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FIRMS SEEK WAYS TO CUT TRAVEL COSTS

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What can companies do to trim their travel costs?

Keep abreast of new technology, said panelists at Morris Travel's 1994 symposium at the Doubletree Hotel. And be sure to maintain a strong relationship among travel agencies, reservation services and transportation providers.Panel members were Doug Cain, regional sales director for Delta Air Lines; Lewis E. Elsworthy, senior vice president of marketing for Worldspan Travel Information Services; Terri Day, travel manager for Thiokol Corp.; and Colleen M. Anderson, corporate travel services director for Pacificorp, parent company of Utah Power.

Cain said that three months ago Delta announced a program to reduce the cost per seat on flights, the only carrier to have such an aggressive program. He said in Delta's determination to cut costs, 2,500 employees were laid off recently and that figure will continue to grow in the coming months.

He said American Airlines recently announced that it would pull out of markets where it had to compete with low-cost fares but assured the audience of Morris Travel users that Delta intends to compete. "We are not walking away from Southwest Airlines," referring to Southwest's recent purchase of Morris Air and plans to continue low fares to many cities.

It will be a cultural change within Delta, known to many as a conservative airline, Cain said, but the changes are a must. He said sales will be more focused rather than "trying to be all things to all people" and the changes will benefit everyone.

Elsworthy said there have been incredible technology changes in the travel agency business in the past 10 years and companies are investing huge amounts of money to keep up with the changes. He said companies need to get closer to their customers to learn their needs.

He said partnerships should be cultivated and, once formed, should provide superior customer service. "Our success lies in our ability to anticipate change," Elsworthy said.

Anderson, who not only oversees commercial travel for Pacificorp but also schedules the three corporate aircraft and one helicopter used for various functions, said vendors need to supply information so companies can learn how much business travel costs and where reductions can be made.

She said the size of the city usually dictates how many contracts a company has with hotels, but it usually is two or three, with prices in the low, medium and high categories.

Day suggested that each company write a travel policy and that firms consolidate travel purchases into one division.