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March 13, 2012

Opinion: Cancun Tourism Won’t Suffer Despite Latest Warning From Texas

For the second straight year, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued a travel warning to Mexico for college students considering spending their spring break there.

And for the second straight year, the Mexico Tourism Board is not pleased about it, but, in our opinion, shouldn’t worry about it either.

During my more than five years as Travel Agent’s Mexico expert, I can tell you that keeping college students away from Cancun is harder than keep an agent away from a bonus commission, especially when Cancun is just as safe - if not way safer - than it ever was.

Sure, the culture of Cancun has changed since my back-to-back Spring Break vacations there in the late ‘90s. In fact, in 2005 Hurricane Wilma did a pretty good job in erasing a lot of the Spring Break-friendly resorts, aka resorts that didn’t mind a cluster of rowdy teenagers cramming into one room and breaking a piece of a furniture two.

The storm created so much damage to the resorts catering to Spring Breakers that they were forced to invest millions of dollars just to stay open. And when you invest that kind of money, you start getting picky about who you let in the door.

Ever since that, I’ve noticed more and more affluent families making there way to the now four-and-five-star resorts that took over the destination’s famed hotel district; I’ve heard tourism officials proclaim the death of the Spring Break traveler in Cancun and I’ve seen Spring Break staples, like the old MTV hangout, Phat Tuesdays, close its doors.

But although the volume changed, Spring Breakers were still making there way to the resorts.

The Cancun scene of the ‘90s that I enjoyed – and could barely remember (thank God there was no Facebook back then)- is not entirely extinct. The evidence can be found at a resort I stayed at in January– The Grand Oasis Cancun. There is a still a heavy market for younger, party-going guests who want to take part in poolside games, eat chicken fingers by the dozens and flirt with anything with a pulse.

In fact, the resort was pretty packed with guests (we were told these were students traveling in their winter recess) looking to dance the night away without leaving the resort. So business did not appear to be a problem.

For travel snobs like myself, this resort may not be a good fit. It’s loud, it’s cheap and full of Jersey Shore wannabes. But if your clients are into this and they are strapped for cash, this is the resort for them. In fact, rates here start at around $70. For the type of market this resort is looking to attract, it does a very good job.

But more importantly, Grand Oasis Cancun serves as a great example that although Cancun Spring Breakers have seriously dropped in numbers, there will also be a place for them in this legendary party city.

Also, don’t forget that the most of the original spring breakers who put Cancun on the map in the late ‘70s are now most likely mothers and fathers taking their children on family holidays. Perhaps a deluded trip down memory lane sounds like a great family retreat for these clients.

Whatever the reason is, Spring Break in Cancun may never reach the height it hit in the late ‘90s, but I refuse to believe that the Spring Break clients aren’t going anymore. And I refuse to believe the destination doesn’t welcome it, especially during a time in which Mexico is looking for any heads to fill the beds. Whether it’s a past, present or future Spring Breaker, the Spring Break client is essentially responsible for putting Cancun on the map and also for keeping the destination afloat during some of the country’s toughest times.

As far as the latest warning goes, according to MyFoxAustin.com, the Texas DPS has issued a travel warning to college students on spring break, urging them not to travel to Mexico. Authorities are pointing to several recent incidents of drug-related violence in the country, including the murders of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and two El Paso boys last month.

Since last year’s warning, the Mexico Tourism Board has had several meetings with Texas DPS officials with hopes of convincing them that the country was a safe place for spring breakers to travel to. Last year’s warning, however, was geared specifically toward Cancun while this year’s warning concentrates on the entire country.

So how many incidents were reported from last year's Spring Break season?

Not one.

So, how much did last year’s warning hurt Cancun tourism?

Not at all.

In 2011, Cancun recieved 1,940,671 international visitors, which was up about 3 percent from 2010. In fact, Cancun's numbers have increased every year since 2009, the year of the economic downturn impacted travel across the globe.

In fact, Travel Agent was on hand Monday for Vacation.com and Travel Leaders Group’s “Think Big” 2012 news conference, a state-of-the-company address where both the agency and its travel network shared with media some ongoing trends in the industry as well as an update on its growing products.

One of the most revealing trends with regards to Vacation.com’s tourism product was a surprising, year-to-year upswing in Mexico business despite the negative publicity, including a refreshed travel warning there back in February, that has been eating away at the country.

“If you didn’t look at these numbers or didn’t know about these numbers, I’m sure most of you would have just thought that Mexico’s numbers tanked again,” said Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for the Travel Leaders Group. “ But the numbers haven’t tanked. And we think that’s a testament to agents. They are addressing clients' concerns and our members are really handling the objections a client has to a destination.”

John Lovell, president of Vacation.com, says most of the “double-digit” spike in Mexico business could be traced to the Riviera Maya. Specifically, Cancun and Cozumel have been the two hottest destinations to come out of the Riviera Maya region.

“Lets not forget that this has something to do with value as well,” McGillivray says. “Mexico has great value with its all-inclusives. This is, after all, where you’ll find some of the greatest all inclusive in the world.”

Visit www.visitmexico.com and www.cancun.travel.
 

Posted in: Cancun , Mexico

By: Joe Pike

September 20, 2011

How Cancun Replaced Spring Breakers With Families

As the annual Cancun Travel Mart Mexico Summit sets to kick off on October 12, agents and operators get set to do business in one of the best luxury, family destinations in all of Mexico.

That's right, Cancun is now both glamorous and family-friendly, a far cry from the once MTV-inspired party destination that it once was from the late '80s to 2005. The former mecca for drunken, college debauchery is now - and has been for the last six years - a haven for families and multigenerational travel, replacing the days of wet T-shirt contests with family picnics and wine-pairing dinners.

My first trip to Cancun was as a 20-year-old Spring Breaker in 2000 and my second trip was the following year. For those two trips, I was admittedly among the rowdy crowd of North Americans who pounded Coronas all afternoon, inhaled Jell-O shots by night and slept through all hours of the morning.

But every time I have gone back since, I have seen less and less evidence of this era. A hurricane in 1988 was responsible for the birth of the Spring Break phenomenon in Cancun and it was a hurricane in 2005 that washed it away.

It was Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 that devastated all of the hotels in Cancun and, in turn, scared away every possible market except one, the Spring Break travelers. In many ways, the wave of spoiled college kids who crashed the destination, actually saved it and put in the forefront of Mexico tourism. But as time went on, this same clientele was responsible for driving all other markets away.

That was of course until Hurricane Wilma again swept away most of Cancun’s hotel product in 2005. But this time, instead of simply rebuilding, the hotels stepped it up a notch and upgraded as well. Now, with most hotels leaning toward the luxury side of the market (at least 80 percent of all Cancun hotels are now five-star in rating), the hotels were shutting out most of the Spring Break clients.

Whereas agents were booking packages for about $350-$400 for Spring Break clients, they were soon booking packages of at least $1,200 for families looking for a luxury experience.

Travel Agent is encouraging all agents to keep this destination in mind when booking family vacations this holiday season with hopes of keeping the Spring Break era dormid and the luxury, family market vibrant.

Visit www.cancun.travel

 


 

By: Joe Pike

October 15, 2010

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: October 11-15

There's nothing quite like autumn in New York. At the same time, there's nothing quite like autumn in New Hampshire (where I spent a few days last week, in case there's anyone who was wondering where the Weekly Wrap was last week). I bet there's nothing quite like autumn just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. But as much as New England foliage and sweater weather in the Big Apple are what's on my mind these days, what's more important (at least at this very moment) is what you, our readers are thinking about. So let's get scrolling.

California's Credit, Cruise Conundrum

It looks like Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting out of California amidst all kinds of problems for the state, from budgeting to politics. Welfare is rarely a topic we cover here at Travel Agent, but when Susan J. Young read a report in the Los Angeles Times about welfare money being used to buy cruise vacations, it was indeed something worth noting. Needless to say, the dogs have been unleashed when it comes to comments of frustration and anger. Just take a look for yourself.

Cherylbailey wrote:
What the !!@?? No wonder that state is in suc mess!!!@!@@

stebbiej shared:
FIRST OF ALL, WHO WOULD THINK TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS... ITS ALL KINDS OUT HERE...

Margaret King posted:
That is absolutely insane. Did no one ahead think that use of these cards could be exploited? After the fact, I suppose.

Frank Herdman added:
I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't uncommon in all the states including Florida where most of the ships sail from. I would love to see the goverment look into see how many people on public assistance went on a cruise in the last year or so?Any goverment offical willing to take up the challenge?

karen peterson stated:
This has been going on since 2007? And like a lightbulb of an idea, you now decide this is inappropriate. You, the administrators, are what's wrong with this program. GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

Joe Gray, responding to karen peterson, wrote:
Oh, please, and enough already with your sanctimony. No question such behavior is reprehensible and way beyond the pale. That said, the fact this has gone since 2007 (which I presume is when such state-issued debit cards were introduced) and is only now being discovered is most likely due to no one having thought that such transactions were happening in such magnitude; not due to any willful dismissal of those transactions.
Careful there, Karen Peterson, did you not hear about the fellow in unincorporated Tennessee whose home just burnt to the ground because there was no taxing authority collecting for fire protection services? What program is it you are suggesting to get with? If simple auditing procedures, I applaud your clarion call to action; if something else, I urge you consider the consequences of whatever it is you are on about.

elizabeth Koch commented:
I am a travel agent and earn my living from clients vacation travel but using welfare debit cards is beyond terrible...other Calif residents stay home so they can pay their bills while welfare clients are gambling in fancy ship casinos...reprehensible

CLR shared:
I don't think California Taxpayers should be funding Welfare/Unemployment Vacations. Bravo! and about time I say!

Needless to say, there's not much California loving or dreaming going on when it comes to this story. Not only is it a shame to see taxpayers' dollars being monitored so carelessly, it's even worse to think about how much business this incident may have taken away from agents. I hope none of you out there were directly affected in any large manner.

Terrorism in Europe vs. Society in the U.S.: Which is Safer?

Everyone has been well aware of the recent travel alert to Europe that the State Department issued in regards to potential terrorist attacks in the Old Country. After the alert was issued, Jena Tesse Fox spoke to several tour operators, who told us that the warning had little-to-no affect on travel to the continent. Still, there was a report by Onenewspage.com that the alert did, in fact, deter some tourism to the region. One reader, however, seems a little skeptical. Andy Fraser wrote:

About 30,000 US citizens die each year in road accidents and roughly the same number die from guns. How many US citizens died last year from terrorist activities in Europe?

By my count, Andy, the answer is zero. However, just because guns and car accidents have a high death toll here in the U.S. doesn't, in my opinion, mean we should ignore the travel alert all together. Needless to say, 9/11 changed just about everything when it comes to the travel industry and there have been plenty of incidents overseas since (from the train bombings in Spain in 2005 to the attacks in Mumbai in late 2008). I think it's always better to be safe than sorry. In this situation, it appears travelers and suppliers were playing it safe and, fortunately, little-to-no business was lost. In the end, it's great to see consumers sticking to travel plans. Not only does it keep business going, but it's symbolic in showing the terrorists that we are not afraid to live our lives.

A Question on Medical Tourism

Although it's been nearly two months since George Dooley penned his latest piece about the growing niche of medical tourism, the topic remains fresh enough that agents are seeking feedback from other travel professionals. For instance, Henk Bijl appears ready to jump on board to sell medical travel packages, but is curious as to how his business can benefit. He posted:

Extremely interesting. In order to consider business scenarios, what's a ballpark commission from hospitals in destination countries for a facilitator delivering customers?

I think that's a great question, Henk. I'm sorry I can't answer it, but I hope some of our readers can by posting a comment below or at the original article.

ME Cancun's All-Inclusive Decision

One of the most read stories on TravelAgentCentral.com as of late has been ME Cancun's offering of special travel agent rates. As much as that promo is exciting agents, a different policy of the property is continuing to turn heads— it's decision to open it's all-inclusive amenities to non-guests. The topic has been brough up in not just one, but two editions of the Weekly Wrap this year. And here we go for the third time as Robert Paisola, talking directly to Raul Petraglia, managing director of the property, writes:

Raul, Please reconsider this plan We have an incredible property that is EXCLUSIVE. Opening the doors for money will cause uncalculated damages. Look at the art, Look at the way the property is viewed. Is it really worth it?

ME Cancun's decision is a first in the industry. As some readers see it failing, others don't see it as such a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Commenting on Two Caribbean Islands

Both Jamaica and St. Croix were cited in comments this week, mostly in a supportive tone. For starters, two readers shared their take on a massive fam trip that recently took place in Jamaica. Geraldine Simpson was there, and is apparently thrilled with the results, stating:

I attended the 9/10-13/10 and it was the best I have ever attended. We had the chance to really experience various properties and excursions and were able to really see the island from many angles. Professionalism of the staff at every venue I visited was at its best.  Keep up the good work Jamaica. You have my vote and my clients.

Meanwhile, Richard Post is adding his two cents, reminding agents of another supplier he believes deserves recognition, writing:

Let's not forget about Riu Hotels that also hosted agents and did a great job if I don't say so myself.

I went to Jamaica with my family when I was six years old and I remember it was all I could color/write about in class the following weeks. In 2004, my roommate and grad school went there and had to mind his tongue upon return due to my immense jealousy of not being able to go. In my opinion, Jamaica can sell itself, but it's great to see the island's investment in agents.

In regards to the Jamaica trip, Geraldien thinks such an opportunity would be a great benefit for the island of St. Croix. After reading a report about an increase in arrivals to the U.S. Virgin Islands, she commented:

Having lived in the USVI, I would still like to see them promote St. Croix a little more.  Perhaps do a fam such as the one Jamaic did, but of course on a smaller scale since there aren't as many hotels.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Perhaps someone should make a call, or send me the number so I can make the call for them.

Ending with a Nice Endorsement

Ruthanne Terrero recently attended Nexion's annual conference, where she analyzed how the purchase of Nexion by Tzell will affect agents. According to one reader, no matter what happens as a consequence is just fine as long as Jackie Friedman remains at the helm. Cindy Rake shard:

Thank goodness Tzell had the insight to keep Jackie and her crew, they do a great job.  Nexion would not be the same nor would it be as sucessful with them. Now if Nexion would just improve the tech department's attitude and response time it would be near perfect.

It's always nice to end the Weekly Wrap on a positive note. But don't let the conversation die here. We always want to hear from you and take your comments to heart, especially if they can benefit other travel professionals in an engaging dialogue. So keep the comments coming. Post them below or at the original articles. You can also write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page. Of course, you can always participate in conversations in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents.

Talk to you next week...

August 13, 2010

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: August 9-13

There's no doldrums in August this year. I expected a long and hard scouring to bulk up the Wrap this week because I'm used to this part of the year involving a slow media cycle among numerous summer vacations. Not in 2010. In addition to a plethora of news that broke, dialogues have expanded and a cursed category of comments just won't go away. Let's take a look.

The Big News

For the travel industry, two significant events took place this week: Unique Vacations terminated its wholesaler agreement with Apple Vacations, and the ME Cancun announced plans to become an all-inclusive resort that allows non-guests access to the property and amenities. Both caught the attention of several readers.

ME Cancun

Speaking about ME Cancun's decision, Karen said:
I think it would be okay if the non-guests are there to attend a wedding or family celebration. Otherwise, I would not feel good about staying at a resort where non-guests get the same amenities. I wouldn't book it for myself!

But over at our Facebook page, one agent felt otherwise.

Kerr Berr wrote:
Sounds like a win-win to me! Money from the day pass, and a chance frequent travelers will like what they see & plan a visit there.

Based on the comments at our Facebook page as well as the article, looks like most agents aren't too thrilled about this decision. It will be interesting to see how this business model plays out.

Unique & Apple

The news about Unique Vacations ending its agreement with Apple Vacations broke a day or so after ME Cancun made its announcement, and readers were quick to respond. Both nina and Ken Johnson cite a top resort company when expressing their opinion.

Ken Johnson commented:
All Sandals is doing is hurting themselves.They need every wholesaler then can get to book their properties. it doesn't cost them to do it. They are not wanting to have Apple which owns Secrets,dreams,and,Now to not be in competition with their property since Apple can push people to Secrets.

nina added:
Looks like Sandals doesn't like the Secrets competition. I smell sour grapes.

Like I said about ME Cancun, it will be interesting to see how this decision plays out. I'm no insider, but I'm sure Pike will keep us posted.

More on Medical Tourism

In the most recent Weekly Wrap (I was out on a three-day vacation last week and will be next week for anyone who actually misses me) the big issue of week was medical tourism. I'll let you check back at was discussed through the link above, but here's the latest addition to the conversation on the matter.

Kathie De shared some news about companies that appear to have a strong footing in the niche already, sharing:
American Marketng Group, parent company of Travelsavers, TWIN and NEST announced their new venture into "Wellness Travel" at their convention in June. They are on the cutting edge of this new revenue opportunity.

Jack Schafer, who spoke with George Dooley in the initial article and added some comments afterward, returned to address a statement made my Kathie (not the same Kathie as Kathie D whose comment is above... at least I think it's not the same Kathie as Kathie D). He stated:
Kathie... WellBeing travel is perhaps the most "forward thinking and capable" travel consortium that is developing a business model to serve the Medical Tourism Industry, and with AMG they have the agencies and resources in place to make this happen. This article speaks of developing the conduit between the two INDUSTRIES - Travel and Medical Tourism, and no one company is going to "own" this $20 Billion industry. Each travel provider will develop their “niche”… and if done right, they will become successful. This is not a one company industry, and the successful blending of the Medical Tourism Industry, into the Travel and Tourism industry is a win-win for everyone – especially those 5 (est) Million patients that are depending on us to get it right. 
I certainly applaud Rick and Anne Marie in their ability to foresee the tremendous potential of Medical Tourism. They are Pioneers and exactly the kind of company that the Medical Tourism industry needs.

Looks like a lot of companies are becoming players in this niche travel market. Hopefully agents can take advantage. If anyone out there wants to cite another company of interest when it comes to medical tourism, please share a comment below or at the original article.

A Traveler's Take

The more you know about a property, the easier it is to sell it, or, perhaps, advise against staying at it. Such may be the case when it comes to the new La Plage Resort in Sicily. We recently posted a news brief about its opening, and one reader already has some criticism to share.

Bettina Eisengrein warned:

I have visited this hotel in July: What they do not publish is that the hotel is located directly at the train tracks. Very noisy. The rooms are incredible small: 19m² and that the stuff hardly speaks English. The Beach Club's seating is so narrow that you can hear your neighbours breathing. Not recommendable for the discerning traveller.

That's not the news you want to hear about a new property, but I'd like to play the role of a devil's advocate who has no experience with the hotel in question;

*    Being close to the train tracks certainly makes for easy transfers and can save travel time. Is it the train's noise itself that is the issue or does the track's rumbling shake the hotel? Is there a lot of noise from car, taxi or passenger traffic?
*    I'm a bit confused about what 19m² means. If it's 19 meters by 19 meters, that's not too small. One meter equals approximately 3.2808399 feet; so 19 meters equals 62.3359581 feet. Multiplying 62.3 by 62.3 produces 3,881.29 square feet. That sounds huge. Perhaps you are saying the room is only about 62.3 feet in total? Now that is small. But then again, it's a boutique hotel.
*    It is nice to have staff that speaks perfect English if it is your primary and/or sole language. Perhaps this boutique hotel is targeting domestic travel or authenticity through it's Italian roots?
*    Beach Clubs tend to be loud no matter what, right? Combine sunshine, liquor, leisure and customers, and you have a lot to talk about.

Anyone else out there have something to share about the property? Post a comment below or at the original article.

Security for Airports or Passengers?

It's been nearly a decade since airport security became analyzed through the figurative microscope so closely. Privacy and safety are the primary concerns by those one either side of any issue on the situation. In April, Dooley shared some data from a Travel Leaders study that reported most Americans feeling comfortable with the current state of airline security. In July, it received a pretty entertaining from a reader named wimpie, who compared airline security to Gestapo. Now, another reader chimes in on the matter. Mike shares a take on privacy concerns that— using the term very loosely— is semi-similar to that of crazy wimpie, only more sane and diligent, posting:

Next month full body scanners are going to be installed at the three New York airports. TSA better put up signs informing the people of the possible health hazard. Most people don't know about the radiation these machines zap you with. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk. The American people have the right to know, and it should be their decision if they want to go through those scanners, they need to be informed though. If signs aren't posted, my crew will be at all 3 airports handing out flyers and interviewing people, letting them know how their government is deceiving them again.

As the saying goes, the children are our future. So I certainly hope expecting mothers are well aware of the potential hazards of full body scanners. I haven't done the research on potential effects, so I won't blindly assume Mike is 100 percent correct, but it's nice to see he cares so much. Seriously.

The Older Orbitz Story

Orbitz's new program which offers travel agents commissions is a big industry story for 2010. In February, the company's vice president of corporate communications addressed agents and readers at our Facebook page. That same story recently recevied a comment from Anant, who said:
I am not knocking there business model it is obviously successful but I think Orbitz is underestimating the memory of Travel Agents.

I'd like to suggest Anant check out our exclusive report in which Orbitz addressed the traditional travel agent community for more.

Enough, Seriously

Pet Airways is a new service that provides flights for pets only. It's a great service. But we are not Pet Airways and cannot keep answering questions about it. Time after time, after time, after time again, readers post comments on our initial story about the company asking us to work miracles or assuming we are Pet Airways. The latest is Linda Burns who requested:

I need to ship a Collie LA to BALTIMORE---would love to use your service but it is at least DOUBLE any other airline. You say we need an extra large crate--we show and travel and always use a #400 crate - a large medium. Is that why you charge so much? Thank you, also- is the price one way or round trip???? You quote the same for both.....Thank you, Linda Burns

I'm near the end of the plank here. If we get one more reader asking us a question as if we are the airline and not realizing that we are a media outlet that is reporting about the airline, I am going to have to put a disclaimer on the article. And that's just embarrassing.

As always, I hope agents and readers keep the conversations going. I'm out next week but will be back for a Wrap on August 27, and hope I find plenty of user feedback at our site, at our Facebook page, at our Twitter page, or at AgentNation.

Until then...

December 11, 2009

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: December 7-11

It's below freezing in New York City today for the first time since the first quarter of 2009, and temperatures breached the 60-degree mark just last week. If I were an activist, or perhaps if I were just active, I'd be up in arms about the climate summit in Copenhagen this week as I wonder why I am sweating one day (in December) before freezing the next.

Instead, there's been other questions occupying my mind, such as, "how the hell did the Pittsburgh Steelers (last year's Super Bowl champions) lose to the Cleveland Browns (coached by a man who was fortunately let go from my New York Jets) last night?" and "will James Cameron's Avatar live up to the hype when it comes out next week?" The fact that the film merges three major elements from Cameron's best films (aliens, machines and super soldiers) into one screening, leads me to believe that I'll be satisfied enough.

 

Also on my mind, of course, is what the readers of TravelAgentCentral.com have been saying during the past week. Most have been talking about what one can assume most travel professionals would enjoy discussing: Caribbean islands, Mexico beaches, cruises, making money, and, of course... YTB! Yes, they're back. Lets' take a look.

Why More YTB?

We came so close to going a full month without mentioning YTB in the weekly wrap, but you can't appreciate the holiday spriti without a grinch. Not to say that I consider a reader named Jeff a grinch, but what he posted as a response to JJ's comment on a lawsuit against YTB in Illinois may damper his mood, as well as Tracy's. Jeff wrote:

JJ: Seems your GED advice applies equally to "real" travel agents; read Tracy's comments. Sue the CTC she is, also is English impaired.

Ah, that sweet, sweet buzz of banter and babble that doesn't address an issue but gets personal. I almost missed it, much like someone who once lived near an airport must miss the sound of planes taking off and landing after they move into a new home.

Addressing Antigua Again

Last week, I cited a comment made by a reader named pellucid about the crime rate on the island of Antigua. The comment was posted on a Luxury Travel Expo report about Antigua's promotion of its luxury product. This week, a reader who chose the name of Good Luck responded to pellucid's comment, stating:

Antigua is a beautiful island with so much to offer...sadly in a tourism-based economy it's going to take a lot more than a few decent PR hits to entice visitors from abroad to go and spend. Frugality and conservation are power-words in everyone's vocab these days ....and as pellucid so inaccurately pointed out, there are a lot of negative incidents that paint a terrible picture of this island paradise. Addressing domestic issues first, then showing your best face to the rest of the world would be you're greatest asset right now ANU... I've got unconditional love for you, but the rest of the world needs to be reminded of what a gem you truly are...

Good Luck, whoever you are, those are some pretty words. Sounds like Renee DeSuza, and the rest of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism could use your talents in promoting the island. What do you say? Shall we make some calls?

Pike Does Me A Solid

Recently, we published a story by Joe Pike about his visit to Cuba because, although the story is not released in print until later, we just could not wait to see how readers would respond... and respond they did. J August was the first to spout of, writing:

What a pile of hooey, whoever wrote it spent more time on the internet than in Cuba.
Majority of rooms are not in Northern Havana and there are 1.5 golf courses in all of Cuba, one 9 hole in Havana and one 18 hole in Varadero and Hemingway hung out at the Floridita

Pike obviously took the opportunity to retort the comments made by J August and a few others, and I can't thank him enough not only for taking some time off my hands but for engaging the audience further with his responsive piece. I could cut and paste it all for you hear but, as you just read, I enjoy taking time off my hands. So read his original report on Cuba here and catch his response to comments here, where you can see others have shared their opinion as well.

Is Anyone Here A Marine Biologist?

Staying on the topic of our Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America editor, another Pike report this week was on Cancun's beach recovery project, which will add tons of sand to the destination's shores. Sounds like a good idea, right? Not according to Andrew Seligman, who posted:

According to recent reports, by changing the shapes of the sand structures they risk the destruction of coral reefs and disruption of other marine life.

My brother was a biology major at Duke University and he concentrated somewhat in marine biology. So I'll check in with him to get his take and fill Andrew and Joe in about it later. But until then I can't say whether I think this beach project in Cancun is good or bad for the local habitat. But I will see that it seems like so many other environmental issues in that one solution may spawn another problem. For instance, solar power sounds like a fabulous idea for renewable energy that is eco-friendly. But mass usage would require tons of water, which could certainly intensify drought fears. On a lighter note, did anyone get my "Seinfeld" reference in the sub-headline?

 

What's Your Opinion on Cruise Rebates?

We asked our readers if they thought cruise rebating was getting better or worse, or staying the same in 2009 and as several voted, one shared their two cents. Azzouz Amirouche shared:

We only do it when we have to match a price. Most of the time we have the best price and amenities anyway thanks to our wonderful consortium, Signature travel network!

A nice enorsement for your consortium, Azzouz (BTW feel free to give your consortium a shoutout via comment here). As of now, the majority of voters appear cruise rebating is getting worse. Anyone disagree? Anyone agree but want to add some detail and clarity?

Words to Work by in 2010

As is to be expected, Ruthanne Terrero recently shared some encouraging words and sound advice for agents who are anxious to shrug off the rough patches that were in 2009 and look toward promising times in 2010. Her advice on setting a 2010 strategy struck a chord with one Dilworth E Daley, who commented:

I fully agree with all the words stated here. I will follow whats said here also.

Dilworth, I am sure Ruthanne appreciates your feedback. Please let us know about the success you find after following what was said. You can share it with us here, you can e-mail me at kcassels@questex.com, and you can share it with all of your peers at AgentNation, the online social community for all types of travel agents. While you're there, you can share some other tips of the trade with your peers and get some in return.

Until next week...

November 20, 2009

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 16-20

Since the last time we last chatted, I've been a pretty busy guy. On Thursday, November 12 (my brother Sean Cassels' birthday— sorry buddy but I had to be somewhere), I flew down to Aruba and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino while covering Hyatt's Travel Agent Awards. Yes, I was in Aruba but it wasn't like I was splashing around in the Caribbean Sea the whole time. I took a property tour, seen in the video below, and am still working on my follow-up for the next print edition of Travel Agent.

Upon my return, I had to perform my civil duty by participating in the justice squad... that is attend jury duty for two days. Fortunately, being married to a legal marketer and the offspring of a doctor and nurse gave the lawyers plenty of reason to excuse me from a medical malpractice case (Attention patient: next time try medical tourism).

Now back in the chilly Northeast and away from near sequestration, I see that this whole Twilight New Moon is the big deal this weekend, Sarah Palin's book tour is mainstream media's dream come true, and professional sports should change the label on marijuana from recreational drug to performance enhancer as Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum has been busted for possession of pot (not too long after Michael Phelps was caught smoking after winning eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics).

But as exhilarating as brawling teenage vampires and werewolves, former vice presidential candidates, and hippy athletes may be, we've got other topics to discuss here this week, so let's take a look.

Hate Them, Can't Leave Them

George Dooley's feature piece on airline fees and how they may lead to more disaster in the industry broached familiar territory for travel agents and their clients. One reader, John, shares a recent experience he had and touches on it to iterate his take on where airline baggage fees are leading us, saying:

I was on a flight a few weeks ago when a small passenger was trying to put a large heavy bag in the overhead bin. She lost control of it and injured another passenger who was seated under that spot. If she had been allowed to check that bag for free, the other passenger would not have been injured. I can see what is coming - weigh the passenger and all the bags and charge accordingly. That way everyone is paying their fare share. Run the airlines like a freight company - it cost so much per pound to transport from point A to point B. Charge what it actually costs, plus 15 percent profit and everyone will be happy.  Then the airlines can compete again on who has the best meals and best service.

I have to disagree with John's point that everyone will be happy. Something tells me only new problems would arise (especially for agents getting phone calls from clients complaining that they cannot board and that they feel fat). Meanwhile, he could be right about treating passengers like cargo. After all, United Airlines is implementing a pay-more-to-fly-if-you-are-fat policy while Ryanair customers are heavily in favor of a "fat tax" for obese passengers.

Stuck Between A Terminal & A Jetway

Continuing with the air travel and passenger theme, I'd like to address a comment made by Katy about the best airports for getting stranded. She asks:

Being a travel agent, this info will be helpful when choosing connection cities for my clients. Would you be able to expandy on this list and tell us more?

Katy, glad to help. For starters, click through the related story link about the 10 best and worst airports for sleeping, where you'll get more informatio about other airports.

From my personal experience, I can name two airports and one terminal where I've been stuck for awhile and was not destroyed by the experience. Chicago's O'Hare airport may be famous for delays, but its easy access to public transportation to the center of the city and back was quite convenient when I had a five-hour layover there back in 2004. With 90-minutes of roundtrip travel time, I was able to enter the Windy City and grab a beer while watching Bears fans throw a conniption over one Rex Grossman.

Meanwhile, as much as I understand many would not want to visit Philadelphia (I lived there for two years), it's airport is also easily accessible/departable via the city thanks to public transportation.

Finally, as much as New York's JFK is a living hell for some, JetBlue's Terminal 5 is pretty kick-ass. The free Wifi, array of shops and dining, the salon (in which I have not yet partaken but have heard good things) and the proximity of bar service near all gates was quite ideal as I journeyed to Aruba last week (granted the Bloody Mary the bartender comped me to bring on the plane my have slanted my judgment here).

But I am just on person, and I am not an agent, so what say you readers? Can you help Katy and I expand on this list of airports where it's not so bad to get stuck?

American Airlines, Anxiety & Angst

There were two stories we recently published that invovled American Airlines (AA) which received some interesting comments. This first was about the ongoing tussle between AA and Virgin Atlantic over Japan Airlines (JAL). I have no opinion on the matter, so I'm steering clear of who I would say is right or wrong in this situation. But it appears an AA employee, going by the name Ryan M, felt the need to state his company's case on the matter, writing:

Once again, Virgin’s comments are long on accusations and rhetoric and short on the facts. American is opposed to a Delta-Japan Airlines (JAL) tie-up for the same reason we are confident our transatlantic immunity application will be approved: to preserve and enhance competition.
SkyTeam with a Delta-JAL combination would account for nearly 60 percent of U.S.-Tokyo passengers, as opposed to oneworld’s approximate 44 percent share of U.S.-London passengers. AA and British Airways only account for about 40 percent of U.S.-U.K. traffic, whereas Delta-JAL would consolidate the positions of the two largest U.S.-Japan carriers with more than 60 percent share of U.S.-Japan passengers, leaving oneworld with just a 6 percent share.
The bottom line is we’re aiming to level the playing field for alliance competition in the transatlantic market and to prevent an unlevel field for alliance competition from evolving in the transpacific.

Ryan, it's an honor having your eyes perusing our site. I am not taking sides here, but I'll say I had a pleasant experience flying AA from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then over to St. Thomas for my recent honeymoon before flying back from St. Thomas to Miami and then back up to New York (and yes, the Miami airport deserves its placement in the top five airports for getting stranded mentioned above), so if you want to help me out with another flight sometime I'd be very happy. I've never flown Virgin, if that helps persuade you :)

Another commentator had some curious words to share about AA, but they were not in defense of the airline nor about its competition with other carriers. This time, it was about the recent announcement that ARC and AA are going to develop a dupicate ID tool to avoid mishaps with overbooking flights. Sounds like an interesting idea, but for NYC Travel Agent it sounds a little Orwelian, sharing:

I'm very curious on how a fool-proof system will be created to make matches on duplicate bookings?Something tells me they will use their access to now-required APIS & Secure Flight data in order to create the cross-check ...legal use? Privacy matters?

I think something being so publicized and, hopefully, regulated could avoid trouble related to NYC Travel Agent's concerns, but I'm not industry expert and the only type of law I am adept at is communicaiton law (say whatever you want as long as it's true). Privacy concerns will never go away. Hardcore liberals accuse the government of using security as a reason to invade privacy whereas hardcore conservatives say healthcare reform will contribute to the removal of our civil liberties. But I think NYC Travel Agent is right in raising this issue right away. Does anyone else share his concern or, perhaps, think he/she is getting too paranoid like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory?

What's In A Word?

Hurricane Ida has come and gone and seems to have been the worst of the season. It sadly killed hundreds in El Salvador before disrupting many cruise itineraries in the Gulf Coast region near Florida and Alabama. Our own Dave Eisen wrote about the subject, choosing "Hurricane Ida Wreaks Havoc Along Gulf Coast" as the headline, and one reader did not agree on the choice of verb and adjective. Paul Graber, commented:

I think the headline is sending out the wrong message.

Because Paul neglected to share what in the headline was wrong and what he thinks a better message would have been, it's not easy to answer this statement precisely. On one hand, I think anyone who was on those cruise ships or about to embark would consider trip cancelation and storm-battling havoc. On the other hand, when places like Panama City report that the storm left them "unscathed," then perhaps the headline was a tad dramatic. Still go you to read it though, right?

Crucon Cruise: Good or Bad?

In the last weekly wrap, I addressed Maria Jones' critical comments on the company and asked readers to reply in agreement with or in contrast against Ms. Jones. Peter Blank answered the call, stating:

I have found Leana and CruCon customer service to be responsive and especially quick to apply price reductions.

Thank you Peter for chiming in. We now have one for and one against the company, so who is going to jump in and be the tiebreacker in this rubber match of comments? Anyone? Anybody? Bueller?

BTW, YTB

Guess who's back?! Don't be surprised, YTB remains one of the more highly-contested topics of conversation round these parts of the Internet. So when Dooley reported on the company's third-quarter earnings (or lack thereof?), it was only a matter of moments for someone to chime in. And that someone was Jay, who asked:

Will someone please pull the plug on this scam?

It may take awhile Jay. Despite YTB's court troubles in California as well as in Illinois, it is likely not going away anytime soon. Fallout from court settlements can take forever (I know from experience as I await word on what's happening after Tishman Speyer lost its appeal of a class action lawsuit over rent stabilization in Stuyvesant Town neighborhood). Best of luck to all of us, eh?

Beauty Queen Babble

No, we're not talking about Sarah Palin's stint as a beauty queen contestant nor are we talking about Carrie Prejean's little display on Larry King, we are talking about Miss Texas USA Brooke Daniels. We have mentioned her a few times before as a result of her attendance at the Miss Spain contest in Cancun, and some people are ANGRY! Check the comments for yourself, because this latest one, posted by someonewhoknows, just has me confused:

I don't understand how people can judge from afar???? I wonder what they thought about the stockers who were obviously watching them the whole time.....you are just sad girls who dont have lifes!! Btw thier mother is beautiful and far from preggers!

I think someonewhoknows means stalkers, not stockers. That aside, as amusing as I find this I am confused as to a story can elicit such raw emotion from some commentators, which then only spawn more craziness. But I'm not going to complain, it makes this part of me week that more interesting. Anyone else want to throw some turpentine on this brush fire?

Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, I won't be writing the Weekly Wrap next week so we'll be in touch again later in the month. Until then, don't forget to keep these conversations and topics of discussion going in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online that is for all kinds of travel agents and professionals. Log in and/or sign up today.

September 11, 2009

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: September 7 - 11

There's a lot of wind and rain in New York City today— as if spirits are flying and crying at the same time. As our country continues to move on from the September 11, 2001 tragedy, we must never forget the day and the people affected. So today, I'd like to publicy remember Tyler Ugolyn, an All-American high school basketball player and a world-class friend to me and so many others. Ty had a way of making many of us smile and laugh, even during the toughest of times. So as much as I did not wake this morning in the snarkiest of moods, it's time to have some fun with the comments some of our readers posted this week. Love and miss you, #34.

More Messing with Miss Texas

In July, Miss Texas USA Brooke Daniels traveled down to Cancun in Mexico to assist in the Miss Spain contest, which had been moved south this year because of the economic strain of production at home. While many at the pageant were appreciative of Daniels' support, it appears that several readers were not that impressed with her (or her sister)— inclusing Lisa Laney, who commented:

I was there also and the sister was knocking the drinks down and she is def not 21. Oh, in Mexico I guess it is OK! Mama don't care. THey were all wearing loads of makeup and you could tell the hair was fake. Sister is desperate.

ME-OW! The Daniels girls must have done something outrageous, because this isn't the first time that aggressive comments were posted about them. Seeing that no one has come to the defense of the beauty queen and her sister, one must wonder if they were stand-up representatives of their state and country.

I Lost My Hotel Rate in San Francisco

This economic downturn has consumers and travel professionals scouring for and obsessing about the best rates and bargains one can find, and I don't blame them. So when Carole inquired about some discrepancies between information she found and information George Dooley shared in an article about the top 10 wallet-friendly hotels in the country, I empathize with her concern. She wrote:

not sure were you got the info for the Orchard garden hotel, San Fran. but i checked the rates and for Oct. they start @ $296.00. is there a special site for these rates?

As much as I empathize, Carole, I must point out the George cites from where he got the information (TravelPost) in the very first sentence of the story. Also, perhaps travel to San Francisco is in higher demand in October when compared to the spring. After all, the month of October brings the San Francisco Jazz Festival to town, along with Fleet Week, 49ers games, Giants games, and more. I bet that's got something to do with the price difference.

The War Against the Machines Rages On

Anytime someone posts a comment about the competition between human travel agents and online travel agencies I get excited because it gives me an excuse to drop a sci-fi cinema reference, as I have in the past with The Terminator and Transformers. So this week, I'm just going to share the trailer for the upcoming Bruce Willis movie, The Surrogates, which looks kind of cool.

 

 

And now back to the comments.

When reading about the competition between travel agents and online tour sellers, Vijay Rimal, a tour operator from Nepal, shares some encouraging words for agents, saying:

Being a tour operator i think online sale is good for the customers, but there is risk factor, might be the customer will not have when they land in their destination. So passenger must verify the agent.

Although Vijay is just one person (at least I assume), it's good to see that U.S. agents aren't the only ones analyzing the benefits that a human brings to the table when planning a trip for clients.

Meanwhile (although the story isn't necessarily about competition between humans and machines), a recent article about positive data from an online travel agency, as well as an online travel platform, that hints that the demand for leisure travel is increasing, struck a chord with a reader named treebadger, who shared:

it's got to be all inclusive nowadays, great article

With the peace-of-mind and value that all-inclusive resorts can provide these days, it's hard to disagree with Mr./Ms. treebadger, especially when an all-inclusive operator such as Sandals is expanding. Hopefully, it will be more than all-inclusives that soon begin to rebound out of the recession. And yes, although I am subjective, it is a great article. You can always count on Dooley to deliver solid industry reports, and we are going to miss Alexia Dellner, who interned with us for months before returning to her homeland in Sweden.

As always, you can discuss these topics and more in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for ALL types of travel agents. Sign up or log in now!

See you next week, friends.

August 21, 2009

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments August 17-21

President Obama recently said that everyone in Washington gets all "wee weed up" come late August through early September. The same can be said for the readers and users of TravelAgentCentral.com. They are not getting excited about health care, thank goodness, but plenty of travel related topics instead. So, here we go...

Catching Up Via The Weekly Wrap

In last week's wrap up, I cited a comment by Carol, who was seeking feedback from John Frenaye on the ongoing debacle about multilevel marketing companies and certain controversial companies discussed on this site (such as JoyStar and YTB). For those that didn't read last week (shame on you first of all), here is Carol's query again:
For john Frenaye: you stated you knew many host agencys that charge no fee to join and no website fee with a 80% split. Could you please email me a list. I am all over that one.

Fortunately, John responded right away on the wrap up, posting:
Tell her to look at Nexion, Outside Agents, GTM, TPI, essentially any host. They all have various programs from no fee (larger split to host) to minimal fee with greater split to the agent.

Carol, I hope that helps, not only because it helps you but because it also demonstrates the ability for agents and readers to connect here at TravelAgentCentral.com.

Get With The Times

Another popular topic discussed in last week's wrap up was the ongoing competition between human travel agents and online travel agencies (OTA). After sharing Lisa Sweet's request that we do not imply that OTAs and real travel agents are similar, a reader named Boen commented on the same report that OTAs are reporting an increase in leisure travel demand, saying:

Yes, they are travel agencies. I don't work for them but I can tell ALL people out there, these are travel agencies. More are coming on line.
We are living on the 21st century and soon will be 22nd, It is Called a "Paradigm Shift". If they are not the real TA, what about this, All the Fast Food outlets we know are not the the Real restaurant, but they are serving foods. We like it or not, we buy the food there. Do we drive cars? Why no body complaints about it. Just riding horses instead. Want to go to The Bahamas? Take a wooden schooner and row it to the Bahamas. Why people taking cruise ships then? These are all about the change in the business and it always for the better.
So, let's face it and accept the reality that more online travel agecies are coming. Like it or not we have no choice. Live with it. Can't beat them, join them!! Why fighting against the stream?

As I've said before, I'm not a travel professional and therefore do not have a strong opinion on the matter. I understand Lisa's statement in that real agents want to establish themselves as the better option in that they can provide better service and a more natural connection with the consumers.

However, Boen has a point. When I graduated college and made my way through graduate school for journalism, it was a little disconcerting to see the print industry continue to die off as bloggers in their pajamas began staking a claim online with their own analysis and stories. But here I am today working in a similar fashion to those bloggers I once considered unprofessional or a threat. The world's changing, my industry's changing, and so is the travel industry. I believe we can all adapt will maintaining our own values and identity.

Sunny Skies Ahead

While Joe Pike was in Cancun last week, he met with the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, who said that "the worst is over" for the region's economic and tourism troubles. Considering the trouble Mexico has had, from gang violence the H1N1/swine flu scare, that is indeed good news for many, including those who shared their excitement with comments on Joe's report.

Nanci Benefiel said:
Great for Cancun. All resort towns in Mexico have suffered from this "perfect storm" but glad to hear things are picking up. Seem to be picking up a bit for Cabo San Lucas as well.

Michael Hennes shared:
It's been a long time since we have sent clients from California to Cancun. Business is the worst I have ever seen. I hope that 2010 will be a better year as ... it's the worst since 9/11

cancunissafe.com (I didn't know websites could talk!) commented:
Thats GREAT NEWS! Congratulations! We are doing our part to help promote Cancun & create positive awareness through our web portal www.cancunissafe.com ; feel free to check it out, and if you'd like to talk about social media marketing & campaigns for the Ritz Cancun, drop us a line! Cheers from Cancun!

As the colder months in North America await on the horizon, hopefully the warm tourism destinations in Mexico will begin seeing an uptick in travel to the area. Also, hopefully travel professionals will make their clients happy, because it seems that one traveler, named Juan Alfaro, is none to pleased with his agency, saying:
"BEST DAY" I make a reservation at this agency and its bills department is the worst. They don't give you the bill when they say (they say that maximum 48 hours you have your bill and thats not true). I waiting for my bills more than 8 days.

Has anyone else out there worked with Best Day the travel agency? If so, Juan could see some help. If not, well, perhaps there's a potential client out there waiting for you to provide the service he's seeking.

Charge!

A few weeks ago, Mike Browne posted a poll on Home-Based Travel Agent asking if home-based agents feel they should charge service fees. Needless to say, in this tough economic climate, many feel they should indeed get some extra money for their work. Reader Bernadine Torres
explained why when commenting on the poll's results, saying:
Yes, what about all the ink, paper, pens, postage samps, envelopes, sometime FedX overnite--it costs to buy supplies-Service fees are charge for eveything now- so Why Not!

I think Bernadine makes a solid point, don't you?

Does something seem light or missing this week? Maybe that's because I'm not sharing any comments on YTB. There were a few comments shared this week but I think everyone gets the point by now: many are against YTB and many are for it. If anything, I hope this week's wrap up of comments proves that there is way more to discuss here at TravelAgentCentral.com than YTB. It's been great reading your feedback on Mexico, OTAs, service fees, and other matters, as I feel these discussions are more valuable to agents and readers than bickering over a single company. So please come back and come often. And don't forget, you can alway discuss a plethora of topics at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents. Sign up or log in today!

Have a great weekend my friends.

July 31, 2009

Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments July 27-31

Alas, we enter the eighth month with 42 percent of 2009 to go. I don't know about you, but the year for me has been long yet gone by quickly— an interesting paradox. But now August approaches, bringing New York's hazy-hot-and-humid days with it, and I think the heat is getting to a lot us. Just look at the comments that readers have been posting online, and you'll see what I mean.

Lost In Translation

Before we get into the nitty gritty of some things that were said on TravelAgentCentral.com, I'd prefer to start on a more refreshing note. When Jena Tesse Fox wrote a brief on the Turkish Culture & Tourist Office launching an official YouTube channel to promote travel to Turkey, a reader posted two words on our message board that I've never seen or heard before. Jessan Dunn Otis wrote:
Cok guzel!

At first, I figured it was a spammer or perhaps some poor spelling. Either a spyware bot was bothering us or Jessan suggesting we grab a can of Coke and guzzle it down on a hot summer day. After a brief perusing of translations and pages out there on the Internets, I discovered that "Cok guzel," in Turkish, means "Turkey is beautiful!"

I've never been to Turkey, but after watching the video below, I agree with Jessan:

The place where Europe, Asia and the Middle East converge must be fascinating.

Messing With Miss Texas

Beauty queens make for some great news stories, don't they? In 2006, Donald Trump and  Rosie O'Donnell went to war over the airwaves after Trump allowed Miss USA Tara Conner to keep her title after reports that she had been drinking underage, tested positive for cocaine, and kissed Miss Teen USA Katie Blair. Earlier this year, Carrie Prejean answered a question from Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. (aka Perez Hilton) about gay marriage and immediately became a champion of the right wing and target of the left wing.

Now, we have an exclusive report by a reader about the behavior of Miss Texas USA Brooke Daniels. The pageant queen recently visited Cancun in Mexico to assist in the Miss Spain Pageant, which had been moved to Mexico due to the economic strain of production. "Everyone has been very nice," Daniels said. She must not have run into Lisa Iewis Ishman, who does not have nice things to say about the Texan, commenting:
I was staying at this beautiful resort when Miss Texas was here and must say that she did not conduct herself as a representative of the Lone Star State. She and her sister always had a drink in their hands and spent hours upon hours posing by them selves in provocative poses as their grandmother/chaperone clicked away. Certainly not like the Miss Universe of the '70's that was my cousin. These girls reminded me of that Paris Hilton. Very sad indeed.

That's a shame to hear, but shouldn't be that surprising, should it? Young Americans plus travel to Cancun rarely result in the most admirable or professional of behavior (Spring Break anyone?). Although rumor has it that type of wildness is abating just a bit. Still, as much as Miss Texas may not have been on her best behavior, she could have embarrassed herself and her state in much worse ways. Remember Miss South Carolina in the Miss Teen USA Pageant in 2007?

See what I mean?

More On United Airlines

Whether it's the proposed policy change on credit card cost transfers, or a country singer crooning about how his guitars broke, we've been covering many stories on United Airlines as of late. For awhile, most readers commented on how agents and agencies should unite in opposition to the airline and stop selling tickets for the carrier.

But there's now a tangent opinion being shared by one Alan Fiermonte who, we should note, has cited poor financial performance at ASTA, started a campaign for ASTA's national director election, been disqualified from running, and has recently resigned from the ASTA. Commenting on George Dooley's piece titled "ASTA Urges Agents to Fight United, Contact Congress," Fiermonte wrote:
Take a look at OpenSecrets.org ASTA PAC 2008 contributions to Arcuri and Velazquez and you'll see why Arcuri is out front on this. Due to his slight victory in the last election, he has a RNC targeted campaign in upstate NY and very little money. And ASTA PAC's latest FEC report on 7/15/09 shows more money flowing to Arcuri.

If I were well-versed in the the operations of ASTA, United, and campaigns, I would share my two cents here. But I'm not. Therefore, I leave it open to you, readers. Take a look at the site and help me out. Does Fiermonte's citation raise legitimate questions? Does his recent history of criticism and campaigning skew his view?

War Of Words

Saving the best for last, it's time to talk about YTB (yet again). The controversial company held its annual convention this week, and George Dooley interviewed one of the attendees, and staunch supporter of YTB, Doug Bauknight, to get a different perspective on the company. Needless to say, it didn't take long for several comments to come flying off the handle. See for yourself:

Lou Sthul wrote:
It looks like some of the rats haven't jumped the sinking ship - YET.

Rabbi Pedro Goldstein said:
The convention is drawing 1/3 of the people who showed up last year which was 1/2 of the people who attended the year before that. MAN THE LIFE BOATS ! !

Suraj Zutshi is looking for an even keel, commenting:
I have no idea why the conversations got so vitriolic from both sides. As a CTC and CTIE, I do resent just anyone being able to sell travel and there is consulting, advising and professional counseling. To the good RTA's lots of luck, you will probably make it but please take pride in what you do and act as professionals. Stickers on the car saying 'travel like a travel agent' is an insult to anyone in our exciting industry. When you approach the bartender, bus driver and mailman to sell a website, is NOT selling travel. That is pure hustling and that is what experienced Travel Professionals do not like. Good Luck.

bety defended:
Noone makes money without hard work. If YTB isn't for you stop complaining about it.  Seems like they must be showing success if there is so much talk and concern about it.  It works for me and many of my friends so worry about your own business and leave mine alone.

jay shared:
Whether you like what YTB does, or hate what they do, much to much time is wasted talking about it. If people spent as much time sharpening thier skills, and working hard, vs bashing a business model they dont understand or wouldnt survive in, they would flourish despite hard times. Stop crying, get selling!

Attack and defense of YTB even made its way into last week's weekly wrapup, where I playfully corrected one Charles Riggins for his confusing John McCain with George W. Bush and the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Much to his credit, Charles responded to my column, saying:
Thank you Kirk for Correcting My Mistake. It was John McCain that I was thinking of. However the message remains the same as Proven by James P. If you are on TOP, someone will always take shots at you to try and improve their position. Those that do will one day realize that you don't have to kick others or call them Names to feel good about yourself. In Life we all have choices and are free to choose as we wish. I choose YTB, you chose something else and I wish you well. Either way, in business if you don't do anything you won't make anything. Before you pass judgment, Get The Facts. If you can't see the opportunity then it’s not for you. For the facts, Email me at ytbcomments@ccjriggs.com Thanks Charles.

And who is this James P of which Charles speaks? He's a reader of course, who posted a comment before Charles, stating:
Kirk, don't reluctantly call Charles out. His actions alone demonstrate the lack of professionalism and education YTB agents have. He brags and brags (the unprofessional part) and then clearly gets the 2008 election wrong (the uneducated part). TRUE agents should not feel bad to call out amateurs with a website.

James, you should know that I am not a travel agent but a web journalist, and I'm not sure if I felt bad pointing out a minor error. And Charles, thanks for coming back to read up on what was shared and for being a good sport. Part of my goal in sharing comments from the weeks and adding my take on them is to get the readers to engage each other in some constructive dialogue that doesn't require organized meetings or scheduled face-to-face time. I'm glad that readers (whether they are against YTB or for it) are speaking their minds here at TravelAgentCentral.com, and not butting heads live at the convention. Otherwise, it would look like a South Korean parliament meeting (you'll see what I mean in the clip below).

Speaking of dialogue in real time while online, don't forget to sign up or log in to AgentNation, the only online social community for all types of travel agents. Some may not like the fact that there is a YTB group on the site, but we believe it may serve as a means for those who are a part of to engage with those who are apart from on important issues. If we were covering political news and had a social media site for political junkies, we wouldn't include one party while shunning the other. So as we cover travel industry news and seeing that YTB is clearly an ongoing issue for those within the industry, we are not throwing our support behind YTB nor are we condemning it. We providing platforms for the issue to be addressed among agents, readers and others.

December 01, 2008

A Trip to La Amada

DSC03501_240

Whereas most of the resorts we saw during our recent trip to Mexico were in either Cancun or the Riviera Maya, perhaps one of the best was located in the fairly new resort destination of Playa Mujeres. Here, we saw the much talked about La Amada resort, which may well be one of the most involved projects the Cancun area has ever seen.

Now, the project isn’t expected to be completed until next year with an opening tentatively slated for early February, but there was enough to convince us that this was a gem in the making. The hotel portion of the overall project, which also includes private residences and a 170-slip marina, is made up of about 109 rooms. The spa, which has 17 treatment rooms including four spa suites, is open to non-guests as well. The only drawback here is that the resort will house only two restaurants when it opens—but a third will most likely open shortly after, with more to follow.

The best room is the Owner’s Suite. There is only one of these. If this room looked so great while unfinished and in the dark, which is the state in which we saw it, we can only imagine how incredible it is going to be when it is done. It is a two-bedroom suite and there is a Jacuzzi located right in front of the window of the master bedroom. As the suite overlooks the ocean, the views are amazing.

Forty percent of the rooms, including the Owner's Suite, have plunge pools. We also saw one of the 14 Swim Up Suites, which have a pool located literally right outside the back door of the room. A Jacuzzi is also tucked away in the back of the room, facing the window and offering great views of the pool.

Agents should call David Munoz, marketing director, at 011-52-998-872-8566 or dmunoz@laamadahotel.com.

For more information, view www.laamada.com

Posted in: Cancun , Mexico

By: Joe Pike