sealPurdue Business & Finance Briefs

June 1997

Internet redefines the role of travel agent

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University travel expert predicts that the Internet will change the way travel agents do their jobs.

"It's inevitable that the business of travel agencies will change," says Alastair Morrison, professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management. "The Internet is a way to bypass travel agents, and, though it doesn't signal their demise, it is impacting the travel industry."

Among the travel services on the Internet are currency converters, weather forecasts, customs information, lists of restaurants and accommodations, and ticket-ordering sites. "There are even sites that will send postcards to your friends," Morrison says.

Morrison, who is director of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, says the Internet is like a double-edged sword for the travel industry. "Yes, people can bypass travel agents, but for those travel agencies that are on the Web, the Internet gives them the opportunity to market themselves beyond the local community and go global."

He says about 20 percent of travel agencies now have a Web site. And some in the travel industry are finding new ways of doing business. "Consolidators," which are electronic travel agencies, buy bulk airfares and sell them over the Internet.

While the Internet is creating new business, it is also moving the travel industry back in time. He says travel agents need to get away from the role of "order takers" and go back to being "order makers."

"Travel agents will soon go back to their old way of doing business, becoming travel counselors instead of just agents," he says. For example, these counselors will personalize travel for individuals and organize group tours. You can easily book a cruise on your own, but you don't know which cruise line has the largest cabins or what the other travelers are like. A travel agent has that knowledge.

Morrison advises travel agents to become Web savvy. He says the resources of the Internet combined with their own knowledge of the travel industry will continue to make them a valuable expert source.

As travel professionals take on their new roles, he suggests they start by exploring some Web sites:

CONTACT: Morrison, (765) 494-7905; e-mail,; Web,

Dual-career couples find support on college campuses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Academia is taking a lesson from corporate America as competition for faculty and staff increases.

Universities are setting up special assistance programs for dual-career couples to help the accompanying spouses find work and adjust to the new community. Purdue University is one example.

Purdue's program, now a year old, has aided 42 dual-career couples and helped 30 spouses find employment. It's one of seven such programs in the Big 10, and its personalized approach is one others want to model.

"There are just a few other universities that offer this kind of assistance," says counselor Betsy Brewer, who created the Purdue Relocation Assistance Program. "We've had a dozen calls since getting it started. It really is a model program that other schools are interested in duplicating on their campuses."

Brewer says it's individual contact and personal facilitating that make Purdue's program different.

"Not only do we provide job-search strategies and guidance, but we can also do career counseling for people who are thinking about making a change," Brewer says. "We also work on a lot of the adjustment issues connected to a relocation. Other programs tend to focus on serving as a clearinghouse for information."

Relocation specialist Tari Alper took over the program at the beginning of this year when Brewer left Purdue to operate a private consulting service. Both she and Brewer say they believe the program gives Purdue an extra edge in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.

"A new hire will be much more focused on the job if his or her spouse is getting the kind of help they need to get settled," Alper says. "And the Purdue employee is more likely to stay put if the spouse is happily employed as well."

But she is quick to emphasize that the Relocation Assistance Program is not a job placement service.

"We certainly don't guarantee employment," Alper says. "We do, however, assist the client in becoming oriented and self-sufficient in this new location as quickly as possible."

CONTACTS: Alper, (765) 494-6366; e-mail,

Brewer, (765) 497-3755; e-mail,

Funds for college: A reason to plan -- not panic

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- With federal funds for education uncertain, families should start discussing their college financial plans early, says a Purdue University associate professor of family and consumer economics.

Flora L. Williams says that with financial sense, creativity and hard work, a college education is affordable -- even without financial aid.

"Try to save at least half of what you'll need in cash," she says. "Make up the balance with scholarships or grants, or by investing in mutual funds, CDs, stock equities, annuities, bonds or trusts."

If families haven't saved enough, there are other avenues for funds, such as taking out a second mortgage or borrowing against your insurance policy, she says. There also are creative alternatives that are worth looking into, Williams says. "Consider purchasing an apartment or condo near campus," she says. "Let your child live there rent-free in exchange for their service, and charge other students rent. It's tax deductible, and when your child graduates you can sell the property at a profit."

CONTACT: Williams, (765) 494-8297; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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