Author Archives: Richard D'Ambrosio

There are 17 articles by Richard D'Ambrosio published on this site.


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 »

What’s the Value of FAM Trips in a Time of Coronavirus?

 

The Familiarization (FAM) trip is a cherished institution travel suppliers and destinations use to reward top producers and encourage them to keep booking more sales. It’s also a carrot on a stick for advisors looking to build their business with a supplier.

But in a time of coronavirus, this time-worn tradition may be in need of a major upgrade. Both travel advisors and their hosts have taken huge hits to their bottom lines, so funding trips isn’t the easy decision it was before March 2020. Every penny counts. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve spent the last three weeks talking to about three dozen travel advisors and industry executives – with different roles, tenures, agency specialties and business models – trying to understand what role “education” plays in supporting travel advisor success – and how these programs can help advisors through this COVID storm.

If I had to boil down their feedback into three key learnings, here are the points I take away: Read the rest of this entry »

How Has COVID-19 Changed Travel Insurance?

 

In normal times, insurance is one of the quietest sectors of the travel industry. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, travel insurance has become one of the most dynamic products for a travel advisor to sell, and it’s worth an update here.

Some countries have begun offering comprehensive medical coverage to encourage more travelers to visit their destinations. Suppliers are insuring the cost of cancellations through totally flexible cancellation policies, as well as their own vacation protection coverage.

For example, the week of August 10, Portugal launched a travel insurance program for inbound international travelers that will cover medical, surgical, hospital and pharmaceutical expenses. Spain’s Canary Islands is doing the same. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The travel industry needs to consider a radical rehaul of just about everything we do that involves travel advisors. And, when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING.

Since March, I’ve been holding lots of private talks with advisors and industry executives about how this pandemic is impacting their businesses. Most importantly, we’ve been discussing what’s necessary to help the entire industry recover.

Almost everyone has said these bleak days are an opportune time to open EVERYTHING for discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Haven’t all of us, at one point, had to write that elementary school essay: What did you do on summer vacation? Well, for many travel advisors, summer 2020 has been more like an extension of everyone’s “COVID sabbatical” – anything but a vacation.

Most agents have scrambled to keep their businesses afloat, cutting expenses, trying to scrounge up extra cash, and deal with an incessant series of cancellations and re-bookings. They’ve also spent the last six months contacting clients to check in on them and remind them that their trusted Travel Advisor is there when they want to travel again. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Early this summer, Tripadvisor launched its Reco website and app, designed to match Tripadvisor users with a select list of vetted travel advisors, including hundreds who are part of Signature Travel Network and Internova Group’s Travel Leaders consortia.

The hundreds of millions of consumers who visit Tripadvisor every month can peruse participating advisor profiles, and pay Tripadvisor a $199 planning fee to match them with a “Trip Designer.” ($50 of that fee, “net of fees and taxes,” goes to the advisor. Reco claims no portion of an advisor’s commissions.)

The fee includes unlimited on-platform messaging and phone calls to design a trip, a personalized travel plan, bookings and reservations for accommodations and activities, restaurant recommendations, and ongoing support. Read the rest of this entry »

Do You Know Your Numbers?

You’ve heard the pundits and read the headlines:

“Advisors need to pivot, experts say.”

“Agents have to adapt to the new normal.” (Ugh. That phrase.)

While these concepts are great advice, what should you as a business owner do to employ them at your business? Well, that’s the thing about trendy catch phrases; they usually aren’t useful if that’s all they offer.

I think a good portion of why there’s so little real, good advice out there for entrepreneurs is because too many pundits and “experts” really don’t want to share their “secret sauce.” Read the rest of this entry »

Create Your Own New Normal

This is the first of a series of columns I will be writing for TRO over the next few months, trying to help bring some clarity around how travel advisors, suppliers, and destinations can adapt to the rapidly shifting environment Coronavirus has created.

During that time, I promise to sparingly use words like “unprecedented” or “new normal.” Those words are too often used with lazy ambiguity to avoid giving you the depth of knowledge you need to manage through this madness.

The fact of the matter is, we’ve never seen travel demand drop off this deeply and quickly ever in my lifetime (more than five decades and counting). And we’ve never had a seemingly immovable impediment like COVID-19, forcing our hands in what kinds of destinations and vacation experiences we can sell. Read the rest of this entry »