Monthly Archives: March 2009

Posted In: The 365 Guide

In the world of social marketing platforms, Facebook holds the unique position of most visited, most utilized and most full featured. Next week, The 365 Guide will go into depth with the possibilities of marketing on Facebook as it promises to be the most significant social media for the small service business like travel agencies. Today, however, we are going to focus on a broad overview and some key aspects of getting started.

The mechanics of getting started are not as overwhelming as it might seem. Start slowly,  spending time learning Facebook as a media. As a business person, you can not treat Facebook as a consumer might – you must have more than a passing acquaintence with Facebook as a media if you are going to use it professionally  in your marketing efforts.  From the outset, think continually about the tenor of your online personality. Facebook “helps you connect and share with the people in your life” as the company’s tagline simply states. Joining is very easy, just sign up with your name and email address. However, from that moment on, keep in mind that you are on a mission and there are some important considerations as you project your business persona Read the rest of this entry »

How’s business?  This is the question my friends and family ask on a weekly basis.  I suspect this question is more of a barometer on how the economy as a whole is doing.  If I have a good week my friends and family think the economy is getting better.  If I have a poor week it reinforces what the media says.  Such is life in the Great Recession of 2009.

Last month I implemented Live Person (live chat) on each of my websites.  I am happy to report that I have made Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Travel agents looking for a flexible way to book student and humanitarian fares have some good news. AFCnet, a sister company to popular consolidator CenTrav, is making the same booking engine which has made CenTrav an industry leader available now for a new class of consolidated fares. Linda Furry, the Executive Vice President of Marketing for both AFCnet and CenTrav, indicates that the segregation of student and humanitarian fares into a new niche market is a real opportunity for travel agents. “Our goal is to offer extremely competitive fares and booking flexibility via the best booking engine in the industry.” says Linda. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Everybody’s talking about it and, if you believe the hype, everybody’s doing it. Marketing gurus from all corners of the virtual world are captivated by the potential of social marketing. But what is it exactly and does it really hold the potential that all of the buzz promises? The 365 Guide this week will look at social marketing from a travel agency point of view and see where the enterprising travel planner could possibly find some tangible benefit in participation in the media darlings of Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, and other social media marketing opportunities.

Firstly, a confession. All those marketing gurus, including me, are guessing. There are certainly some success stories from all of the various social media formats, but the real value to any given business is at best, uncertain. The venues are new, the actual return on investment Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

The Colorado Plateau

We turn our attention today to the great American West and the region known as the Colorado Plateau.

Use this 60-Second Geography article in your own agency newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

MLMs and Card Mills: Unplugged

Last week, there was a Travel Research Online webinar regarding MLMs and Card Mills at the grass roots level. Over 700 people were registered for the event and it was very well organized with three presenters and a moderator. There was a focus and a clear action plan at the end of the hour. After the webinar, I began to consider some of the new information I had gained on the MLM and card mill issue and I had a revelation. These MLM and card mill companies are nothing more than an unplugged pinball machine—analogy continues below. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Why can’t we all get along?

I’m a home-based travel consultant, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The funny thing is, it’s not my clients (or even prospective clients) who question the fact that I conduct business by appointment instead of having a retail storefront.

No, it’s the brick-and-mortar travel agents who give me a hard time!

I realize that there aren’t that many home-based agents here in Rhode Island (unlike Florida or California), and I expect to have to explain the idea to some of the older, more traditional brick-and-mortar agents, but I really don’t understand the hostility that I get in return. Read the rest of this entry »

Bliss Honeymoons, LLC–On the right track

Like many of you at the beginning of each New Year I take some time to consider what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Some of these things are very personal, but most of my goals had to do with business. When Richard Earls, Publisher of Travel Research Online, asked me to participate in the Travel Agent Diary Series, and document experiences throughout the year, I wasn’t sure how I felt about “putting it all out there”.  But if someone else can learn something from our experiences this year, I am game. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Give Them What They Want

Based on the title of this column you may be thinking that I will extol the virtues of extraordinary customer service and how to give your clients what they want or more.   I completely agree with those virtues, but this column will take on a much different topic.  The title above is actually a song title from a very funny musical, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”.  The play is about ‘con men’ that con each other and then get conned themselves. So, the song is basically about the well-established rules of the con game – always give them (the victims) what they want and keep up the facade until it is time to disappear.

So, what does all of this have to do with selling travel?  I am afraid that based on the recent news of host agencies going bankrupt – everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a collection of countries within a country but that’s just politics. For the visitor, the Netherlands is all about tulips and windmills, dikes, bicycles and coffee houses.

Use this 60-Second Geography article in your own agency newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

“Regulation” is a double-edged sword and one not to be used without hesitation.  For every benefit that regulation brings, it is certain that a counter-argument can be made.  However, the timeliness of the issue for travel professionals seems particularly appropriate.  The travel industry has recently seen the implosion of a large host agency.  It is highly likely that one of the large MLM models will likewise find itself on the ropes in the near future. These events may well bring very unwelcome scrutiny from state legislators, as consumers across the country watch their deposits and paid-for trips vanish along with another chunk of professional credibility. No good will come of allowing a legislator to decide who is or is not a travel agent without serious and concerted input by the industry. It is now time for agents turn to their leadership and ask for the topic to be seriously discussed and for the leaders of the industry to state a case for or against self-regulation.

The  definition of a “profession” is a “group of people pursuing a common learned art”. Typically this involves a common body of knowledge, a formal education process, and a code of conduct and standards of entry into the profession. By this definition, travel agents in their current state are falling a bit short Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Protecting your business with insurance

You can’t turn around without hearing bad news these days. AIG handed out almost $200 million in bonuses with one hand while the other was held open for a government handout. PFK Hospitality just predicted a nearly 14% decline in hotel revpar (revenue per available room). Liberty Travel closed four of its seven Maryland locations. AAA Mid-Atlantic has reduced staff hours. One of the most notorious MLMs in the travel business just released a dismal report that stated that they may not be around for too much longer. If you are looking a feel good column, you aren’t going to find it this week. Sorry. You want happy? Click here! You want some reasonable advice? Read on. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile – Opportunity Calling

International travelers are often faced with the problem of staying in touch with people at home. Although many cell phone providers have plans that cover overseas travel, those plans can be expensive and are not universally available. Alex Filippov, the general manager of, has an answer for travel agents and their clients looking for an easy solution to international phone calls. Alex’s company is offering travel agents an opportunity to generate significant commission income by promoting discount International Mobile Roaming services to their customers. Read the rest of this entry »

Like most entrepreneurs, I have long term goals and a long term plan. I have taken the advice of many forecasters and focused on the big picture so as not to become discouraged in these economic times. But it seems I have focused on the horizon so intently that I neglected to keep an eye fixed on the short term economic picture. That is until I came face to face (or rather voice to voice) with my host’s short term expectations. I just haven’t been producing as much as they’d like. I was not meeting their expectations or my own. You know the old adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees? Well last week, I became victim to the reverse. I could see the forest just fine. It was the trees I didn’t see coming. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

St. Martin

One island but two countries! Visiting St Maarten and St Martin is an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a Caribbean island infused with the charm of Europe as you stroll from French St Martin in the northern part of the island to Dutch St Maarten in the south.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Card Mills: Give ’em Shelter?

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in  Jacobellis v. Ohio famously stated that pornography was hard to define but that “I know it when I see it.” Likewise, I think I know a card mill when I see one. It is not in the least bit surprising that these companies now indicate their business methodologies are legitimate based on the fact that there is no generally accepted definition of “travel agent”.

This column has argued on more than one occasion that the lack of an industry standard definition would ensure that card mills and MLMs would continue to adapt to changes in the public relations and legal environments in order to survive.

So what is a card mill?  Card mills are business entities that derive some portion of their revenue stream from recruiting people to be “travel agents” by promising discounted travel. The pitch is that since travel agents get to see the world for free or at highly discounted rates, the smart thing to do is to become a travel agent.  Moreover, since no definition of “travel agent” exists, anyone can pay to become one. Upon convincing a consumer to part with an under-$500 investment (the $500 limit keeps these companies from being subject to more strict regulatory scrutiny), they wave a wand and deem the consumer a “travel agent.”  An additional compensation is typically offered to recruit others to the program. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Soak it up

A friend of mine, from my bartending days at the 23 East, Chestnut, and Ambler Caberets, recently married and formed an instant family, complete with a precocious eight year old daughter. Pat Godwin (shameless plug) is a professional comedian, and recently he was telling me a story (as only Pat can do) about his new daughter and how she really put him in a bind because she actually listened too well. There is a lesson in here; read on… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Will NCFs ground the cruise industry?

As anyone who has sold cruises over the past few years will tell you, the commissions earned are falling. They are not falling because of reduced commissions. They are not falling because of reduced fares. They are falling because of the increase in the Non-Commissionable Fee or NCF.

As an agent that prides himself on offing transparency and value to my clients, I see two problems with the NCFs.  First, the very idea that I have to explain the acronym to a client takes away from a smooth and fluid selling process. An agent should not be discussing commissions or non commissionable charges—ever! The mere fact that the word “commission” must be discussed is just plain wrong. Secondly Read the rest of this entry »

SeaMaster Cruises – Costly lessons learned

As I write this column I am looking at my bank statements and wondering how did I get to the point of being down to my last $347? It was of course the little things like a cruise talk here, glossy tri-fold paper there and of course toner, toner and more toner. It was also big things like capital investments in a printer and fax machine, a new cell phone, travel for training, travel for the convention, travel to experience an inaugural two day sailing on Celebrity Solstice and of course the investment in the franchise itself. Frankly, I overspent on some things I didn’t yet need but wanted. But, I reasoned that it was better to be prepared when the time came. And the truth of the matter is, the investments in training and most of the other experiences were vital and I could never have gotten the business off the ground without them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

This is the year to take partnering to another level as suppliers and their distribution channel promote travel and tourism. Both groups need to market supplier products like they’ve never marketed before…because quite frankly, their livelihood depends upon it…to stimulate traffic with price points that get the telephone to ring.

The suppliers have the product and the distribution channel has the sales skills to close the sale! The travel agency channel continues to provide two significant benefits to the suppliers they represent Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography


Argentina is a country of vast natural resources and beauty. From Iguzazu Falls in the North to the vineyards of Mendoza and the splendor of Patagonia, Argentina has for too long been largely overlooked by travelers from North America. Explore Argentina with us and look at Solar Tour’s amazing values to South America.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters! Read the rest of this entry »