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Omega World Travel Moving To Build Leisure Powerhouse
Escalating consumer complaints may give the airlines pause before they again cut travel agents' commissions, according to Gloria Bohan, president and CEO of Omega World Travel, Fairfax, VA.
"Travel agents today are servicing the needs of airline passengers at uneconomic levels, but I doubt that the carriers themselves want, or have the capacity, to do the job that we are doing for them," Bohan said.
Bohan, who has built OWT into a $612-million giant - ranked as one of the largest agencies in the U.S. and the largest woman-owned business in the Washington, D.C. area - has confidence in the ability of professional agents to survive and prosper - no matter what the airlines do. "Travel agents - large and small - have to have sharp pencils and pay close attention to costs," she said.
"Profitability is essential to fuel growth. It's also critical that travel agents develop and maintain a solid professional reputation with their clients. Clients must see travel agents' services as valuable, especially as we move to management and service fees. Agents must create value."
While their agency is a corporate travel powerhouse, Bohan and her husband, Dan Bohan, have moved aggressively into the high-growth leisure travel market, including cruise and tour sales. And, they are positioning Omega World Travel to be a leader in online travel sales - adding clicks to their well-established bricks. OWT has 200 locations in the U.S, Japan, Guam, Germany, and the U.K.
"We want to be positioned as a leader in online travel services," noted Bohan. "Online technologies help us to deliver service and convenience to clients, whether corporate, government, or leisure." In fact, OWT's online cruise unit, Cruise.com, is believed to be the largest seller of cruises on the Internet.
Another online leisure unit, TourDeals.com, which is accessible to other travel agents, offers discounts on tours worldwide. AirDeals.com offers airfare discounts on major carriers, and still another OWT E-business, Top9.com, is a Web site ranking service and directory. The Omega corporate Web site is www.owt.net. "Innovation is a constant process," Bohan said.
"To grow and prosper, travel agency owners and managers have to look beyond the day-to-day events and take the time to analyze their businesses and understand their client base. They have to invest in client services, good staffs and know what their core competencies are." She added, "Above all, agents have to invest in and consistently deliver superior, high integrity services." Founded in 1972, OWT, like other agencies, has had to cope with constant changes in the industry, including the advent of new, business-transforming technologies. "Successful travel agencies have had to be very well-managed and to adapt to constant changes," Bohan noted.
"We as an industry have survived airline deregulation, the emergence of CRS and Internet technology, globalization, commission cuts and the emergence of fees for services. It shows that good agents are survivors because they are resilient."
Bohan said that to be viable, travel agents can and should develop a mix of business -- leisure, groups, corporate and government, as well as domestic and international sales. She predicts more agency consolidation, alliances and partnerships as the industry responds to changing consumer demand. "Travel agents have not got the credit they deserve for their ability to deliver real value to consumers and corporate clients. Hopefully, this will change," said Bohan, contrasting the personalized services agents deliver to the take-it-or-leave-it commodity mentality among airlines.
OWT constantly surveys its customers, as a way of monitoring its performance, and Bohan urged other travel agents to do the same so that they will be alert to changes in consumer demand and maintain high levels of professional performance.
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About Omega World Travel
Omega World Travel is a woman-owned, diversity supplier, and one of the largest travel management companies in the US. With worldwide headquarters in Fairfax, VA, Omega serves corporate, government, meeting, and leisure clients throughout the US., Europe, and the Middle East. Omega World Travel also owns Cruise.com, one of the largest sellers of cruises on the Internet, and TravTech, a software development company and Omega Meetings and Conference services.