Monthly Archives: December 2010

Morris Murdock — My top ten

As I close my year of “Travel Agent Diaries” a bit of reflection is in order. What did I learn? What did I like? What did I dislike? What the hell happened to the year anyway? It seems everyone is doing a top ten list, so why not me?

Here are ten things I learned this year: Read the rest of this entry »

Thrillseekers Travel Club — A year in review

What an honor it has been to serve as one of the contributing writers for the Travel Agent Diaries this past year. It is with a bit of sadness that I write this last article, and make way for the class of 2011.

Looking back over the past year, many things come to mind regarding our start-up venture, Thrillseekers Travel Club, and all that we learned in the process of building it. One of the smartest things we ever did was partner (in effect) with TRO and utilize the tools they provide to, not only us, but all travel agents for FREE. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Become a travel ‘Ironman’–9 tips

Do you know Peter Shankman? I don’t personally, but I do follow him on Twitter and I am also a fan of his on Facebook. But, before you read any further, please take a minute and do these three things and you will be better off for it—like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and subscribe to his blog’s feed.

Now for the backstory, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: TROTips

Cool Websites for Travel Agents

Every now and then you run across a cool website that you want to share with friends and colleagues.  The website might be useful for business, educationally valuable or just plain fun but otherwise useless (I just flashed back to the original Hamster Dance website).  I have a few websites that I’d like to share; websites that I think other travel professionals may find useful (no hamster dancing, I promise).


Bravenet ( bills itself as “the world’s best interactive, fully customizable, remotely hosted tools for webmasters of all skill levels.”   And they do just that.  Need a guestbook for your website?  They have it.  Want a hit counter?  No problem.  An online calendar?  Email forms?  If you can think of it, you will probably find it at Bravenet.  They also provide web domain registration, hosting, and website templates.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Spring through autumn, cruise lines chart courses along the New England coast, sometimes venturing as far as Montreal through the Saint Lawrence Seaway. These are spectacular voyages for culture, natural beauty and in autumn, a spectacular palette of colors as leaves change from emerald green to hues of ruby, amber and gold.

Ranging from one to two weeks, Canada and New England cruises are designed to ensure that there is plenty of time ashore to sample succulent Maine lobster, scavenge for antiques and amble through quaint towns and parks. Ships typically drop anchor or dock in Boston, Newport and/or Bar Harbor, Maine as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia, Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Big Ideas: You could be wrong

Before we all loosen up for the Holidays, let me take a few minutes to suggest that you might be wrong!

Let’s not make this thing harder than it has to be. Maybe, just maybe, you are a tad bit off kilter in your thinking. If this is true, you may want to make a few alterations before it is too late. It’s easier than you might think. But the critical first step is–you must think. As I take a break for a few weeks, let me leave you with some points to ponder. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PicturePrior to joining Auto Europe in August of this year, Eric Ledroux held executive positions with Renault, Avis Europe and Europcar. His extensive knowledge of the car rental industry spans 21 years of experience. Eric overseas all operations in the Americas for Auto Europe, offering worldwide car rental services, hotel reservations at 3, 4 & 5 star European properties, as well as consolidating business class airfare internationally.

 TRO:  You are fairly new with Auto Europe. Tell us more about your background.

EL: I have been with Auto Europe since August. Before that I was CEO of Europcar, working in both London and Paris.  I came here to oversee US operations so that our CEO, Imad Khalidi could focus on expansion of international offices in Europe and Australia.

TRO: With this international expansion is Auto Europe adding primarily to its customer base or product line? Read the rest of this entry »

Tropical Travelers — Adieu

Yes, 2010 is finally finding down. But, I’m already looking forward to business happenings for 2011. It’s been a rewarding year, business wise and I really want to keep the ball rolling in the right direction. As I previously mentioned in my last column, I’ve been doing a lot of travel throughout the tropics over the past few months. From Mexico to Turks and Caicos, Punta Cana and back to Mexico again. I’m discovering quite a few new products that I’ve been very excited to share with my clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Cozumel by ShoreTrips

Twelve miles off the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is the small island of Cozumel. It is just 30 miles long and about 10 miles wide; yet, it is home to some of nature’s most coveted treasures. Known as the Island of the Swallows to the Mayans, the island’s has enough attractions for everyone. Crystal waters and soft sand beaches are protected by one of the world’s largest (and renowned for diving) coral reefs. In the middle you will find undisturbed jungle, dry arid flatlands and swampy lagoons. San Miguel is the main town and home to the majority of the residents of the island as well as the daily home of dozens of cruise ships and their passengers who call on the island.

Be sure to look at the hand selected tours for your cruise or land based clients from ShoreTrips after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Blue Sky Tours

Can you name a supplier who has been selling Hawai’i since 1981. Only  Hawai’i? Blue Sky Tours, a leading wholesaler to Hawai’i, is the one!  With a broad product line, flexible and easy-to-use selling tools, great prices, a pro agent attitude and superior service, it’s no wonder Blue Sky Tours has set the standard for Hawai’i vacation packages for 30 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Freeport by CLIA

While Nassau is a blend of the old and new, Freeport/Lucaya is a modern planned city on the Island of Grand Bahama. Grand Bahama Island is the second most popular tourist destination in the Bahamas. Here you will find long stretches of deserted clean-white beaches, hotels ranging from ultra luxurious to small boutiques, a major casino, a robust nightlife and world-class scuba diving.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Alluring News

Are you engaging your clients and prospects by using Twitter? If not, click the “back” button on the browser and read some of the other great articles on TRO or head on over to the TRO Community. If you are active on Twitter, listen up. This week, I discovered what I think might be a game changer in terms of follower engagement. And of course, if properly executed, follower engagement will result in business.

Now to be honest, when I first discovered it, I was not sure if there were any benefits. But after only two days, I am already seeing results.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Time to educate the consumer

As travel agents we all go the extra mile for our clients. At least we should if we want to stay in business. We know resorts, destinations, the best restaurants. We can take care of problems that crop up during a client’s vacation. But, does the average consumer know all of this? Do they really “get” what we do? I don’t think they do.

As travel agents we are doing a mediocre job of educating consumers. Case in point-I gave a presentation to my networking group recently on “Why use a travel agent.” In my presentation, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Editor’s Note: Travel agents wanting some truly excellent information on ports of call around the world should visit Ralph’s site at Then, book your shore excursions with ShoreTrips!

In January, I flew to Buenos Aires for a cruise around legendary Cape Horn to Santiago, Chile. My schedule was to fly from the United States late one evening, arrive in Buenos Aires the next morning, do a quick city tour on the way to the ship, board and sail away. What a pity. I would breeze through one of the world’s greatest cities and see almost nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Get me outta here

I have heard more complaining from retailers about the grind of having to compete with their suppliers. Some cruise lines have been poaching clients online, onboard and offline in any way possible. Nice “partners in travel”. Direct bookings to all suppliers’ websites are growing. The 9 largest airlines all made money last quarter while managing to irritate travelers more & more with all of their $50 and $75 fees at every step. It is almost enough to get you to throw in the towel Well, maybe not yet! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1


PictureDondra Ritzenthaler joined  Celebrity Cruises in September 2003, as vice president of sales. In 2006, she became senior vice president of sales for the line. In 2007, Celebrity Cruises introduced Azamara Cruises, and Dondra took on responsibility as senior vice president of sales for Azamara.

TRO: Though Celebrity Cruises is positioned as a premium cruise line, you still are considered by many in the travel agent community as mass market. What do you see as Celebrity’s unique value proposition?  

DR: We are the cruise line that is “Designed for the Guest”.  We offer a comfortable fun experience for those who appreciate the finer things in life!

TRO: Where are you seeing your sales come from in general percentage terms?  Direct, traditional agent market, on-line agent market, affiliates, other?  

DR: Our business primarily comes from our travel agents. Over 90%.   Within that channel 50% is still store front agencies, then home based, online and corporate meeting and incentives makes up the rest.   We are dependant on our travel partners.

TRO: Celebrity is not traditionally thought of when it comes to multi-generational travel yet clearly offers something for all ages, what client qualities or qualifiers should the agent community consider when matching the multi-generational cruiser to a Celebrity cruise?

DR: Celebrity Cruises is not advertised as a “family brand” as we cater to adults and accommodate kids. The advantage of this proposition is a much lower kids to counselor ratio in our Celebrity X-Club Youth Program. All Celebrity ships carry a minimum of 3 Youth Counselors plus 1 manager on Century and Millennium class, and 4 Youth Counselors plus 1 manager on Solstice class. Children get the attention that they deserve making their time onboard unforgettable! Well traveled kids and parents are the best choice for the Celebrity brand. Our programs are engaging in a fun learning environment divided by the perfect age groups. Read the rest of this entry »

What a year it has been for Wandering Puffin LLC, for me personally and for the industry in general. When I first started writing these columns, I truly did not know where I would be at the end of the year. I certainly was much more pessimistic about business early on, but wow, what a change! When I started, the economy, although, still in bad shape, was in much worse shape. I had to supplement my business by not working one part time job, but sometimes two or three and we are certainly not out of the woods yet. The travel bug though is engrained in us and slowly but surely, business picked up and I was busy all year long with bookings and prospects well into next year. We also had to deal with the Icelandic volcano, civil strife in a number of different locations around the world and the British Airways strike just to name a few issues that affected the travel industry and my business directly. Certainly the fall and rebirth of Tripology had a major impact on my business. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Latin America by Avanti Destinations

Recently, sophisticated travelers have taken a keen interest in the land down under—no, not Australia, but the land down under the United States—Latin America. Defining Latin America is difficult at best. But Wikipedia does a good job.

Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages (i.e., those derived from Latin) – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken.

In a nutshell, it encompasses parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America except Belize, Guyana, and French Guyana. It encompasses nearly 15% of the earth’s land mass with 7.8 million square miles. Toss in 580 million people and there is a lot of exploring to do!

Be sure to look at the hand selected Avanti Destinations trips for your clients after the article.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Another look at Amadeus

Amadeus e-Commerce Solutions exist for three reasons–to help you sell travel online, boost your competitive edge, and make more money

Competition is fierce within the travel industry. The solid advice from the well-seasoned travel agent has been undermined by Web sites promising low prices and one-stop shopping. It’s hard enough to acquire and retain clients, then add a weak online presence and the challenges increase exponentially.

So how do you meet this demand head on and continue to grow your high value sales, differentiate your business from the crowd, and provide your clients with the service they expect online? Start with Amadeus e-Commerce Solutions.

Small agency, big challenges, one easy solution

Many small agencies feel behind the curve when it comes to understanding all of the fast-moving technological developments in the travel industry. They’re concerned that new business is being lost because they don’t have their own branded Web site yet, but have no idea how to create and maintain one that allows them to sell travel online. Does this sound familiar to you? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Sedona is one of Arizona’s most popular destinations. It is set amongst towering sandstone cliffs that truly glow with an energized red hue. Just north of town is Oak Creek Canyon with its own dramatic beauty, swimming holes, natural rock slides and camping in its cool forest.

The stunning natural beauty of the area combined with its relaxed atmosphere has drawn many artists to the area. Art galleries are numerous, offering many varieties of art in all price ranges.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Lie to me

If you have not seen the hit show on Fox, you need to check it out. But I digress. Has anyone noticed lately that more and more travel professionals are being forced to lie to more and more suppliers? I am not talking little white lies (the check is in the mail) or any real whoppers, but why is it that agents are being forced to lie when dealing with a supplier regarding our “mutual client?” Read the rest of this entry »