Grove which targets
the Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers offers a variety of services
to consumers, including on-line bookings, said CFO Federico Fuchs.
don't think the Internet will eliminate all travel agencies,"
Mr. Fuchs said. "We think that if some travel agencies don't
increase customer service and modernize, they will have problems."
advantage of on-line service is that it is accessible 24 hours a day,
seven days a week, he said. Also, Mr. Fuchs said, a site visitor doesn't
have to bothered with a pushy agent arrangements are made at
an individual's pace.
travel sites," he said, "are a lot like having your own
travel agency. That power to the consumer is what puts travel websites
at an advantage over travel agencies."
Mr. Fuchs said, gives users editorial content on travel destinations
and allows them to look for the cheapest fares via a proprietary search
said many travel agencies don't offer this service.
agencies have not been the premier sector in customer service,"
Mr. Fuchs said. "It's very fragmented and not as technologically
advanced as other sectors."
Casas, a principal at public relations firm Wragg & Casas, is one
professional who still prefers the traditional method of making business
said once on-line ticket sales are made it's not easy to change your
have no flexibility with an e-ticket if you want to change your mind,"
Mr. Casas said. "On a business trip you might get done with a
meeting early and want to move up to the next flight."
he said, searching for a fare on-line is time-consuming. He said he
prefers to let the travel agent do the research.
Casas said although he may go on-line to get ideas, there is no substitute
for a well-informed travel agent.
Schnetzka, a travel manager for AAA Travel Agency, said the Internet
is causing competition for traditional agencies but brick-and-mortar
companies have a personal touch that is unavailable on the Internet.
agencies definitely play a role in taking away business," Mr.
Schnetzka said. "The way to compete as a travel agency is in