Author Archives: Chuck Flagg

There are 41 articles by Chuck Flagg published on this site.

A Minor Inconvenience

It’s that email every travel agent dreads, “Subject: Flight Cancellations: Airline.”  The email arrived as I was returning from a mid-year conference and two-night inaugural cruise. I was sitting in traffic at a stop light when the email popped up on my phone. A planned ATC (Air Traffic Control) strike would close the airport in MRS (Marseille Province Airport), causing my clients’ flight from VCE (Venice Marco Polo Airport) to be cancelled in two days. The notice arrived late in the evening Italian time, but with two days’ notice to my clients as well as the transfer company. The time difference would also allow me to search for options on flights.

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A tale of two kennels

Have you ever wondered why a client left and started doing business elsewhere? From your point of view, you made all the right moves; all interaction with the client was pleasant and professional. You didn’t do anything wrong, however, a good client is now a former client. As kids will say today… WTF? Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons Learned From a Hole-in-One

In most parts of the country the weather has warmed up enough for golfers to be hitting the links. The amateurs, with visions of Bubba Watson, are out in full force. The truth is most of them have made that very same “miracle” shot when they weren’t trying. Throughout the spring, summer and fall your local golf course will host many tournaments. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce your brand to a group of people with disposable income by offering up a prize for hitting a hole-in-one during the tournament. Over the years, I have sponsored more holes and tees than I can count and wanted to share some of what I learned.

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A Hidden Benefit of Joining Toastmasters

“Stop…collaborate…and listen.” – Vanilla Ice

Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting down with a pair of clients, taking notes and you happen to hear a fleeting mention of “Rock Wall.” Suddenly, the expert travel consultant you are starts mentally planning their cruise. You know which ship they will sail and in what stateroom they will sleep. With barely another word from your client’s mouth, you start in with the name of the ship and all of the benefits. Your enthusiasm and excitement begin to grow because you have sailed this very ship. You know the ins and outs; you know to pre-register for the shows; you talk in depth about the difficulty of climbing the rock while 160 feet above the ocean. Next thing you know you are doing a mental calculation regarding your commission.
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“And now presenting…YOU!”

Whether you are in a networking group or only meeting with the general public, at one point or another you are going to have to sell yourself, travel, a destination or a proposal for a group cruise. You may do this in a group setting or one-on-one. Most of what I am going to share here applies to group presentations but can be scaled down to a one-on-one setting.
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Since 2005 CLIA has been promoting the “World’s Largest Cruise Night (WLCN)” in October. This year they are promoting “National Cruise Vacation Week” from October 17-23. Here I will share one of my experiences with a WLCN event and lessons I took from it.

As home-based agents we typically do not have events in our home for a variety of reasons: insurance, working at the kitchen table, pets and kids in the way, etc. We have to find locations to give presentations, educate the public and promote travel (cruises for the purposes of this article.) We don’t have the luxury of an office space to decorate using co-op funds with rows and rows of agents taking bookings like our colleagues in a store-front location. Many times our shoestring budgets do not allow for rental facilities, tables, chairs, food, A/V and the like.

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“Get Off My Facebook Feed”

Have you been shouting at your computer in recent weeks, “Get off my Facebook feed!”? A recent trend on Facebook is for someone in your friends list to either set up or start posting in an open group. They have names such as “You are from…”, “You went to…”, “You grew up in…” etc. and your friends are posting in those groups…frequently.

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What do doctors, nurses, pilots and real estate professionals all have in common? All of these professionals spend time taking refresher courses or recurrent training. Have you ever retaken a FAM trip, sat through a CLIA training class for the second time or listened to a webinar from a supplier you know like the back of your hand?
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These two questions are most often on the mind of many travel agents “Do you know if there is a supplier for this destination, shore excursion, bus ride, experience, etc. that pays commission?” OR “Who pays the most commission?” . I see it asked in every online travel agent forums, and I have heard it in many conversations between travel agents.  When did you last hear it asked, or ask it yourself?

Have you ever heard of the ARK principle? ARK stands for the acts of random kindness we do in our daily lives. I firmly believe it is possible that one ARK a day could help your business grow. An ARK is done with absolutely no thought of personal benefit or financial gain. I won’t go off on a lofty goal of living a more spiritual life or serving like Mother Theresa, however, let me share a more secular example of thinking about others first. Read the rest of this entry »

Selling you to your sales team

It’s your turn to give a presentation to your networking group. Whether it is your first time or your twenty-first time, you are probably thinking what can you do to sell you to your sales team?

These groups go by different names; BNI, L-Tips, Powercore and a host of others. They all follow the same general format. Each member stands up, gives a 30-60 second commercial about their company, and shares what would make a good referral for them. On a rotating basis a member or two (depending on time) gives a 8-15 minute presentation about their business, who they are, what they do and who would be a great gate-opener or a referral for them. Then referrals are shared, testimonials are given and the meeting comes to an end. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Scott Monty and Seth Godin

About three months ago, I bought a new car. I spent four months beforehand researching options, taking test drives and figuring out the right car for me. I was replacing a 13-year old minivan that had topped 210,000 miles. The last visit with my mechanic discovered needed repairs were going to cost more than the car was worth. It is a familiar story to many. For me though, this was a chance to learn lessons from Scott Monty and Seth Godin.

During my research, I ended up chatting on Twitter with Scott Monty @scottmonty, the head of social media for Ford. In our chats, I shared with him of my bias against Ford because of my two experiences driving Fords. Read the rest of this entry »


PictureDondra Ritzenthaler joined  Celebrity Cruises in September 2003, as vice president of sales. In 2006, she became senior vice president of sales for the line. In 2007, Celebrity Cruises introduced Azamara Cruises, and Dondra took on responsibility as senior vice president of sales for Azamara.

TRO: Though Celebrity Cruises is positioned as a premium cruise line, you still are considered by many in the travel agent community as mass market. What do you see as Celebrity’s unique value proposition?  

DR: We are the cruise line that is “Designed for the Guest”.  We offer a comfortable fun experience for those who appreciate the finer things in life!

TRO: Where are you seeing your sales come from in general percentage terms?  Direct, traditional agent market, on-line agent market, affiliates, other?  

DR: Our business primarily comes from our travel agents. Over 90%.   Within that channel 50% is still store front agencies, then home based, online and corporate meeting and incentives makes up the rest.   We are dependant on our travel partners.

TRO: Celebrity is not traditionally thought of when it comes to multi-generational travel yet clearly offers something for all ages, what client qualities or qualifiers should the agent community consider when matching the multi-generational cruiser to a Celebrity cruise?

DR: Celebrity Cruises is not advertised as a “family brand” as we cater to adults and accommodate kids. The advantage of this proposition is a much lower kids to counselor ratio in our Celebrity X-Club Youth Program. All Celebrity ships carry a minimum of 3 Youth Counselors plus 1 manager on Century and Millennium class, and 4 Youth Counselors plus 1 manager on Solstice class. Children get the attention that they deserve making their time onboard unforgettable! Well traveled kids and parents are the best choice for the Celebrity brand. Our programs are engaging in a fun learning environment divided by the perfect age groups. Read the rest of this entry »


PictureAs President of Funjet Vacations, Michael Going leads a team of talented associates that strive to deliver an unforgettable vacation experience to each and every customer. A travel industry executive and business strategist, Going joined Funjet Vacations in November 2006 as chief marketing officer and was promoted to the role of president in April of 2008. Prior to Funjet Vacations, Going held positions as chief marketing officer for Certified Vacations; senior vice president of marketing and sales for Air Jamaica; and senior vice president of Worldwide Sales with Vanguard Car Rental, parent company of  Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental.

Going’s work has been recognized by prestigious third parties throughout this career. He has received the Atlas Award from the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) for inspiration and leadership in marketing efforts, and in 2000, was recognized as one of the Top 25 Travel Industry Executives by Leisure Travel News.

TRO: What do you want to make sure Travel agents know about Funjet Vacations?

MG: Funjet focuses on providing programs, training, product, and incentives that help travel agents thrive and build their business for the future. While other travel companies are interested in getting travel agents’ business, Funjet is interested in keeping travel agents in business.

TRO: How important are TAs to Funjet Vacations? Explain about the genesis of your new marketing campaign: “For a good time…”

MG: The well-being of travel agents is our main priority; they are extremely important to us for a variety of reasons. We make many product, program and marketing decisions based on agent feedback. And, they are extremely important from a customer care aspect – we firmly believe that the best way to research, plan and book a vacation is with a travel agent. They’ll care for a customer and protect their vacation investment way beyond the capabilities of any online travel Web site. The “For a good time call…a travel agent!” campaign generated from that belief. We wanted a fun, catchy way to communicate our travel agent support to consumers and drive consumers to seek out a travel agent for their vacation needs. Read the rest of this entry »


PictureAMAWATERWAYS provides  all-inclusive river cruise vacations in Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia. Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, the line hosts a fleet of 6 state-of-the-art river cruisers on the Danube, Rhine, Main and Mosel as well as the Mekong River. AMAWATERWAYS executive vice president and co-owner, Kristin Karst is a familiar face to travel agents who attend industry events.

TRO:  River cruising has exploded as an option for the vacation market, how are you helping travel agents learn your about your products and destinations? 

KK: Travel agents are our most important source of distribution, and we definitely put a lot of effort into helping them learn about our products.  We feel it’s important for agents to experience our river cruises, so that they can see for themselves the many things that distinguish AmaWaterways from the competition.  That’s why we offer seminars on the rivers during the spring and fall seasons at a very special FAM rate.  We also offer frequent webinars throughout the year.  We are very active with trade shows and professional organizations, such as CLIA.  We have also increased the numbers of our outside sales team, so as to more effectively reach out to agents in various parts of the country, offering customized in-office support. 

TRO: What could you tell the travel agent community as far as matching the right client to the AmaWaterways river cruise experience?

KK: I would tell agents that river cruising continues to grow, and there are many different sources of clientele for our cruises.  Our passengers Read the rest of this entry »

Stop working like a canary in a coal mine

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect… – The Police, 1980

Have you been working like a canary in a coal mine for the past two years? How have you been reacting to every last bit of bad news; rise in NCFs; suppliers making every effort to encourage direct bookings? I am the first to admit that I often find myself in the same frame of mind from time to time. It is easy to get caught up in the latest depressing news of the day which affects our industry.

We should spend less time thinking “woe is me” or “this new policy is so unfair” and more time changing our reaction to those external events and news over which we have ZERO control. Here’s just one example of a recent news story showing you how to turn a negative positive Read the rest of this entry »

There is no shame in being a contrarian

Recently I was filling out a form for my daughter’s school, and I told my wife that I so no reason to include our daughter’s social security number on the form. My wife asked, “Why do you ALWAYS have to go against the grain?”

After responding that there is no shame in being a contrarian and having spent the night on the couch, I realized how important it is in our industry to do things differently from every other agency. If you are thinking this is not a good strategy, let me share ways you can be a contrarian too. 

Is every agency you know sending out email after email of special after special to their entire mailing list? Why not take those same specials that everyone, including your suppliers, is sending out and pick one or two that represents a true value and send it Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Your Tone

Recently I made two major mistakes in my business that were so bad I wish I could turn back the clock and have a do-over. I had failed to heed the advice which says “Watch your tone” in any of your communications.

My favorite way of communicating is via e-mail. For me it is a time saver. When dealing with specific itineraries and instructions it helps to have a written record. It is not only what the majority of my competitors are doing, but it has the ability to send mixed messages. Because you cannot put inflections into the written word unless you are a texting teen and use the library of smiley faces and abbreviations, you run the risk of alienating a good friend or what could be a valued client. Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Scott Koepf


PictureWith more than 25 years in retail travel Scott Koepf became President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents in March of 2008. Most recently Scott was with Sabre Holdings as General Manager of the Jurni Consortium, TMA and the host Travel agency, Nexion. Prior to joining Sabre, Scott was a full-time motivational speaker and sales trainer.

TRO : What is the biggest obstacle you think independent contractors face when it comes to training?

SK : It used to be that accessibility was the biggest problem. Now with online training programs, webinars, training from NACTA, hosts, franchises and other avenues, determining which program to be trained on and what to focus on is the biggest problem. Finding a focus or niche is tantamount with all of the information now available.

TRO : What is the biggest problem you see with training courses today? Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Stuart Cohen



PictureStuart Cohen is a sales and marketing consultant, a business coach, an entrepreneur and a well-known speaker in the travel industry. His seminars at Travel Weekly’s recent CruiseWorld and Home Based Travel Agent Shows were standing room only events. Stuart was the founder of NEST and now owns and operates Exclamation Points, !nc. as well as and

TRO : You have a particular mission to help the travel agent community improve their group sales. Is there one particular type of group an agent should begin prospecting?

SC : Yes, my mission is to light a path of group success for agents across the country.  The business benefits are bountiful. One particular group type is the “vacation celebration”, the most popular yet the most overlooked. It is a morph between a family reunion and birthday party (or anniversary party). Too many agents aim Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Nolan Burris


PictureNolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

TRO : Let’s first talk a bit about your newest passion: Social Media. There are so many platforms to choose from the well known, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, to the lesser known like Naymz, Google Buzz, FourSquare, Plaxo. Do you recommend the agent community pick one or two or try to be EVERYWHERE?

NB: Great question!  First, think about the demographic of your target audience (not necessarily who you deal with now, but who you WANT).  Facebook has an older user base; most are women 55 and up.  Twitter has a much younger demographic with most 35 or younger.  Next, think about your marketing style.  Facebook and Twitter are more about being informal, personal and fun.  LinkedIn is all about business to business networking so a more formal tone is better.  If you are going to be “everywhere” don’t do or say the same things in all of them.  Each slice of the social media pie Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Mike Marchev


PictureMike Marchev, MBA, CTC has been sharing his upbeat, down-to-earth, entertaining and motivational business-building programs with travel professionals since 1984. Customer Service is his “pet” topic. Mike is a frequent contributor to a number of recognized travel publications as
well as the author of Become The Exception, The 52-Week Sales Planner and “More-On” Marketing.

TRO: What are travel agents doing right today?

MM: This is a hard question to answer in that I am not privy to what they are all up to. I’ll answer from a different angle.

If a travel agent has targeted a specific market and identified their “niche” based on their strengths, experiences and positive track record, and they are (1) practicing emotional intelligence to the degree that they are adhering to the Rule of Seven without excuse or exception, and (2) actively seeking new and creative ways to blow their customers away with unexpected service, Read the rest of this entry »