Have you ever seen or heard this question come up from other travel agents: “Do you know of a vendor that pays commission for x service (hotel/transfers/dog boarding)?” I have time and time again and I happen to think this is the wrong question a travel agent should be asking. Wouldn’t it be better to ask “Do you know of a supplier that can best serve the NEEDS of my particular client?”
Nolan Burris touched on this point recently. We need to get in a mindset that we are not sellers of travel. We are selling ourselves, our advice and our experience. When a client engages your services, who are you working for? If a client fits of a certain profile, does it make any sense at all to recommend something because it pays a commission or maybe even a bonus commission if that client won’t enjoy the experience? Read the rest of this entry »
Rene Jongmans is President of Vacation Express, a leading tour operator based in Atlanta, GA offering packages to the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica. Born and raised in Holland, he spent three years in various management positions in St. Maarten before joining Vacation Express in 1992. With the exception of a one year hiatus, he has held the position of President since 2000. The sudden emergence of Vacation Express from a regional tour operator to a national player in the travel trade has surprised many.
TRO:Where do you position VacationExpress.com in the travel industry?
RJ: In the past few years Vacation Express has transitioned from charter operations to scheduled air operations. Even though we compete successfully with all the large tour operators we are more of a “boutique style” supplier offering travel agents a more personalized service and hands on destination knowledge. With our aggressive pricing, unique agent incentive programs, a fully dynamic packaging booking engine for Costa Rica and an extensive product line throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, we are the #1 choice for many agents in the Southeast and Midwest but have made great progress in expanding our agent base in other parts of the US as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Baumann is president of Travel Leaders Leisure Group, part of Travel Leaders Group, a North American travel company that includes over 1,500 company-owned and franchised travel agencies in Canada and the United States. The agencies include All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists, CruiseDeals.com, Cruise Holidays, Partners In Travel, Luxury Travel Network, and SinglesCruise.com He joined the executive ranks of Carlson Leisure Group in 2000 following CLG’s acquisition of his $50 million dollar Associate agency. Mr. Baumann founded that agency 20 years earlier.
TRO: Way back when, you used to be a travel agency franchisee for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. With the Cruise Holidays franchise program now being run by you as a part of the Travel Leaders Leisure Group, do you feel like things have come full circle?
TB: This makes me smile……full circle might be a good way to describe it I guess but I’ve never lost sight of what it’s like to be a franchise owner. It’s tough and it’s a lot of hard work every day, seven days a week and as long as we always make sure we are sensitive to that as a franchisor and continue to provide the very best tools and resources available, Cruise Holidays will continue to be the very best! I’m very proud to be leading this organization with such an incredibly talented group of franchise owners and honestly, I just feel like one of them and we are all in this together.
TRO: How has your experience as a franchise owner helped you with having Cruise Holidays part of Travel Leaders Leisure Group?
TB: As I mentioned earlier, I’m very sensitive that each franchise owner is running his or her own business and we need to do everything we can to help them succeed. We can’t do it for you (even though I wish we could) but we can provide you with the best to be the best which is how I grew my business as a franchise owner. Taking the tools that were available (every one of them) and working them as hard as I could to get as much out of them as I could. Mr. Carlson used to have a favorite saying of mine….”The harder I work, the luckier I get”!
TRO: How has franchising changed in the past five years, where do you see it growing in the next five?
TB: I think franchising is still as strong as it was five years ago. In our industry though, technology has played a key role in its development. You no longer have to have your entire staff sitting in a store front office behind a desk. Customers can be serviced from anywhere anytime which is a good thing for Cruise Holidays because it allows us to manage costs on an ongoing basis. I see the next five years continuing to move in that direction, being able to do business from “anywhere” which will only continue to allow additional growth potential to everyone.
Andy Stuart is the executive vice president of global sales and passenger services for Norwegian Cruise Line. Andy is responsible for global sales, revenue management, passenger services and public relations. He also ensures revenue optimization and oversees the Company’s public relations efforts. He was appointed to this position in November 2008.
TRO: How are you helping the travel agent community match the right client to the NCL experience? What does our community need to know to book more passengers on NCL?
AS: Educating our travel partners about Norwegian’s product offerings has been a huge initiative over the last few years. We launched our online travel partner community NCL University last year and this has played a major role in informing and educating our partners. We also began hosting interactive webinars to get the word out about news and relevant information which helps our travel partners sell Norwegian more effectively.
TRO:2009 brought a historic low to pricing across the cruise industry, are you starting to see stability? When do you expect to see a rise to match the experience to the product?
AS: The cruise industry is resilient and we’ve definitely started to see the booking window lengthen. The deals that were available in 2009 will start to disappear as the economy slowly recovers.
TRO: What do you feel is an ideal travel agency relationship with NCL? Read the rest of this entry »
“If you’re good at something never do it for free.” – The Joker in The Dark Knight
Many of us who write for Travel Research Online have become or are firm believers in charging professional fees for our consultation services. We have grown weary of being used as quoting service. Nothing emphasizes this philosophy more clearly than a blog entry by Chris Brogan called The Audacity of Free. Reading this entry brought be to a different entry The point when you can’t do free anymore. Funny how reading from others outside of our industry opens up an entire thought process, but that is a topic for another article. Read the rest of this entry »
It was the first morning of the Cruise Holidays’ store front convention a few weeks ago, and I was sitting alone having breakfast in the section on Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas’ dining room reserved for their premium Crown & Anchor members. I was working on my “live” blog for the trip in the peace and quiet of the morning.
My sales coach, fellow TRO columnist Mike Marchev, walked by the door and I waved him in to join me for breakfast. Later that day Mike made a simple suggestion, “don’t go to the breakfast buffet or to the ’exclusive‘ dining room but go to the regular dining room and sit with strangers.” Read the rest of this entry »
When I signed up to write a regular diary entry for TRO, I had no idea where my journey was going to take me. As part of this last entry, I took a look back at where I had been throughout the year. Since I made my investment in this franchise (Seamaster Cruises, now Cruise Holidays), I have managed to make enough money to afford to cruise three times in two months. I am still operating in the red, but most businesses do in their first 1-5 years. I am thrilled to be working for myself owning my own business and not working because I have to but because I WANT to. Read the rest of this entry »
I just stepped off a ship as part of the Cruise Holidays store-front convention this past week. When I last wrote, I was taking part in the Cruise Holidays convention for home-based agents. Two conventions? Back to back? Why go to another convention so soon?
The home based owner’s convention had a theme of becoming a Mediterranean expert. For what we were able to accomplish in such a short time, we drastically increased our knowledge of this profitable cruise destination. However, because we were trying to pack so much learning into this convention Read the rest of this entry »
As I am writing this diary entry, my feet are up in a chaise lounge, and I am overlooking the family pools onboard Freedom of the Seas. The sun is bright, margaritas are close at hand, and the deck chair fight is in full swing. Read the rest of this entry »
During the past three months, I have jumped feet first into the world of social media. Twitter, Facebook and blogging have been my preferred methods.
Once you start writing, the key is that you have to feed the monster. Some can do it every day, a couple of times a week, or just once a week. From some simple observations of stats for my blog, I have noticed a pattern developing. I happen to get the most visits on Tuesdays. I have read that other travel related bloggers have reported Tuesday as their high visit day as well. I have no idea why this is so; but it is something to consider when you may want to blog a promotion. Read the rest of this entry »
It was a year ago today that I officially hung my shingle as a cruise consultant. One year! I now consider myself past one major hurdle. Business experts will tell you that about half of new businesses do not survive their first year in operation. Based on where I am today, I see myself already ahead of the game.
I have shared my trials and tribulations of my entry into this business since the beginning of 2009 in this very column. There have been morale swings, a slow economy, negligible sales, and more. There has also been service to my community through my involvement with the Meals on Wheels program and to my Chamber of Commerce as an ambassador. Read the rest of this entry »
I was on a mission recently. It was time for lunch and I was taking my daughter to a fast food place. We were hungry and I was choosing to be unhealthy by taking the easy way out. We were sitting in traffic and out of the corner of my eye I saw a man in a sombrero wearing a sandwich board. He was advertising the newly opened Mexican restaurant by promoting a $4.99 lunch special with a free soft drink. Read the rest of this entry »
If you are reading this and have someone else in your office, do me a favor and stand up and face them. Put your right hand to their left hand. Tell them you are going to press against their hand when you say, “now.” Say “now” and start pressing for five seconds. Did they press back? I bet you they did. Remember you only told them you were going to press against their hand. The fact they pressed back is indicative of how resistant we all are. Without receiving any further instructions, most of us will instinctively push back against change. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m a week behind for my deadline for this diary entry. Even though I told TRO that I would be late, I still feel guilty because I am a stickler for being on time. It would appear that I have succumbed to Shiny Object Syndrome (S.O.S.). I sometimes wonder if this happens more often to those of us without a storefront. As a home based travel consultant, I can set my own hours. I can let the phone go to voicemail, I can check email at a time of my choosing. In other words, I can get easily distracted. Read the rest of this entry »
I was looking at the commission report for a recent booking when it finally hit home. For the time I spent on this client’s booking, I would be making the equivalent of $6.50 an hour. I made the immediate decision that I would begin charging a consulting fee before an initial discussion about travel plans. I have not collected a deposit towards a booking since mid March, and frankly I have nothing to lose.
I admit that I am scared to turn away business in this economy, but I go back to that thought of having nothing to lose and the knowledge that I am worth more than $6.50/hr. Read the rest of this entry »
“So, just what does an at-home cruise sales agent do all week?” It is a question I am always asked. While it is hard to describe on the spot, I thought I would pick a week from my calendar, add some notes and explanations and demonstrate a week in the life of Chuck Flagg. This reflects the week of March 23-29, 2009. Most all of my activities outside of my home are completed between 7:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.when my daughter is in school. My travel booking and follow up is handled in the afternoons and early evenings and in the empty spaces.
10:00 a.m. – Noon: Meals On Wheels I devote two hours a week every Monday delivering for Meals on Wheels as a volunteer. This keeps me centered Read the rest of this entry »
More fruit, less pastries and orange juice. I will get to the meaning of that statement in just a bit. For now, I am going to follow the Toastmasters’ evaluation format. I am going to sandwich the low parts of this entry with a couple of upbeat messages.
If you read my last diary entry, I was down to my last $347. I am happy to report that the “losses” for the business meant quite the windfall in the form of a tax refund both from the Feds and my State. My bank account is now reading much closer to full than hovering around “E”. Read the rest of this entry »
As I write this column I am looking at my bank statements and wondering how did I get to the point of being down to my last $347? It was of course the little things like a cruise talk here, glossy tri-fold paper there and of course toner, toner and more toner. It was also big things like capital investments in a printer and fax machine, a new cell phone, travel for training, travel for the convention, travel to experience an inaugural two day sailing on Celebrity Solstice and of course the investment in the franchise itself. Frankly, I overspent on some things I didn’t yet need but wanted. But, I reasoned that it was better to be prepared when the time came. And the truth of the matter is, the investments in training and most of the other experiences were vital and I could never have gotten the business off the ground without them. Read the rest of this entry »
TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents. These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year. Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.
It was 9’oclock on a Saturday, and I felt the urge right then to write a friend who had expressed interest in taking a cruise. She wrote back almost immediately saying she had just been thinking about writing or calling me.
My name is Chuck Flagg from Canton, GA (NW of Atlanta) or as I tell some people far-southeastern Chattanooga. My wife and I bought a franchise with SeaMaster Cruises at the end of July, 2008. I am in the unique position that this was something I wanted to do, not that I needed to do. Read the rest of this entry »
Some say I have the easiest job in the world. Many wish they had my job. Many think I sit around all day eating bon-bons and watch Oprah. Well first off, I have no idea what a bon-bon is and have no idea when Oprah airs in my market. For the past five years, I have been a stay-at-home-dad to my beautiful daughter.
Unfortunately, she started to grow up and it was time for her to enter kindergarten. I faced the possibility that my days would be filled with outright boredom instead of the life of play dates, outings, chores and eating those elusive bon-bons. Read the rest of this entry »