Monthly Archives: February 2009

Posted In: Editorial Musings

We’re on the cusp of somethig big

I have to say that the nation’s news has been talking about the “perfect storm” for the last six months–the housing collapse, the Wall Street collapse and the admission of a recession. Certainly the travel industry has not been exempt. But I think that there may be another “perfect storm” brewing for travel agents. Just as we witnessed a reinvention of the agency model when airline commissions were eliminated, I believe we are on the cusp of some fundamental changes in our industry—and for the most part, my money is betting that they are changes for the good. Only if you are paying attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

The risks and rewards of a home-based agent

Some days it’s great to walk down the hall to your office in your pj’s, slippers and cup of coffee in hand. Especially when the temperature is -2 with a wind chill of 10 below. My dog is curled up at my feet and the cat is sitting on the copier. This is what I dreamed of when I worked in cubicle world. Then reality hits you smack in the face. Two phone lines are ringing, the dogs are barking at the UPS guy, the cat is in a snit and one of your kid’s is yelling, “Mom I just threw up in the living room.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

The Cistercian Circle

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m from the western United States. Or maybe it’s because of growing up in a throw-way generation of disposable everything and pre-fab houses, but here in Spain, and in Europe in general, I am impressed by what is ancient and still relevant. 1,000-year old buildings are no biggy for Europeans, but in my eyes they are wonders. How can they still be standing? And as is the case with many of the Cistercian monasteries; how can anyone still be living in these enormous, cold, stone relics? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Vegas baby!

There is no better time to book Las Vegas than right now.  The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is working overtime to bring you the latest in special offers and incentives.  With your clients in mind, the sales team is working with their hotel partners to showcase great deals citywide.

Your clients need a break from the stress of daily life, and what better place to relax and unwind than the luxury resorts Vegas has to offer.  Give your clients a well-deserved break with experiences that can only be found in Las Vegas.  The town of Cranfills Gap, Texas took a break, their lives changed forever Read the rest of this entry »

Saizan’s Travel, LLC–A frustrating few weeks

I’ve got to say that I’ve been quite frustrated with my business these past few weeks.  My website hits are up as are my leads; unfortunately I’ve had few bookings.  It seems like everyone I talk with wants an unrealistically low price.

“The economy is down, so travel should be cheap” seems to be the mantra from the crowd of would be travelers.  Over and over I hear the surprised disappointment from these would be travelers that there are no $2500 all inclusive vacations for a family of four for a week in Cancun during Spring Break at a 4 star resort. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

France

France is sophistication and wine and villas and Riviera and the arts and fashion, literature and culture. France was one of the first countries to have a national tourism office, and the nation knows something about holiday with one of the highest number of paid vacation days of any country, giving tangible reality to the phrase joie de vivre.

Thanks to the supplier sponsor of this column, you can use this 60-Second Geography article in your own travel agency’s newsletters and websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Go fishin’

Earlier last week there was a not so eloquently worded comment to one of our columns that indicated that the commenter’s agency’s business was down 30% already this year. To be honest, I am sure he is not alone. To be even more honest, I bet most people are not brave enough to admit that. While that commenter is not alone, neither is the travel industry. Let’s look at retail and see if we can draw some conclusions.

Last week, I was out at the local mall—browsing, not shopping (my business is down as well). After hearing all the news of the “better than expected” January, I could not help but notice the terrific sales. I remember a day when Macy’s would offer 25% off and it was a big sale. But in 2009, those signs are reading 60%, 70% and even 80% off. This is unprecedented in my lifetime and I am afraid that this is the new normal. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

A Thank You goes a long way

How many of us have worked excruciatingly long hours to help a client in need.  Whether it is due to airline issues, hotel issues, supplier issues, or just a plain passenger issues.  We’ve all been there.  However, when a client offers a simple thank you or gesture of gratitude; it makes it all worth it.  Over the years, we’ve all have those amazing stories of how we’ve gone above and beyond our duties to help someone in need. Sometimes we do a poor job of letting others know what we do. Maybe we feel it is routine, but hey, here’s a chance to brag a little. Read the rest of this entry »

Bliss Honeymoons, LLC. – Columbus, OH

TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents.  These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year.  Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.

People come into the travel industry a lot of different ways. Some are here because it’s a family business. Others take a part time job in travel and wind up loving it, and staying in it for years. My story is a little different.  My name is Laura Frazier and I am the president of Bliss Honeymoons.

Like many people I went to college right out of high school. But I was young and didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so after a year I decided to take a year off to make money. One year became ten or so, and I found myself in retail management working 60 to 80 hours a week, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions, right? Some people might have a long list of personal goals while others might mix in a few professional resolutions. I think everyone, no matter who they are, can add “cut unnecessary expenses” to their list. I know that this is one of my top goals for 2009, both at home and in my agency. Continuing on a professional level, now more than ever I’m looking to separate my agency and our services from the competition.

Luckily, I’ve found a way to achieve both goals with one move—I’m going green. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Brazil!

The girl from Ipanema awaits your client’s arrival! Between the excitement of Carnival and the deep, green mysteries of the Amazon is the wonder that is Brazil. Remember, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your own newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Host hunting

We have all read the horror stories of the Joystar agents who likely will never receive their hard earned commissions. This is bad news under any circumstance. But when you combine it with an unprecedented economy and a more competitive market, it takes bad news to a whole other level.

Peter Stilphen, CEO of Coral Sands Travel (a successful host agency) has warned the industry for years about Joystar; but no one listened. Joystar put out a tremendous front with fancy advertisements, rapid growth, an unheard of compensation plan and a charismatic leader. But you know what? Those four traits are the last thing you want to look for when selecting a host. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Biking Formentera

Why Less is More on the Balearic Islands

At just eighteen kilometers total from tip to tip, Formentera looks like a boomerang being tossed off the south-eastern coast of Spain. It is nothing more than a croissant crumb on the world map, and though most people have heard of rockin’ Ibiza or artsy Mallorca, Formentera usually draws a ‘Where’s that?’ when mentioned. The answer to that telling question is nowhere. There’s not much going down on the Balearic’s smallest member, which is precisely why it’s worth a visit. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

As a firm believer in the power of face-to-face marketing, I really like exhibiting at shows. I know it can be expensive and time-consuming, but I think it’s the best way to promote my “brand” (which, after all, is me).

To maximize my success at shows, and to make the most of the time and money invested, I have some guidelines that I’ve developed over the years:

  • Picking a show: I like to pick shows that attract the right demographic for my business (educated, upscale professionals) and where I will be the only travel agent. For this reason, I tend to stay away from bridal shows and women’s expos and instead choose “niche” shows like the Saltwater Sportfishing Show or the Fine Furnishings Show. They both attract consumers with significant disposable income (to be able to afford expensive habits like boats and hand-crafted artisan furniture), and I am always the only travel agent, Read the rest of this entry »

LK Cruises & Tours LLC. – Washington, DC

TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents.  These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year.  Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.

My name is Nia and I am the owner of LK Cruises & Tours, LLC. Well that’s not exactly true. My parents named me Karen. My ex called me Kami, my children call me mommy. So where does Nia come from? In 1998, I wrote a novel; the main character was named Nia, which means “Purpose” in Swahili. Unable to convince many folks that it wasn’t autobiographical, I decided it was easier to join them, so I became Nia. And that suited me just fine. I’ve been Nia ever since. I like it, and it serves as a constant reminder to stay focused.

In 2006, I was introduced to the travel agency industry through Your Travel Biz (YTB). All of their hype claimed to be a way to break into the travel industry and start a business with little training, little cash and even less business sense. As hard as it is to believe, neither the hype nor the reality bankrupted me. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Spain

The Iberian Peninsula country of Spain has been a favored tourism destination for travelers from the Americas and Europe for decades. The long Mediterranean coastline of Spain gave birth to the packaged tour market in the 1960’s and remains today one of the most popular destinations in the world for beach and sun lovers.

Use this 60-Second Geography article in your own agency newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Bongs, Michael Phelps and travel: Handling mistakes

Last week, Michael Phelps got into a little trouble for smoking a bong. He immediately went into damage control and apologized for his “youthful exuberance” and hoped for the best. He made a mistake. He realized it. And now the cards will fall where they may—he has already been suspended from competition by USA Swimming and Kellogg’s dropped him. In a matter of three days, he probably lost $20 million dollars and a good chunk of his reputation. Michael Phelps will likely be fine—a bit less wealthy, but I think he will pull through and compete in London in 2012. But what happens when you make a mistake in your travel business? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Homeric Tours – Great Destinations

John Klados, Homeric Tour’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales is a happy guy. He should be.  2009 marks the company’s 40th year in business and Homeric Tours holds the position of being the number one tour operator to Greece. “We give a great product with excellent services.” Says John,  “We emphasize what we call the Homeric equation which is simply:  Good rates ( x ) excellent services = satisfied customer.” The USTOA tour operator has posted a profit every year since the beginning, and Homeric Tours is a model of efficiency and professionalism that travel agents can trust. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

As I look in the mirror

I had a booth at a business trade show several months ago and someone I hadn’t seen for years stopped by my table. When she asked what I was doing nowadays I responded that I was a travel consultant and I booked leisure and business travel. Her response was, “I thought travel agents were dead?”  Dumbfounded, I assured her that travel agents are alive, well, still kicking and that news of our demise is premature.  I went on to tell her how much I loved working in the travel industry, what I do,  and how professional travel agents differ from the online sites.

Travel agents have an image problem. The term ‘travel agent” encompasses anyone with a pulse that can put an ad on Craigslist promoting themselves as an agent. The Internet empowers people to book their own travel. Consumers think they don’t need travel agents. With a point and click they can book it themselves. While the Internet is a powerful tool it can’t replace the human interaction and expertise that I  bring to the table. That’s the message I try to convey and it is an important message.

To differentiate myself from the amateurs, hobbyists and card mills I use the term “travel consultant.” Consultant comes from the Latin word “consultare” meaning “to discuss.” Wikipedia defines a consultant as a person who “is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter or a professional who provides advice in a particular area or expertise.” Read the rest of this entry »

SeaMaster Cruises – Canton, GA

TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents.  These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year.  Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.

It was 9’oclock on a Saturday, and I felt the urge right then to write a friend who had expressed interest in taking a cruise. She wrote back almost immediately saying she had just been thinking about writing or calling me.

My name is Chuck Flagg from Canton, GA (NW of Atlanta) or as I tell some people far-southeastern Chattanooga. My wife and I bought a franchise with SeaMaster Cruises at the end of July, 2008. I am in the unique position that this was something I wanted to do, not that I needed to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

We all read so much these days in the current economic climate about marketing, advertising, technology and strategic planning.  And yes – much is talked and written about customer contact and customer relationship management.

It seems to me that when contact with our clients and customers is referred to using some of these terms, that it almost implies a detached and impersonal manner.  Unintentional for sure, but nevertheless that’s how I perceive it!

I’ve spent my entire working life (over 40 years) in the travel industry and I’ve considered every one of those years to be also working in the customer service business.  That’s right – interacting and dealing with people, human beings…..not faceless entities that I have to ‘manage a relationship’ with. Read the rest of this entry »