Monthly Archives: May 2017

How to Respond To Negative Customer Feedback

If you are a business owner, you’re eventually going to get some negative feedback from your customers or other people you work with or for.  While your initial reaction is probably to get defensive and mad or upset, negative feedback is actually a good thing.  It means that your customers are giving you an opportunity to improve your business.

The most important thing to remember when getting negative feedback is to not over react.  Sure, getting mad could potentially give you an energy burst to be more effective and get more things done, but it’s more likely going to get you worked up over nothing and make you waste time (I understand that at the moment, this is a lot easier said than done).

There are two things you can do instead of getting angry or upset, but which one you choose depends on what kind of negative feedback you have just received. Negative feedback can pretty much be divided into two categories: useful and mean spirited.

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Posted In: Editorial Musings


I got a call the other day inquiring about pricing on our “upcoming group trip to Antigua.” Seems pretty routine, right? Well, the catch was that we did not have a trip to Antigua. I assumed she got her wires crossed and meant to call someone else, but she was insistent. In the end, we discovered she stumbled across an article I wrote in 2004 for MSNBC where I referenced a trip that we had done in 2003 to…Antigua. We shared a little laugh and then I got to thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

What do YOU want?

The question “What do you want” can sometimes be one of the most difficult to answer. It’s an odd psychological quirk we often find it far easier to say what we don’t want. Perhaps you have had one of these conversations:

“Where do you want to eat tonight?”
“I don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me.”
“How about Mexican?”
“No, anything but Mexican.”
“No, we had Greek last week.”
“OK, where do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know, it really doesn’t matter to me.”


What do you want for your travel practice?
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Posted In: TRO SMITH

In a personal service business like travel consulting, it is easy to forget the importance of fundamental marketing techniques and concepts.  One such neglected topic is the art of visual merchandising – developing the visual creative to accompany your advertisements, proposals, presentations and other client communications to enhance their appeal. Properly done, visual merchandising makes it easier to engage both the client’s emotional responses to your presentations and their intellectual understanding of your offer.

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Posted In: cartoons

King Cartoons – May 19, 2017


Posted In: Deck Plans

Koblenz, Germany — It had been awhile since I was on a Viking Longship, and although I had attended christening events and even did a couple of weeklong cruises on Viking a few years ago, too much time had passed since I’d stepped on a Longship. Last Sunday that changed when I boarded Viking Hlin in Basel for a seven-night “Rhine Getaway” voyage to Amsterdam.

After a quick transfer from Basel’s airport to the St. Johann docks, I felt good stepping into the familiar light-filled reception area of Viking Hlin (named for the goddess of protection in Norse mythology).

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Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Know Your Value

What value do you, as a travel agent, bring to your client?  Is the value you offer, the value the client wants? What we mean by this is that some clients want you to provide them with the absolute best pricing available – that’s their definition of value.  Others want true value – the best experience that their budget will allow.

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Posted In: Soundings

“Those who see the world better understand the world; and when we better understand the world we can gain insights into ourselves and personally experience the transformative effects of travel. EXC is going to show our guests the world in a whole new way and enable them to engage in truly meaningful experiences.” Orlando Ashford, President, Holland America Line

Initially announced in December 2016, Holland America has released more information about their new Exploration Central concept as it premiers on the ms Westerdam in a few days. Exploration Central, or EXC for short, will be rolled out fleet wide by the end of 2018.

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Confidence — many of us long to be more outgoing, more secure within ourselves, and simply more confident all around. If you currently don’t perceive yourself as a confident person or wish to develop more confidence, you’ll be pleased to learn that confidence is something which can be built.

Here are a few tips for building unstoppable confidence:

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The Effect of Interruptions on Performance

I was one of the first industry sales trainers who warned you of the dangers of multitasking. I took some heat for this sacrilegious stance, as many agents seemed to insist on juggling too many activities while screwing up a great number of them.

Most travel practitioners know that interruptions take a chunk of productive time out of each day, but many don’t realize how much time they actually consume. Sure, you might only spend five minutes on the phone, or talking to a co-worker, but then it takes you another minute to get back to your desk, get comfortable, get yourself concentrating and back on track. Even if it’s not a lot of extra time, all those little interruptions can add up to a big loss of productivity throughout the day.

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Posted In: Luxury Travel Tips

More on Marketing

Ten tried-and-true principles to take to market

If you’ve been in business for more than a day and a half you’ve probably been reminded no fewer than a thousand times that, in addition to whatever business you think you’re in, that you’re also in the marketing business. Let me say this again at the risk of repetitious overload—you’re in the marketing business.

Marketing yourself and your business has been, and will continue to be, the single most-important element to your success. There’s no better a time to ply this trade than right now—economic turmoil or not. The issue is that a great number of agents simply don’t know what to do.

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Posted In: Point-to-Point

Unexpected Ethiopia

After venturing twice to Ethiopia in the last two years with Addis Abbas-based Jacaranda Tours, I’ve come to the conclusion that four weeks there just isn’t enough time to explore one of the world’s largest and most diverse nations. With culture, history and landscapes as the focus rather than just wildlife or beaches, Ethiopia stands far apart from other African destinations. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this intriguing country.

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There is an old saying that goes: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

It is your business; Nobody cares about it as much as you do. So what are you going to do about it? One answer is “Promote my services with an E-zine.”

Starting an E-zine can be a large undertaking. You can work hard to find contributors and advertisers if you want to go that route, but it definitely is NOT necessary. An E-zine is a newsletter, and a newsletter is a letter with news in it. Do you know how to write a letter? Do you keep up with the industry news? Bingo! You already have what it takes.

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Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Dive into Dublin With Windstar Luxury Cruises

Producing notable literary figures like Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats, Dublin has a luscious cultural history that dates back to its origin as a Viking settlement. With beautiful gardens to explore and a wealth of art ranging from galleries to sculptures and outdoor installations to view, and some of the best shopping imaginable, there is always something to do in Dublin.

Thanks to Windstar Luxury Cruises, the supplier sponsor of this column, you can use this 60-Second Geography article in your own travel agency’s newsletters and websites.

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It seems like everyone and their mother (and grandmother!) has a website these days. That’s why it’s important to be able to build a quality website to help promote your business and represent you and your service with flair. Here are nine tips to help you determine if your website could use a makeover.

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Five Ways to Increase Self-Motivation

While self-motivation is a simple concept, we all know that it’s one of the hardest things to attain. Despite purely good intentions, most of us are better at slacking off than getting motivated. But no matter what your attention span, it is possible for you to motivate yourself and reach your goals; you just need to follow a few simple steps (I still feel that it is not possible for others to motivate you. Motivation is a do-it-to-yourself proposition).

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Posted In: Editorial Musings


As if flying was not bad enough; hold on, it is going to get a lot worse. In March, the US put a ban on laptops and tablets in cabins from incoming flights from a select few countries, which affected about 50 daily flights. Now it seems that the ban may be extended to include EU countries and is expected to affect more than 400 daily flights and 65 million travelers per year. So what is a traveler to do? What is an agent to do? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Take Ownership of Your Brand and Mission

Let’s state definitively we are all the owners of our own brand, our own “company” called “me, myself and I”. This was the insight of Tom Peter’s famous 1997 article “The Brand Called You.” The success of social media platforms like Linkedin was largely presaged by the notion of the individual as a brand. With that in mind, we need to consider how we promote and monitor our individual brands. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Deck Plans

CroisiEurope has officially kicked off its newest river cruise tours: combination land-and-cruise voyages that explore Africa’s Chobe and Zambezi rivers. The journeys include a four-day voyage aboard the African Dream, a brand-new luxury river cruise vessel that carries only 16 guests in its eight suites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: cartoons

Posted In: 1:1

Ted Sykes Headshot

With over 20 years of travel industry experience, Ted Sykes knows cruising. Before coming to American Queen Steamboat Company he had previously been CEO of eWaterways, as well as CFO of Viking and The Vantage Group. Ted made his entry into deep sea cruising by launching the cruise shipping division of Saga Group in England, where he served as CEO from conception to full operation. Holding a B.B.A in Finance from the University of Wisconsin, Ted Sykes got his start in the travel industry through finance; before diving head first into travel he was a partner with Young & Rubicam, Inc. In 2012 Ted became President and COO of American Queen Steamboat Company where he remains, spending each day working to provide customers with the experiences they desire. 

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