Monthly Archives: August 2010

Posted In: 1:1

John T. Peters joined Tripology as President and CEO in June of 2008. Most recently, John navigated the company into a purchase by Rand McNally and is now the VP/GM Digital Strategy & Travel. Prior to Tripology, John was Vice President of Business Development & Travel Trade where he led the successful launch of Endless Vacation Rentals by Wyndham Worldwide. Earlier in his career, John founded Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises, an international yacht cruise/tour and hotel business that grew to over $50 million in sales with over 100 employees in offices in New York, Athens, Rome and Buenos Aires.

John’s last interview left a few issues still to be discussed. This follow-up delves into those agents who have questions about making Tripology work consistently for them.

TRO: Let’s veer over to the Rand McNally side of things just for a moment.  How did Tripology fit into their portfolio?

JP:  Rand McNally has been around for over 150 years and has a brand that everyone over 40 recognizes.  Since the beginning, travelers have consulted Rand McNally for information including the maps and directions products that made them famous, as well as information on destinations, road trips and more.  Rand McNally is in many businesses and earlier this year they decided they want to expand their travel offerings.  They did not want to become yet another booking engine, but wanted to keep in their theme of providing travel information to consumers planning a trip.  Tripology is just that; we connect online consumers, frustrated with online booking engines, an alternative – travel agents.  In my opinion, travel specialists are the best option for anyone planning any kind of non-commodity travel. 

TRO: John, tell us about the role that the newly launched Rand McNally site is playing vis-a-vis Tripology.

JP:  Where do I start?  One thing that all travel companies struggle with online is getting traffic to their site.  Rand McNally has over one million people a month come to www.RandMcNally.com.  We just re-launched the site and I’m so proud to see Tripology integrated on almost every page.  When a consumer comes to RandMcNally.com to gather information on destinations (including the exclusive video travel guides on things like where to eat, what to do and what not to miss), consumers will have the very visible option of using Tripology to connect with a travel specialist.  The new RandMcNally.com is already giving us 15% of our traffic – and that’s just the first week after launch.  Needless to say, I’m thrilled to see our logo all over the Rand McNally site.

TRO: Tripology recently hit an important milestone in its growth.  Do you want to tell us about that? Read the rest of this entry »

Some people re-arrange their bedroom every month or so. Military families move after every tour of duty (or so it seems). These people know how to get out of a rut. And as difficult as it is to admit, I am in a rut and I need some change.

I feel my business has been stagnating for a while and I’ve decided to take a new direction. How many years can you keep doing the same thing with approximately the same bottom line? Being a one woman show and wearing many hats, it leaves little time to think about the next step. I recently spoke  John Peters of Tripology about how to grow my business and which direction to take. He had some very good ideas for me. Because there are only so many hours in the day, I feel as though I can’t possibly take on any more business, therefore I’m not able to make more sales or commission. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Isla Mujeres — By Vacation Express

Isla Mujeres or the Island of Women is a small and unique island just 8 miles across the Behia de Mujeres or the Bay of Women from Cancun. What once was a quiet fishing island is becoming more and more well known by tourists. It is only 5 miles long and a half a mile wide. It has beaches on all sides and the downtown area is only around 6 blocks long!

Back in 1990, it was still a sleepy island pretty much reserved for locals and the few private beach parties thrown by mainland resorts and reached by small boat. Today, there is scheduled ferry service from Punta Sam. The ferry leaves at 8am, 11am, 2:45pm, 5:30pm and 8:15pm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Amadeus e-Commerce Solutions can help you sell travel online, boost your competitive edge, and make more money

Competition is fierce within the travel industry. The solid advice from the well-seasoned travel agent has been undermined by Web sites promising low prices and one-stop shopping. It’s hard enough to acquire and retain clients, then add a weak online presence and the challenges increase exponentially.

So how do you meet this demand head on and continue to grow your high value sales, differentiate your business from the crowd, and provide your clients with the service they expect online? Start with Amadeus e-Commerce Solutions.

Small agency, big challenges, one easy solution

Many small agencies feel behind the curve when it comes to understanding all of the fast-moving technological developments in the travel industry. They’re concerned that new business is being lost because they don’t have their own branded Web site yet, but have no idea how to create and maintain one that allows them to sell travel online. Does this sound familiar to you? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

With stunning, inimitable plumage and grace, the Quetzal is named for its splendor. The Aztec word, quetzalli, was used for this bird’s tail feathers, and also meant “precious,’ or “beautiful.’ This shy trogon has a large population in Costa Rica. This bird is endangered because the cloud forest on which it depends has been extensively destroyed.  The legendary tail feathers that can be three or more feet long are one of the telltale signs of the male Resplendent Quetzal. Adult Quetzals have a grey and black striped tail, and are covered in shimmering green on the head, back, and wings, so they blend into the wet foliage of the cloud forest. The females have somewhat similar plumage, but lack the green crest and bright red breast of the males, as well as the elongated tail feathers.  Any trip to the Costa Rican forest will not be complete without a Quetzal sighting.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters!

Be sure to check out the special offers on the self-drive trips to Quetzal country with Solar Tours after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Pages, profiles, and pings…oh my

OK, so we are not going to talk about pings this time, but it worked for me in the title. But let’s talk about profiles and pages in Facebook. In speaking with many travel professionals, there is still much confusion about the difference between the two. Hopefully I can shed some light on the differences. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Confessions of a Travel Therapist

It seems like just yesterday!
30 years ago today, I was 21, fresh out of college and anxious to get into the “real world.” It was 1980 and unemployment was at 8%, interest rates were soaring, and fortunately, we were not technically attuned to every terrifying moment of the recession.

I graduated with a triple major, Spanish, English, and secondary education, but teaching was not what I wanted to do. Not right away anyway. Because I was fluent in Spanish I was offered a job in international banking at an Atlanta bank, but that seemed way too serious. (Ah…the regret I feel sometimes about passing that opportunity up.)

I wanted a fun job! I couldn’t be a flight attendant because I couldn’t see the length of the plane without visual aid so I chose the second best job… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

There is a four-letter word that begins with an F and usually raises a few eyebrows when it is heard.  Any guesses? No, not THAT word, this is a PG site!  I’m speaking of “fees!”  It definitely raises eyebrows, and not always in a negative way.  In fact, I’ve never seen a greater interest from travel agents than I am seeing today.  It looks like a lot of you are beginning to love the F-word! Read the rest of this entry »

Wandering Puffin LLC–Third time’s a charm

When last we chatted, I was grading my performance through the first half of the year. It had been a roller coaster ride of sorts, but the hard work was paying off. I have tried to find new ways to continue the upswing and reduce the downside. Some things have worked and others have not. I have worked hard in trying to increase my client base and now it is time to refine it. I have continued to stay in touch with past clients, letting them know that I am still around to help them out with their future travels and ask that they keep me in mind when talking with their friends and family. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

 

Elie Sidawi started Sunny Land Tours  in 1964 after working as a young man for a large tour operator.  The company quickly became one of the largest specialists to Egypt and the Middle East. Elie now watches over a family operated,  multi-destination company that is a member of USTOA and which works closely with the travel agency community.

TRO: Tell me about the history of Sunny Land Tours and your involvement with it.

E.S.: I started Sunny Land Tours in Beirut, Lebanon back in 1965 at age 25, with the company focusing on the Holy Land exclusively.  After the Six-Day war of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the line of communications between our office in Beirut and our Agents in Jerusalem was cut off completely. During the heat of the war, my newly wed American wife and I were escorted on a freighter by a U.S Submarine to the Island of Cyprus, and from there we continued our migration to the U.S.  We incorporated in the US in 1969 as Sunny Land Tours Inc, and diversified our destinations to include Greece, Turkey, and Egypt; where we had much success. As of mid-80’s we diversified our destination-roster to include Central and South America.  My role with the company today is the Chairman and CEO. 

TRO: Sunny Land has branched into a much broader product line.  Tell us about your current product offerings. 

E.S.:Through 1975 Sunny Land grew to become the largest Tour Company in the U.S. specializing in Middle East and Holy Land Tours, and a major tour operator for Greece, Turkey and Egypt. By 1975, Sunny Land had branch offices in Beirut; Cairo and Athens to handle our own clients for operational excellence.  We built in Chattanooga Tennessee, a 25-Cabin American Standard River Boat “The Nile Explorer”  that we shipped to Egypt for the exclusive use of our clientele.  The Cruise Boats in Egypt grew from 4 then to over 400 now, and we continue to use the best Cruise Boats that come along.

We stayed focused on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East through early 80s.  When my daughter Lori got involved in the business in mid-80s, she took a leadership role to introduce new destinations to the American travelers, such as Costa Rica, and that’s when we started to diversify our roster. Today we operate 25 destinations worldwide from Central and South America, to the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East.  We only specialize in exotic and ancient destinations rich in ecology, history and/or culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Eat, Pray, Love, Travel

I’ve not yet seen Eat, Pray, Love and chances are I won’t until it hits Netflix and I can catch it from my couch. But I know enough about the film to think that its real title should have been Eat, Pray, Love, Travel. Once again, we have a cultural reminder of the importance of travel to the human psyche and, by inference,  how important your profession is to people’s lives. Travel is not just a mechanical act of movement from one point to another. On occasion, it helps to be reminded of this small and obvious truth: travel is often an outward expression of something happening internally.

The macro-history of mankind is about a vast, never ending migration. From one continent to another, we have been explorers, adventurers, pilgrims, refugees and travelers. Coiled up in our DNA is the urge to move beyond the horizon. On an individual level, it’s the rare person who has not felt moved and even Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Long considered to be the jewel of the orient, Cairo is an international city overflowing with different cultures. It is a city steeped in the early civilizations of the ancient pharaohs, blended with the history of Christian and Islamic cultures. It is all brought together by the modern sights and luxuries of a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city. The great pyramids of Giza are the most famous attractions in Cairo. But there are many other places to experience and explore, from the mosques of Islamic Cairo to the churches of Coptic Cairo, and even the Jewish community of Cairo. Be prepared for an expansive history lesson and cultural education of the religious and cultural blending which has taken place in this city. Cairo also swells with markets and bazaars to explore. And for the cosmopolitan visitor, there are luxury hotels and boutiques to explore for unforgettable jewels, clothes and antiques. The city offers an extensive array of international cuisine to soothe the palate of any culinarian; but of course while in Egypt, one should also experience the delicious and unforgettable cuisine of Egypt.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters!

Be sure to check out the special offers on trips to Ciro and Egypt after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

THETRADESHOW

THETRADESHOW

Advance your career in travel with targeted education and training!

Make a point of being in Orlando, FL on September 12-14, 2010 to maximize your sales potential and gain the knowledge and expertise to make your travel business more profitable. As the #1 travel trade show in North America, THETRADESHOW (www.thetradeshow.org) connects travel agents with destinations and travel related companies to establish new business partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Peru — By Solar Tours

Perhaps no other trip could possibly be more rewarding than one to Peru. With some of the most distinctive indigenous peoples on the planet, a fascinating history, and a variety of natural landscapes, a trip to Peru is most often a life-changing experience. Peruvian festivals and holidays are among the most colorful on the planet, and with thousands each year, chances are good that you can add one of these unforgettable experiences to your travel to-do list.  Peru (for me, like China) is a magical, thrilling place and the memories you take from a trip there, will beckon you to return in the future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Dare to be different

Earlier this week, Mike Marchev spoke about not being boring and the importance of being unique—and I agree. I consider myself somewhat conservative. Doing something outlandish or “wild” to create a memorable first impression would likely fail miserably with me. But being unique does not necessarily mean wild and crazy. Here are a few examples.

Business cards. Yes, I know, they are boring, but they are the most effective and, most cost effective marketing tool you can have. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: TROTips

OneNote – The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Every now and then my past life as a business analyst creeps into my current life as a travel consultant.  When I first started in this business and started booking group cruises, I went into uber-paperwork and record keeping mode.  I would create a binder for each group, and then in each binder I would put print outs of group reports, individual booking confirmations, pertinent information about each client, details about group activities, meeting space needs, pre and post cruise information, pillow gifts,  etc.  The bigger the group was, the fatter the binder would get.  Of course there are also the costs involved: buying more binders, tabbed dividers, toner, and printer paper.  Lots of printer paper.   I’m sure I’ve killed a rainforest or two along the way.

Then I discovered Microsoft’s little-known product called OneNote, found in Microsoft Office.  This is an amazing program that can be very powerful for travel professionals, if they only knew it existed.   It is a great tool to use when booking group cruises.  But its uses are only limited by your own imagination.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Preferred Booking Methods

As travel consultants, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how our clients like to interact with us when planning their vacations: Do they prefer to do it themselves online? Should we have booking engines on our web sites to facilitate that?  Should they have to speak with us in person, or on the phone, so that we can provide more personalized service and advice? Is it best if they can get some basic information from our web site but then call us to handle the transaction?

I think it’s interesting that we spend far less time thinking about how we, as agents, like to interact with suppliers when planning a client’s vacation. This came up as a topic for discussion around the dinner table at a recent meeting of my local NACTA chapter, and it was fascinating to hear all the different viewpoints.  Some of us had a clear preference for online Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Aug 19, 2010

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Deck Plans

An article on Yahoo Travel reports that the five happiest countries in the world — Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands — are all clustered in the same region, and all enjoy high levels of prosperity. And they are also all great cruise destinations.

Researchers at the Gallup World Poll surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries, between 2005 and 2009, in order to measure two types of well-being.

First they asked subjects to reflect on their overall satisfaction, ranking the answers using a “life evaluation” score between 1 and 10. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: The biggest mistake you will ever make

You’ve made a few mistakes. I guarantee it if you’ve been in business for any length of time.

The number one mistake you will ever make while you are in business is the one mistake that you can’t apologize your way out of.  It is simply the worst. Bar none. Without exception. Hands down. Guaranteed. Numero uno.  The big Kahuna.  When you fall victim to this huge mistake, you will probably never be given a second chance to make things right. So here is some sage advice: DON’T MAKE IT.

Luckily, your customers will forgive you for a lot of the mistakes you make; and as long as you make up for the mistakes they’ll stay your customers.

Except for The Big One. There is one mistake which is unforgiveable because you’ll never get a chance to fix it. The problem is that this mistake is being made all the time in business today. If you do it, you’ll never have a chance to apologize and make up for it. After you make this one, your customers simply won’t listen to anything else you have to say!

This one, ultimate, unforgivable sin is … Read the rest of this entry »

Travel Quest — Feed me dammit!

I’ve made my decision—I have to lay this out in the open.  For months I’ve started writing my column on the subject but changed my mind.  No one in the mainstream media is writing about it so surely it’s just me.  I’ve tried repressing it, I’ve tried downplaying the severity of the situation, I’ve tried hoping things will change.  But it’s as if I’m stuck in a recurring nightmare.

What am I taking issue with?  Read the rest of this entry »