Monthly Archives: April 2010

Posted In: 1:1

An Interview with Scott Koepf


With more than 25 years in retail travel Scott Koepf became President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents in March of 2008. Most recently Scott was with Sabre Holdings as General Manager of the Jurni Consortium, TMA and the host Travel agency, Nexion. Prior to joining Sabre, Scott was a full-time motivational speaker and sales trainer.

TRO : What is the biggest obstacle you think independent contractors face when it comes to training?

SK : It used to be that accessibility was the biggest problem. Now with online training programs, webinars, training from NACTA, hosts, franchises and other avenues, determining which program to be trained on and what to focus on is the biggest problem. Finding a focus or niche is tantamount with all of the information now available.

TRO : What is the biggest problem you see with training courses today? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Apr 29, 2010

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Interruptions!

Et tu Google?

Excuse me, dahrlings, but…
Et tu Google?

Hang on to your gourds, Pumpkins, Google is here. Apparently the search behemoth is about to buy ITA Software – a travel search servicer that is so big, (how big?) they make Softvoyage look like Goldilocks. I’ve been wondering when Google would decide to take over travel.

ITA’s motto is “Solving the Travel Industry’s Most Complex Problems”. [Don’t bother. I searched ‘how to make money’ on their website and they don’t have anything.] Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

This Just In…Brain Food Floats!

Regardless of which term you prefer to use; Enrichment Program, Edu-tainment, Info-tainment, Purposeful Pleasure, Cultural Learnings to Make Benefit for Cruise Passenger…whatever…these on-board blends of education and entertainment are growing fast in popularity. In fact, I’m wondering if growth will continue until it surpasses food & dining as the primary reason to cruise? (Yes, I’m asking this question in all seriousness.)

Wait! Before you jump ship, thinking this is the food-for-thought equivalent of a Half-Baked Alaska, hear me out. Read the rest of this entry »

There used to be a time when travel agents were partners with airlines. There used to be a time, when we could work together for our mutual benefit. There used to be a time when I was not spitting mad at Delta.

It all started with an innocent mistake. A client was getting married and was busy planning all aspects of the big event. They turned to me for their honeymoon.  I booked them into a nice cruise to the Mexican Rivera with flights that they had requested.  After I sent out the packet from my agency with all the information, confirmations, and extras, I got that dreaded call from the client. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: Watch your tone

Someone once told me to remember that elephants don’t bite. … mosquitoes do. This is a unique way of reminding us that it is the little things, when overlooked, will do us the most harm.

I was recently reminded of this when a former business acquaintance “reached out” and gave me an unexpected phone call.  It had been a while since we last communicated which was a result of two busy people trying to make ends meet. It was good to hear his voice again.

In a few short minutes I detected uneasiness in his tone. Read the rest of this entry »

Where are they now?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled diary to bring you this important update.

Last year, we launched the TRO Travel Agent Diary series which was an extremely popular column for TRO. If you recall, we followed the paths of Laura Frazier (Bliss Honeymoons), Nia Frieson (LK Cruises & Tours), Chuck Flagg (Cruise Holidays), Pat Saizan (Saizan’s Travel), and Mary Stephan (Allons Travel) as they tried to survive the horrors of 2009. Knowing that the travel industry is a fickle creature, we decided to check in and see how they are doing now that we already have a full quarter of 2010 in the books. And I have good news to report! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Patience people…patience!

Does anyone remember the grade school project where we had a pen pal from some foreign land? Do you remember how long it seemed to  get the response—your letter needed to go all the way to Europe, he needed to write back, and then it had to come all the way back to the US. A simple interaction could easily take a month or longer.  I remember when fax machines were the new fangled way to send a document in a hurry. Today, you are hard pressed to find a fax machine in most offices. Today, information and documents are exchanged by e-mail and instant messaging. Yes, today, we are indeed living in an ‘instant’ world. But is it working to our advantage?

Recently I was part of a discussion about effective advertising in today’s travel industry. We all agreed that the Yellow Pages were done. Most of us thought that newspaper advertising was out except for special promotions. We were up in the air on radio and cable television with some of us seeing great success and others seeing dismal failure. And then the topic turned to the effectiveness of online advertising. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

An Interview with Stuart Cohen



Stuart Cohen is a sales and marketing consultant, a business coach, an entrepreneur and a well-known speaker in the travel industry. His seminars at Travel Weekly’s recent CruiseWorld and Home Based Travel Agent Shows were standing room only events. Stuart was the founder of NEST and now owns and operates Exclamation Points, !nc. as well as and

TRO : You have a particular mission to help the travel agent community improve their group sales. Is there one particular type of group an agent should begin prospecting?

SC : Yes, my mission is to light a path of group success for agents across the country.  The business benefits are bountiful. One particular group type is the “vacation celebration”, the most popular yet the most overlooked. It is a morph between a family reunion and birthday party (or anniversary party). Too many agents aim Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Let’s face it, folks: Once your friends and family members know that you’re a travel agent, sometimes you become the “go-to” person by default, and other times people who know you may shy away from seeking your professional advice and assistance.

In some respects, travel requests from friends and family can be a very positive thing. Those who know you seek your advice on travel, and this may in turn lead to referral business. Anything they book builds your sales and earns you commission. That’s what you’re in business for, after all! If they’re happy with their trip, they’ll be more apt to tell others about your services because they know and trust you. A recommendation from your family and friends differs from other client Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Apr 22, 2010

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Interruptions!

Busted For Showing Too Much Ash

Excuse me, dahrlings, but…
Busted For Showing Too Much Ash

Blame it all on bad women, dahrlings.

According to schooled Iranian clerics, loose women are the cause of their recent deadly earthquakes. Apparently God is pissed about hair peeking out from under headscarves (considered a clear sign of promiscuity) and a general “prevalence of degeneracy”, so he killed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

The early-evening sun appears as a bright orange orb descending into the Mekong. La Marguerite slows its pace, sailing into Tan Chau, the last Vietnamese outpost before the vessel crosses into Cambodia tomorrow. On board, passengers are enjoying a variety of activities. Some are cooling off in the pool, some are sipping cocktails, some are attempting to get the perfect snapshot of the sunset. All appear happy to be exploring a region relatively new to tourism and river cruising.

On this day and on prior days, we have stepped ashore for tours included in our cruise fare. The tours are well-organized and visually stimulating. Nearly any direction that a camera can be pointed frames a photograph worthy of keeping. Today, nearly midway through our eight-day cruise, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

When I first perused Twitter, I thought:  “cute, but how can 140 characters of text help my business?”  Then, I began to see news stories and blog postings galore praising the platform and crediting it with countless successes.  Finally, I started to pay attention.

Twitter is super simple to use.  It takes about 10 seconds to learn to use it:  1) get a free account (or several) at and, 2) say something in 140 characters or less.  That’s it.  Well, sort of. Read the rest of this entry »

Thrillseekers Travel Club — Down but not out

It has been almost eight months since we began our foray into the group travel business and we are still struggling to get our events filled. Our trip to Israel in July fell apart; and we realize now that we did not plan it far enough in advance. Local events seem to be doing better, but with those we are finding that some of the people that commit early are slow to commit when it comes time to pay their deposits.

This is stressful as we never know until literally the last minute if we will have enough people to fill the minimum amount we need to keep our rates competitive and still actually make a profit. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Are you in a relationship?

Some relationships work out. Others, well, let’s just say—not so much. The “not so much” relationships are the bread and butter of my business thanks to a 50% divorce rate and other factors. But I also deal with many relationships that work incredibly well. And when you have a relationship that works very well, it is a beautiful thing.

In dating, if you are single and playing the field, you have no relationship. You are merely moving from one person to the next in hopes of finding a relationship. It is no different in travel. If you are running your business without relationships, you are quite likely running your business into the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

8 Ways to be a Great FAM Attendee!

In my last column, I explored familiarization (FAM) trips and how they are viewed within the travel agent community. This time around, we’ll discuss how you can get the most out of your FAM trip experience, including tips on managing information, and how to make a good impression on the supplier.

1. Perhaps the most important tidbit I could ever share: you can never be TOO professional, but you can most definitely be too un-professional. Remember you are representing not only your company, whether self-employed or an agency employee, but you are representing the travel agent community at large.

2. Everything else stems from that fact – the clothes you wear, the manner in which you behave, and what you do in the “off hours.” To start with, many of us receive FAM invitations addressed to the general agent community, but some of us are lucky enough to receive one addressed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

Everyone is familiar with the word Stay-cation by now. It was invented to describe staying home instead of traveling during vacation time from work. It’s all about mowing the lawn, feeding the cat, watching TV, ordering pizza…yawn…are we bored yet?

The genius who created this little hybrid word started a trend; one that is almost out of control today. New names are popping up like mushrooms for all kinds of specialized vacations. Allow me to bring you up to date. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: Hit your second shot first

Here are a few sage reminders that can easily change your life for the better. They are taken from the second greatest game* known to man—golf!  On a good day, my game could be a notch above “audaciously taxing.” But to my very core, I know I have “potential” when hitting the links—now if I could only master hitting that bitterly challenging small ball.

Dr. Bob Rotella is a sports psychologist who wrote two fantastic books about golf, and I have read them both. Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect along with Putting Out of Your Mind are two pieces of literature worth reading if you have any desire at all to break one hundred. Read the rest of this entry »

Discounts versus customer service. It is a recurring theme in my office most days. So much, that competing with online pricing has become more time consuming than actually planning great trips for my clients. Spending vast amounts of time with many of my clients to find the perfect vacation for them, only to have them bring me a price that is sometimes $800 less than my quote, is a little disconcerting to say the least.

I have always prided myself on providing excellent customer service and going the extra mile for my clients. I do my best to offer first hand information that is useful to them–information they won’t find online. And I feel that many clients really appreciate this, which is why they keep coming back to me year after year. But, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

An Interview with Nolan Burris


Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

TRO : Let’s first talk a bit about your newest passion: Social Media. There are so many platforms to choose from the well known, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, to the lesser known like Naymz, Google Buzz, FourSquare, Plaxo. Do you recommend the agent community pick one or two or try to be EVERYWHERE?

NB: Great question!  First, think about the demographic of your target audience (not necessarily who you deal with now, but who you WANT).  Facebook has an older user base; most are women 55 and up.  Twitter has a much younger demographic with most 35 or younger.  Next, think about your marketing style.  Facebook and Twitter are more about being informal, personal and fun.  LinkedIn is all about business to business networking so a more formal tone is better.  If you are going to be “everywhere” don’t do or say the same things in all of them.  Each slice of the social media pie Read the rest of this entry »