Program Links Travel Agents to Hotel Bargains

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Hotel and Travel Index, Seacaucus, NJ, an information directory for travel agents containing listings from 41,000 hotels, is helping its hotel clients and more than 24,000 travel agents get in touch with one another through a telemarketing program called Hotel Deals.


The program, run in connection with MagnaCom, New York, a unified messaging solutions provider, began in April. Through Hotel Deals, hotels and inns listed with HTI have last-minute availability reports faxed directly to travel agents accompanied by a 1-800 number for them to call.


"The marketplace we are in has a need for very quick information on distressed vacancies," said Ray Costa, associate publisher of HTI. "We were positioned to bring something to travel agents but the question was how do you get that information out to them quickly."


Costa said the initial results from Hotel Deals are "very pleasing" and that HTI plans to run the program more frequently in the future.


"The feedback from our travel agent subscriber base has been very positive, and the hotels that are taking part have also been pleased with the program so far," Costa said. "Hotels are always looking for a way to get this type of information out to travel agents, so many of them were interested when we brought the idea to them."


The monthly faxes sent out through MagnaCom contain special deals on vacancies from about 12 hotels. Travel agents who have customers looking to vacation at one of the locations listing vacancies call the 1-800 number printed in the fax and are immediately connected to a call center run by MagnaCom.


Agents deal with an interactive-voice-response unit that asks callers to enter the code number listed in the fax newsletter for the location they wish to contact. They are then connected to the reservation desk at that hotel.


"We started a campaign that combines two pieces of the unified message world," said Steven Weinstein, president and founder of MagnaCom. "Faxing and inbound audio bridging."


HTI started the program to offer an extra service to the hotels that advertised within the index. The service is currently free to hotels, but HTI will charge for it after more testing is completed.


Weinstein said the system benefits all parties since it allows agents to contact hotels and book reservations for their clients, it helps hotels fill last minute vacancies, and gives HTI the ability to track who is using their service, when they are using it and how often.


"We provide HTI with a report on where the calls came from, where they were connected to and how long the calls lasted," Weinstein said. "This gives HTI and its customers the ability to see the volume of calls being generated by its newsletter and the effectiveness and value of the campaigns they are running."


The Hotel and Travel Index is published quarterly. It contains a listings of hotels and inns arranged both geographically and alphabetically, along with details such as rates, contacts, addresses, phone numbers, meal plans and which credit cards are accepted.
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