At All Points Travel in Salt Lake City, Corina Johnson made an easy sale yesterday. A member of her Theater Lovers whom she books trips three or four times a year, saw a post about an interesting offering from Norwegian Cruise Line: “The Broadway Cruise” to Bermuda, launching in March 2023. Read the rest of this entry »
Part 2 of a two-part series on staffing issues at travel agencies. Read part 1.
It’s a tight job market all around—and travel agencies are no exception. So what’s an agency owner to do when they need to bump up staff ASAP?
“Many travel advisors are going independent, so that hurts the industry for those trying to hire, and many went and found other things to do and haven’t come back,” says Scott Caddow, owner and luxury travel advisor at Legendary World and vice chair of the board of Signature Travel Network.
In addition to about 10 ICs, Caddow employs 10 full-time W-2 employees. Before Covid, he tended to hire new-to-the-industry “smart sales-oriented people who wanted to build a career” and train them himself. But in the current rush, there’s just no time for that. Instead, he considered the many experienced independent contractors (ICs) out there—and ended up hiring a woman with 30 years of experience.
“I put it out to my friends in the industry who were ICs, or knew ICs—and when I mentioned it to one person because I hoped she’d put it out to her network of friends, she said, ‘I’ll do it myself!’” Read the rest of this entry »
Part 1 of a 2-part series on staffing. If you have a tale to share for Part 2 about where and how you have found new staffers, email Cheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Cheesecake Factory to Starbucks, across cruise lines and hotel chains, every US business suddenly seems to be overbooked and looking everywhere for potential new hires. And travel agencies are no exception.
The phones are ringing and the long wait times on hold with suppliers eat up precious hours of travel advisors’ days. On top of that, many are calling in sick as Covid takes one more swipe at the travel industry, and many more are out of the office on their own long-postponed vacations, at training sessions they have put off for months or years, or on one of the abundant number of fam trips offered up when things were slow.
“Staffing is the number-one issue everywhere,” says Alex Sharpe, and the biggest concern of the attendees at Signature Travel Network’s quarterly Owners Meeting in New Jersey last month. “And hiring is the #1 opportunity Read the rest of this entry »
On Zoom with Christine Duffy—In advance of Carnival Celebration’s November debut in Miami, Carnival president Christine Duffy on Wednesday hosted her first-ever virtual press conference to introduce the newest element of this newest ship: The Gateway.
The two-story promenade will offer food, fun, and a dozen 10-foot-high virtual windows that can show anything from the ocean waves outside to Santa’s reindeer passing by in the midnight sky.
Located on Celebration’s decks six and seven, in the space occupied by the French Quarter on sister ship Mardi Gras, The Gateway will also feature a new Latitudes bar and a new Emeril Lagasse restaurant.
Emeril’s Bistro 1397, named for the Celebration’s hull number in the shipyard in Finland where it was built, will be home to a new vision Read the rest of this entry »
Concerned about Covid quarantines on cruise ships, Jeff Farschman has fallen behind his usual schedule on Holland America, which so far includes 12 World Cruises and 6 Grand Asians. But he is sailing once again, with 246 days booked in the near term, then a Grand Africa and a World Cruise in 2024. Read the rest of this entry »
“There’s nothing better than launching a new cruise line into a market that has been closed with Covid,” says Francis Riley.
And indeed, adds the chief commercial officer of Margaritaville at Sea, the market is perfect for a three-day cruise out of West Palm Beach that sails year-round —and can be extended to six days, with a stay on Grand Bahama Island, for about $1,000.
The whole idea of getting out on the water is very much in line with Margaritaville’s laid-back luxury charm. While the 658-room Paradise, which set sail this month, is hardly a new ship; it is completely refurbished since its days as Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Classica.
“Every single cabin has been ripped out and completely overhauled, every single area of the ship is refurbished,” Riley says. And the cruise includes all the things you’d get in a Margaritaville resort—”the elevated room, pillow, mattresses, the food, the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, the elevated dining with JWB Prime Steak House, plus of course what you’d expect in terms of entertainment, with a new show written by Jimmy Buffet.” Read the rest of this entry »
AmaWaterways extended its Portugal river cruise sailings through the Winter Holiday Season this week, for the first time, adding 14 new round-trip sailings in Portugal on the AmaDouro.
It’s a sign of how strong the interest in Europe river cruises is running this year, says chief marketing officer Janet Bava.
“We saw a huge influx in demand for Europe with the loosening of travel guidelines, and very quickly got a lot of demand for the western side of Europe. We were completely sold out for Portugal,” she told TRO at Seatrade Cruise Global last week. “But our travel partners were still calling us—so we said why not extend the season, especially since Portugal tends to have warmer weather, and go ahead and help travel advisors generate some extra commission for 2022.”
While Ama is the first river cruise line to extend Douro sailings through December Read the rest of this entry »
After months of isolation that have made people long to reconnect, a number of industry players are launching new services designed to bring travel advisors—from top sellers to brand new entrants—together in new and unique ways.
The biggest is The 1000, an ambitious effort to find, honor, and support 1,000 of the nation’s top-producing travel advisors (think $1.5 million minimum in annual sales).
Founder Jeff Sirota—whom many know from his past life on both sides of the industry, at Protravel and at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, now a partner at hospitality representation company J.MAK—says leisure salespeople have such a broad customer base that it’s “really difficult to drill down in a sea of advisors to find the top producers.”
Often salespeople “blindly comp or do favors for” advisors who win awards from their consortia, Sirota said—“but when Read the rest of this entry »
Part 2 of 2 in a series on how to cope with long telephone hold times. Read Part 1.
Gilligan might have regretted booking his three-hour tour on the S.S. Minnow that turned into a 60s TV show, but today’s travel advisors have come to rue their own travel nightmare: the four-hour telephone hold times involved in trying to reach some suppliers.
At AmaWaterways, chief marketing officer Janet Bava noted that call volumes skyrocketed when Europe loosened its travel guidelines in March. “We saw a huge influx in demand, and we had to staff up very quickly across the board. It was an issue, but we’ve been able to solve it.”
It took about two weeks to respond, she acknowledges; but now Read the rest of this entry »
Part 1 of 2 on what travel advisors say is the biggest issue in the industry. Follow us next week for Part 2, as suppliers respond.
Angela Hughes is feeling lucky that her $2 million in personal annual sales allows her to hire a team of assistants. She uses them to hold the phone for her—often for hours at a clip—when she needs to call a supplier.
“Right now I’m trying to close a group of 50 for 2023—but I can’t get any space, and we have four-hour wait times to boot,” she says. “So I pay an assistant to sit on hold all day every day. It helps me earn a lot more revenue. But I can’t get over the inefficiency of the tour companies that makes it necessary.”
Hughes is passionate on the subject these days, she says. “I’m only using suppliers who help us—and if that means I have to move away from preferred suppliers, so be it. I’m moving all my tour clients over to Globus because they answer quickly. I dread that I ever booked a group to Club Med—I waited six hours on the phone one day, and then my client Read the rest of this entry »
Mask mandates are falling, but many travelers remain wary of international travel—making the timing perfect for a new kind of summer vacation. One that is unique, Instagrammable, domestic, safe—yet thrilling and lots of fun. Enter Viking Cruises’ newest product, an expedition ship chock full of motorized gadgets sailing the Great Lakes.
The brand-spanking-new expedition class Viking Octantis, custom-built to cut through the ice in Antarctica or slip through the locks of the St. Lawrence, launches in May. With prices starting at $5,995 per person plus air, the Polar Class 6 Viking Octantis holds just 378 guests in 189 staterooms and 256 crew. The focus, of course, is Read the rest of this entry »
Onboard Viking Octantis in the Caribbean Sea—There’s nothing quite like sailing a ship’s maiden voyage. Viking’s gorgeous new expedition ship still has that new car leather smell, with an overlay of wood.
On the sold-out repositioning voyage heading from winter in Antarctica to summer in the Great Lakes, I joined a cadre of Viking fanatics and a couple dozen press this week as we checked her out. And while there may have been a glitch or two, everyone seemed to agree she is beautiful and roomy—and the toys on board are just out of this world.
In the Viking definition of all-inclusive, guests do not pay extra for at least one shore excursion a day or for the use of the zodiacs, the submarine, or the Special Operations vehicle used by the Norwegian navy—all of which Read the rest of this entry »
Looking for extra income or just something to do while business was slow, travel advisors have expanded beyond their usual routines into new avenues—both inside the business and out.
At My Path Unwinding Travel in Waxhaw, NC, for example, Karen Shelton noticed that 11 of the 12 customers in her Disney Wonder group had booked suites—and decided to promote an all-suite group on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas for the first time, so customers can compare the two.
“I’m super excited about this,” says Shelton, whose specialty has traditionally been Disney concierge-level suites. “I booked the Royal Suite for myself and got the ball rolling.”
The numbers are still coming in, she says Read the rest of this entry »
Onboard Viking Radgrid on the Seine — Monet’s Garden is not yet open and the cherry blossoms are just beginning to bloom. Even so, all of us in attendance were thrilled to kick off this year’s river cruise season in Europe, at the official Naming Ceremony of eight new Viking longships.
The actual ceremony was a joyful reunion of travel writers, travel advisors, Viking executives and Edelman PR folks, many of whom have not seen each other since 2020, when Viking decided not to launch these ships at all. Two years and five days later, we arrived on the very day France lifted most of its Covid restrictions, including pre-arrival testing for vaccinated travelers and masking at indoor venues.
Back then, Hagen noted, Viking had 10,000 employees, $3 billion in revenue and an annual Read the rest of this entry »
Aboard Wonder of the Seas, between Puerto Rico and the Bahamas — It’s Day Five of the Wonder of the Seas’ maiden voyage sailing the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale, with stops at San Juan and Nassau, Labadee and CocoCay. While only 60% full today, with a contingent of about 100 media and many Loyal to Royal repeat cruisers, at full capacity she can carry 6,988 total guests on 18 decks.
A big ship fan myself(and a small ship fan too!), I’m having a blast, but with the help of one onboard press conference, a Coffee Talk with Vicki Freed and an interview with SVP Jay Schneider, I’ve also learned a lot.
So here are a few things I think travel advisors might like to know when you go to sell the ship: Read the rest of this entry »
Like Girl Scouts who are always prepared, travel advisors know that a successful vacation often comes down to having a backup plan. So when Lene Minyard of Perfectly Planned Journeys gathered a group of insiders earlier this month to come up with ideas to help travel recover, it’s no surprise they proposed a Plan B—for their own businesses, for their customers, and for the industry as a whole.
The discussion began, of course, with concerns over the present situation. “There’s a lot of new blood coming into the industry; they are coming in by the droves,” said The Travel Institute’s Guida Botelho. “We get 8-10 new people every single day. And we have a responsibility to educate and empower and propel these people forward.”
But for new advisors—and for the thousands of travel advisors already in business—it’s almost impossible to keep up with the changing regulations of every supplier and destination. And of course, there’s the Damocles sword: the better job you do and the more information you share with clients, the greater your liability if you say the wrong thing.
“We need more training on being a business owner, on defining the advisor’s role in the midst of the pandemic,” said TRUE Global Network vice president Margie Jordan. “When you make it your burden [to give clients information], it becomes your liability. Where do we draw the line? What is our duty of Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s just say that unique times call for unique strategies. Being so deep in the throes of omicron concerns (could that have been just a couple of weeks ago?), it’s not surprising that some travel advisors took a step beyond the usual marketing strategies to reach new and existing customers.
Leave it to the younger generation to head for Hulu. While everyone agrees that taking a group by the hand and posting your adventures on social media is the best way to build confidence among customers, 29-year-old Dillon Guyer put together “some incredible footage” he filmed of everything from Clearwater, Florida, to Virgin Voyages, Athens and Istanbul while he did that. He then posted it on the Hulu channel using a new program in beta testing.
With an investment of $2,000, Guyer signed up for a plan that bills him every time a Hulu customer plays his ad; so far Read the rest of this entry »
What’s a travel advisor to do when a preferred supplier like Crystal cruises stops sailing? Communicate with your customers and be transparent. In the case of Crystal, you have to look at your booked customers in three buckets and reach out to each with targeted communications, says Alex Sharpe.
The CEO of Signature Travel Network, himself a former SVP of Regent Seven Seas, immediately reached out to legal counsel, who told him “you should cancel and dispute charges right away,” he told TRO. “With the ‘reserve accounts’ in place with the credit card colmpanies, I don’t know that disputing charges is critical, but at this point, it couldn’t hurt.”
Here’s an edited version of what Sharpe had to say in our 45-minute conversation last week: Read the rest of this entry »
Just hang in there for two or three more weeks, travel advisors, and things will be better.
That’s the biggest take-away from a press conference yesterday featuring Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO Frank del Rio and the head of its Health and Safety Committee, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer.
Here’s my transcript of what they said, slightly edited for brevity. I took notes in shorthand, which I am pretty good at but a word or two may be off, and I apologize for that. Read the rest of this entry »
It took a village to survive in the travel industry in 2021, and I am amazed by the smart and generous travel advisors who shared their stories with me throughout the year. In the final weeks of the year, I came across some amazing stories of teamwork and perseverance during the Dream Vacations/Cruise One conference.
Julie Vowell, Jodi Denney, Lisa Merutka and Barbara Linebarger, for example, have been pooling their resources since they met in 2016. They were brought together in their pj’s as a fire alarm went off in the hotel where they were staying during a training program, and have supported one another ever since. Read the rest of this entry »
The travel industry is rolling with the punches again, as 2021 rolls to a close and every day brings a new news cycle. Again.
Just two weeks ago at the US Tour Operators Association, the speakers were bullish about what 2022 would bring and travel advisors were looking forward to a great year. But this week, there’s a slight hesitation in everyone’s step, as omicron spreads on land, air and sea.
“This is going to be a tough week,” says Zena Beaver in Selinsgrove PA. “Three days ago all was good—but after the six o’ clock news last night, I received three emails and two texts about postponing trips from January to later in the year.”
“Those take-home Covid test kits are the new toilet paper,” joked Jennifer Trinin at ProTravel in Westbury, NY. “Maybe we can get ones with logos on them to Read the rest of this entry »