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ARTA to Hook Up Members With Hickory

http://www.travelagewest.com/newsarticle.asp?articleid=1206

By Robert Carlsen

SAN DIEGO - ARTA said at its annual conference here last week that it has reached an agreement with the consortium Hickory Travel Systems for a super-agency program.

The contract is currently under review by ARTA's attorney, Al Anolik, and should be signed by press time, according to ARTA President John Hawks.

Details of the agreement, such as set-up fees and override commission splits, would also be forthcoming, although Hawks emphasized that ARTA "is not trying to be a consortium" and the association is merely playing matchmaker with its agency members and Hickory.

Hickory, which is based in Saddle Brook, N.J., calls itself a "global supernetwork" of independent - and mostly corporate - travel agencies with locations worldwide. Hawks said Hickory has 210 affiliates with annual sales of $18 billion. Hickory agencies are located in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

To avoid confusion, Hickory is running the ARTA program under the name Custom Travel Systems.

Hawks said if ARTA agencies decide to chuck their ARC appointments, they can now run air sales through Hickory using the Universal Desktop program, which is being beta-tested with Hickory and will also be tested by a select group of ARTA agencies beginning May 17.

The Internet-based software will enable ARTA agents to access Hickory's preferred suppliers, access multiple GDSs and use Hickory's accounting system, all on one screen.

"We're just piggybacking on their system," said Hawks, adding that it would be a great revenue-enhancer for small agencies.

Last October, ARTA and Hickory launched a preferred hotel program with a guaranteed 10% commission and negotiated hotel rates.

This also is being run under the Custom Travel Systems umbrella.