Author Archives: Cheryl Rosen

There are 156 articles by Cheryl Rosen published on this site.


 

British flag on the background of the historic building of London, UK

Think Bermuda’s electronic travel authorization form is a pain? By later this year, you’ll probably also need one to enter the UK. And travel advisors, of course, will have one more thing to track.

It’s all part of the UK’s plan to digitalize its borders by 2025. Sometime this quarter, the country will require all visitors—including Americans—to apply for an ETA, provide personal data and ante up an as-yet-undetermined fee, likely between £5 and £20.

Travelers will need to complete the online application form with contact information, biometric data and travel plans. After being checked against various databases, they should receive their ETA within 48 to 72 hours.

While they still will have to go through immigration upon arrival, the process should be much quicker with everyone vetted in advance.

The European Union is introducing its own version of an electronic authorization form,  known as ETIAS, later this year. The US and Canada already have similar programs in place.

Flybe Flies Away, Canceling All Flights

Flybe Airlines Jet

British regional airline Flybe on Saturday ceased operations and canceled  all flights.

“Flybe has now ceased trading and all flights from and to the UK operated by Flybe have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled,” its website says, in a post dated January 28. ”If you are due to fly with Flybe today or in the future, please DO NOT TRAVEL TO THE AIRPORT unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline. Please note that Flybe is unfortunately not able to arrange alternative flights for passengers.”

Passengers booked through a third party should “contact the relevant airline or booking/travel agent to confirm if there is any impact to your travel plans as the intermediary may be able to support you with alternative arrangements and provide further advice regarding any claim you may need to make.”

The High Court has appointed David Pike and Mike Pink as Joint Administrators of Flybe Limited.

Flybe operated flights on 21 routes from Belfast City, Birmingham and Heathrow to airports across the UK and to Amsterdam and Geneva.

Barbara Khan has sold a lot of Silversea cruises, and a lot of transatlantic cruises, in her career—but she had never sailed either. So when she was offered the chance to sail a repositioning cruise on Silver Moon, 14 days from Lisbon to Barbados at no charge, she jumped at the chance.

Angie Schwartz, on the other hand, has sailed across the Atlantic many times. The idea of spending two weeks at sea never grows old for her. She and her husband, a former Navy submariner, “love crossings, and we love sea time,” she says. So she, too, signed up.

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Copa Airlines Jet

Copa Airline’s pilots plan to go on strike against the Panama airline on February 2.

Panamanian Commercial Aviators Union (UNPAC) said on Friday that its 1,200 pilots will walk off the job at 7:30 a.m. local time, after failing to reach a “fair and sustainable agreement” in contracts talks that have been going on since October.

According to a report in Reuters, the pilots are asking for higher wages, contributions to their health insurance plan and a better retirement plan, break and overnight accommodations, onboard food, and working conditions for pregnant pilots.

Mexican Taxi Cab

A series of incidents involving taxi and Uber drivers in the Cancun area of Mexico has the US Embassy issuing a warning and some travel advisors advising clients to leave plenty of time to get to the airport.

The Embassy this week cautioned that “in the wake of recent incidents involving taxi and Uber drivers in Quintana Roo, U.S. citizens are reminded of guidance provided on Travel.State.gov, specifically about the use of application-based transportation services in Mexico.” (Security Alert – Quintana Roo (01/23/2023) – U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico (usembassy.gov)

The guidance notes that “application-based car services such as Uber and Cabify are available in many Mexican cities, and generally offer another safe alternative to taxis…disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.”

On Monday, taxi drivers blocked Kukulcán Boulevard, a main road in the hotel district, over the more lax requirements for Uber drivers, forcing some passengers to get out and walk to the airport.

The U.K. also issued a warning, noting that “since December 2022, licensed taxi drivers have been blocking roads and targeting Uber taxis in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, in a series of protests against Uber. Tourists have been affected, including being pulled from Uber taxis and experiencing lengthy delays as a result of roadblocks, sometimes leading to missed flights. Protests can occur without notice. Please listen to local announcements and follow the advice of your hotel on how best to avoid any protests.”

The U.S. Embassy suggests the following safeguards:

  • Remember that all destinations have some level of risk.  Violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread and common in Mexico.
  • Review your personal security plans.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and maintain a low profile.
  • Monitor local media for updates.
  • Call 911 in Mexico for immediate assistance.

In Cancun, meanwhile, travel advisors on the ground shrugged off concerns—but suggested private transportation.

Christy Love Couples of Let’s Go on Vacay LLC says she wouldn’t take an Uber in Mexico and advises her clients to do the same. “That’s where the hot point is,” she says. “Prescheduled private transportation with a reputable company is always the way to go.”

Laura Poffenberger, the owner of TravelLuxuryVacations, was there last week and had no issues, she says. When one concerned client contacted her, she replied:

“I am here now and had no issues with my transportation, and I have clients that have arrived and departed today with no issues. It was a one-day event that lasted a few hours.

“You have private transportation with a company that I have been using for many years. Having a reputable transportation company is essential when traveling in a foreign country.”

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 passenger plane

A new joint venture between Delta Air Lines and the LATAM Group of Brazil will benefit customers heading to South America and Antarctica and connect the two American continents to 300 international destinations.

The two airlines have been code-sharing since 2020 in a program that now includes 20 routes in North and South America.

The joint venture promises “more and better benefits to LATAM and Delta customers, such as faster connections, and the joint accrual of miles in frequent flyer programs.”

It also allows for the sharing of elite frequent flyer benefits and airport terminals in hubs like New York, São Paulo, Brazil, and Santiago, Chile.

Passengers also will be able to use the 53 Delta Sky Club lounges in the lounges in the United States and five LATAM Lounges in South America.

“Delta’s partnership with LATAM will help grow the market between North and South America and provide significant and much-needed benefits for customers, and we applaud the DOT for this final approval,” said Delta’s chief executive officer Ed Bastian. “Now, we’ll get to work with LATAM to transform the travel experience for our collective customers and create new opportunities for our employees.”

Delta also this week was named the best US airline overall in an annual Wall Street Journal poll, topping five of the seven categories, including on-time arrivals, completion factor, preventing extreme delays and involuntary bumping, and lowest complaints U.S. Department of Transportation.

Machu Picchu Closed Indefinitely

Machu Picchu

The ancient ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail have closed once again, this time indefinitely, as protests against President Dina Boluarte continue in Peru.

Tourism Minister Luis Fernando Helguero said at a news conference that 417 visitors, more than 300 of them foreigners, are unable to get out of the site.

Train service to Machu Picchu has been closed since Thursday due to damage to the tracks, and the airport in Cusco was briefly closed when protesters tried to storm it earlier this week.

Tourists who have tickets for Machu Picchu can obtain a full refund, the Culture Ministry said.

French high speed train

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose in not-so-gay Paris, which has been hit by labor issues and strikes—and now a fire at the busy Gare de l’Est train station.

Train service came to a halt yesterday after two fires at a signal point damaged 600 cables during the morning rush hour. The fire began at 8:30 am in a suburb of Paris. Officials originally hoped to quickly restore service but soon canceled all trains for the remainder of the day, and cautioned service might still be disrupted on Wednesday.

The fire was set deliberately, rail operator SNCF said; France’s transport minister Clément Beaune described the arson as a “malicious act.”

Regional TER trains and long-distance TGV trains to Nancy, Colmar and Reims, and to Germany were affected. France and Germany just a few days ago announced a plan to deploy a high-speed train route between Paris and Berlin, and at night train service, in 2024.

 

File this under “it’s hard to launch a new model.”

Seabourn’s new expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, is headed to drydock to fix its stabilizers, leaving five canceled cruises in its wake.

The unscheduled drydock will last from April 7 to April 30, 2023, said a letter sent to booked guests and travel advisors. Read the rest of this entry »

From small towns and big cities, headed down the Mississippi or up the Mekong, would-be travelers are lining up to book trips this month. Travel advisors who are new to the industry are thrilled with their choice of career—but even many seasoned experts are calling this their best year ever.

It’s not your usual Wave Season for sure.

I booked my family vacation on Norwegian Joy this week with the help of my friend Gary Smith—and I have to admit, I know he did me a favor by letting me usurp his time to book seven balconies when he is swamped with work.

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Maxime d'Angeac & Martin Darzacq for Orient Express, Accor
Maxime d’Angeac & Martin Darzacq for Orient Express, Accor

Ritz-Carlton is in. Four Seasons is in. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Orient Express, the company behind the most luxurious trains in the world, is joining the market for ultra-luxury yachting.

In 2026, the company says, it will launch the world’s largest luxury yacht, Orient Express Silenseas. In an indication of the plans for over-the-top experiences, Bastien Bazinm chairman and CEO of Orient Express parent Accor, said the ship will be “inspired by the Golden Age of the French Riviera…when writers, artists, painters, princesses, and movie stars spent time between Monte-Carlo, the beaches of Saint-Tropez, Cap d’Antibes, Cannes and its famous Croisette and discovered a refinement tinged with exquisite insouciance and joie de vivre, inviting them to extreme escapades.”

Promising “the quintessence of luxury, absolute comfort and dreams,” the 722-foot Orient Express Silenseas will feature 54 suites, including a monumental 1,415-square-meter Presidential Suite with a private terrace, two swimming pools including a lap pool, two restaurants, and a speakeasy bar.

The ship will have an oyster bar and a speakeasy, and “as a tribute to artists and culture,” will offer “incredible shows” in its Amphitheatre-Cabaret and a private recording studio. And taking a hint from current ocean racing technology, its SolidSail design will combine wind power with a state-of-the-art engine running on liquefied natural gas (LNG) for a more environmentally friendly voyage.

She will sail the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter.

In addition to reviving the iconic train in 2025, Accor also plans Orient Express hotels in Paris, Rome, and Riyadh. For the new cruise division, a second ship is already on order, the company said.

Spark by Hilton Exterior
© 2023 Hilton

Bring on the bagels! There’s one more brand in the hotel sector this month, as Hilton rolls out its newest brainchild, focused on the premium economy sector—with a free bagel bar breakfast in every property.

“Spark by Hilton signifies the start of something great” as Hilton addresses a need in the economy category, which is “growing dramatically but lacks consistency,” said Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief brand officer. The goal is to “deliver the essentials done exceptionally well for every guest, every time, along with friendly service.”

To that end, Spark promises:

  • Thoughtful Simplicity: Simple design with splashes of color and cheer that bring the outdoors in. Public spaces will feature “multi-functional seating from communal tables to rocking chairs,” where guests can eat breakfast, work, and socialize. Rooms will have open closets and in-room refrigerators.
  • Reliable Service: “Happy and helpful service,” including 24-hour digital check-in and digital keys.  ​
  • Unexpected Touches: Complimentary breakfast featuring premium coffee, juice, and a signature bagel bar with spreads.
  • Consistent Quality: To ensure the goal of a consistent, quality guest experience, each hotel will be required to complete a full renovation, encompassing all guest-facing areas of the hotel, prior to joining Spark by Hilton.

Developers seem not to be put off by that last requirement. More than 100 deals are already in various stages of development across the country, and the first properties will open this year.

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court

Thirty-six travel advisors are feeling vindicated today as former Travel Troops host agency owner Matt Schumacher was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay them almost half a million dollars in restitution.

Travel Troops LogoAccording to the “GOVERNMENT’S POSITION v. REGARDING SENTENCING,” Schumacher defrauded at least 36 travel advisors from August 2016 to January 2019 through “a scheme that was simple yet brazen: Schumacher repeatedly misappropriated for his own personal use and benefit commission payments that were instead meant for travel agents.” As the owner of Travel Troops, a host travel agency, “unfortunately for his victims…Schumacher routinely kept his travel agents’ money, siphoned their hard-earned commission payments for his own benefit, misled them, and left them behind when they complained or demanded their money. Schumacher’s fraud has been devastating to some of his victims, who relied upon their commission checks to make ends meet.”

In the end, US Attorney Andrew Luger wrote Schumacher owed $479,632.45.

“It also warrants emphasis that Schumacher committed this fraud knowing full well that his conduct would result in distress and hardship for his victims, some of whom considered Schumacher to be a close friend,” the statement added. “Preying upon such people reveals a great deal about Schumacher’s negative characteristics—greed, callousness, and selfishness, to name a few—that should also be considered in determining an appropriate sentence for Schumacher.”

Still, the government noted, “when, as here, the entirety of the fraud proceeds has already been spent, then there is little recourse left to the victims. “

In addition to these crimes, travel advisors have told TRO Schumacher crossed what they considered an ethical line by poaching travel advisors from other hosts at industry events. In one case, he convinced a travel advisor employed by another agency to siphon off $250,000 in bookings and put them through Travel Troops’ IATA number instead Travel Agent Who Stole $250,000 In Bookings From Her Agency Gets Jail Time (travelmarketreport.com). That agent was convicted and jailed in 2017, thanks to her agency owner, who called the police when she discovered the fraud.

 “Thank you for the update. He’s a POS,” commented one travel advisor when told the news.

The news about possible stricter requirements for independent contractors got me talking to travel advisors and agency owners about the relative advantages of being—and hiring—an IC vs. an employee. And in the end, it seems, there is no right answer. The road to happiness follows the twists and turns of each individual’s definition of success. Many have changed from one side to the other—and how they arrive at their decisions offers up some interesting insights for those considering a shift.

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Tall Tales of Talented Travel Advisors

One good thing about a week-long conference on a cruise ship is the opportunity to sit and chat about how we all got to where we are. I did that recently with the smart and businesslike folks who own Dream Vacations and CruiseOne franchises. And so I thought I’d share a few of the tales of how to succeed in business and how to just love what you do that I heard there.

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Ponant Adds Europe Itineraries for 2024

 

 

Poignant cruise ship surrounded by ice

Ponant’s 2024 itineraries are now on sale, and among the 50 voyages are four new ones in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and northern Europe.

The new cruises include Islands and Cities of the Mediterranean and Landscapes and Cultures of the Adriatic, both on Le Bougainville, and an Adriatic round-trip from Venice, visiting the Croatian ports of Rovinj, Primosten, Split, Hvar, Brac and Pula, plus Piran in Slovenia.

Poignant Cruises LogoThere are two new Mediterranean cruises: one from Athens to Malta, visiting Paros, Hydra, Pylos and Taormina; and a 10-night sailing from Valletta, Malta, to Antalya, Turkey on L’Austral.

Other new options are Cultural Treasures and Scandinavian Panoramas, an 11-night sailing on Le Dumont-d’Urville, from Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands and then to Norway, Sweden and Denmark; and British Archipelagos and Celtic Shores, sailing from the French port of Saint-Malo to the Channel Islands, Dartmouth, the Isles of Scilly, and Bantry, Cobh and Dublin, Ireland.

Ponant earlier this week announced another new expedition, a nine-day Cruising the Historic Cities of the Baltic Sea, the first of 21 planned itineraries in partnership with Smithsonian Journeys. Departing Stockholm on August 10, it will feature an onboard presentation and discussion with the former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Lech Wałęsa, as well as Baltic historian Glenn Kranking and foreign affairs journalist Robin Wright.

Sailing the Baltic Sea on Le Champlain, it will visit seven countries: Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Denmark, and five UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the 18th-century Fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki and the Curonian Peninsula of Lithuania.

Other journeys in the partnership will see a solar eclipse in Australia’s Kimberley, and “sun and merry live steel drums while our Ducasse-trained chefs prepare a regional barbecue lunch during a stopover on a private Caribbean beach,” business development director Dale Woods told TRO. “Traveling closer to home does not mean sacrificing experience, however, as you will also be joined by Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart for a musical celebration along the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

Ponant’s new itineraries in Asia will be announced in January, the company said.

chart of hosted travel agent report

It takes three years for travel advisors to hit their highest income potential—and about a third of that comes from fees. Indeed, in 2022, travel advisors who charge fees earned almost twice as much as those who did not.

That’s just one of the interesting findings of The Hosted Travel Advisor Report, a study of 1,492 travel advisors released last week by Host Agency Reviews. The respondents averaged six years of experience in the industry, with an average annual income of $37,440 on annual sales of $319,605 in 2021. Eight out of 10 were female, and 49% charged fees (21% charged service fees, 9% charged consultation fees and 19% charged both.

Fees are clearly gaining in popularity, and for good reason. Among travel advisors who charged fees, these accounted for 30% of their income in 2021—up from 11% in 2019. Two-thirds of the most experienced advisors, those in the business more than 15 years, charged fees, and another two-thirds of those who did not charge fees this year said they plan to charge in 2023.

Also interesting were the demographic data in the report. While 63% of respondents to the 2020 survey, conducted before the coronavirus outbreak, reported working full time, only 46% did so in the 2022 survey.

Corporate agents earned the most, averaging $65,309, followed by luxury agents at $49,113, honeymoon specialists at $44,151 and generalists at $31,926.
Happily, 93% of respondents said if they had it all to do again, they’d still opt to become travel advisors.

Perhaps that’s because of the best benefit: the average advisor had visited 73 countries.
For the full survey, go to 2022 Hosted Travel Advisor Report | Host Agency Reviews – Google Drive.

UK Passport Control Strike

 

Strike Hit Stop Work Stamp Word IllustrationBah humbug.

British passport control workers will be the newest class of workers to go on strike today, in a move bound to slow things for US travelers trying to enter the country.

About 1,000 passport control workers at six airports—Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, and Manchester, and the port of Newhaven in East Sussex—are expected to walk off the job between December 23 and 26, and again between Dec. 28 to 31, over demands for higher wages amid rising inflation. In the busiest travel year since 2019, 1,290 flights are scheduled to land at the affected airports on Friday, carrying more than a quarter of a million passengers.

Heathrow Airport has reached an agreement with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. to halt ticket sales on most inbound flights on the strike days, The Wall Street Journal reports, and the British military will step in to man the immigration counters. But still, Border Force head of operations Steve Dann noted that the “contingency workforce will not be able to operate with the same efficiency as our permanent workforce” and “people should be prepared for disruption.”

And once you arrive, be careful with the eggnog—it’s surely not a week to drink and drive, cautions the National Health Service. Wage disputes are spreading across the UK, and nurses and ambulance paramedics, as well as postal workers, driving instructors, and train drivers, also are planning strikes.

It all started at 3 am on a June morning in 2021, with an email from Facebook. “Someone may have accessed your account from another computer,” it read. “Did you authorize this access?”

When Allison Carrow said no, Facebook asked for her two-factor authorization code—which she never had set up. Apparently, though, whoever had stolen her Facebook page had.

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Iceland Digs Out

They don’t call it Iceland for nothing.

Iceland’s airport is still digging out from a blizzard that trapped visitors to the Land of Fire and Ice in Keflavík International Airport, 30 snow-covered miles from Reykjavík, for days.

Icelandair yesterday leased two additional aircraft to help clear the backlog at Iceland’s only international airport.

“Our team has worked tirelessly throughout the night to rebook passengers on new flights, and they will continue to do this today,” Icelandair said in an update yesterday. “It is our absolute priority to get passengers to where they need to be before Christmas.”

While Icelandair and easyJet offered hotel accommodations and reimbursements for stranded customers, many passengers couldn’t get out, and many hotels already were full. The crowd included “Billions” actor Damian Lewis.

“High winds and dangerous icy road conditions are affecting transfers from Keflavik International airport,” said the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said. Emergency services are “providing blankets and water at the airport for those stranded.”

Marriott all inclusive property in Cancun

Marriott this week upped the ante in Cancun with the debut of its 31st all-inclusive property in the Caribbean and Latin America, the Royalton Splash Riviera Cancun, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort.

Located on the hotel strip, the new-build property features 1,005 suites; an expansive water park with two lazy rivers, a splash pad and pool, a family pool and the main pool, and 14 water slides and tubes; an outdoor theater; a kid’s club; a GameUp Center with laser tag arena, bowling, and a trampoline park; and 12 “culinary destinations,” including international, Indian, American, Italian, and Mexican cuisine.

For groups and conferences, there’s a 25,000-square-foot convention center with eight meeting rooms and high-quality AV services. And for luxury clients, there’s a hotel-within-a-hotel, a Diamond Club™ service upgrade section that promises the best ocean views, upgraded menu options, personalized butler service, and private pool access, as well as the Chairman and Sky Chairman Suites, which can accommodate up to eight people.

All suites in the hotel have a terrace or balcony, rain showers and in-room jacuzzis, and high-speed wifi.