Monthly Archives: August 2010

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Fall 2010 Trade Show Season

Mustering up the capital resources and the time to attend a trade show so is surely no light matter. A travel agency’s investment in both travel and accommodations are often significant. Yet, the opportunities afforded by a travel trade show are considerable. Most importantly, travel agents can delve deeply into the tenor of the companies they select for their business partners. There are few venues that provide the opportunity for face-to-face evaluations of travel suppliers like a trade show especially considering the chance to compare notes on suppliers with other agents. Indeed, trade shows afford an almost unique opportunity to learn about new product.

The face-to-face experiences inherent in a trade show are very valuable to a professional travel counselor. Strong supplier relationships are an important component of a thriving travel practice, and there is no substitute for meeting a supplier representative in person to take the measure of his or her company. But there is also the additional benefit of interaction with your peers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Approximately 600 miles off the coast from Guayaquil is the Columbus Archipelago (often referred to simply as The Galapagos Islands), home to Galapagos National Park. The Galapagos is one of the most popular sites in Ecuador and home to giant turtles, prehistoric iguanas and a variety of other unique species.

The area is heavily vegetated and is comprised of 13 large volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets. For many, it’s a true paradise with natural beauty such as gorgeous white-sand beaches, lava tunnels and animals that are unique to the area. The islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have been nicknamed “The Enchanted Isles”.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters!

Be sure to check out the special offers on trips which include The Galapagos after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

VacationRentals4Agents

When a client is looking to take a vacation, the first instinct for many agents is to investigate hotels and resorts. While there are plenty of those to go around, when was the last time you looked at offering them a home, villa, or condo? When faced with a budget limited client, VacationRentals4Agents may be just the solution to deliver the experience your client wants for a price that meets his budget. And guess who comes across looking like a superstar?

We asked VacationRentals4Agents to tell us a little more about why their products should be a “must have” in the travel professional’s toolbox. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

The Bahamas — By CLIA

The Bahamas  is an English-speaking country consisting of 29 islands, 650 cays, and close to 2,500 islets and is located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and Hispaniola. When you add up the land area, it is slightly larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The Bahamas is one of the most prosperous nations in the Caribbean basin and relies on tourism to generate most of the economy. Tourism accounts for 60% of their gross domestic product and provides jobs for more than 50% of the country’s workforce.  To see the impact of tourism at work, one only needs to look at the number of cruise ships which dock in the capital city of Nassau.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Help wanted

I need your help and opinions, so please take a moment or two to add your two cents in a comment!

When we are young, we go to the doctor regularly for a checkup. As we get older, and our health begins to stabilize, the visits become less frequent. And when you are much older, sometimes a sudden event, such as a heart attack, delivers the long overdue wake up call to go see the doctor again. There is really no difference in your travel practice. Sometimes, we get so focused on the way it has always been done, that we miss how it is really being done now.

Last week in the TRO Community, a travel professional asked for suggestions on how to handle a client issue. Here are the pertinent facts:

  1. The client did not receive a reasonably important email (cause unknown)
  2. The client had an issue in the beginning of the trip which the email would have covered
  3. The client called the agent for help
  4. The voicemail was delayed three days (cause unknown) and the agent had not returned the call

The agent wanted to know how to handle it Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

There is no shame in being a contrarian

Recently I was filling out a form for my daughter’s school, and I told my wife that I so no reason to include our daughter’s social security number on the form. My wife asked, “Why do you ALWAYS have to go against the grain?”

After responding that there is no shame in being a contrarian and having spent the night on the couch, I realized how important it is in our industry to do things differently from every other agency. If you are thinking this is not a good strategy, let me share ways you can be a contrarian too. 

Is every agency you know sending out email after email of special after special to their entire mailing list? Why not take those same specials that everyone, including your suppliers, is sending out and pick one or two that represents a true value and send it Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Interruptions!

Later Slater Is My Hero

Excuse me, dahrlings, but…
Later Slater Is My Hero

Overnight, Steven Slater is the service sector’s Captain Fantastic. Waitresses, sales clerks and travel agents are hailing the feisty flight attendant for doing what none of us have the gumption to. (And, from what I’ve seen, some of you have pretty significant gumptions.)

Not only did he totally slate that passenger’s dumbass behaviour, he escaped the scene in a Bondian flourish, grabbing beers on the way.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – Aug 12, 2010

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Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Les-Lee’s got one thing on her mind this week, and she’s warning you about the vacation certificates that might soon start showing up in your clients’ mailboxes. 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 TRO’s 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 packagedeals@comcast.net.

I’m devoting an entire column to this peeve.

I just received a mailer addressed to me and where the return address is, is printed:

Carnival Ticket vouchers enclosed.” On the opposite side of the mailer, is a picture of the Carnival  Conquest, and line, “Important Information Enclosed.”

I open it and read-“Congratulations, Pack your bags,  In celebration of our 28th Anniversary you have been personally chosen Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

An Interview with Rafael Checa, CEO of Solar Tours

 

PictureRafael Checa was raised in the travel business. After serving in the US Army infantry for 10 years, he went to business school. Upon graduation in 1997, he  joined Solar Tours, a family company, and has been there ever since. Rafael was the CFO until his parents retired from the business three years ago and he is now the CEO.

TRO: Tell me about the history of Solar Tours.  I remember the company from my earliest days in the industry, mostly as a consolidator to Central and South America.

RC: My parents founded Solar in 1984 as a Latin America FIT wholesaler. The consolidator business started afterwards and it grew larger than the tour business quickly.

TRO: What is Solar Tours’ product line now?

RC: We have an air consolidation division and our FIT business is organized in divisions based on geography: Europe, Latin America, Asia and the South Pacific, Middle East and Africa and Beaches of Mexico, Caribbean and Hawaii.

TRO: With a history that long in the industry, Solar Tours has worked with many, many travel agents over the years.  Tell us about your relationship with the travel agent community.

RC: We have a unique way of compensating agencies. Instead of assigning a straight commission we split the net revenue with the agency in a 60/40 ratio where 60% is for the agency. This allows us to not inflate product mark-ups in order to maintain the ability to offer a minimum percentage commission. There are too many products where mark-ups are limited before they become higher than what the traveler can find booking direct. It made more sense for us to keep prices competitive and still allow the agency community to earn and to keep the loyalty of their clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Who ya gonna call?

 

Choices.

When you look at your life and your career, the place you are at now and where you will be in the future are the result of choices. Sure there are circumstances beyond our control that we have to deal with but how we deal with them still comes down to choices. And there are lots and lots of choices to make! There is so much information available and information creates knowledge and with knowledge comes, you guessed it, choices! Therefore, one of the first choices we have to make is which information to focus on. In the travel business you simply cannot know everything about everything although I continue to see agents try. One of the most valuable choices you have is the choice to simply say no, but in our business it is not used enough. Read the rest of this entry »

There comes a time in every sporting event I have ever seen (which I have to admit is probably way too many) when you know that a play about to happen is gonna be a big one. A game changer, momentum killer, rally starter, or one that you just know will have a big effect on the outcome.

I am looking that situation, square in the face right now! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

ASTA & THE TRADE SHOW

Make a point of being in Orlando, FL on September 12-14, 2010 to maximize your sales potential and gain the knowledge and expertise to make your travel business more profitable. As the #1 travel trade show in North America, THETRADESHOW (www.thetradeshow.org) connects travel agents with destinations and travel related companies to establish new business partnerships.

If you are a veteran ASTA member, you know how valuable this event is. If you are new to the industry or have not taken a look at ASTA recently. You are doing your practice more harm than good. The three day event will send you home enthused, educated, and entertained. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

From Theory to Practice

Last week, TRO held the first in a planned series of webinars. We have titled the series “No Limits” to emphasize that there are no limits to what a dedicated travel consultant, willing to do what it takes, can accomplish. We kicked off the series with Nolan Burris speaking on the topics of fees and social media. Over 600 travel agents registered for the webinar, a record. Several agents told me it was the best webinar they ever attended. Certainly Nolan was at the top of his game. For those of you who could not attend, TRO recorded the webinar. It is hosted in the TRO Community and you can register there and watch it at your convenience.

No Limits. The idea is simple. Travel professionals and their industry have been under assault for so many years that we have started believing in the limitation myths more than we believe in ourselves. You know the limitation myths: there is a limited amount of money to be made as a travel agent. There are a limited number of clients willing Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Bar Harbor is adjacent to Acadia National Park, home to 1,532-foot Mount Cadillac. Its summit is the first spot in the United States where the sunrise can be seen. Acadia’s stunning mountains, lakes, and sea cliffs can be viewed from a number of vantage points—an auto loop, carriage roads closed to car traffic, and 125 miles of trails exclusively for hiking. The Bar Harbor area possesses a great selection of family activities, including a family nature camp, an oceanarium, a zoo, and a lumberjack show. The recently expanded Abbe Museum showcases the Wabenaki Indians, some of Maine’s earliest residents. Visitors can also indulge in rock climbing, sailing, paddling, brewery tours, boat excursions, and golf. For shoppers, Bar Harbor features a number of top-notch boutiques, many of which showcase the works of Maine artists and sculptors.

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters!

Be sure to check out the special offers on explorations in Bar Harbor after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Puerto Rico is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean and while not a state, is under U.S. jurisdiction. However, if you are looking for anything mainland-ish on the island, look elsewhere. Puerto Rico is decidedly a different culture composed of many including Spanish, Latino and Caribbean. Their Spanish heritage comes through loud and clear and is especially noticeable in the restored Old San Juan District.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Navigating client safety

This column is called “Editorial Musings” and usually I ramble about whatever travel topic pops into my mind and seems timely and appropriate. This week, I want to explore a different angle and pose a broad question and solicit your feedback in the comment section–if you aren’t planning to leave a comment, please stop reading. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Do we need mandatory certification?

In my home state and many states across the country travel agents are not regulated.  There aren’t any education, licensing or insurance requirements. Travel agents do not have to submit to criminal background checks. Anyone can be a travel agent. The infiltration of “card mills or MLMs” is out of control.

Other professionals in my state such as cosmetologists, massage therapists, plumbers, real estate agents, accountants etc. all have to meet mandatory certification requirements and be licensed. Why are travel agents not regulated? Travel agents are allowed to handle thousands of dollars without mandatory licensing, no educational requirements or meet minimum financial standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: TROTips

As a travel professional I am always on the lookout for tools to improve the flow of business.  Google has many tools to do just that, like the Google Voice application I discussed previously.  Another such tool is Google Apps for Business.

Google Apps for Business (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html) is a suite of Google applications developed for businesses to use, including Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Docs, and a few others.  While one can have access to these applications with a free Google account, utilizing these applications within Google Apps for Business makes it easy for a company to share resources and brand identity without having to invest in a full blown IT department to run and maintain everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – August 5, 2010

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Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Soundings

A Most Pimped Cruise!

How I learned to love long lines, open my wallet & get with the Funship program

Although veterans of many cruises, we had never had the Drive Port  experience. Just throwing everything except the dog into the SUV – bypassing the hassle and inconvenience of airports, airlines and transfers – seemed like a good idea. From Memphis the logical choice was Carnival’s Triumph sailing to the Eastern Caribbean out of New Orleans.  (7 days-July 24 to 31)

Embarkation – Docs we printed out online indicated boarding was from 12:30p to 2:30p with ship sailing at 4:00pm. So, we got in line for pier-side unloading and parking at 12:20p. Once parked and out of the SUV we stood in line for about 45 minutes – outdoors – in 95 degree mid-summer New Orleans heat and humidity. (What logistical genius arranged for that little bit of torture?) From parking to boarding the ship took a total of 80 minutes – during which long lines with many switch backs were the norm.  Read the rest of this entry »