Agency Alliance Leads to Bi-Coastal Call Centers

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Travel agencies from the East and West coasts have joined forces in a partnership that is expected to bring bi-coastal leads and bi-coastal call center services to both companies.


The partnership, finalized last month, involves a $3 million investment made by The Travel Team, Buffalo, NY, in Seattle-based Destinations.com. The funding makes The Travel Team one of Destinations.com's larger investors. Including the investment from The Travel Team, Destinations.com has received $7 million in funding from private investors.


Destinations.com will use a portion of the funding to open a call center early this year in Buffalo, where The Travel Team already has a call center.


The two Buffalo call centers, though autonomous, will share management, telephone equipment, office space, and some staff. The new call center in Buffalo will have a capacity of 50 agents, though that number is expected to increase soon after opening.


"Buffalo has been rated the number one place to build a call center," said Todd Tarbert, president of Destinations.com. "We are very fortunate to have a strategic partner that will bring us a competitive edge by being in Buffalo."


Also, Destinations.com's call center on the West Coast will begin to serve The Travel Team.


While the companies expect sharing of each other's infrastructure to be a benefit of the partnership, they also expect the sharing of clients and experience to lead to more business.


"We were put together by a third party who was familiar with both companies and thought that it was the ideal strategy for us," said Tarbert. "From this relationship we get industry knowledge and operational assistance. They are going to be very much involved in booking air travel for us."


Tarbert noted that the companies' services are complementary. While The Travel Team targets a traditional clientele of business and leisure travelers, and is licensed to sell travel in connection with the American Express Group, Destinations.com's business includes selling Web reservations and travel packages arranged through destination marketing organizations and convention and visitors bureaus.


"Our firm's investment is based on the belief that Destinations.com will become the nation's leading provider of reservation technologies," said Jean McDonnell Covelli, president of The Travel Team, adding that the alliance will expand The Travel Team's presence in the leisure travel market.


Both companies note that the alliance will enable them to service more leads on opposite coasts.


"We have many relationships on the East Coast that we will be able to call on and bring their product to, and they have the same thing on the West Coast," said Covelli. "It is sometimes difficult for a West Coast facility to take care of East Coast destinations because of lack of knowledge."


"The Travel Team has a lot of connections with chambers of commerce in the northeast corridor and they have always been a leader in their market," added Tarbert. "They will help us keep up with the skills sets that will enable us to keep up with the growth in the industry."


As part of the strategic alliance, Covelli and Cindy Rich, of Rich Products Corp., the parent company of The Travel Team, will sit on Destinations.com's board of directors.
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