Monthly Archives: February 2010

Posted In: Editorial Musings

So you want to throw in the towel

By the title, you would think that this week’s column is full of doom and gloom. If you thought so, you would be wrong! Since I got my first “real job” to now, I have been involved in retail management (5 years), construction management (8 years), and travel (13 years). I know it doesn’t explain the first few years out of college, but they are still a bit hazy.  Certainly, each industry has its own challenges and issues to overcome. Travel is certainly no different; and in fact, from my experience, the travel industry leads the pack with challenges and problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Feb 26, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

I recently “attended” a virtual travel expo conducted by a major wholesaler, and I have to admit it left me feeling flat. Try as I might, I just can’t get excited about these online shows.

I understand all the arguments in support of virtual events (cost savings, time savings, wider reach, the ability to archive the content for future viewing, etc.) but if the experience itself is lacking, then no amount of savings is going to make it worth my time and attention. It reminds me of the question that many of us pose to our clients – “How cheap does a bad vacation have to be to make it worthwhile?”

I should be careful to say that I’m talking specifically about virtual expos and conferences, and not product-specific training. When I want to learn about individual cruise lines, resorts, and destinations, I make frequent use of online webinars. In fact, as a home-based agent, I think they are probably the best way to get this kind of training (there aren’t too many BDMs dropping by my house!) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

“An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer”

Taking a cue from Syms – a well known clothing store – here is more content, perfect for uploading to the Consumer Education section of your website. We strongly suggest you custom edit the content – then post under an attention getting heading such as “Secrets the Airlines* Don’t Want You to Know! (*or the Cruise Lines – or, the Credit Card Issuers – or, Your Mother…you fill in the blank).

And, if you figure out a way to get clients to read this stuff BEFORE they call…please let me know!


The Cruise is Booked – Now How Do You Get There?

‘Air/Sea’ packages are available – purchased through the cruise line. Your travel agent will handle this as part of a single transaction – the cruise and airfare combined. Or, your TA can arrange the flights separately. However, the “unbundled” option almost always results in greater choice and lower fares.

Or, how about loading the family the car and driving to the port of departure? With ships sailing out of many regional ports such as Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, New York, etc. – driving is becoming more and more of a viable option. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: It’s all about ‘the action’

If any of you have heard enough of my live seminars, you can skip to the end; you’ve probably heard this before. Often, I will share a recorded interview with Howard Cosell and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder.

Howard: Jimmy, what do you like best in life?

Jimmy: That’s easy Howard. I like to win.

Howard: Then, what do you like second best Jimmy?

Jimmy: That’s easy. I like to lose.

When I first heard this it hit me like a ton of bricks. What the Greekster was saying was that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Interruptions!

Where Are All The Agents Coming From?

Excuse me, dahrlings, but…
Where Are All The Agents Coming From?

Chains and consortia are collecting more agencies than Tiger Woods’ has cocktail waitresses. [And BTW, he held a private little conference the other day for select press at a Florida golf club to ‘apologize’. Did he have sex with them too?]

There are agency growth announcements almost daily: V.Com added 60 new agencies last year; Ensemble was up to record numbers this fall; Uniglobe acquired large Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Feb 23, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: 1:1


PictureTom Baumann is president of Travel Leaders Leisure Group, part of Travel Leaders Group, a North American travel company that includes over 1,500 company-owned and franchised travel agencies in Canada and the United States. The agencies include All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists,, Cruise Holidays, Partners In Travel, Luxury Travel Network, and He joined the executive ranks of Carlson Leisure Group in 2000 following CLG’s acquisition of his $50 million dollar Associate agency. Mr. Baumann founded that agency 20 years earlier.

TRO: Way back when, you used to be a travel agency franchisee for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. With the Cruise Holidays franchise program now being run by you as a part of the Travel Leaders Leisure Group, do you feel like things have come full circle?

TB: This makes me smile……full circle might be a good way to describe it I guess but I’ve never lost sight of what it’s like to be a franchise owner. It’s tough and it’s a lot of hard work every day, seven days a week and as long as we always make sure we are sensitive to that as a franchisor and continue to provide the very best tools and resources available, Cruise Holidays will continue to be the very best! I’m very proud to be leading this organization with such an incredibly talented group of franchise owners and honestly, I just feel like one of them and we are all in this together.

TRO: How has your experience as a franchise owner helped you with having Cruise Holidays part of Travel Leaders Leisure Group?

TB: As I mentioned earlier, I’m very sensitive that each franchise owner is running his or her own business and we need to do everything we can to help them succeed. We can’t do it for you (even though I wish we could) but we can provide you with the best to be the best which is how I grew my business as a franchise owner. Taking the tools that were available (every one of them) and working them as hard as I could to get as much out of them as I could. Mr. Carlson used to have a favorite saying of mine….”The harder I work, the luckier I get”!

TRO: How has franchising changed in the past five years, where do you see it growing in the next five?

TB: I think franchising is still as strong as it was five years ago. In our industry though, technology has played a key role in its development. You no longer have to have your entire staff sitting in a store front office behind a desk. Customers can be serviced from anywhere anytime which is a good thing for Cruise Holidays because it allows us to manage costs on an ongoing basis. I see the next five years continuing to move in that direction, being able to do business from “anywhere” which will only continue to allow additional growth potential to everyone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Every January and February it seems to suddenly dawn on people that winter isn’t going away anytime soon.  It’s like we’re pre-programmed to only be able to withstand 2-3 months of cold before we need to start making plans to escape on a brief hiatus to somewhere warm.  When that internal alarm goes off, phones in travel agencies begin to ring off the hook.  As a host agency that provides support to over 200 agents, our office becomes a frenzy of activity.

So while most things in nature naturally slow down during the winter, the opposite has been happening at Travel Quest.   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Mind the Gap

My doctor and I get along very well. I go to his office knowing exactly what to expect. I know what our mutual roles are and, without fail, he meets my expectations. I give him the information and bodily fluids he wants and he gives me back a precise read on my current health trend along with prescriptions for medicines and for lifestyle. He also gives me a bill for his services, which I gladly pay. It took a long time to find him, but I have a similar relationship with the fellow who works on my 1999 Subaru Outback. I trust him to honestly evaluate what is wrong with my car and to fix it. My bookkeeper? Same thing. I know exactly what she does. She tells me the info she needs, I give it to her and she returns my books in good order, with an invoice for her time.

Most people have excellent professional relationships which work because all parties understand exactly what the other does. We provide the professionals in our lives accurate information with which to work and the professional performs a set of services competently. That is how the public views professionals. We understand the value the professional provides.

Except when it comes to travel agents.

Mind the gap. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Screw up? Beware of social networking!

Did you hear the one about the fat guy who was thrown off a plane? Sort of sounds like the opening of a joke doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t and right now Southwest Airlines is dealing with a public relations backlash because the passenger took to social networking to air his grievances. Here is how it all began:

Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?

Within minutes of tweeting, the Internet was buzzing. And also within minutes, Southwest was in full blown spin control.  Can it happen to you? Absolutely! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Buenos Aires – By Avanti Destinations!


The old capital city of Buenos Aires, Argentina is a bit of Paris in South America. North America is just waking up to the treasures of the great cities of South America, and Buenos Aires is a great place to start. Celebrating its bi-centenial this year, the city is a terrific mix of a colonial past and a very modern present.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Greece: if by sea

In Greece, the past is always with you. Where ever the traveler looks there is a reminder of not just centuries but thousands of years of history. In some locations, shards of ancient artifacts still lay on the ground like so much rubble, and the ruins of temples and great buildings are so abundant you have the feeling of being in a vast, singular outdoor museum.

From the seaside taverns and restaurants to the wonderful vistas and landscapes of the rugged coastline, Greece offers an astonishing variety of experiences and activities. But this is not a country to rush through in a mad dash to see all there is to see. Greece is best enjoyed slowly, absorbed into the soul like sunlight on grape leafs. The spirit of the place works its way into your psyche and you suddenly understand why so many travelers return again and again to replenish their wanderlust at the birthplace of western civilization. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

A Spirit of Cooperation

The Sunday travel section of my local newspaper was losing advertisers. Not only that— the content was lacking imagination. Circulation was down as it is with a lot of newspapers across the country. In an effort to boost lagging advertising revenue the new account executive reached out to the travel agent community for support and help. She scheduled meetings with the editorial staff to find out what we as travel agents wanted from our local travel section. We agreed that they needed to be more pro-active in promoting local travel agencies and advertising rates needed to be more affordable, especially for smaller and home based agents. Soon, the new rate sheet reflected more affordable advertising and the possibility of sharing advertising among smaller agencies. This was a win-win situation for travel agents. We are continuing to have ongoing meetings to improve content. The end result is a revamped travel section that will benefit local travel agencies.

While I look at the paper’s spirit of cooperation as a good move, I think we as an agent community have a long way to go. Working together in a spirit of cooperation is in everyone’s best interest. There is plenty of business to go around. We should not be undercutting, rebating or making negative comments about other agencies or agents to get a sale. This just defeats the purpose and makes us all look bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Six Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise

Dear Cruise Seller: As an experienced cruiser, with more than 150 sailings and counting, I present my six best tips to help your clients get the most from their cruises. The most controversial point, perhaps, is to book Business Class air on long-haul flights, because, of course, of the costs. Please read on, and share your opinions.

It’s one thing to get a great deal, but it’s another to budget so tightly that you extract any possibility for pleasure on your cruise. Yes, inside cabins are cheaper than balcony cabins, but balcony cabins can be much more rewarding. Of course, only you can know how much moolah you’re willing to part with for the best possible cruise vacation. So balance your budget against these recommendations. No one is asking that you break the bank, but don’t squeeze the nickel so hard that you choke the buffalo. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

The Edge Of Excellence: The community of travel

In my last installment I mentioned that one little status update on Facebook sent the audio version of my book to number two on iTunes within twenty-four hours.  Without a doubt, I know it was the global community of travel agents that made it happen.

Last month following the tragedy in Haiti, I decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the printed version of my book on to Doctors Without Borders.  As before, Facebook was where I made the announcement and travel agents responded.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Feb 16, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

“Everyone knows more about travel than I do.” When I first got into this business I thought that was going to be the case. Now, almost three years later, I know that is the case.  Why, because I hear it at least once a week. Not from other travel agents or vendors but from some random callers to my office who book airfare at least twice a year. They always “know the system” or “have a friend who said…”

Thanks to the Internet and 101 search engines, dozens of do it yourself websites and a barrage of TV and other advertising, everyone is a travel agent. Certainly better than someone who went to school for it and books dozens of flights every week. The only other job where everyone is sure they know more than the is a referee. So after a while, I started to ask myself “why do I do this? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

For the fourth consecutive year, Voyages of Discovery has been awarded “Best Cruise Value” for 2009 by The World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society. Discovery was also included in their “Top Ten for 2009” cruise lines category.

In addition to great savings, all Voyages of Discovery itineraries feature an extensive enrichment program. Top historians, diplomats, scientists and naturalists provide background and insight into the history, culture, flora and fauna of the destinations visited.

During the past two years over $3.5 million has been spent refurbishing the public areas of mv Discovery, including the Seven Continents restaurant and some of the cabins with the objective of further improving the onboard facilities. An additional $3.5 million budget has been agreed for the next 12 months and the program includes refurbishment and improvements to the Yacht Club, as well as a major roll out of cabin refurbishment. Those guests who have seen Discovery recently Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

The Price is Right

Price is a pretty consistent topic of conversation on travel agent forums. I have many times heard a travel consultant say that the only thing their clients care about is price. In fact, there is more consistent discussion of price, discounting and rebating than perhaps any other topic among travel agents. As a result, price too often becomes the lynch pin on which every other aspect of the travel planning process depends: if the price is not lower than the competition, the transaction does not occur. Consumers armed with keyboards and 19-inch monitors compound the problem, researching every pricing possibility Google can uncover prior to ever speaking with a travel professional.

It is natural for clients to focus on price – they are lay people, civilians, who do not fully understand the components of value in travel. It is not, however, OK for travel counselors to treat price as if it is the centerpiece of the transaction. As the consultant, the travel counselor needs to assist the client in better understanding Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

Holland America’s Own Renaissance Man – Paul Allen


PicturePaul Allen, Vice President of Sales for Holland America has been part of that family since 1981 and he’s known as the guy with all the numbers. I recently saw him, as a passenger on a full ship charter for the Smooth Jazz Cruise. He was loving the music, enjoying himself, even was seen waiting in line for autographs. Just talking to him, he is a prime example of a Renaissance man!

TRO: Since this is one of many full ship charters with Jazz Cruises, LLC. what are you learning from seeing it first hand.

PA: It’s fantastic, certainly, if you provide this caliber of entertainment, the people will come. They’re doing a great job.

TRO: With a lot of attention lately, on the bigger mega ships, HAL remains the mainstream niche with smaller vessels with less than 2000 passenger count. What’s new for HAL?

PA: By next July, we’ll have 15 ships going to over 300 ports on seven continents. We do try to add 3 new ports or shore excursions each year.

TRO: What about onboard the ships?

PA:  We believe in evolution instead of revolution. We’ve started our Lanai accommodations – taking about 40 cabins that were outside cabins and created French doors so the passengers can walk out of their cabin directly onto the promenade. Also we’ve added onboard Cabanas. We’ve had great success with them on Half Moon Cay. Some alternative dining at no charge. And Maribella, our higher end jewelry store. Read the rest of this entry »