Monthly Archives: April 2013

Posted In: Outposts

Explore Costa Rica with Vacation Express!

A 3-hour plane ride from Miami will place you within one of the most beautiful countries in all of Central America. Costa Rica offers attractions for all ages; revel in natural beauty left untouched thanks to the government’s strong efforts to preserve the island’s ecosystems. The rainforests that populate this gem are some of the most unique in the world; combine this with the perfect year-round climate and atmosphere, not to mention the extremely friendly locals, you are sure to desire another visit as soon as you return home.

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Last month I was pondering my “re-branding”  (it wasn’t a complete rebrand, just a fine tune) and I shared my fears. I was worried about the re-print costs, website traffic and the complete do-over of my SEO. I belong to a few travel agent groups on Facebook, and I know that many agents are going through the same roller-coaster as me. It seems that more and more travel professionals are beginning to re-think, or even chose a “niche” for the first time, in their career and many have the same questions I have. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

 

Luc BERENI, XL AIRWAYS FRANCE

Luc Bereni was born in Corsica and has 27 years of experience in managing French airlines. He began his career in 1985 as an analyst at Air Inter; from there, he was promoted to executive assistant and then went on to head flight programs at Air Liberte and AOM French Airlines. He became Head of Commercial Operations at CCM Airlines in 2000 and in 2007 joined XL Airways as its Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Flight Schedules. He is married with two children.

What has been your most memorable travel experience?

My first flight, a domestic one-hour journey onboard a Caravelle in 1974. Perfect weather. Absolute silence. A total discovery in terms of mobility, which I often think of when I am onboard a plane that’s about to take-off.

How did that influence your understanding or appreciation of travel?

Even though I was not quite conscious of it at the time – after all I was only 12 – I probably considered from that day on that only planes could connect the earth’s five continents quickly enough to make it reasonable for someone to aim at discovering all of them across the course of a lifetime.

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Posted In: Publishers Corner

Way back in 2008, not more than a few weeks after we launched TRO’s editorial pages, I argued the travel professional community needed a set of formal standards by which to operate.  Last week I waded into the same waters, tempting out a number of rebuttals,  some emailed in private, not entirely happy with my editorial.  Texas travel agent David Appleby wrote a particularly strong and well-articulated comment and I promised a response. I first want to thank David for his comments and the opportunity to respectfully disagree.

David’s commentary asserts the present scenario, while not perfect, has served the industry pretty well. This is actually the very early point at which we diverge.  I think the past 15 years has roughed our industry up pretty badly and our lack of exclusivity has not served us well.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Last week, there was a good discussion on a Facebook group about touching base with seemingly long lost clients.  The poster asked what type of questionnaire or survey could be sent to find out why former clients are no longer booking travel with their original agent.  Of course clients will come and go, but knowing why they left is a good thing to know if you want to continue to grow your business. Clients can leave for very good reasons—and that is fine. Often they leave because of something that went wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Why They Call It Marketing

In theory, the distinction between features and benefits is generally well understood by most travel agent marketers. After all, we call it “marketing” not “featuring” – we want to address the needs of the market. Unfortunately, the difference between features and benefits often does not clearly appear in travel agency marketing materials. Company brochures, websites and other marketing collateral proudly list the many features of the travel agency’s services instead. The temptation to do so is easy to understand. We all see things  best from our own perspective and what we know and understand best as travel agents are the many features of the services we offer. But that is not what the client is looking for in your agency. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

The Art of the Handwritten Note–Part 1

The other week, one of my clients was celebrating a birthday.  I sat down, wrote out a nice birthday message on a blank birthday card, and mailed it to her.  A few days later, I received a phone call from her – my birthday card was really thoughtful, unexpected, and made her day.  I scored HYOOGE brownie points with that client not only by remembering her birthday, but personalizing that remembrance.

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Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – April 26, 2013

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Soundings

Tell Your Story, Teach and Decommoditize

Telling my story has always seemed to come naturally. I never tire of rehashing and embellishing tall tales of my decade plus as a cruise ship entertainer – always weaving in some of the epic fails along with the romance. Listeners get what sounds like the ‘Love Boat’ resurrected as a modern day reality show. (Yes, I endured several tours of duty on the Princess ‘Love Boats’ of that era.) Plus, the process provides the perfect segue to a cruise presentation.

I rarely think of storytelling as a branding process but – according to dozens of business books – that is exactly what’s happening.

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Posted In: The 365 Guide

The Travel Agents With Whom You Work

As I sometimes do, I stopped in to visit with a travel agency the other day. I always look forward to the opportunity. I learn something every time. This time, however, what I saw was a good example of a bad example. There was one agent on the phone, and she barely acknowledged my arrival with “Someone will be with you in a moment.” As I took my seat she continued her telephone conversation which centered on the price of an airline ticket. Her grammar was sub-standard, and her sales technique nonexistent. After I sat there for another few minutes, she finally yelled into the back of the office that “there was a customer out front.” The agent who emerged to greet me was friendly enough, but had very little presence or personality. I’m fairly certain she did not have a smile. No, the owner was not in, but by that time it no longer mattered. My expectations of that office in general were now pretty low. I did not expect the world’s greatest travel agent was lurking in one of the other offices in the back. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

A few weeks back, I was speaking at a conference and was mingling with a gentleman from Indiana at a pre-event reception. We were talking about how to be successful and he uttered five words that I knew would be one of my future battle cries!

LEARN TO DROP THE ROCK!

He was a very successful man. Full of life. Full of fun. Full of ideas. And more than financially sound. We were talking about why some people are more successful than others when began to wax eloquent on the subject. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Costa Rica by Costa Rica Dream Vacations

Costa Rica is Central America’s special jewel and it is only a few short hours’ flight from anywhere in the US. Costa Rica appeals to travelers of all ages and the country’s natural attractions, wildlife and reputation for enlightened conservation draw visitors from all over the world. The government has made a real effort to preserve the country’s image as an eco-tourism haven; because of this watchfulness, Costa Rica  shelters a whopping 5% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. The country’s bio-diversity attracts nature lovers from all over the world. Add to this the incredible warmth and sincere hospitality of the local people and the exceptional variety of hotels along Guanacaste’s Pacific coast and you have a recipe for a unique and memorable destination for couples, singles and families.

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Well – when I agreed to do this column for the year, I never envisioned that it would end up being a True Confessions column dishing all the dirty little secrets. But refreshing to know that we all are not alone! However-  given some of the responses I have received I seemed to have hit a chord with quite a few people. So let the blood-letting continue!

First things first. Last month’s column I talked about struggling with time management – sitting at my desk for too many hours and not giving myself enough personal time to enjoy life – which unfortunately had the strange effect of making me less productive! I vowed to take some time each morning for myself – catch up on my community’s news and actually be showered and dressed and ready for the day by the time I sat down at my desk. So how did I do? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Call Your Travel Professional

The four words above are found on the advertisements of numerous travel suppliers. There is, of course, a problem. Without a standard definition of “travel professional” who is the consumer going to call? Is it not highly likely that the consumer is going to call the best marketer they have encountered advertising themselves as a travel professional instead of the best travel agent? Moreover, there is no effective way for the consumer to research the background, training or expertise of any given travel agent.  How is the consumer reading an Royal Caribbean advertisement going to know who to call, and once they do, how can they be assured of the qualifications of the agent with whom they speak?

The National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) recently announced it is raising its criteria for membership.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Lately, I have heard travel professionals lament the time suck that social media can be. Let’s face it, it can be if you let it. It can be addictive, if you let it.  But, no matter if you like it or not; it appears to be here to stay and you ignore it at your own peril.  I am not suggesting that you must dive deep into all of the platforms, but you must be aware of them and understand that your approval or disdain will do nothing to quell the surge from them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Basics of Domain Names

It seems like such a simple thing – choosing a domain name for your business.  Domain names are the “address” by which your website is found on the Internet.  In fact, websites are identified by an IP address that looks something similar to 123.456.789.0.  But, that looks ugly and it’s hard to remember – so, domain names act like a mask on top of the IP address.  It’s much easier to remember www.ABCTravelCompany.com rather than an IP address!  But, if you don’t plan properly, your domain name can actually hurt your business!  I have seen many strange domain names in this industry, some of which make me ask, “What were they thinking?”

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Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – April 19, 2013

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Here’s a final bit of spring cleaning for you –  polish up your agency’s attitude! It is a real joy to work with smart people. Clients are like everyone else, they enjoy working with enthusiastic, smart travel consultants. You can give a smart travel professional an idea, and they get it, know its value and can understand how to implement it into their practice. Likewise, hand over an opportunity to a determined travel agent, and then get out of their way. A determined travel professional is willing to do what it takes to build their practice. Agents that combine the two qualities of intelligence and determination become top travel specialists. You can give a great idea to a mediocre travel agent  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Having just returned from a hard-hat tour of Royal Princess at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, I’ve concluded that there are at least six types of people who would enjoy a Royal Princess cruise. Which defines you?

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Posted In: The 365 Guide

It’s time to take a step back and clear your head, and your desk. Your office is a pretty good  reflection of your inner world – frightening, isn’t it? Now is a good time to de-clutter your business life, to start the balance of the year fresh and to remember the “why” of travel planning. The way you feel about your travel planning practice is communicated in your every contact with clients. For better or worse, your travel practice will reflect the “inner you.” If you fail to periodically refresh your perspective and recommit yourself, the message you will be sending may be other than what you intend. For launching out on a fresh start, taking a hard look at your office is a great place to begin. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Vacation Express: Luxury, Value, Service

Vacation Express, part of Sunwing Travel Group Inc., has been in existence for over 25 years and is one of the largest tour operators in the Southeast. The Atlanta-based tour operator specializes in quality vacation packages to over 35 destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica.

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