Monthly Archives: July 2009

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Sandwich board marketing

I was on a mission recently. It was time for lunch and I was taking my daughter to a fast food place. We were hungry and I was choosing to be unhealthy by taking the easy way out. We were sitting in traffic and out of the corner of my eye I saw a man in a sombrero wearing a sandwich board. He was advertising the newly opened Mexican restaurant by promoting a $4.99 lunch special with a free soft drink. Read the rest of this entry »

You Sail the Ship, I’ll Call the Clients!

Lots of great responses from last week’s column! If you want to report something well done by a supplier, a res agent, or rep, we are happy to give them some coverage in Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down. If you have a problem with airlines, tour companies, etc. or getting commissions, maybe we can assist. Contact Les-Lee at .

PictureLisa Mills from The Travel Gallery, Buffalo, MN reported over $2000 unpaid commissions from Trilogy Tours, a divison of Hobbitt Tours- that’s a Thumbs Down.  Shame too, since they have unbeatable rates for so many packages in that area. The e-mail address on their website is invalid, (even for placing orders) and the owner of the company didn’t return my phone calls. But with persistence, a check for over $700 was issued with a promise that the remaining amount will be issued next month. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Everyone has a favorite spot for a sunset.  Few rival those to be seen on the Cycladic island of Santorini. The island’s rocky cliffs, dotted with its famous white and blue homes and buildings provides a vista for a setting sun like no other.  Rising out of the Aegean sea, Santorini is really a jewel among the many wonderful Greek islands. Set in its volcanic rim, surrounded by the bluest of water, the island and its villages are one of those destinations that find their way to the top of many traveler’s “must see and do before…” lists. Read the rest of this entry »

If you are reading this and have someone else in your office, do me a favor and stand up and face them. Put your right hand to their left hand. Tell them you are going to press against their hand when you say, “now.” Say “now” and start pressing for five seconds. Did they press back? I bet you they did. Remember you only told them you were going to press against their hand. The fact they pressed back is indicative of how resistant we all are. Without receiving any further instructions, most of us will instinctively push back against change. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Local Expert

There has never been a better time to travel internationally or to destinations like Hawaii.  The crowds are thin, the prices are lower than they have been in years. Five Star hotels are affordable, and many tour packages have air-inclusive rates similar to what hotel alone would have cost a year ago.  If you have clients that have been putting off their dream trip, now is the time.

But we North Americans can be timid travelers and clients can always find an excuse to not travel.  This year has provided the reluctant traveler with a plethora of reasons to stay close to home. Even now, the specter of an autumn resurgence of swine flu continues to loom along with a sluggish economy and a recovery that is only slowly beginning to get underway in fits and starts. The pent-up demand for international travel will hopefully coax many of your clients back into the sky. But what about those clients who are determined to hang close to home?

Try this exercise: go to Google and look at a map of the United States or Canada and pinpoint your home town. Next, draw an imaginary circle that extends roughly 8 – 12 hours driving time from home. If I do that from Tallahassee, the circle encompasses destinations like Key West, Tampa,  Orlando, New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, the Smokey Mountains, Asheville, Savannah, Charleston Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Fight fair

Fights, brawls, spirited discussions. Call them what you like, but this week there have been countless of them on many forums, in comments in response to columns, and even in person.

With most fights, someone will intervene and separate the warring individuals and put them in the corner for a time out; but this time I think we need to step back and let the fighting continue! People fight because they are passionate. And right now, we need some passion in this industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Are you using Google Alerts?

Google is alerting everyone; are you included?

Google is famous for its array of free services including email, mapping, and much more;  but did you know that Google has great tools that are perfect for business use?  One such tool is Google Alerts (

You can use Google Alerts to notify you by email when keywords or phrases you select appear online.  This is great for keeping up with your favorite interests: sports teams, companies, even individuals.  Personally, I have alerts set up for Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Escape to the City with City Escape Holidays!

If you don’t yet know City Escape Holidays, you should. The Marina del Rey based tour operator has been a travel agency friendly supplier for decades. City Escape specializes in offering land-only city packages and special event programs to destinations throughout the USA and Canada. Travel agents who need a city-based program know to turn to City Escape. The company was founded in 1991 and the combined staff experience totals over 70 years in the travel business. Company president, Bo Adams, remains very proud of the fact that in his 40 years in the travel business, the travel agency distribution network has been the exclusive outlet for his products; that includes 23 years running SuperCities, before creating City Escapes. Read the rest of this entry »

Allons Travel — More changes

My last diary entry— I found myself doing a 6 month checkup to see where I have been, where I am going and where I need to be.  Writing for the diairies has allowed me to take a long, hard look at myself and my business; and it has not been easy. The hardest thing for me is to admit something isn’t working and to change it. Change is hard. I am they type of person that likes the status quo.  But, in order to be a better travel professional and improve my business, change is a necessity. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Thinkin’ unthunk thoughts

Over the past week, the community forums have been buzzing all about the United move to push credit card processing onto the agent. Many arguments have begun over the “right” business model to adopt going forward; or even if there is a need for change.  I believe that this industry has reacted to change all too often over the past twenty years. We sit back and wait for some outside force to do something that impacts us and then we adapt. Don’t get me wrong, we are probably the best and most adept adaptors on the planet. But is that any way to operate?

To use a very tired cliché, we need to think outside of the box when it comes to our future—whatever that may be. Honestly, if you think about it, if we can think it, we can do it. Before the first car was created Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

What type of agency or agent are you and what type of client mix are you hunting for? Travel agents compare themselves to other industries; commonly it’s real estate agents, financial planners, attorneys or any other types of professions that require consulting and are paid a fee or commission.

If we look at the basics of what we do and how we are currently compensated we are more closely aligned with the retail industry. Our ultimate goal is to make money selling travel. From a retail perspective, I feel most agencies fall into one of the models below.  Which are you?. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Deserves a Thumbs Up or A Thumbs Down?

Thanks for joining our new THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN column. The hits and misses come from you, the travel community. If you want to report something well done by a supplier, a res agent, or rep, let’s give them the praise. If you have a problem with airlines, tour companies, etc. or getting commissions, let it rip and see if I can help you out. Contact me at

Les-Lee Roland

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Veterans, military, and MLM…Oh my!

On July 2, 2009, Travel Weekly ran a story entitled Veterans Affairs OKs Travel Institute test.  It states that the Veteran’s Affairs office is endorsing a licensing program that is in effect allowing TraVerus, a self-proclaimed MLM host agency the ability to sign up anyone that takes the test to become part of its MLM pyramid scheme.  This is a very dangerous precedent and I feel it is a huge disservice to the wonderful military and government men and women who have worked hard to serve our great country.  I’m still in shock that the Travel Institute would have anything to do with this. Read the rest of this entry »

The only thing in business that is constant is change.  I’ve implemented several changes this month in my business and continue to work on refining others.  I guess you can say I am constantly changing!

A couple of months ago I implemented a fee structure.  What I’ve found is some will play and some won’t. So now I need to figure out what’s next.  The fee structure is the single best thing I’ve done this year as far as change is concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

I wrote this article some time ago, but wanted to think about it for a while before posting.  For a long time, I’ve been saying that someone was going to come up with something (for travel bookings) that would be so simple, so easy to use and so good, it just might have a shot at turning the industry upside down. Google released City Tours (see Google Labs City Tours) and it is really not a bad first start at doing just that.  Frankly, the travel industry as a whole should take note, but travel agents should wake up and smell the coffee.  This is the future. The problem? The future normally shows up before you’re ready for it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

The cultural capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has chronicled nearly 500 years of history.The city’s famous nightlife and its amazing architecture are world famous. Remember, thanks to this week’s sponsor, Brazilian Vacation Center, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your own newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Has the travel industry jumped the shark?

For those that are not familiar with the term, Happy Days was one of the most successful television sitcoms ever. It was the catalyst that spurned Ron Howard and Henry Winkler to super-stardom and spun off some great (and not so great) shows such as Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi. It had a ten year run which was very unusual for a television series back then—much less today. But on September 20, 1977, the Fonz was in the improbable situation of being in Hollywood and having to jump a live shark on water skis. It was quite a departure from the routine antics of the Happy Days crowd and many feel it was the beginning of the series’ decline. Happy Days started to go downhill when Fonzie jumped the shark.  Over the past few weeks I have been hearing that the travel industry has jumped the shark as well. I am not so sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

So you have a blog. Now what?

In a previous column, I wrote about how to use WordPress’ blog software to power your website, effectively making it more interactive, dynamic, and easy to maintain.  This time, we will look at how to make your blog work for you by involving your clients and getting them to return.

A blog serves one main purpose: to facilitate (or enhance) communication between you and your clients.  Everything you do with the blog should work towards building and maintaining communication. Your blog should be a tool to convey your professionalism, knowledge, and ability to service your clients’ needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Bliss Honeymoons, LLC–Marketing madness

A few weeks ago I made the decision to work with a marketing coach. While I had been hesitant to work with business coaches in the past, I had reached the point where I needed to maximize my business potential and to grow the services we can offer our clients, and felt that it was time to bring in someone outside the travel industry to give things a once over. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Independence Day

As we celebrate our nation’s day of independence from Great Britain, it seems that the travel agency industry is also preparing (or should be preparing) to celebrate their independence. Independence from what you might ask. Well, if you have read some of my past columns, I firmly believe that we are undergoing a huge renaissance in the travel industry. We are no longer “agents” of anyone. We are swiftly moving to an era of independence. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

It’s time for a change

In tough economic times we hear about a business’s need for change in order to adapt to the economic climate. The travel industry it seems has been in perpetual change for the past fifteen years. As much as this industry has changed, the basic fundamental–compensation for agents, has not. We are still relying on the outdated business model of commission from the suppliers. Some agents do charge service fees or plan to go fees; but the majority are only doing this on airline tickets or inconsistently, at best. We see more “deals” out there from suppliers and this has the net effect of lowering compensation for agents, at times up to 50%.  We are working just as hard, if not harder, yet reaping less for all our work. It is time for a change–a change that will benefit both agents and suppliers. Read the rest of this entry »