Uniglobe Travel’s brick-and-mortar franchises spread across more than 20 countries. While the company saw it’s $10 million in online bookings in 1998 zoom to $90 million in 1999, this is still chicken feed when compared with the $2.7 billion it takes in total sales.
So moving to the Web was a sticky proposition for Uniglobe. Its franchises could have balked at the encroachment on their turf. But as Uniglobe.com senior vice president Michael Dauberman points out, the travel industry encompasses a lot more than printing airline tickets. In fact, the retail end of ticketing is a money-losing venture. “It costs roughly $28 to print a ticket,” Dauberman says, “It costs $21 to process it.” Add these costs to the overhead of running a traditional agency, and you begin to see why franchisees were in fact delighted to hand off this part of the business to the Web.
And there’s still room for Uniglobe.com to grow. “In the vacation arena, 20 to 30 percent of all booking will be done on the Internet,” says Dauberman. “My personal guess is that 50 to 60 percent of all vacation research will be done online.”
What will distinguish one online agency from another? “Content,” Dauberman says. “The best way for an agency to make money is by becoming a marketing company.” This is partly why Uniglobe has added live chat to its site.