Vacation.com says AgentNet is traditional agents` future

Since Vacation.com launched its AgentNet platform last June, the clicks to bricks network of travel agencies has made significant upgrades to its technology offering and has already brought online on more than half of its agency members.
“The most important thing we`ve ever developed was our B-to-B AgentNet,” said Vacation.com President and COO Dick Knodt at a press luncheon in New York last Thursday. “AgentNet is the glue ... that allows us to communicate between 8,400 members.”
AgentNet is a Web-based platform that provides Vacation.com members with marketing and communication tools. In addition to generating consumer leads, agents have access to all preferred supplier marketing programs, including hundreds of sales promotions, brochures, marketing calendars and logos.
Vacation.com was aquired last October by Amadeus Global Travel Distribution. The company reports that it has already signed on 5,000 agencies to use AgentNet, but convincing some old-line agents to come online has not been easy for Vacation.com.
“We are encouraging them to come online with AgentNet,” Knodt said. “This is the future.”
With its goal to help its agency members thrive in an Internet-driven consumer market, Vacation.com is giving its members Web-based tool and services to help it compete with online giants like Expedia and Travelocity.
“If our agents get on board with AgentNet, they are Internet travel agencies,” Knodt said.
The problem is simply that some agents have become so used to doing things the traditional way that they have become resistant to change. Some are just reluctant to embrace the Internet, regarded by many as the enemy.
“Either you whine about it or you become a part of it,” Knodt said.
The Vacation.com members that are also customers of Amadeus have an integrated Web-based booking feature, so they don’t have to move between AgentNet and their CRS. Currently about 15% of Vacation.com members are on the Amadeus CRS.
Updated features of AgentNet include:

—SiteBuilder helps an agency create its own web site by providing templates and incorporating Vacation.com’s supplier content. Amadeus

—LeadManager allows agents to receive, respond to and track consumer inquires from Vacation.com’s consumer site or the agency’s own web site.

—Featured Specials provide agents with instant access to exclusive supplier promotions.

—Customer Profiles is where members can collect valuable contact information from consumers and use the data for targeted, ongoing marketing purposes.

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—MailXpress Online is how member agents can order and pay for MailXpress direct marketing services with the click of the mouse.

—Agency Profiles allow members to create a customized agency description and picture, which are then displayed on www.vacation.com under the AgentFinder feature.
Through AgentNet, agents receive updated travel information directly to their desktop. Supplier guides allow agents to retrieve supplier contact and commission information. TripFinder allows agents can research trip information instantaneously by searching for various data including travel dates, locations, activities and accommodations. Its CruiseCentre listing allows members to view a complete listing of over 1,000 sailings from a variety of cruise lines. AgentNet also provides a daily news section, destination guides, currency and conversion guides, and language tutorials.
AgentNet also provides an interactive community section where agents can post questions, compare notes and join other member agents in live discussions. Bulletin boards and live chat events allow members to electronically network with fellow agents and industry experts. AgentNet Auditorium provides a regular exchange of ideas with Vacation.com executives, other industry professionals and preferred suppliers.
Knodt said he hopes more Vacation.com members will take advantage of AgentNet and said that eventually agencies that are not on the platform will no longer be able to be a Vacation.com member.
“You hate to build something this good and not have maximum usage,” he said.
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