Ten years ago, Barry and Julie Karp started SHORETRIPS. They found a niche that had been ignored, an independent company that could provide tours and excursions in ports and major cities. This created increased revenue for agents who now have options to what the cruise line or supplier offers. They are so enthusiastic about what they are able to do, and great motivators for agents.
TRO: How do you select the local tour guides?
Barry and Julie: In some areas, we act as a consumer. We also work with Tourist Boards, mediators, and lots of networking. We consider ourselves, travelers- not just cruisers. We check everything out from a consumer’s view as well. We spend a lot of time in an area, finding the right people and the tours. Number one priority- we only use professionals. We don’t use just taxi drivers. We just returned from spending six weeks in the Middle East. where we worked with 48 local companies, and finally selected four. We’ve developed an instinct to find people who have the same philosophy of service that we have.
TRO: And your philosophy?
Barry and Julie: Service- we promise not to ignore problems. We get feedback from the clients and we act on it. Julie was a travel agent originally, that’s why we understand what agents need. It started with the Caribbean – still our #1 destination. Our three port package is extremely popular. The average sale is 2.1 tours per cruise. Then we expanded to Alaska- where people can do more than one tour in a day. In Juneau – they can do three – Helicopter, salmon bake, and whale watching. All coordinated and the people don’t have to go back and forth to the ship. We’re the only ones offering that. And of course, Europe.
TRO: You’re unique in this business, you sell through travel agents and direct to the public.
Barry and Julie: 81% of the bookings are from the agents. The travel agents have caught on. And if the client later books directly with us, we pay commissions to the original agent. The number one problem that travel agents have, is they don’t do enough research in ports. If an agent just sells just the cruise- he will later lose the client. Agents have to educate their clients. We provide that education. Example- the excursions from the ships in the Middle East, involve a lot of drive time. We have new overnight packages that offer more sightseeing time to the clients. Also, our excursions are not limited to just the ports. Someone stays at a resort in Jamaica – all they see is beach. We have tours where we arrange hotel pick-ups. We even have excursions for physically challenged people. Cruise lines do not usually provide those choices.
TRO: What new areas – besides the Middle East?
Barry and Julie: We’ve been to Cuba and done the research to educate the agents. When cruise lines start to go there, it will be the #1 draw. Agents will be overloaded. The Architecture is incredible, Historical. Cuba is not in the 21 st century yet. It’s a vibrant country, the people are so accommodating, over 100% energy. Besides Havana, there is Santiago and Guantanamo. Also, we’re expanding in the Baltic. It will be visa free and easier to travel, with public transportation.
TRO: What about groups?
Barry and Julie: 40% of the bookings are for groups. The tools on the web site are agent friendly- one click and you have a flyer. Easy to make customized brochures with pictures. We’ve added more people to help the agents.
TRO: Tell us about your recent accolade.
Barry and Julie: You mean the mention by Arthur Frommer? Usually he’s a do it yourself guy- but he complimented ShoreTrips and our website. He did a column on us stating – at last there is a company with better rates than the cruise lines. It was a total surprise.
TRO: Which port is your favorite?
Barry and Julie: Every place we’ve been to, we can find something … Years ago it was Vera Cruz. Now Martinique is probably our favorite port. It’s so beautiful We also like Belize- because you see a democracy at work. Lots of diversity and backgrounds.
TRO: and on your bucket list?
Barry and Julie: Asia and Africa – We can’t wait!
SHORETRIPS provides travel agents with a unique opportunity to better service their clients AND to increase the agency revenue stream. If you have not yet used SHORETRIPS, it’s time to quit leaving money on the table and provide your clients with a complete itinerary! Visit their web site – www.shoretrips.com.
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