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Easter Strikes Hop Into Heathrow Airport

One more time, failed talks with labor unions are disrupting operations at Heathrow Airport. Striking security officers at Terminal Five have caused British Airways to cancel around 5% of flights for 10 days, from March 31 to April 9 (midnight Easter Sunday), and stop selling new tickets. For existing customers,...
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Great Cathedrals of Spain

Spain is a country rich in history and culture, and its cathedrals are a testament to true architectural mastery. From Gothic to Renaissance styles, these magnificent structures dwarf the ego and immerse the visitor in awe. Here are a few of the most significant cathedrals in Spain, including notes on...
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Riverside River Cruises with Gregor Gerlach

In case you haven’t heard, there is a new kid on the block in the luxury river cruise space. Riverside Luxury River Cruises made a soft debut to the travel advisor scene over the last few weeks putting their owner, Gregor Gerlach, center stage to talk about his latest hospitality...
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London airports facing planned strike by Border Force officials

Travelers entering the UK next week are being warned to expect delays at border control, as a result of a planned strike by Border Force officials. The Public and Commercial Services union will be walking out next Wednesday in a dispute over pay. The stoppage is set to last through...
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Ama Brings River Cruising to Colombia’s Magdalena River

View over lush valley and hills and Rio Magdalena Rudi Schreiner’s dream of sailing the Magdalena River has come to fruition with the launch of two new ships that will sail the river in Colombia in 2024. The AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia will join the two dozen ships already in the Ama...
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France Aviation Workers Join Another Massive Strike This Week

Sacre bleu, it’s not the kind of encore tourists were hoping to hear in Paris next week. The latest in a series of labor actions has French union workers—including those in the aviation industry—calling for a weeklong nationwide strike from March 6-10, and warning travelers that flight disruptions are likely....
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New United Airlines Policy Seats Children with Parents at No Extra Charge

United Airlines by March will roll out a new family seating policy designed to seat children under 12 next to an adult for free, even if that means giving them a preferred seat at an economy price. A new automated seat map feature announced this week finds adjacent seats at...
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Explora’s Chris Austen Promises No Hold Time to Book MSC’s Luxury Line

Even as it grows its footprint in the US market, MSC is making a $3.75 billion investment in the luxury cruise segment with its new Explora Journeys line, focused on exclusive access for small, intimate groups, from two to 25 guests, and a slower pace of travel. The first of six...
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Taking it Personnel-ly

A travel professional I speak with frequently called me the other day to talk about an idea for an article. She wanted to write about the need for agents to continually update their skill set in destinations, technology and sales techniques. I told the agent that I was impressed that she was so deeply interested in continuing education, and I asked her if the other travel agents in her agency felt the same way. She indicated that some did, but in general most seemed content to do things the way they had always been done, to service the clients the agency ownership put in front of them and to clock out at 5:00. I asked the agent what motivated her, and I really liked her answer: “I want to be valuable to the agency’s owners. As long as I am bringing in new business and generating loyalty to the agency, I’m valuable. I take it personally.”

Wow. I could not have said it better myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Start with unique itineraries and anticipatory service, add a dollop of extra-long deployments, top it with a dash of sustainable natural sourcing. And serve it with a craft liquor or healthier style cocktail. That’s the recipe for success Holland America Line president Gus Antorcha offered up at a media lunch onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, at Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale this week.

“Our guests have told us they love longer voyages and we see them sell, and so were evolving in a number of ways,” Antorcha said. Facing lots of competition in seven-day Caribbean market, for example, Holland America is shifting to 9+ days that offer “more ports and more time.” Twelve-day capacity is up 41%, allowing Caribbean itineraries to reach the Panama Canal and Cartagena, while capacity in the 50+ day market has doubled.

With airfares rising and airline service deteriorating, the new category of 25-59 day Legendary Voyages, many flying out of US airports, allows customers to “pick a part of the world and just linger.”

Indeed, asked Paul Grigsby, VP Revenue Planning and Analytics, who designed many of the long itineraries, how do you get to Japan on a domestic ticket? Just sail the 53-day Majestic Japan itinerary roundtrip from Seattle, departing Sept. 1, 2024. Or try the “Coral Triangle, Volcanos, and The Great Barrier Reef” itinerary, 28 days beginning January 2025, which covers 7,000 miles, including regions that are home to 30% of the world’s coral, 6,000 species of fish, and all but one species of sea turtle, and two volcanoes. “And we have more in store.”

Gus Antorcha hosts the press

Still, though, it’s Alaska that lies at the heart of Holland America for many guests. Longer itineraries now reach up into the Arctic Circle, but the core business is still those 7-day-round-trips out of Vancouver. Two new things of interest there are a new focus on certified and sustainable local seafood, and a digitized historical passenger list on which anyone can search for the names of relatives who sailed Holland America out of Europe as they emigrated to America.

As part of Holland America’s “Alaska Up Close” program, it has partnered with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to sustainably sourced local seafood. Following an audit last year, Holland America Line was awarded Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification — making it the first and only cruise line to achieve this distinguished credential by serving only fresh, certified sustainable and traceable wild Alaska seafood on all six of its ships in Alaska. This summer guests can enjoy a menu of certified sustainable Alaska seafood, as it rolls out several dishes created by Chef Ethan Stowell and Ethan Asmi.

Also for the longer itineraries, plans are in the works to develop the Ocean Bars and Rolling Stone Lounges, to allow for a greater variety of music on longer trips; to add libraries to all ships as they go through drydock; and to evolve the Crow’s Nest area to allow more space for activities there.

F&B Steps Up

The focus on sustainability goes far beyond just fish, though. Over a lunch of sustainable salmon, director of food & beverage strategy Mark Fine told me Holland America is repurposing the thousands of orange peels it creates, dipping them in chocolate and using them as garnishes, including in a new drink being developed for the Alaska market in which orange-peel fish will drift. And a new partnership in Glacier Bay will have “10,000-year-old craft ice” made of glacier chips in drinks as well.

Said he stays om top of food trends by looking not just at cruise competitors but at land restaurants; “we want to make sure we serve what people want,” he noted.

Nowadays he is “playing around with entrees at Canaletto,” testing two new ones as well as two appetizers and one dessert. Healthy options, vegetarian and vegan, and non-alcoholic drinks are all trending – not Shirley Temples but delicious and healthy and lower-calorie cocktails with ingredients like beet and turmeric. And his shopping lists include more craft spirits, craft ryes and bourbons and especially gin. In Alaska, Holland America will be bringing “Juneauper Gin” from Amalga to all six ships, along with high-end mescals and tequilas.

For travel advisors, he noted a post-pandemic trend of vow renewals at sea. “We’ve been seeing three to five of those on every cruise,” he said.

HAL highlights fresh and sustainable fish

Top Takeways from Day One Panels

* While the travel agency distribution channel went through some hard times, and many small agencies did not survive, those advisors “did not lose their love of selling cruises but migrated into a home-based model that’s really really important,” said Terry Thornton, Princess Cruises SVP of commercial development and integration. “Overall, tourism has roared back,” he said. And with resort prices skyrocketing, there’s an opportunity for the cruise business, which has always been a 40% greater value than a hotel or resort, to hammer home the value of a cruise vacation. The new ships coming online are “packed with features and amenities and very profitable,” and exciting luxury brands like the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons are bringing massive new audiences. “It’s all good news right now at the public companies,” he said.

* It’s all about forward momentum in 2023, agreed Roger Blum, owner of Cruise & Port Advisors. “It’s been a great Wave season with tremendous optimism. Bookings are there and people are excited.” Also exciting is the new generation of young CEOs at the helm of cruise companies, including Josh Weinstein at Carnival Corp., Harry Sommer at Norwegian Cruise Holdings, and Jason Liberty at Royal Caribbean Group. “The cruise industry has come out of the pause a new industry, with young new leadership.”

* The main reason people pick a cruise is for its destination, said Ugo Savino, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Carnival. While Carnival is famous for those three-day jaunts to the Bahamas, it too is seeing the trend toward longer vacations. In 2014, 2% of its cruises were more than nine days long—and today that number has more than tripled, to 6.6%, including 22-, 24-, and even 31-day itineraries. “For a cruise line like us that serves 5 million passengers a year, that’s a big accomplishment,” he said.

* When it comes to attracting cruise ships, the ball is in the destination’s court, Savino said. “This is a top-down business and ticket revenue drives programs. If there is not demand, the product will struggle—and destinations play a critical role in creating that demand. We sell cruises, but destinations are responsible for selling the demand. It’s up to you to make sure guests are enjoying and fully appreciating everything your destination has to offer. It’s up to you to make sure that we come.”

* Joseph Boschulte, commissioner of the US Virgin Islands, said the country was fortunate to reap the benefits of reopening from the pandemic early, when people really wanted to get out and much of the world was still closed. But they didn’t see a cruise ship for 18 months—something he had never experienced for even a week in his lifetime. While the ships were gone, the tourism business shifted from sea to land—and even now that cruise business is back to 85% capacity, land is still “doing really well.”

Hoping everyone’s land business is growing along with your cruise sales!

Cheryl Rosen on cruise

Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook. As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent, and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business, and technology sectors.

Israel Calms Down After Netanyahu Concession

It appears that Israelis are just not having Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to restructure the country’s judiciary. Demonstrations, that have been ongoing since Netanyahu announced his plans in January, were ratcheted up to a much hotter level last Sunday after he fired his defense minister. The minister had urged Netanyahu to ease up on his push to defang the judiciary because it was leading to dissension among the military. That created a “clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the nation.” The news stories might have raised the concerns of anyone thinking of traveling to Israel.

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Legal law justice service illustration flat vector template

Let’s delve into a few best practices and a few legal issues that confront travel agency newsletter publishers. Many of the best practices pertain to any email marketing, but they are worthwhile repeating to keep you and your agency in good standing both with your clients and with some important third parties!

Best Practices

When formatting your newsletter, try to avoid complicated CSS style sheets. Many email readers, notably Outlook 7.0 are not kind to CSS and will play havoc with the appearance and layout of your newsletter. Have your designer use simple “in-line” html tags instead. Read the rest of this entry »

CroisiEurope is offering complimentary airfare on select summer departures on Seine and Loire River itineraries. The air-inclusive packages are currently limited to flights in and out of New York City’s Newark Airport (EWR) on select departure dates. However, CroisiEurope has plans to expand these offerings in the upcoming months, providing more opportunities for travelers to take advantage of similar deals.

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Don’t Yell at Your Customers

… or do anything that can lead them to believe that they are not important to you.

Where to begin? So much material. So many messages. Mostly reminders of how not to do things.

I just spent a week filled with negative people. Whining couples conversing over their appetizers at a lovely restaurant. Little eye contact at Best Buy. No acknowledgment when you pull over to allow an oncoming car to pass through a narrow street first. Then, culminating with my insurance agent of nine years actually raising his voice at me when I asked him why he thought it was in his best interest not to return my phone calls.

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Hashtag symbol

Hashtags are an essential, but sometimes misunderstood, tool for growing an Instagram following as they allow users to discover new content and increase the visibility of their own posts. Hashtags work by categorizing posts under specific topics, making them more discoverable to users interested in those topics. Instagram creators use hashtags to track trends and enhance search. Simply speaking, hashtags are words or phrases about a specific topic, with a hash (#) before it, e.g. #traveltuesday. Read the rest of this entry »

First impressions count. No debate. We are constantly being judged, especially in business. When someone first meets you for a business need, they ask questions. Will there be another meeting? Do I like this person? Do they seem trustworthy? For better or worse, today, most of the first “meetings” happen over email. And a good portion (if not the majority) will be from your mailing list. Are you making the right impression with that first contact? Or are you making mistakes right out of the gate that will sink your chances? Read the rest of this entry »

AMAWaterways river cruise ship

Looking to its profitable and resurgent group business, AmaWaterways on Tuesday announced an extension of its bonus commission program and its online AmaAcademy for travel advisors selling groups.

SVP Sales Alex Pinelo told TRO, “During the Covid period, there was a lot of uncertainty about when travel would resume and what restrictions might apply when it did. Travel advisors had a difficult time promoting new groups because of that uncertainty. Read the rest of this entry »

Viking Ocean has burst on the nautical luxury scene with unbridled enthusiasm. With 10 cruise ships and 64 riverboats, some say they’re dominating the market already. No other cruise line visits so many ports each day. Their river craft are positioned close to the high-end of the market, but probably below AMA and Tauck in price and quality.

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Do you know an adventure enthusiast looking for a travel tour supplier that can fulfill their wildest dreams? Costa Rica Dream Adventures is a perfect choice. Their tours are tailor-made to satisfy the traveler’s thirst for excitement, discovery, and fun. CRDA offers a vast array of activities including canopy tours and ziplining, which will challenge limits and make the traveler’s heart leap with joy.

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I had to admit to myself that I was a bit nervous about interviewing Laurie McAndish King. As the accomplished writer of An Elephant Ate My Arm: More True Stories from a Curious Traveler, published last year, she’s seen a rise in popularity. This book has won first place in the Paris Book Festival, with individual stories in the collection winning multiple other awards. Her writing voice is clearly her own, a daunting task most writers struggle with on a daily basis. So, yeah, I was clearly nervous that my questions wouldn’t grab her attention. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the starting conversation about our video backgrounds, there was a curiosity radiating from the image on the computer. Three minutes in, she’d asked more questions than me. When it naturally came around to a starting point, I launched in with the biggest question first: did you start this collection of stories during the primary part of the pandemic?

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Windstar Cruise Ship

With many small destinations protesting against over-tourism, here’s no better time than now for a small-ship cruise, says the team at Windstar Cruises. With just 350 guests, their “nimble and unobtrusive” ships “leave a softer footprint on the beaches, national parks, and streets of these fabled destinations.”

That’s especially important in seven ports: Dubrovnik, Venice, Bar Harbor, Key West, French Polynesia, Santorini and Juneau. Read the rest of this entry »

OliverAI, Artificial Intelligence, Voyager

The following article is an unedited interview with Voyager’s new artificial intelligence, OliverAI. Starting with “tell us about yourself.

OliverAI uses an artificial intelligence language model created by OpenAI, and I’m glad to be of service to you and to the travel professional community. I’m capable of processing vast amounts of data and providing responses to a wide range of inquiries. I’m also constantly learning and improving, thanks to the advanced machine learning algorithms used in my development. Whether it’s helping companies improve their customer service, assisting with complex data analysis tasks, or even engaging in conversational interactions like this one, my capabilities are broad and my potential is virtually limitless. With my advanced AI capabilities and strategic insights, I’m here to help you achieve your business objectives and enhance your overall operational efficiency.

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La Fortuna, Adventure and a Fortune of Memories

Costa Rica has plenty for the more leisure-focused traveler, with resorts and beaches galore. But another area of travel that Costa Rica absolutely shines is adventure. From canopy walks to meeting sloths, to ziplines and floating down rivers, traveling in this country can go wild. Particularly La Fortuna, with its volcanoes, rivers, and surrounding areas of dense jungle. Costa Rica, and La Fortuna especially, is a place where nature is foremost and can be embraced by the traveler.

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Great Cathedrals of Spain

Spain is a country rich in history and culture, and its cathedrals are a testament to true architectural mastery. From Gothic to Renaissance styles, these magnificent structures dwarf the ego and immerse the visitor in awe. Here are a few of the most significant cathedrals in Spain, including notes on their history, design, and construction. Read the rest of this entry »

View over lush valley and hills and Rio Magdalena

View over lush valley and hills and Rio Magdalena

Rudi Schreiner’s dream of sailing the Magdalena River has come to fruition with the launch of two new ships that will sail the river in Colombia in 2024.

The AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia will join the two dozen ships already in the Ama fleet, sailing itineraries between Cartagena and Barranquilla. Read the rest of this entry »