Monthly Archives: November 2009

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Thinking big may be overrated

We are all accustomed to thinking big. When I first got into this business, the mantra was “the bigger the better.” I bought into it and grew a small retail location doing about $2 million a year into one with several locations with sales nearing the $15 million mark—all in 4 years. I was actively looking for new clients, doing some crazy (and expensive) advertising, and an acquisition or two.  Fast forward to today, and my agency is no longer in a retail storefront and my sales are nowhere near $15 million. But I am more profitable. For me, smaller was better.  Look at Royal Caribbean and their new Oasis of the Seas. It is the largest ship afloat—rumor has it that when they finally put it in the water, sea level rose 1 foot worldwide and New Orleans breathed a sigh of relief. From the initial reports, this bigger ship is having some unintended consequences. Other ships in the company’s fleet are feeling the pinch. And with the bigger price on the Oasis, consumers are resistant to opening their wallets. Granted, we are in a recession and time will tell. But this is not about the Oasis or Royal Caribbean; this is about you and me—the small agency owner looking to make a living against all odds. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

How to exhibit at a trade show

In a recent column, I presented some tips on how to maximize your time at a trade show and how to ensure you get the most “bang” for your time.  Now, let’s go to the other side of the booth table and look at ways you can maximize your trade show presence as an exhibitor.

Trade shows are well known for being a great way to get exposure to potential clients.  They are also well known for being a black hole, sucking up your time and your money.  I like to think of trade show exhibiting as an art, rather than a science.  There are many things you can do in advance to increase your chances for a good return on the investment. Read the rest of this entry »

Bliss Honeymoons, LLC — You get what you pay for

I see a lot of posts in the TRO Community as well as other boards about host agencies. There are a staggering number of opinions about what a host agency should provide and charge, and where to find a host agency that will give you 90% of your commissions without charging fees. What’s amazing to me is that while agents everywhere have implemented fees (and some only this year due to the down economy) due to the value that they bring to the table for their clients, so many are completely aghast at the thought of a commission split or fees shared with their host. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Travel like an insider? No thanks, not for me!

We all know what traveling like an insider means. For the airlines, center seat as close to the lavatory as possible and extra points if the seat is broken. For the hotels, it means the smallest room closest to the elevator—bonus points for a nearby ice machine. Cruise lines reserve the interior cabins under the disco or those abutting the hidden crew member passageways. So when I see the come-ons about traveling like an insider, I cringe. I am sorry, if I am selling travel, I prefer to travel like a client and see the experience firsthand through the eyes of a client. And that is just what I did last weekend! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

If you have followed along each day of this series on writing a Marketing Plan for 2010, you should now have a much more clear view of your marketing goals and the strategies that you will use in the year to come. You have taken your own story, the reasons you are in the travel industry and your own unique selling points, and infused your marketing plan with the passion that drives you forward. You have determined to communicate a consistent message to your clients and developed a foundation for sales through multiple channels of distribution. In short, you have a very solid map of the territory necessary to achieve your strategy of building your business during 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Most of us belong to some type of networking group. It could be the Chamber of Commerce, BNI or other organized marketing group. Many may belong to community organizations such as Rotary, Optimist Club, etc. The reason for joining these groups is hopefully to gain referrals and to give referrals to other members. We are trying to create a mini sales force for our business. This type of marketing can be effective, but sometimes it can be costly, or you just to do not get the right group of people to fit your business model. There is one network however, to which all agents have access.It is very cost effective, is the least utilized, but can offer the highest rate of return. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: Put your money where your mouth is

In a few short weeks, we will all be documenting our “wish list” for the New Year – 2010.

From business tactics to dietary controls, from exercise to household chores, we will once again focus toward improving our lot in life in one way or another. This is as it should be.  But what about “the warm up”? We often forget about the “warm up.”

Perhaps this is why year after year we come up short. Maybe, just maybe, we become victims of our own impetuousness. Let’s try something different this year. Let’s warm up while we still have some time left in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

LK Cruises & Tours, LLC — A successful outcome

Last month told you about my difficulties with a new tour bus vendor. In my frantic juggling act I somehow forgot that terms of a contract can change at the drop of a hat. I let an unwritten deadline slip by and the vendor notified me that they had raised the rate for transporting my cruise group from Baltimore to Norfolk. This lapse on my part had the potential to cost my fledgling agency an additional $500 dollars and reduce my already meager margins. My group was scheduled to sail on October 26th and I had no time to make other arrangements to transfer my group.  Needless to say I was stressed but I wasn’t prepared to give up. This was the inaugural trip for our Norfolk cruise program. We’ve done several cruises out of Baltimore but this was our opportunity to launch LK Cruises – Cruise Norfolk.   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Affordable Baltic Bliss

Last month the two major Baltic turnaround ports reported that 2009 proved to be yet another record season. Copenhagen welcomed 520,000 cruise passengers on 330 ship visits. Stockholm rolled out the red carpet for 443,000 cruise passengers on 293 ship visits.

How do travel agents tap into the high passenger satisfaction rates and “better than average” commissions reaped by sending their clients on Baltic cruises? Here are a few tips to help you sell — and service — your Baltic-bound clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

I have a new watch that is supposed to be my goad to getting into shape. As I engage in any given activity, the watch monitors my heart rate and then stores it on my home computer. During the week the watch emails me (I kid you not) if I am lagging behind in either duration or intensity of workouts. I’m not sure we are ever going to be great friends, but I am in high hopes that my watch will keep me where I need to be so that in a few months I am in better health. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I need the motivation of a sports watch to keep after me, but in the end, well, whatever works.

It’s too bad that as travel agents we don’t have a program that will email us when we lag intensity, when we need some inspiration. So much about success as a travel agent simply has to do with the willingness to keep on keeping on, of plugging away, seeing opportunity where others Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

When was the last time a tour operator handed you a client – not a lead, a client? Better yet, what if that client was not just a prospective client, but already booked? Sound a bit fantastic? That is the “Book 3 get 1 Free” program by Sceptre Tours, and it is only one of the many reasons that every travel agent should have a close working knowledge of this tour operator. If you have clients going to Ireland, Britain, Italy or taking a River Cruise, the first tour operator to think of is Sceptre Tours. Not only to they provide your clients with the product and service you would hope, their commitment to travel agents is without match in the industry.

Chris Accomando, President of Sceptre says; “I believe that we have truly dedicated ourselves to the Travel Agent community. In 2010 we will spend close to $1 million dollars in marketing, educating and supporting our agent partners. I would like to ask Travel agents one question: When was the last time a tour operator actually gave you a booking and a commission check, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

3 types of non-listeners–a rant!

I pride myself on my knowledge. Whenever I become involved in any endeavor, I really try to become as much of an expert as I can. I take the time to do extra research. I ask for opinions from other 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 you are no different.

We hang our shingle (or our URL) out as a travel professional. We explain what we do ad-nauseum.  We network. We travel. We read. We research. We surf the web. We attend training. We listen to webinars. We speak with suppliers. All of this together makes us what we are-professionals! We are experts in our field. So why are there clients and prospects that just don’t get it and feel they know better?  Why call us in the first place? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Financial and travel planning–kissing cousins?

The other week, I had the opportunity to speak to several business professionals in my market.  They were high dollar prospects and very savvy in the technology world. My topic was “Why a travel professional?” Of course, I know the answer to that; but I needed to drive it home with this tough crowd. Judging from the reaction I got after my minute long presentation, I succeeded. I wanted to share it here. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Spoil Yourself in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

Each island has its own pace, culture and rhythm. Each island has something different to offer the traveler. Some islands leave you inspired by lush nature and rainforests, some leave you with a renewed love of the sea, but the tiny island of St Martin will leave you begging for your next chance to return.

On March 23, 1648, France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the island between their two nations, so they signed the Treaty of Concordia. Today the total population of the island is split almost 50/50 between the two nations. Control of the island was batted about frequently between the Spanish, British, French and Dutch so that reading a historical review is almost like watching a tennis match. Which is what makes this tiny, two-nation island so appealing. There is a pervasive peace about a place that has managed to house two nations Read the rest of this entry »

I just stepped off a ship as part of the Cruise Holidays store-front convention this past week. When I last wrote, I was taking part in the Cruise Holidays convention for home-based agents. Two conventions? Back to back? Why go to another convention so soon?

The home based owner’s convention had a theme of becoming a Mediterranean expert. For what we were able to accomplish in such a short time, we drastically increased our knowledge of this profitable cruise destination. However, because we were trying to pack so much learning into this convention Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Don’t blink

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Does anyone remember that line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Well, that was 23 years ago and perhaps more now than ever it is applicable to your travel business. For decades, travel professionals were so far ahead of the technology curve. Back in the 1970s, we were one of the first industries to place a computer on a desktop thanks to the generosity of our former partners—the airlines. But this is the 21st century and technology has been moving at blinding speed. Indeed, life is moving pretty fast. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Traveling like Rock Stars Do

Many people believe the rich and famous have it made when they travel.  They imagine a life full of first class, 5 star hotels, gourmet dining and  living the high life. Maybe if more knew the ins and outs of what they really goes on, they wouldn’t think it was all it’s cracked up to be.  Every rag-mag I see while I am grocery shopping shows some star photographed at the airport, on a plane, at the beach, or on vacation.  When I see this I just wonder how, why, who is giving them this info.

I handle travel for some of these rock stars, and a few actors as well.  Some bands are just starting out, some are on the verge of making their name, and others have already hit the big time being featured in Billboard or the big screen.  To me, how big or how small means nothing–everyone gets the same personalized service. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

A long time ago my mom was both an Avon lady and a Tupperware lady.  Sometimes she went door-to-door with the latest smelly skin cream or fancy lettuce keeper.  At other times she hosted parties where cupcakes and Kool-Aid were accompanied by trading gossip and catching up with friends.  Then, at just the right moment, she’d bring out the skin cream and lettuce keepers.  Sales always followed.

It was the ‘60’s and life seemed so simple.  Today, she’d have to deal with gated communities, and security cameras.  The carbo-phobics would shun the cupcakes and the smelly skin cream would have to be organic and fragrance-free.  Yes, things have changed.  But the basic concepts of yesterday are alive and well today. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

In last week’s post, I promised to give a verdict to the question: Is Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa the world’s best cruise ship, as some guide books have proclaimed?

There’s no question that Hapag-Lloyd’s flagship has the makings of a best-in-category ship. As noted last week, Europa is ranked 5 Stars Plus by the Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships, a distinction no other ship can boast. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting sick isn’t any fun. Multiply that by two. Yup, that’s right, I have been sick twice in the last couple of months. As my doctor said, my body is definitely telling me something.

While working from home is great—it has its definite drawbacks. The biggest one in my case is access to a well stocked refrigerator and pantry. Although, I am not really overweight I need to lose some weight like we all do. I need to quit making trips downstairs and raiding the refrigerator when I am frustrated. I need to stop eating at my desk.  I need to get out and exercise and quit making excuses. Starting November 1st I have pledged to be healthier. Eat healthier, exercise and manage the frustrations of running my own business. From now on its fruits and veggies—no more chips and dip. Read the rest of this entry »