Monthly Archives: March 2010

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Maybe it’s time for you to leave

I’m not really surprised that you might be a little discouraged following all the issues that have impacted you over the past few years.  In fact, I can almost empathize with those of you that are fed up and are seriously considering getting out of the industry. No one would really blame you, no one likes to work even harder than you used to, only to see your income go down.

But, as I mentioned in a previous article, some of you have chosen to not get discouraged.  You are staying busy making sure your clients are taking great vacations and finding new clients with all the great deals that suppliers are offering.  You see the glass as half full and I’m sure that as things turn around, you will be making more money than ever before. But, for those of you that have pretty much given up and don’t like what’s going on… Read the rest of this entry »

Travel Quest — Running like a dog

I was observing my pup Rigel at the dog park the other day.  A quick glance would suggest a fast, elegant runner.  In reality, he never keeps up with the pack and exerts way too much energy doing an adorable, but extremely inefficient, trot.  I mentioned Rigel’s knack for taking up the rear of the race to another dog owner.  Just as I said it, Rigel did his patented move.  He gets so far behind the other dogs he can cut across easily and make a beeline for the fastest dog, take second place (for awhile) and start his chase anew.  The other owner commented “Rigel isn’t slow, he just works smarter, not harder.”  While I’m not sure his assessment of Rigel is true, he did have a point. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PictureMichelle Fee, the  President and CEO  of Cruise Planners, claims to have the the best job in the world. That’s the way Michelle Fee feels about Cruise Planners, a turnkey franchise operation for aspiring travel agents.  For $9995, committed people receive training, get leads, and maybe embark upon the best job they ever had. Michelle and her organization have won numerous awards and accolades, from Travel Agent of the Year to seven years being selected number one in the cruise/travel/franchise category by Entrepreneur Magazine.

TRO: So how did this all begin?

MF: I started in 1981 as a full service agent in a Mom and Pop store. So I can definitely identify with agents. In 1985, I brainstormed with two agents who had their own operations, and we came up with a plan to educate agents and start a franchise – Cruise Planners. They now number 700 home based agents in 45 states, and growing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Three cheers to Infiniti

Every week, I participate in a trivia league. Last I was out with my team, continuing our dominance of the competition, when I had an “aha” moment and was distracted by a commercial on one of the televisions. Since it was a sports bar, I knew it would be back on before last call and sure enough it was. I scrawled out some notes and spent the next week trying to decipher them and then hunting down the commercial. So, what does a commercial shown in a sports bar have to do with travel?

Admittedly, I was not sure myself. It was a car commercial for the new Infiniti model; but one line in particular caught my attention and practically screamed to be repeated to the travel industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Mar 26, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Every travel agent has his or her own collection of good “water cooler” stories to tell. We have all dealt with our share of picky clients, cheap clients, and those who just don’t know what they want. However, once in a while, we find ourselves in situations where the client’s expectations are simply unrealistic.

Regardless of the specifics of a given situation, we as agents are stuck deciding how best to handle it. I don’t think there are necessarily any “right” or “wrong” answers, but the dilemma always tends to revolve around the same few issues: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

There’s not been a new luxury ship launch in more than five years. Suddenly, however, within a 12-month span, three new luxury cruise vessels will have been launched by the time summer ends. The new ship launches began with Seabourn Odyssey this past June; was followed by Silver Spirit, which began service in December; and ends with Seabourn Sojourn, sister to Odyssey, to be launched this summer. 

Can the luxury segment absorb the growth? Or will there be continued pricing pressure? First, a look at the ships.

The 450-passenger Odyssey, and its sister Sojourn, are totally new concepts for Seabourn Cruise Line, which has operated three smaller vessels, in the 200-passenger range, that were more than two decades old. Seabourn’s new vessels bring quite a lot that will please long-time Seabourn cruisers as well as much to impress those new to luxury line. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

The Edge Of Excellence: Once in a lifetime

I’ve had a few once in a lifetime experiences over the years.  I’ve watched an exploding comet through a powerful telescope.  I’ve witnessed the dawn of a new century.  I also met Dr. Suess – really!  Just a few weeks ago another of my once in a lifetime events came to an end.

I live in Vancouver, — host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  What an amazing experience it was! Just walking around the free public events and mingling with tens of thousands of visitors from around the world was awe-inspiring.  I found myself thinking:  “I wonder how many of these people used a travel agent?” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Mar 23, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Soundings

The one area of the economy that is doing very well, thank you, is the entertainment industry. Avatar is on its way to earning a trillion dollars. Entertainment Hollywood style is the one American export that is still wildly popular around the world. Plus, today’s online success of homemade viral videos has made obsolete the old conventional wisdom that it takes a big, costly production values to be successful.  Just the fact that a low budget independent production such as Hurt Locker can win for best picture gives hope for all of us would-be Steven Spielbergs with a Handycam and dream.

So what does all of this have to do with our business? (How much time do you have?) We are in the dream business every bit as much as Hollywood – and fortunate to live in America. American leisure culture is still our most exportable commodity. Read the rest of this entry »

As a travel agent, one of our jobs is to inspect and know the hotels and destinations we sell.  I have stayed in and inspected hundreds of hotel rooms and I promise I didn’t shed a tear in any of them–although there was this hotel in Mexico … but that’s a whole other story.

Being a Disney specialist, I recently took advantage of a FAM  to Walt Disney World. The facilitators, Rita Lewis and Tommy Keesling were terrific. Props to them both. The two of them made the entire experience lots of fun. Their knowledge in unending and they ran a great informative program. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PictureTen years ago, Barry and Julie Karp started SHORETRIPS. They found a niche that had been ignored, an independent company that could provide tours and excursions in ports and major cities. This created increased revenue for agents who now have options to what the cruise line or supplier offers. They are so enthusiastic about what they are able to do, and great motivators for agents.

TRO: How do you select the local tour guides?

Barry and Julie: In some areas, we act as a consumer. We also work with Tourist Boards, mediators, and lots of networking. We consider ourselves, travelers- not just cruisers. We check everything out from a consumer’s view as well. We spend a lot of time in an area, finding the right people and the tours. Number one priority- we only use professionals. We don’t use just taxi drivers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Does your business stink?

When was the last time you walked into a Ritz-Carlton and took notice of wilting flowers?  How about the smell of raw sewage at a Westin? Of course the answer is NEVER! These companies and many more actually get it. When you walk into a Westin you smell a custom scent made from white tea, geranium and freesia. Likewise, the Ritz-Carlton has fresh flowers delivered daily. Why? Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Why do so many travel professionals fail to realize this in their individual practices? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Why I Wish I Were Frank Del Rio

I’m successful, well-educated (go Tar Heels!), well-traveled, have fulfilled most of my dreams, parent two lovely children and enjoy a good lifestyle. But despite all of those trimmings of a happy life, I’ve decided that I no longer want to be me. No. I’m finished with this persona. From now on, I want to be Frank Del Rio.

FDR, of course, is the out-spoken Chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. I say outspoken because FDR, with all respect, has no filter. He says what’s on his mind, and most times that’s refreshing and insightful, as you’ll read in the Q&A below.

He has made a fortune, rising from the ashes of Renaissance Cruises, which, in failing financial health, ceased operations on September 25, 2001. Like the mythical Phoenix, FDR flapped his expansive wings (with two former Renaissance vessels tucked underneath) and launched the upper-premium brand Oceania Cruises in 2002. It was pure genius.

FDR and company had found an untapped niche tucked between the premium brands and the luxury brands. Oceania’s positioning of upper premium Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Social Media = Advantage For Smaller Agencies

Clearly the Internet has provided some real heavyweight competition for independent travel agencies, however in many ways it also leveled the playing field. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and user-generated resort review sites provide small travel agencies with new cost-effective ways to promote themselves. These platforms allow you to compete on an equal playing field and in many ways have an advantage over big agencies and online giants like Expedia, Orbitz & Travelocity.

In social media, big agencies are at disadvantage to you because the people in charge of posting are scared to death of loosing their job if they post something that doesn’t meet strict corporate policy. The result is either bland “who cares” type of information or the constant sales pitch. Either way, you have the advantage. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: It’s all about kindness

I knocked off another book this week! And before you take a jab as us guys from Jersey, I did not copy it, steal it, or plagiarize it. It just means that upon recommendation of a former client and current good friend from South Africa, I read and completely destroyed a book by underlining, highlighting and dog–earing it! And no, I don’t have a Kindle!

This one is a beauty, written by Ed Horrell called The Kindness Revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Rome At Your Own Pace

Rome can not be seen in a day, a week or a year. No, a city with this much history takes centuries to get to know. It is literally a city of layers, one generation, one millennium building on top of the next. It is the ” Eternal City”, and we are mortals. Since time is not on our side, consider moving Rome higher on your list of places to visit, and start planning now. With a little organization and a good travel consultant, your trip to Rome can be not only fun, but even deeply rewarding. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Mar 16, 2010


Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Cancun and the Maya Riviera have become a second home for North American travelers looking for great beaches, lots of sun and exciting nightlife. Mayan ruins sit next door to world-class accommodations and tourism facilities, with water sports and natural attractions close at hand. Only a couple of hours from many United States cities, Cancun is one of the most accessible international destinations available. Use the article below in your own newsletters and on your websites, compliments of Vacation Express!

  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

This dialogue could have taken place in Ancient Agora between Steno, a teacher of dialectic and Peripateticos, a travel agent interested in promoting Greece

Peripateticos: Greece? Of course, the Acropolis, the sun, the islands…

Steno: But do you love Greece? Loving it is a decisive factor for successfully promoting it and selling it, wouldn’t you agree?

Peripateticos: Well, to love Greece is to know Greece…

Steno: But, say then, how well do you know Greece? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PictureRene Jongmans is President of Vacation Express, a leading tour operator based in Atlanta, GA offering packages to the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica. Born and raised in Holland, he spent three years in various management positions in St. Maarten before joining Vacation Express in 1992. With the exception of a one year hiatus, he has held the position of President since 2000. The sudden emergence of Vacation Express from a regional tour operator to a national player in the travel trade has surprised many.

TRO:Where do you position in the travel industry?

RJ: In the past few years Vacation Express has transitioned from charter operations to scheduled air operations. Even though we compete successfully with all the large tour operators we are more of a “boutique style” supplier offering travel agents a more personalized service and hands on destination knowledge. With our aggressive pricing, unique agent incentive programs, a fully dynamic packaging booking engine for Costa Rica and an extensive product line throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, we are the #1 choice for many agents in the Southeast and Midwest but have made great progress in expanding our agent base in other parts of the US as well. Read the rest of this entry »