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MORRIS TRAVEL, BEEHIVE TALK ABOUT MERGING

Morris Travel has not merged with Beehive Travel, contrary to rumors that have been circulating, but merger talks are going on between the two travel agencies, according to Dennis James, Morris' corporate counsel.

"Whenever we see a growth opportunity that looks like a good fit, we pursue it," James said. But right now, no deal has been made, nor has any paperwork been done, he said."We've heard lots of wild rumors," said James, including one claiming that the deal had been finalized on a plane in the air.

Morris is one of Salt Lake's largest travel agencies, and Beehive is another substantial agency.

Throughout Utah and the nation, travel agencies both large and small have been hurt by recent airline decisions to slash travel agent commissions earned on domestic airline ticket sales. Commissions were cut from 10 percent of the ticket price to a flat $50 on domestic round-trip ticket sales.

Morris and other travel agencies have laid off employees and made other cost-cutting moves to compensate.

However, Morris officials previously have said that the firm's long-term strategy includes expansion. Last year, Morris bought TravelLink, a Portland, Ore., travel agency that had been doing about $7 million worth of business annually.

James said the current highly competitive environment of the travel world often means that "bigger is better" in the sense that expansion can make an agency stronger and give it greater negotiating clout.