We who work in the travel industry are doubly blessed. First, we get to see the world and meet amazing people in places that take our breath away. Then, we get to bring home stories to enthrall and amaze our friends and families.
I think that’s what Silversea Cruises’ SVP Katina Athanasiou was getting at with the advice she offered at the annual conference aboard the Norwegian Encore. These days, “people don’t care about what you do or where you live,” she said. “They want to know where you’ve been and how it’s changed you.”Read the rest of this entry »
Even as the first Prima-class ship rolled out, with five more in production behind it, NCL Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio asked his staff what they could do to upgrade the existing fleet—and anted up a $1.5-billion budget, NCL CEO Harry Sommer told the crowd at the Dream Vacations/CruiseOne annual conference onboard Encore last week.
The new Prima class, whose first ship just rolled out, shows NCL’s direction moving forward: elevating the product with upgraded menus, new entertainment, and more staff—and 10,000 travel advisors invited aboard so far to spread the message.Read the rest of this entry »
When it rains it pours—and it’s hurricane season in the travel advisor channel. The trickle of business that kept advisors going through Covid has turned into a torrent of demand, not only for the usual FITs and cruises, but also for the land vacations to which customers turned when there was no other option.
So it’s no surprise that travel advisors suddenly find themselves being courted more than ever. On the one hand, there’s the new hotels and resorts—and on the other are the traditional partners in the cruise industry, fighting off this new competition.Read the rest of this entry »
A new proposed rule from the US Department of Labor is taking another look at the status of independent contractors—and making some in the travel agency channel nervous.
It’s the second time in two years the Department of Labor has revisited the way companies define “independent contractor.” Their goal, they say, is to put an end to the misclassification of workers—”a serious issue that denies workers’ rights and protections under federal labor standards, promotes wage theft, allows certain employers to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding businesses, and hurts the economy at-large. Misclassification denies basic worker protections such as minimum wage and overtime pay and affects a wide range of workers in the home care, janitorial services, trucking, delivery, construction, personal services, and hospitality and restaurant industries, among others.”Read the rest of this entry »
As owner of Mangata Travel, Beth Hill was often asked by customers if they could come along on her personal vacations. And she always changed the subject. When covid hit, she started to look at things differently—and a new niche was born.
“Women in particular often would say, ‘please take me with you when you go on vacation, I want to travel with you’—but traveling with customers turns a vacation into work,” Hill says. “But when covid came and I had more time to think, I changed my mindset from ‘traveling with others will be a pain’ to ‘I’m going to bring the world to people who don’t want to travel alone.’ It’s really my personal goal to bring far-flung destinations to women who might never go on their own.”Read the rest of this entry »
When you’re a big company in a small country, an alliance with a global player can pave your way into bigger and more lucrative markets. And that’s just what’s been happening at Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao All-Inclusive Resort, where a partnership with Hilton’s Curio Collection has produced a burst of new business from American customers. Things are going so well, in fact, that Phase 2 already is in the works—reaching out to higher-end customers looking for more privacy and exclusivity.Read the rest of this entry »
“How’s business?”, I asked travel advisors.
They responded that it’s going quite well, thank you very much. So well, in fact, that many are experimenting with new ideas—from brick and mortar to new employees, from new team models to more marketing—to keep up with the demand.
“I’ve gone from people calling in fear, to people calling out of curiosity, to people calling to book,” says Dorothy Bystrom in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. So, in September she took her first half-step toward brick and mortar by opening a branch of her agency, Exclusive Trips, inside a women’s clothing boutique that specializes in golf wear. Its customers looking for high-end sports and travel wear are a perfect match with hers looking for luxury trips, she says.Read the rest of this entry »
So much to say, so much to love in St. Croix. Part 1 of this report, on the fam I attended a couple of weeks ago, talked about the properties we visited. Access it here.
But beyond the hotels, the eight travel advisors in the group and I found an abundance of amazing food; snorkeling and scuba diving just a step away, no boats required; and since this is a US territory, an easy commute requiring no passports or money exchanges. Our group had sunset cocktails at The Waves, dinner at Savant, lunch at The Buccaneer, and brunch at Caroline’s. Some surprising food options were the sustainable vodka made of breadfruit and snacks at the Mutiny Island Vodka distillery (try the conch fritters and the small-batch Meyer lemon vodka), and a sunset dinner at Ama at Cane Bay (get the filet, and then the homemade limoncello and crack pie for dessert).Read the rest of this entry »
So much to say, so much to love in St. Croix. Part 1 of my report talks about properties we visited; stay tuned next week for Part 2.
My travel advisor friends told me St. Croix is a feet-in-the-sand US destination with a Caribbean vibe, a mix of luxury and kitschy properties, a home to water sports you can dive into from the beach. So when the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism (VisitUSVI.com) invited me and eight travel advisors on a fam last month, I was in.Read the rest of this entry »
To understand the new Norwegian Prima, it helps to keep in mind that for Norwegian Cruise Line—and on a personal level, for Norwegian Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio—Prima is not just the newest ship in the fleet. From the curves in the stateroom dressers to the floor-to-ceiling chandeliers in the Orca dining room; from her intimate and upscale little nooks to her seven-deck, 107-suite Haven complex; from the $10,000 painting on the wall to the $12,000 bottle of wine, Prima was designed to usher in a new luxurious vacation experience that will guide its growth over the next six years.Read the rest of this entry »
What’s a reporter to do when she’s sailing Norwegian Prima with 3,000 travel-industry insiders, including iconic travel companies like American Express and Expedia? Why, ask a couple of them to sit down and chat about what’s new in 2023, of course.
Making headlines while we were cruising, Signature Travel Network announced the addition of Cruise Planners, which has been looking for a home since American Express announced it will be ending its representative network at the end of 2022.
And while I was I was on the subject of franchisees, I couldn’t resist reaching out to Expedia Cruises, whose CEO sat with me in Prima’s beautiful Haven area to share some thoughts on the state of the industry.Read the rest of this entry »
After all these years in the travel industry, I thought I knew a lot about cruise ships. But when we celebrated my birthday with a family getaway for 10 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, I really did learn a lot more—thanks in part to the ever-responsive Vicki Freed and her team, who arranged for a bridge tour for my family despite the fact that those have officially been canceled since Covid.
How many of these facts do you know?
*There’s no easier vacation than a cruise from a port you can drive to. (OK, I did know that. But we all loved being onboard with a drink in hand just about two hours after we left home, instead of dragging four kids through an airport!)Read the rest of this entry »
Susan Shure is tired of suppliers who keep clients’ payments but refuse to pay her commission. So she’s paying no attention to the many notices she has received from Carnival Cruise Lines asking her to return $200 commission paid her on a cruise that was subsequently canceled.
“It’s not very much,” concedes the owner of Susan Shure Travel, “but it’s the principle of the thing. I’m ignoring them.”
It’s not just Carnival, of course. “This has affected me personally more times than I care to count—and what makes it even more frustrating is that it has happened repeatedly during Covid, when we already aren’t making as much. It has to stop. If the suppliers are keeping money, then we should be getting some of that.”Read the rest of this entry »
Sailing on Adventure of the Seas to Bermuda, my family of 10—like most customers—has been confused over the testing requirements. We were at first relieved to hear that Royal Caribbean no longer requires pre-trip Covid testing. But then we received an email noting that Bermuda does require it, and so we must test before boarding. Then we filled out our Bermuda Travel Authorization forms, which clearly stated at the time that pre-cruise testing was required within four days of departure (and required $40). When my daughter tested for our Saturday cruise on Wednesday, though, we said RCCL still requires testing within 48 hours. So she and the kids tested again. (Today, meanwhile, I see that the Travel Authorization form has been changed; it now says testing is required within two days for vaccinated travelers. And vaccines are no longer required, though unvaccinated travelers must test within four days. Applying for a Bermuda Travel Authorization | Government of Bermuda (www.gov.bm).)
I share my story just to underscore what we all know: the steady beat of changes to the Health and Safety policies is a major source of confusion to customers—and, therefore, a good thing for the travel advisor community.Read the rest of this entry »
Angela Hughes grew up in the travel business, starting in her parents’ agency as a teenager delivering tickets. But she was almost ready to throw in the towel a couple of years ago when her family vacation was ruined by constant phone calls from clients.
Fast forward to today. Hughes is in Menorca, Spain, vacationing with her daughter. With a team of three assistants that share her back-office Monday.com CRM and team platform, she will take a call or two from her high-end clients a couple of times a week. But, even with $3 million in personal sales so far this year, she will not allow her work to prevent her from having some all-important family time.
“When you own an agency with ICs and a big book of clients you’re never fully off,” Hughes says. “But making modifications to work smarter can make all the difference.”Read the rest of this entry »
Add another caveat to “managing clients’ expectations” this summer. Travel advisors are reporting that the record heat in Europe is affecting river cruises on the Rhine and the Danube. It also caused the closure of the locks in the North Sea Canal, forcing Holland America Line to change the embarkation ports of the July sailings of its newest cruise ship, MS Rotterdam, from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, 90 minutes away. But properly preparing clients for what may come, combined with experienced suppliers who know the ropes and some travel insurance, can put a life preserver on your clients’ vacation plans.
At The Travel Nook in Queens, NY, Ria Maratheftis is “crossing my fingers and toes, locking myself in my room and praying like I never have before (to the mother dragons, breaker of chains, old Gods and the new) that my Ama family (three French balcony rooms, with air, pre & post and insurance and private transfers from PHl to JFK) does not cancel.”
Many travel advisors are experiencing the shifts first-hand—and reminding everyone that now is the time for up-front communications to keep clients informed.Read the rest of this entry »
File under Something We Never Thought We’d See. Struggling to keep up with strong demand, long hold times and cranky customers, many travel advisors are turning business away for the rest of the summer—or maybe the rest of the year.
It’s just one of several unlikely strategies in the works in, arguably, the craziest year ever in the travel industry. Jumping right from famine to feast, many advisors are finding that even charging fees is not enough to keep their workload acceptable.Read the rest of this entry »
Travel advisors know that the key to a successful trip is putting the right customer in the right place, and then matching their expectations to reality. And there’s no place that’s truer than in Alaska.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to cruise Alaska three times. But I never saw the vast and wild interior of the forty-ninth state until last week, when my husband and I and a couple of friends set off on our first-ever Globus bus tour to explore the 49th state from the ground. With 37 other curious explorers and one terrific tour director named Kip Wheeler, we drove almost 100 hours on the highways and byways, rode the train to Denali National Park, took a paddle boat to a native village, played with a litter of seven-week-old Iditarod dogs, and watched the sea lions line up for lunch on opening day of pink salmon season.
For hours, as the bus rolled on through the sun and the rain and the detours around washed-out roads, we were immersed in the vast emptiness of Alaska’s forests, mountains, and glaciers. On Day Three alone, we drove 370 miles. We often ate what the locals ate: fried cod and chips, buffalo meatloaf, the inevitable choice of turkey or ham sandwiches.Read the rest of this entry »
If someone had to take over the Crystal brand, travel industry insiders say, there’s no better candidate than A&K chairman Manfredi Lefebrvre d’Ovidio. But still, there’s a long road ahead before travel advisors and their customers are made whole.
The announcement last week that Heritage Group, owner of A&K Travel Group, will acquire Crystal Serenity, Crystal Symphony, and the rights to the Crystal brand—and last week’s news that it also is interested in Crystal Endeavor—was music to the ears of those who still hope to receive some commissions and sell the line again to its loyal customers.
Serenity and Symphony, purchased from Genting Hong Kong for a reported combined $128 million, are expected to resume service under the Crystal Cruises name next year after undergoing extensive refurbishment. And, on Thursday, Seatrade Cruise News quoted Lefebrvre d’Ovidio as saying, “The logical thing would be for us to have the ship [Crystal Endeavor]. Why take pieces out of it?” Read the rest of this entry »
Looking for a laid-back European experience that offers a UNESCO World Heritage town with cobblestone streets and friendly locals, bullfights and whale watching, dormant volcanoes to hike and sunken vessel to explore—and all without the hassle of big airports? Perhaps the Azores are the destination for you and your customers.
For a small archipelago, the Azores hold a large spot in history. Smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between North America and Europe, they have offered dry land, potable spring water and fresh food to sailors and pirates, doughboys and explorers. For tourists today, they are a stepping stone to a fun and easy vacation that’s just four or five hours from New York by plane, with a time difference of just four hours that makes communication with home easy and keeps jet lag to a minimum.
To kick off its new direct service from JFK, SATA Azores Airlines flew a group of New York travel advisors and press to this Portuguese paradise in the North Atlantic last week. 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 »