things I can bring
to the table that
year. This is one of
the reasons I go out
to conferences and
feel it’s important
to stay connected.”
At the time, I wasn’t thinking about a career in
travel. I was in school, trying to finish a teaching degree.
SO YOU BECOME AN AGENT AT GELCO TRAVEL
AND THEN MOVED OVER TO MANAGED TRAVEL
AT SATO TRAVEL, WHICH BECAME NAVIGANT.
I learned the travel agency business from the
ground up in an operations role. Mike Premo
[now ARC CEO] recruited me over to Sato
Travel to help him develop customer relationship management and account management
programs. At that time, Sato Travel [was an]
airline-owned company serving the military
and government. It found itself having to
compete for that business for the first time
and needed to expand its services.
THAT SOUNDS SIMILAR TO THE CHALLENGES ARC
WAS HAVING WHEN YOU JOINED UP IN 2005.
The company I joined had a very association-type mentality. We did settlement of airline
ticket sales between agencies and airlines,
[and we did] accreditation of agencies. Their
culture was, “We are here to serve the airlines:
They tell us what to do, and we make sure it’s
done.” I even used the word “customer” once
and I was told by organization leaders … that
we didn’t want to use the term “customer” in
case it set expectations that ARC might not
be able to deliver. In 2005, though, ARC was
beginning realize that all its eggs were in one
basket. To grow, we needed to look at our
current “participants” as customers and figure out what else we could do for them that
they would pay us for. Like at Sato, we had to
start competing for our customers.
YET, AT THAT TIME, IT WAS NOT EVIDENT EVEN TO
YOUR CUSTOMERS WHAT VALUE ARC WAS DELIVERING. TELL ME ABOUT THAT “AH-HA” MOMENT.
Yes, we sometimes point to this as a pivot-
al moment: We were looking to change the
fee structure in our settlement contracting.
Until 2007, airlines had been paying 90 per-
cent of ticket settlement costs and agencies
were paying about 10 percent. We thought
agencies were getting a lot of value for very
little cost and wanted to shift that structure
to something more like 85 percent/15 per-
cent. When we tried, our agencies actually
took us to arbitration. They said they weren’t
getting enough value to justify the increase.
ARC lost that argument. We couldn’t get any
agencies to articulate our value. Coming off
that, and knowing that we wanted to grow
our business, we had to take a different ap-
proach. We brought the agencies and the
airlines together to rethink the basics of the
ARC relationship. There was a lot of educa-
tion that had to be done among the groups
about [why certain things] were important to
each party. … It was the inspiration for my
approach to how, profits aside, ARC can best
demonstrate its value to the industry. It’s a
model that we’ve taken forward to approach
YOU HAD A LOT TO DO WITH DEFINING
Yes, I personally charged this path forward. Part
of the win for me was proving to doubters within
the organization that ARC could raise its profile
in the industry and not just exist in a background
role to serve others.
WHAT OTHER CHALLENGES HAVE YOU TACKLED
WITH THIS MODEL?
We brought agents and airlines and global distribution system providers together on debit
memos. We wanted to get smarter about what
each respective group needs out of this process
and began to solve the problem. We’ve seen
debit memos go down dramatically. One year,
we saw something like a 40 percent reduction.
Now we’re taking that same model to the future of settlement. Last week, we launched
our new settlement council, which consists of
agents and airlines and GDS providers to help
us determine a road map for the services that
ARC can provide that will support the business needs as we move into an era of new distribution capabilities.
THAT SHOULD KEEP YOU BUSY.
One of the reasons I came to ARC is there are
so many super-smart people here who really understand how everything works. There will always
be a need in the industry for an organization like
ARC that can play the role of bringing people together to solve problems.
When she was turned down for a college internship with a travel agency that
specialized in travel to Japan, Yukari Tortorich refused to go home to her parents
with the bad news. Instead, she scoured
the building directory for another agency
and presented her skills, and they hired
her. “I learned so much there,” said Tortorich, who began by delivering paper airline tickets and filing brochures. She now
manages travel in 22 countries for Discovery Communications and spoke with BTN
editor-in-chief Elizabeth West.
YOU’VE BEEN WITH DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS FOR MORE THAN 18 YEARS. IS IT HARD
TO BRING SOMETHING FRESH TO THE TABLE?
Actually, no. Discovery encourages people to
be innovative. Because of that, in my annual
VP OF GLOBAL TRAVEL SERVICES