Travel agency owner Michael Graham is an overnight expert on the morality of selling travel during a pandemic. He took four customers with him aboard the SeaDream’s first Caribbean voyage last week – and left two behind in Barbados, in quarantine, when they caught Covid-19 onboard. (More on that below.)
Personally, I’ve learned a thing or two myself these past weeks about the moral dilemma of whether to sell travel right now. A B2B writer all my life, I was excited when the consumer press gave a shout-out to my column and my Facebook page. But soon I – and TRO along with me – found ourselves in the middle of a shoot-out between USAToday’s Chris Elliott and ASTA.
The controversy brought to mind three questions I used to tell the reporters to consider before pitching a story: Is it true? Is it news? Is it fair? No one wants to hear what you think, I’d tell them. It’s about getting your facts straight, telling both sides, and letting your readers decide for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s no better cheerleader for the cruise industry than Royal Caribbean VP, Vicki Freed. So it’s no surprise that when the CDC opened the door to resuming cruising from US ports, Freed took advantage of her Wednesday Coffee Talk last week to say the words so many have been longing to hear:
“As it tests the CDC guidelines, RCCL will offer free cruises to employees and invited guests. If you’re interested, send me an email.”
If there’s any doubt about the pent-up demand for cruising, the response should put an end to it. By the end of the afternoon she received 1,000 emails. Within the week she had several thousand.
Travel advisors raised their hands on my Facebook pages and across social media – and many said they were fielding calls from customers as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Jennifer Walker has been hit by Covid-19 twice. No, she hasn’t actually had it herself. But two of her clients have — and she feels their pain.
Walker had two trips in the works for “senior ladies” when the coronavirus hit. One was supposed to sail Viking Ocean to Bali and Beyond; she died right before final payment. The other had a multigenerational trip to Hawaii booked for 2020, which Walker was in the process of moving to 2021, and was talking about a European river cruise for her anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »
2020 may be the worst of times for the travel industry, but some advisors still are having a pretty good year—thanks to new niches, new marketing and even new offices.
In Pennsylvania, for example, president Jennifer Doncsecz and the team at VIP Vacations are celebrating a record year in destination weddings that had the phone ringing through the pandemic.
They moved all but five of the 100 groups that were on the books for 2020 to 2021—and then booked even more every single month during the Covid crisis. By July and August, they were booking 25% more groups than in the same two months of 2019. Read the rest of this entry »
Travel advisors were taken aback last week by an article in USAToday that lumped them together with tour operators and online travel agencies (OTAs) as it accused the industry of being “a Ponzi scheme” that defrauded consumers.
“Travel Deposits Become Shell Game in Pandemic,” the headline declared.
“The coronavirus has exposed a secret underbelly of the travel business,” wrote authors Nick Penzenstadler and Josh Salman. “Many travel agencies operate Ponzi-type schemes in which one traveler’s deposit pays for a previous traveler’s tickets and accommodations, and so on. Everything ran smoothly as long as bookings continued to roll in.”
The full-page article describes the plight of a couple forced to cough up thousands of dollars at checkout at the Grand Palladium in Punta Cana after Book-It went out of business. Read the rest of this entry »
Start with travel advisors who are desperate for cash flow. Add suppliers who need a healthy distribution channel to calm wary travelers. Muddy the waters with commission recalls of $50,000 or more. And suddenly, the industry is abuzz with talk about paying travel agencies their commissions earlier in the cycle.
This being 2020, it’s no surprise that just as some applaud the idea, others call it a huge mistake. But in the space between, suppliers and advisors are Zooming about ways to make their payment policies fit the new reality.
“We’ve never had a program that pays advance commissions to travel advisors until now,” says Stephanie Mirando at Collette, which last week guaranteed $100 to $200 in commission on every reservation booked in 2021 for travel starting after May 1. Like a fee for service, advisors can keep it even if the trip is canceled. Read the rest of this entry »
As if Covid cases, consistently changing rules of entry, and nervous customers weren’t enough to deal with… last week, travel advisors were hit by another insidious disease: scammers at the resorts.
“I got lucky; I had a guardian angel looking out for me,” says travel advisor Loulu Lima, who last week discovered, just in time, that her booking of 22 adults and kids, for a total of 27 room nights, at the Hard Rock Punta Cana for a man named Darling Koch (you can’t make this stuff up) was just one big con.
Cathy Sanchez was not so lucky. Her scammer, who called himself Robert Nunez, booked five rooms at Hard Rock earlier this month — and even sent her a video of himself enjoying his vacation. Then he disputed the credit card charge, claiming it was unauthorized.
While they are seasoned travel advisors with a careful process for detecting scammers, both Lima and Sanchez were fooled Read the rest of this entry »
Ditch the fam trips? Suggest they quarantine before they go? Travel advisors must find their individual moral truths about travel. As many head to Mexico this month, they are asking the tough questions — and preparing for some shaming they likely will face.
For a Texan, some might say, Chad Shields has been following a moderate path these past few months. The owner of Engage Vacations has been adhering to the required protocols regarding social distancing and wearing masks on his three trips to Mexico — and encouraging his clients to do the same. Read the rest of this entry »