Author Archives: Richard D'Ambrosio

There are 29 articles by Richard D'Ambrosio published on this site.


Does This Fam Trip Number Surprise You?

Fam Trips. They are the number one tool travel advisors want for educating themselves about a destination and/or a supplier. Makes sense, right?

You can take all of the online training you want. You can attend industry conferences and see a dozen sales presentations. But there is nothing like being in a destination, and testing out a supplier’s product, to be able to know whether or not those places, services and experiences are right for your clients.

So, when Travel Business Mastermind conducted a survey about the various services and support travel advisors receive from the industry, what I didn’t expect to learn was that the number one benefit agents want from a Fam trip is – wait for it – room inspections. Read the rest of this entry »

Want to Host a Webinar? Do It Julia’s Way

As much as we hate it, COVID has sent us back indoors. For an industry that is the polar opposite of lockdowns and physical distancing, this is the cruelest blow. In order to maintain contact with clients and keep them inspired about traveling again, just about everyone—including me—has resorted to video broadcasts of one kind or another.

For so many travel advisors, the most common concept has been a 60-minute Zoom webinar co-produced and co-sponsored with a supplier or destination. Since these became the rage starting in early summer, I’ve sat through about 50 of them. I took copious notes about things like number of attendees, quality of the presentations, attendee engagement, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

A Very Big Change is Afoot

I’ve been consulting with travel agencies of various shapes and sizes for about four years now, helping them look at their businesses as “business owners,” versus “travel agents.” During these 48 months, many issues have challenged them to better manage their companies.

Take the whole “consumer direct” firestorm about four years ago, when the major hotel chains aggressively pushed guests to book through their loyalty programs. Then the growth of Airbnb became a big concern. Advisors worried that their clients would decamp to the home share website for their lodging and experiences.

And nothing has been a bigger problem the last 12 months than the depressed travel demand and general craziness surrounding COVID-19 Read the rest of this entry »

When Cruises Come Back

It’s the most maligned segment of the travel industry – cruises. Some will say rightly so, because cruise ships have the inherent weakness of being a contained environment where people frequently are restricted in close quarters.

But others would say that this same weakness is their strength. If cruise lines can better screen who boards their ships, and establish quick response protocols to contain an onboard outbreak, to some degree, cruising could become a floating extended travel bubble.

I’m no epidemiologist, but a slew of them last fall put together a comprehensive plan for trying to minimize onboard outbreaks. In their report, they stated that “with the ongoing advances in areas such as testing and therapies, our recommendations provide cruise operators with a robust set of thoughtful preparations Read the rest of this entry »

Getting out Ahead of the Curve

We’ve gotten through the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden. The new administration is trying to take a national approach on both the distribution of Coronavirus vaccines and increasing travel safety by imposing mask mandates for air travel.

At the same time, experts are predicting new COVID-19 cases could be peaking in the next few weeks—although hospitalizations and deaths will lag for a few weeks after that due to the nature of the disease.

What this means for travel advisors is that the resilient desire by Americans to travel could see a boost by the end of February.

In their review of the 2020-21 ski season, the US Travel Association estimates that for the period between Thanksgiving and Jan. 17, 2021, Read the rest of this entry »

We Can Do Better

 

I think the main reason why I became a journalist is that I’m fascinated by human nature. I love interviewing people and listening for indications about what makes them tick. That talent naturally translated over to being a business coach. Getting someone focused on who they are, and why they do what they do, removes a lot of the friction entrepreneurs create in the pursuit of their goals.

What I have come to realize, in the more than 35 years that I’ve been studying human nature, is that the most consistently successful people are driven by an openness to constant improvement. What they are doing today is not necessarily going to be good enough for them tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

When we get complacent, we can think there’s little work we have to do on ourselves and our business, until something like a pandemic comes crashing in. Read the rest of this entry »

To Whom Am I Speaking?

 

The foundation of success in communications is to know your audience – to whom are you speaking. If you don’t know who your audience is, you are going to struggle with even figuring out what you want to say.

Here’s an example: I’m Starbucks. I sell coffee, tea and other beverages, and some other notable items. Now, I have to develop a website, marketing materials, emails, and social media posts.

I could start the process of building all of that out by writing something like: “We have the best tasting coffee in town.” It tells one of our stories. We sell coffee. It’s boastful. We sell “the best tasting coffee.”

But how is that going to resonate with our audience? If my coffee is a dark roast, that is more of an acquired taste than say a deli’s coffee, or the coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Read the rest of this entry »

 

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions myself. For me, every day is the best day to resolve to do something different, to get on schedule to doing and being something new.

However, if you’re still looking for some promises to make to yourself, let me offer three ideas below. They’re all about getting to the heart of your compelling narrative and unleashing its power to grow your travel business.

Why do I believe storytelling is important? Like business guru Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

I can purchase travel directly from a supplier. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Better to Give than Receive

 

What a strange holiday season this has been. I have to be honest with you, I’m not feeling it.

More than 300,000 Americans have died due to Coronavirus and the number of daily new COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate. Over the weekend, European countries started to announce restrictions on U.K. travelers to protect themselves from the next mutation taking hold in England.

Whenever I’ve gone through troubling times like these in my life, I’ve found two things help me get through. One is to focus on my strengths, and the things that I can control. (Hence the name of this column.)

The second thing I focus on is trying to be of service to others. Helping other people is a source of endorphins for me. I have heard from friends and colleagues Read the rest of this entry »

 

Over the last ten months, just about everyone I follow on social media seems to have earned a degree in virology. At least that’s the way their social media activity comes across.

They’re using this “degree” to not only make decisions for themselves, but to help make decisions for others. I have fallen into this trap myself at times, thinking that reading studies and staying on top of the latest developments makes me some kind of expert.

Of course, I’m not.

I hope I haven’t led anyone astray with the facts that I have interpreted and the knowledge that I have repeated – especially since so much is on the line for the travel industry, travelers and the general public.

Well, to get level set, I decided to speak to someone in the travel industry who also happens to be a registered nurse, and part of a large family of healthcare professionals.

Nadia Henry has been offering travel services through her company, Travel with Sparkle, since 2007. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Not Lose This Opportunity to Change

 

During one of the last phone conversations I had with Jim Smith before he passed away earlier this year, he and I were speaking confidentially about my desire to lead change in the travel industry. It was mid-March and I was expressing my frustration with the industry’s approach to travel advisors.

I was telling Jim how I felt too many suppliers paid little more than lip service to the value advisors deliver. I was saying that given what I had experienced, advisors were seen more as just another sales channel, not as professional salespeople who could create new business for their supplier partners and upsell clients to higher margin purchases.

I also expressed to Jim that this wasn’t solely my opinion; that I had lost count of the number of tenured travel advisors who had told me they feel this way too. Read the rest of this entry »

Where Are We Headed Next?

 

I’m so glad I took economics and history in college. My professors taught me two immutable facts.

1) Humans are creatures of habits – some of which are hard to break.

2) Given enough time and free moving capital, economies grow.

Now, some things change significantly as a result of a recession. And recoveries from financial crises don’t follow a common schedule. In many cases, changes, like the increase in healthcare costs we’ve experienced the last 30 years, or pro-longed stagnation of wages, leave a lasting mark that could change some of our habits.

But for the most part, humans don’t easily change, the globe continues to spin, and activities like travel grow. Which leads me to the COVID-19 travel recession. Read the rest of this entry »

What Have We to Be Thankful For

Editor’s Note: This article was incorrectly published under Mike’s 1-Minute Marketing column yesterday. This is a corrected publication and attributed to the author Richard D’Ambrosio. Thank you.

 

Even when times are good, sometimes Thanksgiving is a difficult concept for me to grasp. It calls on me to distinguish between wants and needs, and explore what true gratitude feels like and how I put my thankfulness to work.

I wanted the Mazda CX-5 I currently own because its practical, gets good gas mileage, has a sunroof – and it’s red, my favorite color. I shop for certain foods in my home because my children and I enjoy the way they taste, and they’re generally healthy for us to eat.

But I noticed something recently, when my car didn’t work properly. What I treasure more than my car’s sunroof, Bose sound system, comfort, etc., is that it affords me freedom. Living in a New York City exurb, you really can’t get very far quickly here if you don’t own an auto that runs properly. Read the rest of this entry »

The Courage to Look in the Mirror

 

Over the course of two months, I’ve tried to use most of these columns to reimagine our industry with a focus on the relationships advisors have with suppliers, destinations, and other third parties. I’ve advocated for the industry making a commitment to live up to its long-standing mantra – “travel advisors are our greatest partners.”

I say “live up to” because, while I think travel advisors have never had more respect from others for the value they create, I still see a good portion of our industry paying lip service to the notion that advisors are treated like true partners.

I see it in the travel advisor education portals that suppliers and destinations publish, which are for the most part focused on teaching features and benefits. Our industry conferences do much of the same. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Client Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

 

Despite everything we might try to do to label someone this or that – Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Leader or Follower – people are so much more complex than the simple appellations we would like to hang on them.

I may have liberal views about social issues, but I am more conservative when it comes to how I spend money and how I like others to spend my money. I may enjoy leading a team or take the helm on a project, but I like stepping back and watching others learn how to lead, following their direction so they can learn the qualities they need to one day be a leader themselves.

So, when you are dealing with people in business, it’s best not to think of them simplistically. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Travel’s recovery from this pandemic is a highly complex formula of science, time and money.

The science of the virus dictates the narrative, dear readers. If we don’t honor the science, we’re hurting everyone… including ourselves. How the coronavirus infects people, how we prevent COVID-19 from spreading, and how we treat those who get ill are immutable science – though we have so much more to learn to really get this scourge under control.

Then there’s time. How quickly we get people traveling safely again is critical to saving companies, business owners, and employees who only have so much cash flow left.

Which leads us to money. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fear Factor

 

Halloween is just days away, and perhaps never in the history of travel have I felt our industry bearing a higher level of fear. Coronavirus new cases are on the rise. The federal government has failed to agree on a new stimulus package at the time of this writing. And the earliest we are likely to see widespread distribution of vaccines is the latter part of 2021.

Some of the fear about our businesses is legitimate. Take the stimulus package. The economy needs a boost, especially the travel industry. The slow growth we are experiencing is not enough to sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs that are barely hanging on, let along bring back the tens of millions of jobs lost due to the precipitous drop off in travel. Read the rest of this entry »

Testing… Testing…

 

While the travel industry waits for a viable, widely available vaccine, testing remains one of the crucial elements for both preventing the spread of COVID-19, and in helping increase the confidence of consumers that they will be relatively safe traveling again.

Throughout smaller nations – including most of the Caribbean – producing a negative COVID test is a requirement for traveler entry. Members of the Royal Caribbean/Norwegian Cruise Line Healthy Sail Panel called “an aggressive testing regimen” the best way to mitigate transmission risk, “regardless of where an individual is from.”

In their report, they call for “a minimum of 1, and preferably 2, preboard negative SARS-CoV-2 test results for guests” Read the rest of this entry »

How Do Travel Conferences Need to Change?

 

“Stop talking at us. Give us two-way workshops and interactive general session conversations.”

These are some of the things travel advisors are asking from conference organizers as we move through this Coronavirus. They want suppliers and destinations to talk less about their features and benefits, and teach more about finding new sales leads.

Advisors want more time for learning from each other, outside of panel discussions, and better trained sales people attending conferences, enabled and empowered to help advisors close more sales by sharing more information about what works.

And when they start traveling distances to attend live events again, travel advisors want organizers and sponsors to make it worth their while – teach them something new. Read the rest of this entry »

What is Pent Up Demand?

 

Among all of the phrases I want to banish from the COVID-19 travel lexicon, the top one would be “pent-up demand.” It’s an amorphous term that often leads to a false sense of security, that “everything is going to be alright.”

I hear it on quarterly investor calls from executives at the top publicly-traded travel companies. CEOs and CFOs spread it around in their prepared remarks and rely on it when they are asked direct questions about what future bookings look like.

You hear it on television news programs, when corporate executives are trying to convince the public that we all should see things as rosy as they do. And industry webinar panelists dabble in it, trying to boost each other’s morale.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe travel will return. Read the rest of this entry »

Be Careful Out There

 

Working in travel in this COVID environment is difficult in so many ways. There’s the slowdown in bookings, the uncertainty of when this will end, and the seemingly constant stream of bad news about the virus.

If you spend too much time on social media, it’s even worse. The barrage of posts from friends and colleagues about new cases, infectivity rates, or studies by this group or that one, can spiral you into a COVID depression. Not only is it dizzying, but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

Let’s take the airline industry for example. Read the rest of this entry »