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The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is proud to have partnered with The Company Dime to produce “Unmanaged to Managed: Why and How Companies Formalize Travel Programs,” a groundbreaking research project focused on the barriers and opportunities related to converting “unmanaged” business travel to managed travel.

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I spent most of May at an Ayurveda hospital in India, located on the grounds of a former resort and geared more to Westerners than domestic patients. Since medical tourism is a growing field and I’ve had so many friends in the industry ask me about my experience, I thought I should share a few thoughts about my sojourn at CGH Earth Ayurveda’s Kalari Rasayana.

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Iceland’s Eruption

Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010 might have caused air travel havoc, but it also started a boom never seen before in Iceland’s tourism. It wasn’t too long ago that Iceland could expect about 350,000 visitors a year – not a bad figure for a country with a population of around 330,000. But in the year following the eruption, tourism began to increase by unprecedented numbers.

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A Pot Pourri of Pleasant Surprises

Virgin Atlantic have recently started non-stop services from San Francisco and Boston to the north of England city of Manchester. With flights already heading across the pond from Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, JFK, Philadelphia and Washington DC it’s worth taking a much closer look at why you should be actively promoting this user-friendly gateway to North Wales, northern England and Scotland.

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Unexpected Ethiopia

After venturing twice to Ethiopia in the last two years with Addis Abbas-based Jacaranda Tours, I’ve come to the conclusion that four weeks there just isn’t enough time to explore one of the world’s largest and most diverse nations. With culture, history and landscapes as the focus rather than just wildlife or beaches, Ethiopia stands far apart from other African destinations. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this intriguing country.

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The 10% Rule – Put Your Future in the Bank!

Financial counselors always advise taking 10% off the top of your salary and putting it in a savings account for the future. I use this same theory to invest in securing my client’s future business. By providing an unexpected added value, you are showing your appreciation for their business that will develop into a stronger client relationship with all of the loyalties that follow.

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Join ASTA’s 2017 Research Family

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is calling on agency members to participate in the 2017 ASTA Research Family survey program. ASTA members who are chosen and who fulfill the survey requirements will earn a $60 credit toward their 2018 annual dues when they renew.

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Conservancies

During my career, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the world’s most ardent conservationists, many of them involved in preserving wild places through “conservancies” — an innovative concept that utilizes private or community owned land for the purpose of wildlife conservation.

People often ask me about conservancies (what exactly are they?) and why they should go to one verses a national park or government game reserve. I’m a big fan of conservancies and thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about them over the years, as well as some of the differences between visiting a conservancy and a national park.

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There is nothing like traveling through the Mediterranean. I have been there countless times, often stopping in the same villages, yet I have never tired of them. There is a romance to the whole area that particularly blankets Italy, France and Spain where I find comfort when I return and see a city as I left it, and yet there is always something new.

Med cruises tanked in 2016

Last year the Mediterranean was hit hard by many factors that affected tourism. We will never really know how people make their decisions but election years are always tough and it was also a restless time for many countries.

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Travel Agency Industry Service Fee Practices

Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the Service Fee report, seeks to discover current service fee practices in the travel agency industry in addition to  travel agents’ other revenue sources such as consultation fees, travel insurance, mark-ups and others. It is truly a balancing act for travel agencies and agents to maximize revenues by obtaining commissions from industry supplier partners and charging clients various fees, without overly relying on commissions or alienating prospective customers. The industry as a whole continues the effort of introducing the concept of fee-based professional travel advice to the general public.

Charging Service Fees

Among ASTA agency members, three quarters (76%) indicated that they charged service fees in 2016. It appears that the downward trend continues after the peak in the mid-2000’s with more than 90% of ASTA agency members charging service fees. The possible reasons can be two-fold: some leisure agencies are shifting away from booking air directly while others are exploring additional revenue sources such as consultation fees. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking the Angst Out of Exotic Vacations

So many agents I visit around the country seem afraid to sell what they perceive as “exotic” destinations to their clients.  They always come up with lots of don’ts and can’ts on why their customers aren’t taking (or don’t want to take) more adventurous trips.

I think the main reason more agents don’t branch away from selling traditional vacations and getaways is a fear of selling what they don’t know.  I don’t know if there’s a fancy name for that—like fear of clowns (coulrophobia) or fear of chickens (alektorophobia). But it sure is easier to come up with reasons why you “can’t” or your clients  “won’t” than actually branching out and learning about new destinations.

Here are my responses to common objections that I often hear in the field:

“My client’s can’t afford to go there”  

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Anita’s Six Steps to Marketing Success

  1. CREATE A BROCHURE FOR YOUR BUSINESS Before you hand out that supplier’s brochure, make sure you hand out a brochure of your own. Use a software program such as Microsoft Publisher and create a brochure about yourself and your business. If you don’t have the Microsoft Publisher software you can go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/templates/default.aspx for the Microsoft Office Template Gallery which offers over 3000 templates for calendars, resumes, greeting cards, business plans and lots more. When putting together your own business brochure, make sure to include the following:

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Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the upcoming annual ASTA Financial Benchmarking report provides a bountiful amount of data and information on the financial trends of ASTA agency members including revenue, sales, transactions, number of clients, profit and so on. This information will be very beneficial to current and prospective ASTA members, consortia, franchise companies, host agencies and supplier partners alike. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Wildlife Travel on Your Clients Bucket List?

I’ve made a living selling wildlife and nature trips for the last 27 years – working with travel and safari companies that have programs to visit iconic bucket list species from mountain gorillas to rhinos to jaguars.

Not only are the agents who sell these trips making high commissions, but if the trip is done correctly, they are also helping to save those species. These agents have tapped into a whole group of avid travelers who aren’t counting countries – but are tallying animals they have seen in the wild.

A Growing Area of Tourism

Tourism wasn’t developed to save the planet. But that’s exactly what certain sections of the industry find themselves doing in the 21st century — aiding and abetting the conservation of certain species (and by extension, other flora and fauna that live in their ecosystems) through a collaboration of national parks and governments, private companies, conservationists, and local communities who have a vested interest in the survival of these animals. Read the rest of this entry »

Got BOGO?

By now I am sure everyone has seen the catchy commercials for Payless Shoe stores. BOGO is “buy one get one half off” at Payless. Previous to the Payless campaign, BOGO was an acronym that was universally known in the marketing industry but rarely presented to customers in this form. Originally, “buy one get one free” was a sudden end-of-season or stock clearance method used by shops who were left with a large quantity of stock that they were looking to sell quickly.

“Buy One, Get One free”, or “Buy one, get one” is a common form of a sales promotion, even now in the travel industry. The two-for-one travel promotions have become quite popular, particularly lately due to the economy. Some cruise lines have marketed sailings such as the “2 for 1 Escape the Economy Sale”. Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Read With A Profitable Ending

Visit England recently announced that 2017 is to be the Year of Literary Heroes and with it being the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, the 20th anniversary of J K Rowling’s first novel, the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication, and with the five-year Brontë 200 celebration well underway, it set me thinking about how you could convert these and other literary connections into a profitable UK travel experience.
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Workforce Considerations in a Shifting Industry

Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the annual Labor and Compensation report seeks to discover current employment trends and compensation models in the travel agency industry. Insights into compensation packages and classifications, recruitment of travel agents as well as agencies’ plans to handle the new Department of Labor (DOL) overtime regulations can be beneficial to various industry segments related to travel agencies.

Travel Agency Business Models and Location Types

Among ASTA members, the most common models are agencies with one location outside the home with employees or ICs (46%) accounting for the largest share, followed by home-based agencies with no employees or ICs (20%), home-based agencies with employees or ICs (19%) and agencies with multiple locations (12%) in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

30 Second Marketing

What is it?

They are called elevator speeches and are intended to prepare you for very brief, chance encounters in an elevator. But elevator speeches are not just for elevators!

An elevator speech is a short, 15-30 second, approximately 150 word sound bite that succinctly and memorably introduces you. It spotlights your uniqueness as well as focuses on the benefits you provide. This is something that should be delivered effortlessly. And it is an excellent way to market yourself.

So, who better than you to describe with passion, precision, and persuasiveness what you do? A great elevator speech makes a lasting first impression, showcases what you do, and allows you to position yourself for meeting new potential clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Today businesses focus not on just being found, but also making sure their products and services are purchased and used. And not just the one time, but again and again. In the travel industry, we are more than just a service because we help our clients create memories of a lifetime. As a result of social media, there are numerous, diverse channels that can be used to market what we do. Getting clients to continue to book through us again and again really gets down to building that successful client relationship, and where personalization is the key. Read the rest of this entry »

For many, the Chelsea Flower Show is THE garden show to include in any springtime UK garden tour and I’m not going to disagree. However, there are some independent clients who just can’t get away in May because of commitments to their own garden club, and I’ve picked out several alternative events that may well catch their eye.

For those who can travel in May, look also at the garden festivals in France, Ireland, and Scotland and see how they can be combined to create something completely new. Read the rest of this entry »

Building stellar client relationships

Today it’s not just about finding clients, but keeping them. Having done sales over the years myself, I know it can be challenging. It really gets back to what’s at the core of any successful business, especially travel. We need to build a relationship with our potential clients, focusing on them and their needs. After that first sale comes in, the ongoing relationship building has to continue. It doesn’t end after that first sale. Getting these clients to rely on us, view us as the travel experts, and use our expertise is really at the core of building that stellar relationship. We need to keep ourselves in the picture.

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