Monthly Archives: February 2013

Posted In: Deck Plans

The Avid Cruiser’s Top 5 Arctic Cruises

From breathtaking encounters with whales and polar bears to mesmerizing moments spent gazing at the Aurora Borealis, Arctic cruises engage the senses and sometimes defy logic, especially when they happen in the winter.

After all, who in their right mind would go to the coldest part of the planet during the coldest time of the year? Apparently, plenty of people, me included. 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.  Read on to learn more about some of USACA’s consolidators. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Focus

People are not more successful because they dilute their efforts and try to do too many things, for too many people, in too many ways. We often try to achieve a level of proficiency that may be beyond our grasp.

There are only 24 hours in each day. How you decide to use your time  is entirely up to you. Your choices will determine your success.

Bigger! Better! Faster! Leaner! Meaner! More! Less! Service! Quality! Relationships! Innovative! Smarter! These words all have meaning and all make sense. These are the buzz words–they are responsible for more debt, more stress, more anxiety, more doubt and more sleepless nights. They are all the right words, but they could be watering down your daily efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

In my first travel agent diary entry, I described my business and especially my “Tasteful Travel Experiences” – food and wine themed group tours and cruises. While I’m committed to this focus, I have to admit my success has been unremarkable recently.  In the past ten months, I’ve had to cancel two custom group wine tours for lack of participants. It’s now time to step back and assess the situation.  What went wrong, and what went right?  What could I have done differently, and what will I do better next time?  While we often read about the great success stories from agents like how an affinity group resulted in a full ship charter, we don’t often hear about the setbacks.  Well, since I don’t have any full ship charters to write about, maybe others can learn from my mistakes, so here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Are you perfect like me? I mean after all these years in the travel industry we know it all right? We have all been there and done that…right?  WRONG! Face it, as much as we would like to believe we are the end-all and be-all of the travel world, we are fallible and will screw up from time to time. Panama City? Oh you meant Florida—my bad! Well, I am not sure how we made your airline reservation for the day before you were to travel.  Some mistakes are simple, other are more complex. But to save your reputation, I suggest you follow these four steps. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – February 22, 2013

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: TROTips

Organizing Your Electronics

If you are anything like me, you’ve got a lot of electronic equipment in the office.  The desktop computer, printer, keyboards, digital camera, laptop, tablet computer, ticket printers – the list goes on!   It can be aggravating to keep things neat and tidy, especially when you have a lot of cords to contend with.  I did some research to find the best ways to organize your electronic zoo.  This can come in handy for your home stuff, too! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Every travel agent should know the basics of travel writing. Your newsletter, your blog, PR pieces and articles for the local newspaper are all excellent marketing venues and require some writing skills. Writing about travel, to be sure, is not the same as being a travel writer. But a few tips from the people who know travel writing the best will improve your own technique and make your articles and stories more interesting to readers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

(A follow-up to the Sept 27th ‘Soundings’ article on profiting from private theme cruise charters)

This year is the 10th anniversary for the consistently sold out Smooth Jazz Cruise, a creation of Michael Lazaroff, CEO of Entertainment Cruise Productions – St Louis, MO. Success-with-legs such as this made us curious to see for ourselves what kind of secret sauce was holding it all together year after year. So, we sailed on the second of the two Smooth Jazz Cruises in January. A full ship charter on Holland America’s Westerdam, the 7-day itinerary from Ft Lauderdale included Cozumel, Belize and Key West.

Here’s the abbreviated recipe. Lazaroff masterfully orchestrates the convergence of a ship full of dedicated music lovers with a dozen or more of their musical heroes – for 7 days of (almost continuous) concerts and socializing – all in the quality lifestyle environment of a premium cruise line.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

It is with fear and trembling that I sit down to type an article on writing well for travel agents.  I sometimes cringe when reviewing articles I have written and sent on their way. Typographical errors, clichés, grammatical mistakes – I confess the list of transgressions that I commit almost daily is long.  I seldom re-read an article of my own where I don’t catch at least one mistake. Perhaps I can best be of use as a good example of a bad example. Nevertheless, I will try to give you a short list of important writing tips Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Writing for Travel Agents – Choosing Topics

One of the great things about the travel industry is there is literally a world of destinations and topics about which to write. People love to travel, they love to talk about travel, and a good travel article will almost always find an audience. Deciding on topics for your blog or newsletter is a small exercise in marketing. The mission is to determine what subject will grab and hold the attention of the reader, and them coming back for more. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Google has made some significant changes in the past year that affect how websites are rated and ranked. If you’ve noticed a sharp drop in traffic to your site, Google’s new algorithm is probably the culprit.

One area that Google took a second look at was images, both photos and graphics. There was once a time when, if you had a photo of a cruise ship on your site and called it “cruise-ship.jpg” and put it on a page that was about cruising, the search engines loved you. No more.

Google’s bots still look to see if your images are relevant, but now they also check to see where else on the wide world web that image appears. And these bots are incredibly good at spotting duplicates. Even if you use only a small portion of an image that appears on another site, Google can identify them as being the same image. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Writing for Travel Agents – The Power of Voice

Chances are very good that you are an authority on some topic.  For experienced travel agents, you are an authority on travel: how to get the best values, what to avoid, how to get there and what to do once you are there. But even if you are a novice travel agent, your life experiences have no doubt provided you with a topic on which you can write with authority. Therein is the beginning to what writers call a “voice” – the characteristic tone and style you use to convey your ideas. Some writers have a humorous voice, others instructive. Some choose a voice that is objective and neutral. Whatever voice a writer selects, it is important that it be authentic and consistent.  Here are a few ways to discover and develop your own writing voice. Read the rest of this entry »

When I committed to doing the Agent Diary Series it was basically an exercise in throwing down the gauntlet for myself. I admit I have two major recurring issues with running my business 1-Time Management, and 2-Follow-up. From discussions with other agents in the TRO community I knew I wasn’t alone and I thought making myself accountable in a public forum would be a good way to not only kick myself in the rear to get my act together but let you guys know that you aren’t alone in these struggles and we could brainstorm together.

Then life happened – some good and some not so good; oh heck, no need to sugarcoat it, some really horrible. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

Interview with Bryan Tighe, CEO of Budget Your Trip

 

Bryan Tighe is the co-founder and CEO of Budget Your Trip, a website that provides a suite of tools to travel agents (BYT Agent) as well as travel cost information for consumers. Together with his wife, Laurie, he launched the company in 2009. Having visited over 50 countries, many on extended trips, travel is one of Bryan’s passions along with photography and website development.

BYT Agent offers a variety of easy-to-use tools for travel agents, some of which are available to agents for free. The service brings modern Web 2.0 technology to the travel agent industry at an extremely affordable price. All of the tools are aimed to increase productivity for agents, and include a client manager, task tracker, supplier reviews, itinerary builder, invoice creator, and group trip organizer. Additionally, BYT Agent offers a unique travel cost research tool with incidental travel costs from real travelers for destinations around the world. All of the tools are available online, so no download is needed; any internet enabled device can be used to access the service. Ease-of-use and agent productivity are the primary goals of the tools. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

As my Publisher’s Corner article today suggests, with the accessibility of today’s media we are all suddenly publishers, editors and writers. This week, we want to turn our attention to writing articles, crafting blog posts and press releases. Most travel agents have lots of available “content” stored in their heads.  A life-time of cruises, tours, fam trips and property inspections provides an undeniable expertise that is valuable to the public. The ability to write a good article is important for a travel agent. Most travelers recognize the need for knowledge and for tapping into the expertise of other travelers. A solid reference library of articles will be an important resource for clients, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

“Why must you speak all your thoughts?  Silence, if fair words stick in your throat, would serve all our ends better.”  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

If you are a parent, you have likely cautioned your teenage children about the dangers and permanence of social media. Facebook and Twitter are forever. An unwise post will be seen by friends, other parents, school administrators,  future employers. It’s risky business to let every thought drop onto your keyboard like a gum ball.

Every now and then it pays to monitor how well we follow our own advice.

I am an unabashed fan of Facebook as a business tool. However, I am also a privacy advocate and leery of the impact of the posts we make. Ensconced among the witty remarks, funny pictures and inspirational quotes we sometimes let slip the unkind remark, the political diatribe or the unflattering shadow side of our character. Those digital footprints follow us around and become a part of our brand. As professionals we don’t want leave a trail of remarks radically divergent from our best business interests. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a lot of agents that are frustrated that they “wasted” time with a prospect who did not purchase.  It is frustrating; but it happens…all the time…to all of us.  There is no shortage of good advice on being the best travel professional you can be—just review any of Richard Earls’ columns and you can see that.  As a whole, we know our stuff. So why is it sometimes so hard to seal the deal?  Maybe we all can use a lesson in Closing 101. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Who are your gooroos?

We are surrounded all the time by self-proclaimed experts in a variety of things.  There are experts for social media (even specialized experts in one platform of social media!), experts for websites, experts for sales…if you can think of it, there’s an expert out there for it!  It can be difficult to weed out all the riff-raff and find the GOOD experts, the ones who not only know what they’re talking about, they have a historical record of positives to back up their expert claims.  I call these “certified” experts gooroos.  Like, guru, only top of the heap. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Deck Plans

It is 2 a.m., and I am goosing the throttle of a snowmobile, gliding across the white earth. A light snow is falling, the night is chilly, but not achingly cold as you might expect at this latitude, 70°N.

I have deliberately left open the plastic faceshield on my helmet. My nostrils and cheeks are exposed to the Arctic air. It feels refreshing, pure and thoroughly cleansing.

Welcome to winter cruising in Norway. “This is a new pattern of travel,” says Hurtigruten’s tour director. “All 11 of our ships are sailing full.”

Read the rest of this entry »