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Last week, I went to dinner with a colleague. And like all great conversations, this one began after a few drinks. His phone stated to beep, vibrate, and buzz. I realize that most travel professionals today are on call 24-7, so it was not unusual for him to address the beeps, vibrations, and buzzers right then and there. I had expected a short, simple response and a return back to our conversation. But no! He kept tapping.

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We figured there would be changes

Back in a November column, I said that under any new Presidential administration that we should expect changes that impacted the travel industry. It is inevitable, the only unknowns are how severely it will impact us and at what cost? And what do we need to do as an industry to handle any changes and fight those that are detrimental?

Since November, the two largest changes have been the ban on electronics entering the US in aircraft cabins and the most recent repeal of former President Obama’s relaxing of travel to Cuba. While the first is a major inconvenience; the second has to potential to do harm to our bottom line. So what to do? Read the rest of this entry »

With Europe (notably the UK) in a bit of turmoil lately with terror attacks and a surprising election, it was a welcome respite to notice some good news last week.

I belong to several travel agent groups on Facebook. If you don’t belong to any, search them out; they are a great resource. But I digress. I was checking posts and I came across one that made me smile. Read the rest of this entry »

London: Two attacks in two weeks, what now?

First, a bomb exploded at an Ariana Grande concert in  Manchester on May 22nd. Then on June 2nd, a coordinated attack in central London has left 8 more dead. While it is still too early to know if they are connected, it is not too early to start planning on how the travel industry will (once again) deal with the risk of a terror attack in a destination that is usually deemed pretty safe.

What now?

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Last week, I got in a discussion with a colleague and the topic of preferred suppliers came up.  I have my list and he had his. In short time, the discussion turned into a friendly banter with each of us picking apart the other’s choices. I don’t know why you like Supplier A because they did this and that way back in 2010.  Well Supplier B has a reputation for doing this.  Eventually we agreed that we could pick apart ANY supplier if we dug deep enough. So we decided to restructure the debate to what we WANT in a preferred supplier.  Hey Supplier A and Supplier B–you listening? Read the rest of this entry »

 

I got a call the other day inquiring about pricing on our “upcoming group trip to Antigua.” Seems pretty routine, right? Well, the catch was that we did not have a trip to Antigua. I assumed she got her wires crossed and meant to call someone else, but she was insistent. In the end, we discovered she stumbled across an article I wrote in 2004 for MSNBC where I referenced a trip that we had done in 2003 to…Antigua. We shared a little laugh and then I got to thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

 

As if flying was not bad enough; hold on, it is going to get a lot worse. In March, the US put a ban on laptops and tablets in cabins from incoming flights from a select few countries, which affected about 50 daily flights. Now it seems that the ban may be extended to include EU countries and is expected to affect more than 400 daily flights and 65 million travelers per year. So what is a traveler to do? What is an agent to do? Read the rest of this entry »

Customer service will kill you. Well, let me be more specific…poor customer service will kill you. I am a patient guy for the most part. I realize that we are all busy and sometimes thing slip through. But sometimes my patience runs thin and any size screw-up can send me off vowing to never shop or patronize a place again. The tough part is knowing when I have had enough. Here are three ways you might be sabotaging your own business. Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

My agency has evolved over the years. I entered the world of travel (as a profession) in 1996 when I purchased a single location agency. We grew it to five locations, weathered all sorts of issues including 9-11 and I sold the retail aspects in 2005. I continues on with a niche agency I had developed selling group travel to single parents and their kids. And I continue that to this day.

All too frequently, I get the ignorant comments such as “why are you still in a dying industry?” and “how can you make any money doing that?” And make no mistakes, those are ignorant. Am I rolling in the dough to the tune of mid-six figures? Not even close. But so far, I have been able to survive, have a good time, and put my three kids through college while working in a dying industry.  Of course there is more than the dollars. I gave that some thought and here’s my reasons why I am sticking with this “dying” industry. Read the rest of this entry »

First United was dragging passengers off a plane to accommodate a crew shift; and now, less than two weeks later, American has hit a woman in the head with a stroller and a flight attendant has challenged a passenger to a fight. What is happening to the “friendly skies”?

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So United really stepped in it this time

 

Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the latest airline screw up. United oversold a flight and needed seats for their crew to staff another plane at the destination. The solution United came up with (as all airlines will do) is to bounce a few passengers. Where United differed was that, for some still yet unexplained reason, they decided to forcibly remove one passenger causing injury and embarrassment to both the passenger and the company. We can follow along with the unfolding saga and will ultimately find out what truly happened. But all that aside, there is another valuable lesson to be learned here. Read the rest of this entry »

 

AdWeek recently had an article on social media use as it relates to travelers. It piqued my interest and I dug in and came away surprised. Hopefully we are all using social media by now. A Facebook page for your agency is as required as a website and business license. And if you are not…or if you might be slacking, check out some of these stats! Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest

 

Way back when in a and far, far away, airlines used to give travel agent certificates for free or discounted travel. One time, I had a bunch of them to use with US Airways and decided to just walk up to an airport with a suitcase and go someplace new based on the clothing in my bag—warm or cold. It was exciting. It was cool. I told the ticketing agent to just let me know the gate and not the destination. I tried to not know, but usually the gig was up when I arrived at the gate. But the serendipity was intoxicating. Fast forward to my discovery last week. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Hopefully every year you put together a marketing (and business) plan for your business. There are travel nights, travel shows, advertising, direct mail, email, Facebook ads, and Yellow Pages—well OK maybe not Yellow Pages, I have not been listed in more than a decade! But here’s a thought for you. Are sponsorships part of your overall marketing plan? If not, they should be; and here’s why! Read the rest of this entry »

When you need help, ask for it…or find it

 

Recently I became overwhelmed. I was falling behind on returning telephone calls, emails, and a final payment for a group was barreling down on me. I also had a non-travel related pressing project that was looming. While I like to think of myself as super human (and I did for a brief moment), I realized that there was no way in the world I was going to get all of this done in time. Something was going to get left behind and ignored. I needed help. But I am not in a position with my agency to hire staff. I have looked into virtual assistants in the past and could not justify the move—I tend to be one of those guys who think that no one can do a task as well as I can. So what to do? I just needed to get over this hump. Read the rest of this entry »

How to handle a fibbing client

We all are used to clients playing us against the Internet….their cousin who is a travel agent…or even the supplier directly. It comes with the territory it seems. Is it dishonest? I don’t necessarily think so. It is likely just a consumer making sure they are getting the most bang for their buck.  I bought a television a while ago, and I sniffed out Best Buy, HH Gregg, and Amazon to see if there was much difference. But every now and then, I get a client that not only shops, me; but comes out with an outright lie.
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New discoveries in the world of travel appdom*

Without a doubt, the travel technology we have seen develop over the past two decades has been amazing. We have gone from communicating via phone and fax to email and text. Considering we (travel agents) were one of the first industries to have desktop computers, I guess it should not be such a surprise. But that technology comes with a price as well. Certainly it has “stolen” some of our business by giving clients the ability to do some of what we used to do. And that is ok. As far as I am concerned, much of what today’s tech provides the client is what I despised doing in the first place. Now, I can concentrate on offering advice and crafting experiences rather than making sure a connection is legal and finagling with seat assignments. With that all said, I recently came across some new travel apps that impressed me and will now be in my arsenal of information provided to my clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Swinging at curve balls

When life hands you lemons; the adage says you make lemonade. You swing at a curve ball. But let’s be real here for a moment. When you get lemons, sometimes you just want to wallow in a pity party. But then, you need to pick yourself up again, reinvent yourself, and carry on. It’s called entrepreneurship and it is what we do. Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

The travel industry does not live in a vacuum

 

Hopefully as you grow your business you are taking advantage of all the mistakes people who have come before you have made. I know I have made more than my share of them. Hopefully, you are also taking advantage of the successes they have experienced. Learning from others usually is a tremendous asset to any business. But the one question I have for you is “where do you look for these warnings and inspiration?” Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a better mousetrap out there?

Facebook is such a fantastic tool for keeping in touch with old friends, new friends, and for sure colleagues that are across the globe. When a topic pops up where I feel I can contribute, I usually hop right in. And last week, a thread popped up in my Facebook newsfeed from a travel agent community and I hopped right in. Read the rest of this entry »

3 types of clients that drive me crazy

When I dive into something, I like to learn as much as possible. I may not be an “expert,” but I tend to feel I know more than the average person—after all, that is why they are coming to me. I take the time to do extra research. I ask for opinions from true experts. I learn from my mistakes and I am very willing to share my knowledge with others. Sometimes I am a fast learner and other times it takes more time to become proficient.  I am sure we are all the same! So why are there three types of customers that drive me crazy? Read the rest of this entry »