Monthly Archives: March 2011

Posted In: Deck Plans

Ashore in Lisbon

Situated at the westernmost tip of Europe, Lisbon was an ideal port of departure for many of the explorers who set out to find new land during the 15th to 17th centuries. One of the most famous of those explorers was Vasco da Gama. Although India had been known to the Europeans for quite some time, da Gama’s departure to the country in 1497 was important from a trade perspective: It opened up the first direct sea route to Asia.

More than 500 years later, trade continues to be important to Portugal’s capital. Lisbon’s is one of the largest container ports on the European Atlantic coast, and the city is also an important center for finance, arts, media and tourism. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

With over 30 years of dedicated travel planning and a variety of destinations and vacations to choose from, Avanti Destinations aims high to please: they want your clients to enjoy every moment of their vacation.

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Posted In: Point-to-Point

Guess what I know?

If you are over the age of 35 and have children, nephews or neighbors over the age of 10, you know exactly what I am about to say. Young people today seem to “know” just about everything. However, this trait is not limited to just young people. Unfortunately, there are too many adults who seem to “know” it all as well.

But what most people have a hard time realizing is that “knowing” and “doing” are two entirely different things. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Aruba by Vacation Express

With snow falling in the Northeast and horrendous weather in the Midwest, escaping to an island paradise seems like a dream. Expansive beaches, palm trees spotting the sand with shade, sapphire and emerald-colored water in every direction – the island of Aruba is exactly what one daydreams of as winter shifts to spring and the yearning to escape hits full force.

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Posted In: 60-Second Geography

When you think history, you think Greece.  The nation is full of it, with a long lineage of exuberant people and events that will continue to make history books for generations to come.  From the mind-blowing architecture to beaches constantly used as movie sets, it is a country that is, hands down, one of the most beautiful in the world.

The 1,400 islands all hold something remarkable to be discovered and a trip to the magical European country of Greece will leave a lasting impression years.

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Here we are at the end of the first quarter of the year and I can’t believe how fast the time is passing.  You may recall that I began this column with a goal.  I wanted to take charge of my business, learn how to say “no” to some potential sales, and not let the industry control me.  I was so positive I could do it, but a quarter into the year, I am thinking that those might have been some pretty lofty goals.  You do need goals to have something to work toward, and I wanted to lead by example, as any good owner or manager would.   What I have learned is not to try and do it all at once!  My enthusiasm for change led me to rush into it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

kwilmoreKevin Wilmore is the Vice President/General Manager of Blue Sky Tours, a leader in tourism to the Hawaiian islands. Before holding his current position, Mr. Wilmore was the Director of Analysis and Planning at Blue Sky Tours. Before joining Blue Sky Tours, he held the position of Director of Destination Experience at The Mark Travel Corporation.

TRO: As a company that specializes only in Hawaiian packages, has Blue Sky Tours been affected by the recent natural disasters caused by the earthquakes in Japan?

KW: The Big Island of Hawaii was the most affected, and it was minimal damage along the Kona coast with a few properties taking on water due to the tsunami wave surge. They are handling everything very well and repair efforts continue around the clock. Blue Sky Tours helped relocate our passengers with minimal effort. Everyone was very well taken care of and the people were grateful that the island had very little damage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Hands off my client!

In February, Travel Market Report ran an article that discussed some fundamental shifts in the way that travel suppliers are doing business. While I still firmly believe that most suppliers are making a decided shift to net rates and direct bookings, a new tactic was brought to light in this article.

Some travel suppliers are essentially operating as travel agents representing other suppliers’ products. Imagine the nerve! I suppose the blame can be placed on the big three OTAs (Online Travel Agency), Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. What started out as an online means to distribute airline tickets, quickly morphed into a full blown online travel agency complete with cruises, tours, hotels, car rentals, insurance and fees! It was only a matter of time until the actual suppliers caught on and decided that they too can be travel agents. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

CAN YOU READ THE SIGNS?

There are advantages and disadvantages to being married to your business partner.  The advantage is that we can “talk business” whenever we want – at the office, at home, on vacation, it doesn’t matter when.  The disadvantage is that we can “talk business” at any time.  Our business never leaves us; it’s with us everywhere we go. 

The past few years, we have had a lot to talk over – 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistans wars and now all of the unrest in the Middle East, earthquakes,  volcanoes, tsunamis, the stock market, home foreclosures, gas prices.  You name it, it has all affected the travel industry. 

Last week when I got home, I turned on the national news and POW!!!  Right on the chin!!!  The stock market had taken another big hit, which, in turn, meant our retirement account had been hit also.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw: March 25, 2011

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Soundings

We’ve known for some time now that too much information makes for poor decisions. The new news is that the definition of ‘too much’ has been adjusted downward. It turns out that the bar is much lower than was thought. Researchers are now saying it only takes a small step over that tenuous threshold to literally fry the decision making circuits.

This is a conundrum for travel agents. We’re conditioned to impress clients with the depth of our product knowledge, thinking it is the prime ingredient for successful sales.  But the new reality of today’s marketplace has product knowledge taking a backseat to selection and presentation skills.

Richard Earls, publisher of TRO, touched on this subject in a recent article, stating “As a travel professional, it is easy to be obsessed with travel product and the details of product knowledge.  However, much of what we know about any given product is of no real importance to the individual who wants a vacation or travel experience.”

Dig deeper into the sources referenced below and the message becomes clear. We need to take a fresh look at how we access, process and present information. Both our personal and professional success hinges on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Solar Tours sharpens focus on Latin America

Solar Tours has a long history of offering customizable Latin America tours to North America’s travel agents, dating back to its founding in 1984, when it focused exclusively on being a travel wholesaler and consolidator to Central and South America.

Much has changed since 1984 and Solar Tours has diversified its product offerings to include other regions of the world, but Latin America still holds that special place for Solar Tours.

It was no surprise then that Solar Tours decided to sharpen its focus on Latin America in the past year by hiring more travel specialists, expanding the online offerings, and adding a new country (Colombia) to the ones it already sells. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

The year has barely started and I’m almost totally booked for the year. From my perspective as a speaker – business is good.  What’s even better is that my inbox is overflowing with email from travel agents bragging about increasing fee revenue, sales growth, decreasing dependence on commission and profit margins not seen in years. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Beijing by GTT Global Sales

Flying high from the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing continues to be a prime location to send clients for the ultimate Asian experience.  From the substantial culture to the magnificent architecture and entertainment, this Chinese wonderland offers a memorable visit for everyone.

The second most populated city in China, Beijing is a noteworthy blend between the delicate balance of nature and mankind.  Proud of their past, the Chinese maintain the city with utmost care, making sure to incorporate it into the social and economic boom that has come to define their wondrous society.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Moscow by Transam Travel

Although it may seem counter-intuitive with winter’s grasp still strong, now is the best time to visit Russia.  As the European gateway to Asia, Moscow is a fusion of old and new – the fortified and unmatched Kremlin Palace on the banks of the Moskva River, while modern day cars whiz by, carving through the buildings and making their way to their destinations.

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The news lately has me a bit distracted as a travel professional. Japan in particular is a huge concern for me, so I an going to deviate a bit from the diary topics, I hope you don’t mind. The power of the ocean; in its magnificent immenseness, mesmerizing allure and the tranquil consoling that is unmistakable by one of mother nature’s most necessary and precious gifts; but as we have seen lately in Japan and previously in Indonesia, the ocean is not always the calm paradise depicted on the lively and exotic travel posters posted at your neighborhood agency.  As travel agents, we are almost all guilty of selling the dream of a wonderfully sun splashed holiday or a weather perfect beach, but why not? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Danger, danger, danger

There is danger everywhere we look. I have traveled the world, yet the most dangerous place for me appears to be the daily half mile route I walk from my house to get my newspaper. I have yet to be injured while traveling, but tore my knee apart a few years ago when I literally tripped over nothing. Recently, worldwide events have taken many destinations off travelers’ radar screens. Some of the notable destinations include Egypt, Mexico, Japan, and even St. Lucia who just recently saw three men from Atlanta beaten in their hotel room. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

 

chechaRafael Checa was raised in the travel business. After serving in the US Army infantry for 10 years, he went to business school. Upon graduation in 1997, he joined Solar Tours, a family company, and has been there ever since. Rafael was the CFO until his parents retired from the business three years ago and he is now the CEO.

TRO: As someone who has been involved in the travel industry since childhood, how have you seen the industry change during those years?

RC: The most important change has been the empowerment of technology for consumers to gain information and purchase online with little or no help.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw: March 18, 2011

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Rewarding Client Referrals

I would like to revisit a topic I covered once before: client gifts.   This time, let’s look at client gifts through the lens of client referrals.  We always talk about how our connection with our clients is relational, compared to the Big Boys who are transactional.  Just by the nature of our industry, we get to know our clients in a rather intimate way.  We need to stand out from the loud cacophony of business out there and stress that relational aspect.  Client referral gifts are one way to do that.

Recently, a discussion popped up on one of the travel industry message boards from a travel professional wondering how to properly thank clients who have provided referrals.  One of her clients consistently referred clients (the good clients who actually book travel!) to her and she wanted to show her appreciation.  The response on the message thread was quite interesting to read. Read the rest of this entry »

Les says it’s a mess! Thumbs up, Thumbs down, waving all around. Discounts offered to booked passengers! Fee Free baggage and clients smuggled onboard ship inspections. Les is wagging her mighty thumb at a few select travel agents this time!  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 packagedeals@comcast.net. Read the rest of this entry »