Monthly Archives: January 2010

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Carnival, what are you thinking?

Every now and then, it seems that an utterly ridiculous policy is enacted in the travel world. Usually, when you see them, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) or the airlines have their fingerprints all over them.  But this past week, we discovered a doozie of a ridiculous policy at the hands of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Under the guise of maintaining a safe experience on board, Carnival is now (as of today) requiring all luggage to be unlocked and accessible so the porters can search for anything deemed “contraband” by Carnival. The following was sent to agencies this week for sailings beginning today! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

South America – By Solar Tours!

South America is a continent of vast expanse, resources and natural beauty. This wild continent, positioned between the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and the South Atlantic Oceans, remains unknown to many travelers, yet holds real treasure for both the intrepid explorer of nature and the lover of great cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Les-Lee isn’t finished working over the travel insurance companies. The tirade continues. If you want to report something well done by a supplier, a res agent, or rep, we are happy to give them some coverage in TRO’s Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down. If you have a problem with airlines, tour companies, etc. or getting commissions, maybe we can assist. Contact Les-Lee at

Based on the large response I personally received about previous Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down comments about Travel Insurance, I think the dialogue must continue. First of all, to all the agents who e-mailed me about which company they should or should not use, I cannot make that decision for you. I cannot endorse one over the other, but only advise what all agents should be aware of when offering insurance to their clients.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Cruising’s New Center of Gravity?

Holland America Line recently announced that it would bump up the number of sailings in Europe for 2011, but reading between the lines of the press release indicates that the increases are aimed primarily to serve source markets in Europe rather than significant increased demand from North America.

The press release cites increases in “sailings from the homeports of Dover, England and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.”

Indeed, Holland America Line reports that it is “greatly expanding its brand awareness overseas–specifically in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Australia. We have dedicated sales, marketing, and PR personnel in each country and have seen a dramatic jump in bookings from these countries.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

FAM: The nitty gritty of familiarization trips

Why are you a travel professional?  Ask any travel professional this question, and one of the top three answers is ‘because I love to travel.’  I’m certainly not an exception: I was bitten by the travel bug at a very young age, and each year I go somewhere I’m having the time of my life.  Yet, so many of us are so busy that getting time away is difficult.  It becomes easier to justify by combining a FAM trip with a personal vacation.

FAM trips, as you know, are “familiarization trips.”  They exist at the pleasure of a vendor to assist the travel professional in becoming “familiar” with their product, a destination, or an experience.  FAM trips can be any sort of travel planned for the purposes of educating oneself in order to become more knowledgeable as a consultant.  This includes simple travel agent rates at a hotel or on a cruise, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to vendor provided FAM trips, not site visits one may undertake on their personal vacation.

Let’s be honest: the idea of getting away from the office for a while is thrilling, even when it really is for work!  What attracts you to a FAM trip Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Are you half full? Or half empty?

I suspect that most of us are glad 2009 is over, as there is no question that it was a year full of    challenges for both travel suppliers and travel agents alike. And, while there are some positive indications that this will be a better year, there are a lot of travel professionals that feel 2010 will be another bad year.

We all know that in 2008 and 2009 the travel industry slowed. Travel suppliers were forced to come out with some innovative offers, most of which included lower prices, which resulted in lower commissions for travel agents.  But, many agents faced the problem head on by aggressively marketing the resulting great offers. And guess what happened? Read the rest of this entry »

Wandering Puffin LLC — A well defined niche

My name is Jamison Bachrach and I am the owner of Wandering Puffin LLC. I have been in the travel industry for over 14 years. Before starting my own home based agency, I worked for both an American Express affiliate and AAA, both as an in house travel agent and an independent contractor . At  AAA, it was in their call center doing Triptiks (remember those) and making sure road service was provided to members. I guess one can call that travel. I have also been an elementary and special education teacher, as well as a chef (working stiff, not executive). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

Talking Pop with Lee Rosen

As an agency owner, the toughest things for me are to keep my sales staff focused on preferred suppliers, up to speed with the various promotions and to remember to work for the client by offering add-ons to their experience. We operate in an information overload industry.

When I first saw the name Leisure Pops, I thought there was a new brand of cereal on sale at the market. But when I saw that Lee Rosen was behind it, I knew I needed to learn some more. After all, the man is responsible for making me money. I have been a client of TRAMS and ClientBase since 1997 and have never looked back. I know Lee pretty well and while the press release claimed he was retiring, I just couldn’t see him sitting back looking at a gold watch forevermore.  Enter Leisure Pops.

I called Lee and wanted to learn more. What I found was that it is indeed not a cereal, and it is not nearly as intrusive as I had anticipated. But more importantly, I am seeing it as a way to add hard revenue to the bottom line.  Take a few minutes and read my interview with Lee Rosen, President of Leisure Pops. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Did you miss it?

A few nights ago in a final middle finger salute to NBC, Conan O’Brien had a 1.7 million dollar Bugatti Veyron decked out as a mouse. The car can do 212 miles per hour; I was thinking that in terms of speed,  the travel industry might have it beat.

Think about your daily life as a travel professional. Are you aware of all the different promotions? Which sailings will pay you and extra point commission? Did you remember that Sandals did their bi-weekly room re-classification? The point is that to survive in this industry, you need to be on top of your game. With so much information literally at our fingertips, sorting it out can be a chore. What are your favorites? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Experienced travel agents have long used consolidators for obtaining the best possible pricing on international airline fares for their clients. However, many travel planners have little experience with consolidators and don’t know where to begin to establish the proper supplier relationships. The United States Air Consolidator Association, better known as USACA, is making it easier for travel consultants to work with its membership. USACA is an association of twelve distinguished consolidators who have joined together to provide travel agents with a better understanding of the consolidator market and the advantages to working with consolidator fares. USACA serves as the national trade association for airline ticket consolidators committed to integrity, trust and reliability. A travel agent may freely and confidently look to USACA members for consolidated airline tickets.The end result? Better international fares for clients and more profit for the travel agent. Sound like a good deal? Read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Argentina – By Solar Tours

The Europeans know Argentina – it has been one of their playgrounds for decades. Travel and tourism accounts for better than 10% of the GDP of Argentina, and it holds real bargains for the North American traveler. Unfortunately for the populations of Canada and the United States, however, until recently Argentina has been too little visited and known as a destination. The vast country’s varied landscapes and regions cannot be taken in on a single visit. Travelers do well to see Argentina over a succession of trips, but it is often necessary to try to cover much territory in a single visit. This brief introduction to the regions of Argentina will be all too short and brief. But that hardly matters. The only way to believe is to see for yourself. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

The recent launch of two new cruise lines tied to the former Orient Lines brands, which operated one small, upscale cruise ship and focused on culture and history, suggests that there may be room to expand the niche cruise market.

Gerry Herrod, the founder of Orient Lines, is behind the launch of Voyages to Antiquity, a cruise line centered on Mediterranean history and culture. Herrod purchased a 1973-built ship, the Aegean Odyssey, to launch Voyages to Antiquity, a line that is focused on cruisers more interested in culture than caviar, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

The Edge Of Excellence: It all begins with a vision

Yes, 2009 was a very difficult year in many ways.  In stark contrast to depressing news blasting from every source, it was also a year of dreams for me, and for some amazing travel agents I know.  Was it luck?  Was it opportunism?  Was it business-savvy?  No.  It was something far more important:  VISION! Read the rest of this entry »

Travel Quest — From education to hosting

Despite having grown up in the family travel agency, I never thought I’d be a part of the travel industry.  Yet here I am; and I really enjoy it.    Before we get into the meat of the TRO Travel Agent Diaries, I want to give you a little background about myself and how I came to work at Travel Quest, my family’s host agency.

It’s a common story—I helped out with the family business growing up and then I flew the coop and set myself on a completely different course.  I love the outdoors, learning about all aspects of the environment and the causes and effects, and I love teaching.  So I pursued a degree in Liberal Studies and Environmental Studies, graduated from the College of Saint Benedict, and that’s where things got a little foggy.  What do you do with that degree anyhow? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

A Primer to Share with First Time Cruisers

Do you find yourself repeatedly giving out the same information – the same scripted advice – over and over again – especially to the chronically untraveled? More specifically, wouldn’t it be great if innocent, wide-eyed cruise virgins could qualify themselves on their own time and not yours? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Dear Diary…

We have officially closed the books on the 2009 version of the Travel Agent Diaries. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two and were able to benefit from the success (and failure) of others. To me, one of the best things about Travel Research Online is that most of our members are not afraid to let other see when they fall down. Life is never perfect and we all learn from our mistakes; here, we are also able to learn from the mistakes of others. Mistakes and failures are never fun; but they are offset by the successes we all achieve. And looking back on 2009, you can see successes in each weekly episode of the Travel Agent Diary series. 2009 was perhaps the most challenging year ever for the travel industry and the courage to share their trip with our readers is to be applauded. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

You want me to give away what?

If you’re good at something never do it for free.” – The Joker in The Dark Knight

Many of us who write for Travel Research Online have become or are firm believers in charging professional fees for our consultation services. We have grown weary of being used as quoting service. Nothing emphasizes this philosophy more clearly than a blog entry by Chris Brogan called The Audacity of Free. Reading this entry brought be to a different entry The point when you can’t do free anymore. Funny how reading from others outside of our industry opens up an entire thought process, but that is a topic for another article. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Everyone has a favorite spot for a sunset. Few rival those to be seen on the Cycladic island of Santorini. The island’s rocky cliffs, dotted with its famous white and blue homes and buildings provides a vista for a setting sun like no other. Rising out of the Aegean sea, Santorini is really a jewel among the many wonderful Greek islands. Set in its volcanic rim, surrounded by the bluest of water, the island and its villages are one of those destinations that find their way to the top of many traveler’s “must see and do before…” lists.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit

I’ve just returned from a two-day preview cruise of Silversea Cruises’ newest vessel, the Silver Spirit. Several people have asked me what the on-board ambience is like. Simply, they want to know, What’s the vibe?

My initial characterization is that the vibe is energetic, and not in a tiring sort of way, as in the activity list being so full that you become exhausted just looking at it. Rather, Silver Spirit exudes energy from its well-done public rooms and new production shows. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: I’m on it

I once read a great article in the Sun Sentinel that caught my attention and made me think. But, as is often the case, I failed to rip the article out before tossing the paper into the recycling bin; but trust me, you will get the gist of the article.

DHL’s (the shipping company) rise to fame came as a result of fine-tuning their customer service efforts. Imagine that, who would have thought that customer service can indeed make a difference? Read the rest of this entry »

Bliss Honeymoons, LLC — Wrapping it all up

It seems like it was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote my first agent diary article outlining my goals for 2009. While the calendar shows that nearly 12 months have passed, it hardly seems possible.

As you may recall, I had two major objectives this year-to gain 100 new clients in 100 days and to figure out what it would really take to complete all of my New Year’s resolutions. It became obvious by day 90 that my resolution was overly ambitious and I revised the goal to 100 new clients in the year! I am very excited to say that while I didn’t quite make it to 100 new clients, I did make it more than three quarters of the way there, exceeded my sales goals and surpassed last year’s sales. I also managed to mark off all but one of my resolutions off my list. Here’s how I did it: Read the rest of this entry »