Mike Melhem Jr. earned a BA from the University of Michigan before working in the Software Industry for several years. He joined CTS in 2001 and has since then supervised the technological side of the business. He spearheaded the transition of CTS from a single offline GDS to a multi-GDS operation with a major online presence, and continues to bring CTS into the technological future.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to take your technical education and background into the travel industry?
Mike Melhem (MM): The jump from the tech to the travel industry was a very personal one. After learning about new technology and corporate practices I realized how much it could be applied to the Travel industry. So I went to CTS, which is our family business, and brought ideas about how to improve our operations and our clients’ operations along with it.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at Cosmopolitan Travel Service (CTS).
MM: My day is spent figuring out how to utilize technology to the fullest. From bringing new functions to our website and to how to bring that technology to our clients so their business can grow alongside us.
TRO: How is CTS helping support and bolster the travel professional community?
MM: We aim to be a bridge between the travel community and the suppliers, allowing smaller businesses to flourish by operating with technology that might not be available to them otherwise. We try to give small businesses the tools to keep their current customer base happy and put them in a position to gather new business and compete with the online players. We feel that if the Travel Agent has the tools that the large OTA’s have, their personalized touch will always win the customer over.
TRO: Tell us about the CTS Fares booking engine.
MM: Our booking engine is a multi-GDS platform that gives our customers unfiltered access to our nets and commissions. We have contracts with over 90 airline carriers and deals with 200,000 hotels worldwide, and agents who book with us have complete access to all of our fares. Our booking engine gives agents access to competitive prices and has enough variety to fit any needs.
TRO: So is the CTS Fares booking engine only for those travel consultants who aren’t using the GDS?
MM: No, even though agents who do not have GDS can use our booking engine to get access to our nets and commissions. If you are a GDS user you can still have access to our booking engine to compare rates or get a wider variety. The booking engine has some perks vs. the GDS like a flexible date option that will search up to a week around the customers travel dates. We’ve seen quite a few GDS power users check the website for rates and options that are super difficult to find on the blue screen.
TRO: We’ve heard rumors that you’ve added a new member to your team. Can you tell us about Cosmo and how he’s improving the relationship between travel consultants and their clients?
MM: Yes, we have a new family member whose name is Cosmo. He is our handy little robot that can be used for a variety of functions to improve the experience of a travel agent when booking. At your command, he checks for a lower fare or seat reservations around the clock. He even takes your logo and places it right on your itineraries so you can send them directly to your clients.
TRO: What is one service or aspect of CTS that you want travel professionals to be more aware of?
MM: In the last couple of years, we’ve focused on assisting our customers and trying to bring them into the future with us. One method we’re working on right now is to encourage clients to gain web exposure. We’ve started creating marketing materials for our clients to put on social media and we feature a service that builds personalized websites with our booking engine. All of these methods can help small business gain exposure and increase their client base, and they are free of charge and allow our clients to have complete control over their image.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
MM: Chios, Greece. I would highly recommend it if you haven’t gone. My family is from there so it’s really great to go back. Now I have the privilege of taking my kids and sharing some of the same experiences I had growing up.
TRO: What is on the horizon for CTS this coming year?
MM: We have so many projects we are currently working on. We continue to add new airline contracts and competitive fares. And we are aiming to expand our technology this year by creating a better bridging tool with our GDS users by allowing them more flexibility and control. Cosmo will be getting more capabilities so stay tuned for that!
For more information on Mike and Cosmopolitan Travel Services, visit them online at ctsfares.com.