Monthly Archives: November 2015

Posted In: 1:1

Kirk Demeter, President of Down Under Answers

IMG_2203Kirk Demeter, President of Down Under Answers, has built a foundation of more than two decades of passion in the travel industry. He began building his lifelong career travelling the world for a year following his graduation from the University of Washington in 1989, never knowing this journey would light up a spark and lead him to build a business for the purpose of allowing others to experience the joys of traveling.

Immediately on his return, he joined a Seattle adventure tour outfitter (Progressive Travels) and was shortly promoted to Director of Marketing, where he excelled at promoting tourism and adventure travel to New Zealand even before New Zealand themselves knew they had such a market. The Gulf War in the early 1990’s presented an opportunity, and with Kirk’s entrepreneurial spirit and his determined personality, combined with his expertise in adventure travel and his passion for the South Pacific, he started his own business called Down Under Answers. His focused business plan, obvious expertise in travel to the South Pacific, and his ability to exceed customer expectations, grew the business beyond his expectations, allowing him to open his first office in 1992 in downtown Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

The attacks in Paris on Friday the 13th were horrific, and as news continues to develop, it becomes even more horrific. ISIS has claimed responsibility and the world, once again, is on high alert. I live in a military town and the base instantly kicked up their DEFCON status. With a situation like this, travel professionals will once again be faced with challenging days in the future. And while our governments and militaries map out strategies to combat the terrorism; as small business owners, we need to insure that our businesses continue to thrive.

Clients will be fearful of travelling outside of their comfort zones (home). The US State Department may issue strongly worded advisories against travel. We may see some increased security measures at airports worldwide. And our European bookings will likely take a hit. But as an industry, we can pull through. We have in the past, and we will again. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – November 13, 2015

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Deck Plans

The Greek island of Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian Islands. In some ways, Corfu feels more Italian (thanks to the Venetians and the Italians who occupied the island) than it does Greek. Certainly the many pine trees that we saw during our visit reminded us of the Tuscan landscape, as do some of the dialects we found around the island.

The island, also known by its Greek name Kerkyra, remained in Venetian hands from 1401 until 1797. The Venetians erected fortifications to repel Turkish invaders, and indeed, the historian Will Durant claimed that Corfu was one of the few parts of Greece never conquered by the Ottomans thanks to the Republic of Venice. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

#5: Networking Secrets

Everyone tells you that you should network. At the very least you should work your net.

If you were like me you were not particularly fond of walking into a room full of strangers figuring out what to say that you will make an impression. Good news. You don’t have to. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Soundings

Susan SchafferTravel professionals that sell Disney Cruise Line have been up in arms by the recent announcement from DCL regarding on-board rebookings. In a nutshell, if your client rebooks with DCL while still onboard the cruise you booked, your commission for the future booking is capped at ten percent. For agencies that only make 10% to start with, this has no direct impact on them right now. However, for agencies making between 11% and 16% commission on bookings, this is a loss of income.

Years ago industry insiders (including TRO’s own John Frenaye) started predicting that the cruise industry would eventually follow suit with the airlines and eliminate paying commission to travel professionals. Of course these insiders were outnumbered by those who didn’t think cruise lines could ever afford to completely cut us out of the distribution pipeline. But as non-commissionable cruise fares (NCCFs) increase as a percentage of what passengers pay (and what we don’t earn commission on), we are effectively seeing our commissions decrease. Cruise lines cap commissions on bookings transferred to us, and in the case of DCL, when clients rebook while still onboard a ship that also decreases commissions paid out. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: TRO SMITH

Do I Really Need a Web Site?

I’m not sure what it is about travel professionals that is different from other entrepreneurs but “do I really need a web site?” is a pretty common question. I never really hear other business owners ask that question. They seem to accept it as a given, but for some reason that isn’t the case with travel agents.

The best way I can explain my answer to this question is that it’s a lot like how I answer travel clients who ask “do I really need a passport for this cruise?” Do you absolutely, positively HAVE to have one… no. Is it a good idea to go without one? NO. Should you have one? YES. Is it worth spending the extra money to have one? YES. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Luxury Travel Tips

Never Stop Learning

Whether you’ve been in the luxury travel business for months or years, one of the most important lessons to always keep in mind is that there is always more to learn. This thought crossed my mind today while I was sitting with a few of my newer Independent Contractors at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel listening to the Sabre trainer we hired to do a three-day crash course in air and hotel booking.

I learned early on in my luxury travel career that having GDS skills was key to my efficiency as a travel advisor as it allows me to address client requests at any hour; I am able to track and run reports for clients who travel frequently, and the speed with which I can research and book hotels and air is unmatched. In general, it’s just an invaluable tool to take with me on my global travels so that I am never more than a wifi connection away from a flight change or last-minute hotel booking. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Truthfully, we all have our little problems and concerns. I am fully involved with mine, and quite frankly, I just don’t have the time or the interest to adopt yours as my own.

As a general rule, people like to be around people who appear to have their act together. With this in mind, here are three things to think about: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Established in 1974, Mill-Run Tours prides itself on being the first US-based air consolidator. Today Mill-Run continues to maintain its place as the premier company in its segment of the travel industry. Beyond airline consolidation, Mill-Run offers a comprehensive range of offerings from air travel across the globe, including tours and packages, auto rentals, and accommodation options. Their aim is to continue growing strategically while consistently providing their clients innovative travel products and unparalleled service – always delivering the highest quality travel offerings with meticulous attention to detail, value, and professionalism every step of the way.

For decades, Mill-Run has been a prominent supplier of consolidator flights. The company has invested all these years of industry knowledge to helping travel agencies in the USA offer premier services to their customers. It offers expertise and business relationships formed with airlines to provide exceptionally low airfares for the benefit of agencies and travelers alike. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

#3: Speed Wins

I am about to share with you a truth in business that you can virtually take to the bank: Speed wins.

Speed wins in horse races. Speed wins in car races. Speed wins in most every athletic contest. And speed definitely wins in business. I am not talking about casting your fate to the wind and jumping at opportunities without planning, thinking, or doing your homework. I’m talking about placing more emphasis on action than you normally do. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

I attend and speak at dozens of events each year, both inside and outside of the travel industry. One of the benefits is that I learn the latest jargon, corporate speak, or marketing buzzwords making the rounds.

One ominous sounding word has surfaced at nearly every event I’ve attended lately. In some cases, it was the primary topic for more than one speaker at the same conference! Apparently, the buzzword of the year is: disrupters. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Find Your Inner Beach Buff In Key West With ShoreTrips

From sun-drenched beaches to fascinating educational opportunities, Key West is made up of both the expected and unexpected. This gorgeous island-city off the coast of the Florida Keys hides many treasures both on and off-shore, and ShoreTrips is your guide to this slice of paradise!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Halong Bay, or the “Bay of Descending Dragons”, is a bay in the Quảng Ninh Province in Vietnam. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay is considered one of the natural wonders of the world, with limestone grottoes accented by slopes of forest. Comprised of around 2,000 islands rising from the Gulf of Tonkin, legend tells that this bay of islands was created by the flailing of a dragon, whose tail cut and crushed the rock into the islands we see today. When the dragon retreated into the sea, the water rose, surrounding the gouged rocks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

#2: Repetition Works

You must be careful not to cross the line and become obnoxious. Being a pain in the neck does not work.

The secret is to remain visible over time as you continue to offer value to your prospects and customers. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week when we turned the clocks back an hour, it hit me that we are already in November and within a few short weeks, we would be saying goodbye to 2015. And, I got a reminder that I will be saying goodbye to the Travel Agent Diaries… or at least for 2015!

When I started to write for this column back in January, I was excited and scared all at once. I was excited at the opportunity to share my thoughts, my struggles, and my successes, but scared that no one would be interested, that my writing skills were not up to par, and of course the list goes on and on when you are your worst critic. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

#1: Eye Contact

For the next eight days I’m going to offer little “stings” of information, which I believe will make all the difference in the world to you and your future.

Most individuals believe they do not have to be reminded of something as simple as looking somebody in the eye. Wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 1:1

marckavanaghphotoMarc Kavanagh, President and owner of Journeys Connect, is a seasoned travel industry sales expert with more than 27 years of hands-on experience in the travel industry and is a vibrant leadership force in group programs and business development. Marc started his career in travel at Ryanair in its early start-up days. He moved from Ireland to the US in 1996 where he worked for Brendan Tours as sales manager for the Northeast. He then went on to join Celtic Tours World Vacations, where for 11 years he was responsible for implementing the company’s sales and marketing initiatives. Prior to launching Journeys Connect, Marc was a partner and President of GCS Groups Inc., a group travel solution for several US based brands.

In Journeys Connect, he has developed and grown a successful business-to-business wholesale travel provider offering group and specialty vacation packages to destinations throughout Europe.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

A good tagline is critical

Warning, this column may not sit well with some people. And with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go.

It is no secret that we operate in a challenging industry. So much of our success is tied to things that are out of our control—political issues, commissions, world health issues, natural disasters, etc. If an agency specializes in weddings on Maui and all of a sudden Haleakala decides to erupt and make it the 21st century Pompeii—that agency is done. So, we do need to keep on our toes, but sometimes, I think we shoot ourselves in the foot unnecessarily. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Open Jaw – November 6, 2015

Courtesy of Open Jaw and Sean Kapitain

Posted In: Soundings

Susan SchafferWhen that call (or email) comes in from a new client wanting to book a cruise, do you ever consider the future possibilities this current booking may bring to you? Yes, repeat business with this client is part of that, but do you ever consider the referrals this lone booking could bring in? If you don’t, you should. Every cruise booking you create, you should be thinking about what you need to do for this client that will cause them to joyously refer you to everyone they know.

Here is an example: I advertise in a small local boutique store in the greater Nashville area. The shop owner suggested to her sister (in Texas) that she book her cruises through me (instead of going direct). The shop owner had a vested interest here. I’m sure she was fully aware that if I didn’t get business by advertising in her shop, I’d eventually pull my advertising dollars and go elsewhere. Her sister (we’ll call her Jane) did book with me; and then she booked with me again. Both were seven night Carnival cruises in balcony staterooms. Nice commission, but not overwhelming. From her feedback, I knew she was more than happy with my service. However, I did not realize exactly how much so, until a couple of weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »