Monthly Archives: February 2011

Posted In: 1:1

KMonacoFor over 30 years, the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA) has provided travel professionals with trade shows, education programs, news and trips to foster tourism and to Africa. Through the years, APTA has become a key contributor in anti-poaching efforts, orphanage funding and services, goods and supplies donation and community development projects throughout the continent and its islands. Kathryn Monaco, the Executive Director of APTA, joined the organization in the early 1990’s and, after almost 20 years, still has a genuine passion for educating the travel community on Africa.


TRO: How did you become involved with APTA? Have you always had an interest in African tourism?

KM: As the daughter of an airline executive, I was fortunate to travel extensively while growing up.  I developed a passion for Africa early on and even now, after more than 20 years in the business, I get excited about what awaits when I travel to Africa.  I became involved with APTA over 15 years ago when I was looking for ways to introduce Protea Hotels to the US market.  APTA was the only organization dealing exclusively with the travel trade and I exhibited in my first APTA Discover Africa Trade Show in Chicago.  The APTA family welcomed me warmly and I received a crash course on the African market place in the US.  Al Trycha (one of our founders) and his wife Carole played a major role in my involvement with APTA. I was amazed at how everyone worked together despite the fact that many were competitors.  You will not find an organization with members who show such passion and commitment to Africa and her islands and accomplish so much despite the fact that the entire organization is made up of volunteers.
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Posted In: Editorial Musings

Larry Norman’s column created quite a stir—as was expected. The conversation got even more heated in the TRO Community. Some folks agreed and others vehemently opposed but what is becoming very clear is that there is a yet another fundamental change in the way we do business looming on the horizon. But if you have been in the industry for any length of time, you will realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The discussion is on non-airline suppliers and their imminent shift to a different model of compensation—or perhaps a model featuring no compensation. Where have we heard this discussion before? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Discovering Europe with Fred. Olsen

There’s no denying it: The European cruise market is hot. Even so, North American cruisers remain largely unaware of the niche lines that ply European waters year-round, long after the mainstream North American lines have sailed back to the Caribbean.

Fred. Olsen Cruises is one such line. Norwegian in heritage but based out of the UK, Fred. Olsen caters largely to the British cruise market, offering sailings that cover just about every area of the globe. At its core, however, are the numerous Northern Europe, Western Europe, Mediterranean and Canary Islands sailings the line is best known for.

Just because Fred. Olsen focuses on the UK market doesn’t mean cruisers from other countries aren’t welcome. In fact, far from it. For North American cruisers looking to see Europe and step outside the confines of the familiar mainstream lines, Fred. Olsen just might have an itinerary and on-board product that’s right for you. And with a variety of homeports throughout the United Kingdom, North American travelers have only to hop on one of the numerous flights to London’s Heathrow or Gatwick airports in order to take part. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

A suggestion for a fundamental commission change

Last week, John Frenaye and I were debating a recent move by a major cruise line to cut the commission rate they paid on Interline rates (these are special rates for airline and other associated industry employees) to 10%. John’s concern was that cruise lines might in fact be looking to reduce their commission expense or even eliminate it on certain classes of bookings—early booking rates, groups, military, residency, etc. My first response was something I used to say to an occasional complaint call to my weekly cruise radio show in Miami, “He who pays for the new ships, makes the rules.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Colombia by Solar Tours

Lush forests, expansive Spanish-influenced towns laced with cobblestone streets, volcanoes towering over, churches dating back to the colonial period – Colombia is one of the most wondrous countries in all of Latin America.

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Posted In: Outposts

Nairobi by Transam Travel

Close your eyes and imagine yourself within a city – the usual buildings, occasional trees, office complexes, hotels…but on the horizon you spot a giraffe casually grazing the leaves on an acacia tree.  A family of lions pass by the giraffe and lay down to seek some shade in the heat, while a group of rhinos get their fill from the lake water.

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As so many of us have heard, niche, niche, niche. We have heard it at trade conferences for years. I worked at a cruise only agency from 1999-2007 and was under the assumption that that was a niche. I didn’t know niche until I started Ears of Experience! I really worried about it in so many ways. How do you build a strong business from one product? One product that offers lower commission than most; and one product that appears to offer very few discounts or promotions. I was terrified that I would be relegated to selling hotels on International Drive. But I kept hearing, “cast a smaller net and you will catch so many more fish.” So I jumped and never looked back. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


rjongmansRene Jongmans is the President of Vacation Express, a leading tour operator based in Atlanta, GA offering packages to the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica. Born and raised in Holland, Mr. Jongmans spent three years in various management positions in St. Maarten before joining Vacation Express in 1992. With the exception of a one-year hiatus, he has held the position of President since 2000. As a frequent traveler, Mr. Jongmans is an expert on Vacation Express’ destination offerings.

TRO:  When Vacation Express first entered the travel industry in 1989, it only offered trips to Jamaica.  What inspired the expansion to other destinations?

RJ: In those days, Jamaica had decent airlift from Atlanta, which was our hometown market and therefore was our first destination. As our company began to grow, we looked for other destinations that had good flights from the Atlanta and surrounding markets. Key Airlines became a good partner of ours and as they expanded their routes, we were able to grow with them and expand our product offering as well.

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Posted In: Editorial Musings

Are you blacklisted? Do you even know if you are? It might not be the end of the world at the Yacht Club, but in today’s business environment, if you get your domain blacklisted your business has a major problem! This weekend, a colleague was discussing an issue he was having with his email service and the very real threat that he may be blacklisted. So, what do you do? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

You Are Not My Competition!

Let’s start off with some confessions.  First of all, I cannot handle all of the travel needs of everyone in the world that wants to book a vacation.  I couldn’t even handle the travel needs of everyone in the United States.  Frankly, I couldn’t even cope with everyone in Tennessee, or just middle Tennessee.  There is enough business out there today for the travel agencies of the world.  So I do not fear AAA as my competition, or Costco, or the home-based Cruise Planner a couple of miles away, or the honeymoon specialist in the next town over, or even the big OTA’s (Expedia, et al).

Yes, there are times we will butt heads as clients will occasionally contact more than one travel agency for a quote.  I especially see this a lot in the honeymoon / destination market, but it can happen in any niche.  When that happens to me, I will make my case for my agency, based on my specialties, my personal experiences, testimonials from past clients, etc.  I will not, however, promise to beat the other agents’ prices. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Deck Plans

Oceania Cruises’ new Marina is the first ship to offer luxury suites completely appointed from furniture and fabrics to lighting and bedding using the acclaimed Ralph Lauren Home collection.

The cruise line tapped award-winning designer Susan Bednar Long of S.B. Long Interiors because of her keen familiarity with the Ralph Lauren esthetic. Long previously oversaw the decoration of flagship retail stores for Polo across North America. Her designs have been recognized by House Beautiful, Elle Décor and House & Garden, among other publications. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

American Society of Travel Agents

The 2011 International Destination Expo – Presented by ASTA

Each year, the American Society of Travel Agents is pleased to present the only on-location destination training seminar in the world. As the world’s largest travel agent association dedicated to the promotion and welfare of travel professionals, only ASTA can bring the excitement of an entire region to one location during a comprehensive international learning conference.
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Posted In: Point-to-Point

Is a Prada pocketbook worth $1,200? What about an Armani suit for close to $2,000? Or a hotel room that goes for $950 a night? Does a $600 pen really work that much better than a pen that sells for a dollar or two?

The answer is “Yes,” IF we believe it to be true!

Marketing is about telling believable stories. If a consumer believes that a Mont Blanc pen is worth $600, then it is so. It’s just that simple! The truth isn’t important if we believe, and buy into, “the story” we’re told, and we see the value of the product or service at the price for which it is being offered.

It’s not the pocketbook itself, or the suit or the pen that justifies the cost. It’s how buying these products make us feel. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Australia by SkyBird Travel & Tours

When you think of Australia, what is the first thing that comes to mind – kangaroos in the Outback, the Sydney Opera House, or the Great Barrier Reef? The island down-under is a diverse gem, offering everything from cutting edge cities to gorgeous landscapes, rain forests and some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world.

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Posted In: Outposts

Everyone has a beach they compare all others to: perfect, crystal- clear waters, sugary white sand, vibrant blue skies overhead with the sun beaming down upon all of it – the perfect atmosphere. Green Turtle Cay falls into this category as it is one of the most beautiful and uninhabited islands in the Bahamas, making it the perfect location for a private getaway.

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Hello again everyone, and welcome back to the story.  I’ll begin where I left off.  At the end of the last column, I was getting ready to participate in an bridal show—an annual event for us.  This year I made the decision to showcase the agency, Journeys Unlimited Travel, rather than showcasing a product. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

KeithStClair

ForumTel provides a unique commissionable cell phone service to international travelers through travel agents. Keith St.  Clair first entered the travel industry in 1984 when he joined Sol Holidays in the United Kingdom as the company’s chairman  and managing director.  He later founded TraveLeaders, a major travel agency in Miami, Fla. Mr. St. Clair joined Forum  Telecommunications (ForumTel) in 2010 as the chairman of the advisory board. He is also an inductee into the World  Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and the 2004 winner of the Florida Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

TRO: Given your background, what inspired you to join the team at ForumTel?

KSC: I think the simple answer to why I became involved with ForumTel is the power of the product. It is not just a phone; it is a communication and security tool and revenue stream for travel agents at a time of diminishing margins and commissions. I guess it struck me as a product that-had any one approached me with it whilst I was a travel agent or tour operator- I would have found it totally compelling.

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Posted In: Editorial Musings

Happy Valentine’s Day! Protocol somewhat dictates that this column be somehow tied into the latest Hallmark Holiday; and since I am cynical by nature, I will go against the grain and offer a recommendation that may change your travel businesses significantly for the better.  Not a bad tradeoff eh?  So, what is this sage advice? Chapter 8–whew, glad it wasn’t Chapter 7 or 14!

One of the critical components of managing our businesses is time and resource management. It is even more critical for those who are based from their home offices. When you work from home, typically you are the agent, manager, accountant, cleaning crew, receptionist, delivery person, and any number of jobs that might pop up from time to time. Since about 2008, we have had this new thing called social media which can be a time waster; yet is so crucial for us to embrace. What are the “right” social media tools? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

When the going gets better

Word has it the economy is improving. My experience is the activity levels of travel agents are one of the best early barometers of the health of the economy. Judging from the chatter I hear, business is up and that’s good news for everybody. Here’s some good news you may not have considered. Because you survived one of the worst economic times in many decades, you are likely well prepared to take advantage of the upturn. You have pared down your expenses, you have mastered some marketing and sales fundamentals and improved your customer service technique. Whatever skill set you developed over the past three years will serve you well now.

I understand the desire to be cautious with funds when there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the air. However, marketing does not necessarily require hard currency when some sweat equity will do nicely. Here are a few thoughts that should keep you moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – February 11, 2011

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain