You wouldn’t think that writing about luxury travel has much in common with selling luxury travel, but in fact it really does.
At least that’s my takeaway from an interesting and different kind of panel at the Global Travel Collection’s Elevate virtual conference last week—where, in addition to the usual roster of company executives and top suppliers, a panel of travel journalists talked about emerging trends in luxury travel. Like travel advisors, many of the journalists noted that the best way to cover travel—and to promote it—is to travel yourself, and to explain the details that go into a trip in the time of covid step by step.
Town & Country editor in chief Stellene Volandes noted that in her recent travels, the last day or two of every trip was consumed by conversations about passing the required tests to return home. Feeling carefree is such a big part of luxury, she said, but even when you revel in the experience of travel these days there’s a cloud of concern that “disrupts the cocoon that envelops luxury travelers. The moment a bit of chaos enters, you feel unsafe and it rattles people.”
For travel advisors, then, the key is to make the luxury travel experience “even smoother than ever. I want to feel like if I am stranded in an igloo someplace, like I can call an expert who can help me Read the rest of this entry »
Half the cruise ships are sailing, carrying half the passengers they once did. At each port, they are beset by differing and ever-changing protocols, negotiating life-and-death decisions with new players with whom they do not have the usual long-term relationships.
And yet, guest satisfaction is off the charts. The new-to-cruise customers that many expected to be frightened off are instead showing up. New ships and new partnerships, new terminals and new ports are on the horizon—and they promise to share the wealth with local communities and to promote a healthier environment for all.
“We built this industry over more than five decades; we deliver a phenomenal experience that our customers love, and the Caribbean is an unbelievably popular destination for our core markets,” said Royal Caribbean International president and CEO Michael Bayley at the Caribbean Spotlight: A Focus on the Future breakout session. “We need to just stay focused and trust each other and, in another year or so, we’ll be looking back trying not to remember any of this.”
In short, this week’s Seatrade Global conference was unlike any other Read the rest of this entry »
Bekah Eaton came home from ASTA’s annual conference with new ideas, new relationships, and a case of Covid. She believes she caught it from the woman who sat next to her for two hours. “I felt betrayed and almost angry that she would put me in harms way, and expose me without warning or anything.”
Another travel advisor, who asked to remain anonymous, was on a fam trip to Italy when she thanked the woman sitting next to her, whom she knew was opposed to vaccines, for getting vaccinated before the trip. “She went off on me about how she felt forced to get the vaccine—and that was very alienating in a small group atmosphere.”
Then she saw someone attending a FAM in Europe after being at an ASTA event where there were positive cases. “And I’m thinking, weren’t you in that room at ASTA with people who tested positive? Shouldn’t you be quarantining and not on this AMA cruise in Europe?”
Those experiences changed the way she sees those people. Read the rest of this entry »
(Caution: there’s some science and math ahead. But Norwegian solves the equation for you—and in so doing, offers a lot of hope for the future of selling cruises during a pandemic.)
Question: Is 100% really that much better than 95%?
It’s a math problem Norwegian Cruise Line has been tackling for months, and the result is a little painful.
When we set sail earlier this month on Norwegian Encore’s first post-Covid cruise to Alaska, many lamented that the strict vaccine mandate meant families with small children could not sail—a big loss for a family-friendly cruise company and its loyal customers and partners. Read the rest of this entry »
What are the new guys on the block to do when the old timers hog the best spots? If the guys are Norwegian Cruise Line’s Frank Del Rio and Harry Sommer, and the spot is Alaska, the answer obviously is to build a new (and amazing) spot of their own.
That’s just what they’re up to at Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan, where Norwegian Encore’s August 7th post-Covid maiden voyage included two ribbon cuttings in the 49th state.
It’s amazing what has been accomplished in just 80 days, the locals say, since Alaska got the word that there was going to be any cruise ship season at all in 2021. The raven and the eagle that watch over the native tribes surely were at work, when “a piece of legislation that hasn’t been touched in years was changed with 100% consent in the House and the Senate and signed by the President in Read the rest of this entry »
Did they say, “all-inclusives in Europe, Asia and the Middle East?” Why let Cancun have all the fun?
In a Monday morning conference call about Hyatt’s acquisition of Apple Leisure Group, much of the excitement seemed focused on expanding its global reach—and that includes bringing the highly successful all-inclusive (AI) model to brand new markets under the Hyatt flag.
Of course, that’s not the only reason Hyatt Hotels Corp. will be buying Apple Leisure Group (ALG). The benefits include “increasing Hyatt’s footprint and capturing the growth in luxury leisure travel,” especially in the resort segment in general, and in keeping with Hyatt’s “asset-light strategy” of managing but not owning properties, Hyatt president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian said. In short Read the rest of this entry »
To some it’s a matter of principle; to others, a question of client confidentiality. Travel advisors are split on whether to mandate vaccines for their clients – but no matter your position, the lawyers say, get a waiver absolving you of responsibility should someone fall ill.
But first things first: Can travel advisors legally mandate that their clients be vaccinated?
“The short answer is yes they can,” says Jeff Tenenbaum, managing partner at Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC in Washington DC, who consults with many not-for-profit organizations about their meetings and events.
When it comes to mandatory vaccinations, federal law offers some protections in an employment setting – but not in the context of meetings, events and travel where employees are not involved, Tenenbaum says. “So if a travel agency wants to say that customers have to be fully covid vaccinated, it can do that without any exceptions.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s all in the hands of the gods, the Vikings say. So perhaps the goddess Freya, using her powers to alter fortunes, determined that there be three cases of COVID among the passengers on Viking’s first four sailings in Iceland this month—and that I be onboard Viking Sky to tell the tale of our star-crossed voyage.
It’s hardly a story of doom and gloom, though. On the eight-day Iceland’s Natural Beauty cruise we saw a unique piece of the world that’s been on our bucket list for some time.
We sailed the Norwegian Sea and crossed the Arctic Circle; watched the sun set at midnight; saw waterfalls and fjords, the crack in the earth where America meets Europe, geothermal fields and lava fields, and an erupting volcano. We felt like Vikings as we jumped from the sauna to the snow room in the Thermal Suite; I got a blueberry hair rinse and a honey facial that left me smelling like a fruit salad. We ate steak and lobster, and sushi fresh from the untouched waters at the top of the world.
Per Viking protocols, we all wore masks in public places even though we were fully vaccinated Read the rest of this entry »
For customers looking for a unique destination they have not yet visited, AmaWaterways might just have the answer. Last week, it announced a new ship sailing a new river in a new continent to the Ama repertoire.
Colombia’s Magdalena River will host a partnership between Ama and Metropolitan Touring, known and well-respected by many travel advisors for its Galapagos and South America tours, aboard the brand-new AmaMagdalena in time for the holidays in December 2023.
On a press conference via webinar today, the two companies shared their excitement at having found one another, and in bringing the first luxury river cruises to the region. Just “two or three hours” from Florida, the Magdalena River offers beautiful scenery, diverse nature, and the second-largest Carnival in the world. (Also, the world’s best chocolate and best coffee, “and some really good rum,” says Metropolitan Touring’s Francisco Dousdebes.)
“It is the prime river in Latin America,” asserted Ama’s ever-cautious new destination seeker, co-founder and president Rudi Schreiner, who has been scouting “the whole area from Argentina to Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a CEO’s job to be inspirational, and a reporter’s job to be skeptical. But I have to admit, I was moved by Brad Tolkin’s buoyant tone as he kicked off Dream Vacations/CruiseOne/Cruises Inc.’s Travel Advisor Learning Summit on Zoom last week—and inspired by the great tips offered up by the speakers.
Overnight, it seems, all those dire predictions for the travel industry in general and cruising in particular have been put to rest by that pent-up demand industry leaders have been promising through the pandemic Read the rest of this entry »
When Gerrilyn Grant was practicing law, her clients always made an appointment if they wanted to speak with her. But when she opened M&E Unlimited Travel in Montgomery, AL, a decade ago, she was hungry for business—and anxious to appear accessible. “Call or email me any time and I’ll reply right away,” she told potential clients.
But no more.
With a client list of 1,200 who suddenly all want to go on vacation, Grant pulled out her old legal playbook and began requiring appointments. “My phones were ringing off the hook and I was getting email after email; it’s been really really something,” she says. So when her payment app, Square, added appointment scheduling software, she took the lifeline and signed right up. Read the rest of this entry »
“Go Human. Book Human,” say the ads running this week in New York and Los Angeles, on Instagram, Facebook, Google and YouTube. “If machines can’t dream, how will they plan your dream vacation?”
“Don’t let an algorithm plan your vacation,” say others. And for the business traveler or family caught in a Covid spike, “0% of bots understand the pressure of making the last flight out.”
They’re all part of Internova Travel Group’s first-ever consumer advertising campaign, aimed not—as is usually the case—at its existing customers, but instead at the broad swath of consumers who do not use a travel advisor at all. Read the rest of this entry »
ASTA’s annual Legislative Day brought a crowd of travel advisors and consortium executives to Washington to talk travel industry issues and concerns. I caught up with two of my favorite people, Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, and Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion LLC, following their press conference there to talk about some of the biggest concerns of travel advisors.
Here’s what they said: Read the rest of this entry »
You’d think that with a team of full-time employees, plus 52 independent contractors and 11 years of experience in the industry, Jenene Mealey could easily answer any question that comes up. But it’s lonely at the top of any organization, she says—and Travel ALLIES Society, a new support group for agency principals, gives her a level of support she never had before.
As director of outside sales at Canary Travel, a brick-and-mortar agency in Cleveland, Mealey is responsible for growing, educating and mentoring the team, as well as building relationships with suppliers and handling her own multi-million-dollar book of business. But no matter your expertise, she says, it’s just not possible to know everything a travel professional in a high-level management position needs to know these days. Read the rest of this entry »
The Haven moves aft, the sea comes closer, the rooms get bigger. The Waterfront doubles in size, wraps around the deck and adds a global food hall. There are new infinity pools, glass bridges and an outdoor lounge. And, to add to the excitement, some lucky travel advisors get to sail free.
In a series of hints, tweets and press conferences, Norwegian Cruise Line ended months of relative quiet this week with one big reveal of what it has been quietly working on while the pandemic raged around it. The Norwegian Prima, the first new ship and new class in a decade, goes on sale today. Read the rest of this entry »
If ever there was a perfect time for a guided vacation, this is it.
As bored, but wary, travelers consider heading out their front doors, many still are concerned about how to navigate the ever-changing regulations, capacity restrictions, and chance of coming down with Covid far from home. If you can’t take your favorite travel advisor along with you, a guided vacation seems like the next-best thing.
Companies like Adventures by Disney, Collette, Globus, Insight Vacations/Luxury Gold, Tauck and Trafalgar, and the travel advisors who sell them, are reporting growing interest and sold-out tour groups to top US destinations—even in April and May of 2021. Collette’s website shows its Painted Canyons of the West, which includes five national parks, is sold out for all three May departures; National Parks is sold out for May Read the rest of this entry »
I sure am looking forward to the return of cruising. I love the sea, a good meal, and a great mojito—topped off by some interesting entertainment and conversation. But, four weeks after being fully vaccinated and starting to travel again, I’m really just pining for some good old-fashioned customer service.
I’ve been following the typical post-vaccine travel pattern: Two brief land excursions with family, then one domestic airline flight, on Delta, my favorite airline, with the empty middle seats. True, I haven’t yet gone to a luxury hotel or one of the all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean, where I hear staff has been jumping through hoops to make guests feel welcome. But here in the US, I’m feeling concerned that our customers, eager as they are to see a piece of land that’s not in their hometown, will come home disappointed by the experience. Travel is just not fun right now. And I’m really hoping the cruise lines deliver on their promise to turn that around. Read the rest of this entry »
“We opened at 5 am and the bookings were coming in fast and furious,” says Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain, referring to the response to the vaccine-required cruises that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are offering from Bermuda, St. Maarten and the Bahamas in June and July.
In short, Royal Caribbean isn’t waiting for those free test cruises it was promising customers, in order to meet the CDC protocols for reopening (though see below for more on that). This summer, travel advisors and their customers seem happy to get a vaccine and wear a mask—and pay their own way while they do it Read the rest of this entry »
If every cloud has a silver lining, coronavirus has brought plenty of time to rethink the way we do business. As their customers hunkered down and phones fell silent, travel advisors turned to one another for support—and their many conversations have ushered in new alliances that promise increased revenues for all the partners.
In just a few of the stories I’ve come across lately, Jackie Magid and three fellow ICs formed a “collective” where they pool sales under a unique IATA number, while also each keeping their own business. Paul Cathcart and Carol Andrews are splitting villa rentals in Europe Read the rest of this entry »
Sitting over dinner one night in February, Vicki Freed and Brad Tolkin realized both their companies had come up with the same plan. They would help rescue their partners and friends—and the travel agency channel on which Royal Caribbean and World Travel Holdings depend—by offering low- and no-cost loans to tide them over until the expected flood of travelers hits the road. Or the seas.
The Royal Caribbean program is the more audacious, offering three-year interest-free loans to travel agencies that earned a minimum of about $4 million (the exact number differs state by state) from ships in the Royal Caribbean Group with departures between July 1 to December 31, 2019 (the last full six-month period before the pandemic). Agencies can borrow up to 25% of their aggregate commissions in that period, to a maximum of $250,000 Read the rest of this entry »
Take one new tax law that passed on December 27. Add payment delays at the IRS. Top with one global pandemic. “This is one of the nation’s most important tax seasons ever,” says IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
In short, lots of issues lie in wait for taxpayers this year. Travel advisors surely understand that it is important to talk to a professional when making important decisions in a rapidly changing environment. But as you work with your tax advisor, here are some new developments to consider Read the rest of this entry »