A big health and weight challenge for me is that I’ve always used travel as an excuse to abandon the diet-du-jour and eat anything and everything, even from the inflight beverage cart. I’ve since developed healthier habits and strategies to overcome these tendencies. A survey of the agent community has also generated some useful advice.
The wake-up call came two years and twenty five pounds ago when I awoke from a dream…actually a nightmare… trying to shake off feelings of shame and self-loathing. In my dream, a smirking flight attendant was asking me if I needed a seatbelt extender. All passengers within earshot were laughing at my embarrassment and, of course, they all looked like triathletes with body fat percentages of negative twelve. I decided that very morning to get serious about losing weight and eating healthy, especially when traveling. Read the rest of this entry »
Question: What do stock market investors and travel agents have in common? Answer: They have both been jilted by Carnival.
It is clear that over the last few months the chickens have come home to roost. The line is now paying the price for some bad business decisions, plus a handful of well documented accidents (too often the result of bad operating policy). For all who have a stake in Carnival’s fortunes – agency owners and investors alike – it makes for a not-so-pretty picture.
Agencies selling CCL have taken a hit for several reasons – higher thresholds for over-rides making it more difficult to maintain top tier commission levels; expansion of the non-commissionable portion of already discounted, ridiculously low fares; policies that require agents to abandon the phones, forcing all bookings online as well as the resolution of all other issues. The net effect is an offloading of more and more work to travel agents for less and less commission.
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.
Are you the ‘go to’ person for clients in analyzing the complex and often confusing travel loyalty programs? If not, then doing a just little bit of homework will position you to leverage knowledge of these programs to create some loyalty of your own. Instead of losing business to ‘free’ mileage tickets, make extra income for yourself – while saving the client time.
(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.
Today even small home based agencies have a web presence and send out emailed newsletters. This means every agency – regardless of size – probably has access to one humongous mountain of data just begging to be mined…for fun and profit.
Recent efforts to make sense of the data associated with our website and email campaigns have left me in a state of wonder, salivating over the possibilities.
There are several online services – most free or very inexpensive – to assist in gathering and evaluating visitor data associated with websites. The most popular is Google Analytics (free). Another is Hubspot (fees). For purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Google’s service. Read the rest of this entry »
Are the most successful, rapidly growing theme cruise charter companies ready to share the wealth? Yep, looks like.
The two biggest players – Sixthman Productions of Atlanta and Entertainment Cruise Productions of St. Louis – pay commissions to travel agents. ECP in particular is aggressively developing the agency distribution system.
These full ship charterers take over the entire ship – making the experience unique – and claim to have the happiest guests on the high seas. And my research shows that there is something to this satisfaction claim. Read the rest of this entry »
Regardless of which side you take in the recent dust-up over the official ‘gay marriage’ policies of a major fast food company, the brouhaha itself proves that our Constitutional rights are working exactly as intended. We enjoy both freedom of speech and freedom of choice in this country. We are free to express our values…and free to vote with feet and wallets accordingly – usually with some civility. It’s the American Way, right?
Unfortunately, it is not that simple anymore. As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show so aptly puts it, we’ve morphed into a “Fast Feud Nation”. Read the rest of this entry »
What if blind sampling of hotels were possible, with brand names hidden? What if we could dis-associate brand expectations from actual experience…and reassess accordingly? Back-to-back stays at two very upscale hotels in the Miami / Ft Lauderdale area provided the perfect opportunity for this type of strenuous, high wire evaluation gymnastics. So, working without a net, without a safety device of any kind…here goes.
The experience is still too fresh to totally grasp the long-term implications, but I believe I’ve glimpsed the future of cruising…at least the future of Big Ship cruising.
My week on the Norwegian Epic was an eye opener to say the least. Some of NCLs innovations are new and original. Others – like a completely separate, private and upscale class of accommodations & dining within the same ship – hark back to the grand trans-Atlantic ocean liners of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.
It is a fact: Well written biographies and personal stories resonate with consumers.
And those of us in the travel trade have a special advantage. We get to travel a lot. The more we travel, the better our stories. Does your About Us page reflect that? After all, this is where you get to tell your story…and how well you do so can have a measureable impact on your business.
Think I’m exaggerating? Listen to what top marketers and successful entrepreneurs are saying about the art and craft of storytelling and its impact on your business.
My fellow TAs, this is a cry for help. My 30-year-long love affair with cruises is in jeopardy. ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ as BB King says. The change has been so gradual as to be almost un-detected, previously misdiagnosed as Creeping Laziness.
I recently sat down for some remedial therapy with my Grief Counselor*, digging deep for answers. Emotions ran high and we went through several boxes of tissue…but here is what emerged:
The buzz is building. The Great American Steamboat Company is now open for business – as of September 30 – with cruises beginning in April, 2012. Jeff Krida and company are bringing back the great sternwheeler, the American Queen. Jeff is former CEO and President of Cruise West and Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Corporate offices are in downtown Memphis.
The marketing roadshow is making the rounds of major cities as we speak. A breakfast seminar reaches our mutual hometown on November 14, for which I have registered. Webinars are also currently available online. Read the rest of this entry »
My fellow TA’s – allow me to speak to you in confidence – as a representative of my generation. We Boomers have some unique, even eccentric needs. By going the extra mile to address those needs you can win our undying loyalty.
In the US there are 77 million of us who were born between 1946 and 1964. We account for 40% of US adult population, control 67% of the nation’s wealth and are responsible for 80% of all luxury travel spending. Plus, we boomers want it our way. We want customization, not ‘off-the-rack’…especially when it comes to travel.
The travel industry was stunned this week when – for the first time in ten years – 48 hours passed without the launch of a single new online travel application.
Critics, travel writers and technology reviewers alike scanned the media in a panic, checking their iPhones, Androids and Blackberries, glancing nervously at their news feeds every few minutes.
Read the rest of this entry »
Once upon a time being indispensible to clients was a no brainer, back before critical information became available to the public. In those bygone days, all one needed to do was subscribe to a GDS, join a relatively closed society of information gatekeepers and you were in business. With the advent of the Internet and resulting flood of previously proprietary information, we were flushed out of our comfort zone. No more making a living by being order takers.
Regaining indispensability – The evolution of Web 2.0 is reversing that trend. The same phenomena that took the opportunity away is now handing it back. Where Web 1.0 empowered, Web 2.0 overwhelms.
With the Web offering up more and more mindboggling amounts of information – where everybody has access to everything – including each other, 24/7 – online behavior is shifting. It is turning out that the convenience of universal connectivity has a huge price tag, a stealthy one at that. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
It is not a stretch to call me a true denizen of the digital age, after all, I know my way around Photoshop, know how to code a webpage with Dreamweaver and understand that CSS in not another spinoff of Law & Order. I even communicate regularly with my teenager via IM – often the ONLY way to get her attention.
But when it comes to Social Media, I’ll all thumbs and fumble fingers. Weeks go by before I remember to check my Facebook page.
And Twitter? Even with two accounts – one personal and the other for business – I still don’t “tweet”…or read them.
(There is something about the scatter shot approach and ultra-brevity of the Twitter-verse that stops me in my tracks. It’s like fishing for trout with dynamite – too hard to spot the edible bits amongst the detritus that floats to the surface. And don’t talk to me about ‘hash tags’. That term will always be associated with corned beef in my mind.) Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to joining Auto Europe in August of this year, Eric Ledroux held executive positions with Renault, Avis Europe and Europcar. His extensive knowledge of the car rental industry spans 21 years of experience. Eric overseas all operations in the Americas for Auto Europe, offering worldwide car rental services, hotel reservations at 3, 4 & 5 star European properties, as well as consolidating business class airfare internationally.
TRO: You are fairly new with Auto Europe. Tell us more about your background.
EL: I have been with Auto Europe since August. Before that I was CEO of Europcar, working in both London and Paris. I came here to oversee US operations so that our CEO, Imad Khalidi could focus on expansion of international offices in Europe and Australia.
TRO: With this international expansion is Auto Europe adding primarily to its customer base or product line? Read the rest of this entry »
A convergence of circumstances allowed me the opportunity to spend a week in south central Florida recently. Hilton World Wide held their annual Owner’s Conference at one of their newest properties, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Business responsibilities made my spouse’s attendance mandatory, so I tagged along.
A solo mid-week trip down to Boca Raton was also in the cards since our daughter attends a liberal arts college there. Boca is an easy drive south of Orlando and offered an opportunity to meet other students, professors and generally familiarize myself with the area and lifestyle.
Impressions of Boca – It is certainly a very upscale community – but I found getting around confusing. From street level, all entrances look the same, whether a gas station, shopping center, university or office complex, all have the “gated” look of a private country club, Read the rest of this entry »