November 28, 2011
The Upside of the Downturn in Greece and Beyond
When countries face economic struggles, the silver lining can often be a boost in tourism. Exchange rates become more favorable towards visitors, and local businesses are more willing to make deals.
Fox News has a list of top-value destinations for 2012, and Greece, which is battling a massive debt crisis, features prominently. The report says that Greece's hotel prices fell 4 percent across the country from 2010 (an average room now goes for $150 per night), and that rates sank 15 percent to $125 in Athens.
The Malta Independent Online is reporting that growth in visitor numbers is up by 14 percent in Greece, and that other EuroZone countries are also seeing a boost in numbers: 11 percent in Cyprus and Portugal, by 9 percent in Italy and by 8 percent in Spain, both of which have recently seen governmental overhauls.
On the flipside, German tourism numbers are also on the rise. According to CompareAway.co.uk, the figures from September 2011 show that the country had the best figures since it became a unified country more than 20 years ago. So far, the country has seen a 6 percent increase over the previous year.
And as our own George Dooley posted earlier today, IATA is seeing international air growth, particularly to Europe. "Despite the euro-zone crisis, the North Atlantic and intra-European passenger segments have been the strongest performers over the past year. The driver of this performance is most likely business-related travel generated by the strong export performance of the Northern European economies," IATA said.
Time will tell which countries will come out on top in 2012, of course, but as the financial scene in Europe rolls towards some kind of stability, the appeal of different destinations will change and shift as well.
By: Jena Tesse Fox
June 21, 2011
Paris Outdoor Summer Events
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog at www.eyepreferparis.com.
Paris sizzles in summer with loads of outdoor events all over the city. From a beach built on the Seine to fireworks at Versailles, summer promises to be most memorable.
Fete de la Musique
The summer solstice on June 21, the longest night of the year, is a time to celebrate the music of Paris. Fete de la Musique is an all night music festival held mostly outdoors in every neighborhood of the city.
Jazz, classical, rock, accordion music, hip-hop, Celtic music, and Corsican chants are just a smattering of the types of music that will be played. Started in 1982, Fete de la Musique was an initiative by the Minister of Culture to encourage amateur musicians to play their music. It is now the largest music festival in France with many other towns and city’s participating and has even spread its wings to other continents to become a world event. The fun begins at 6 p.m. and goes all night, so rock on in the parks, gardens, courtyards, streets, and squares of Paris.
Fete de La Musique
June 21 Starting at 6 p.m.
Click this link for the full information and programs
Did you know that Paris has a beach? Parisians can be seen basking in the sun on chaise lounges in their bikinis along the Seine, with no need to go to the Cote d’Azur for their St. Tropez tans. For the tenth year in a row the city of Paris will transform a section of a highway along the Seine into a beach, pouring over 6,000 tons along the banks. Not only can you work on your tan, but there are tons of other activities to enjoy including concerts, cafes, games of boule, tai-chi, sprinkle showers, ping-pong, ice cream vendors, and a swimming pool to cool off in. Remember to put on some suntan lotion.
Paris Plage 2011
July 21 to August 21
Open 8 a.m.- 12 p.m,
Grande Eaux and Jardins Musicaux and Grande Eaux Nocturnes at Versailles
Every summer at the historical Palace of Versailles, the former home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, you can explore the magnificent grounds and gardens with music in the background. Stroll through Le Notre’s classical gardens while being serenaded. At certain times the fountains jet their water high in the air to the rhythm of the music too.
In the evening it’s a much more seductive affair. The Louis XIV Royal Garden becomes a stunning visual feast. The gardens, groves, pools, and fountains are decorated with thousands of colored lights with dazzling installations of the Sun King, Louis XIV's flagship, which rise from the waters, to the lasers that will light up the sky and the spectacular vision of the giant Encelade. A very special experience that shouldn’t me missed if you are visiting Paris.
For dates and times:
May 31, 2011
International Tastes in Paris
|Paris is home to an eclectic range of tastes and cuisines, from Moroccan to Vietnamese. // (c) 2011 Richard Nahem|
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog at www.eyepreferparis.com.
Even though most visitors to Paris love to indulge in having authentic French cuisine, the city has a rich and eclectic range of restaurants serving ethnic cuisine. Many former French colonies and countries that have a strong French influence, including Vietnam, Lebanon, Senegal and Morocco, are well represented with many restaurants spread all over Paris. Here is a sampling of some of our favorites.
404 & Andy Wahloo
Paris has a very large Moroccan community and its food is among the most popular in France. 404 is a chic, fun filled dining experience with authentic Moroccan food including tagines, cous cous, mezze and kabobs. The exotic lantern-lit space with furnishings and dark Berber wood imported from Morocco makes you feel you are dining in the heart of Marrakech. Next door is Andy Wahloo (from the same owners), which is a swinging bar and lounge with sophisticated cocktails, Moroccan-style tapas, and a DJ.
404 & Andy Wahloo
69 Rue des Gravilliers, 3rd Arrondissement
Reservations are recommended
Honest Mexican food has always been one of the hardest types of food to find in Paris, as the French are not keen on spicy food. Thankfully, Candeleria, a taqueria, is changing that with its delicious, piquant Mexican fare. Its tacos, burritos, guacamole, hot salsa and other delicacies are winning over the French big time and American expats are breathing a sigh of relief now that one of their favorite cuisines is readily available. Located in the trendy Northern Marais neighborhood, Candeleria is tiny with just a few tables but has takeout. Behind the restaurant is a hidden bar that serves elaborate cocktails, Mexican beer and tequila.
52 Rue de Saintonge, 3d Arrondissement
Le Dan Bau
Tucked away on a hilly, narrow street in Montmartre is a tiny gem amongst the tourist trap restaurants. Le Dan Bau serves fresh, authentic Vietnamese food with little fanfare. Simple and delicious, the best dishes are the pho, chicken with lemongrass sauce, steamed pork dumplings and curried stews. Prices are reasonable—under 25 euros per person—for the high quality of food that is offered.
Le Dan Bau
18 Rue des Trois Freres, 18th Arrondissement
Liza is a contemporary take on ancient Lebanese cuisine. The menu offers a rich selection of mezzes, or Lebanese finger foods, and other dishes including lamb cutlets, red mullet fish with fava beans and grilled kefta with hommos and cherry tomatoes. At the space, designer Hubert Fattal has created a modern dining room reminiscent of a warm and welcoming Beirut home with accents of mother of pearl, wood and copper. L for Liza is the takeout shop located next door with sandwiches, soups, mezze and scrumptious Lebanese pastries.
14 Rue de la Banque, 2nd Arrondissement
May 17, 2011
On Site: Ancient Ruins, the Turkish Riviera and More in Turkey
While it’s only been about a day and a half since I landed in Izmir, Turkey, (http://www.travelagentcentral.com/europe/on-site-travel-agent-arrives-turkey) already this trip has been filled with plenty of unforgettable sights, sounds, tastes and experiences. Before embarking on this press trip, I admit that I didn’t know all that much about Izmir. Sure, I had heard of Istanbul and Cappadocia, but Izmir, well, that was really off the map in terms of my geographical radar. So, when I had the opportunity to travel here for Travel Agent, I couldn’t wait to find out more about it.
As Izmir’s third largest city behind the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, Izmir (formerly known as Smyrna) is an important center of commerce that occupies a prime spot along the Eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. It is also home to historical sites that include the ruins of the ancient Ionian city of Ephesus, the House of the Virgin Mary and Pergamum, the first of the ancient world’s health centers.
After arriving in Izmir and dropping my belongings off at my hotel, I headed straight for Foça, a relaxed and picturesque seaside town. Docked along its marina, your clients will find dozens of small boats and yachts and packed waterfront cafes that specialize in seafood, naturally.
The following day, we were lucky enough to take a cruise along the Bay of Izmir, enjoying a traditional Turkish breakfast buffet as our ship, the Bergama, plied the calm waters. Shortly after, we headed for the House of the Virgin Mary, the site where many people believe that Mary, mother of Jesus, was brought to live by John the Apostle, in her later years before her Assumption. While there, I was surprised by the calm and stillness that permeated the air there. Shortly after, we traveled to Sirinçe, a small Ottoman village that is known for its olive oil, wine and charming inns, for a lunch with an amazing view of rolling vineyards and olive trees.
After lunch, we spent the rest of the day exploring the ancient ruins of Ephesus. While I’ve had the chance to personally visit many ruins from the ancient world—including Israel and Jordan—it always strikes me how I never tire of being able to see these sites firsthand. The settlement that we visited was packed with international tour groups. One of the most impressive structures that we saw was the Library at Ephesus, its elaborate façade still standing after so many thousands of years.
Today, we’re headed to Cesme for a relaxing day spent at the beach. Having just endured my first winter/spring in New York as a native Angeleno, I can definitely tell you this: I’m really looking forward to it.
Expect to read more postings from my week spent here in Izmir on TravelAgentCentral.com.
May 16, 2011
On Site: New York to Izmir on Turkish Airlines
IZMIR, TURKEY—En route to Izmir, Turkey, for the weeklong "Living Izmir" press trip, Travel Agent had a chance to experience Business Class firsthand onboard Turkish Airlines, flying out of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport on Turkish Airlines’ Flight No. 2, connecting onward to Adnan Menderes International Airport in Izmir.
At JFK’s Terminal 1, business class passengers with Turkish Airlines have access to the airline’s shared CIP lounge with Korean Air. It has plenty of plush seats and armchairs, a telephone room, a fairly expansive work area and a rest area and a spread of small snacks and refreshments to keep jetsetters happy.
While flying on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, Business Class clients will immediately notice the herringbone design layout, which gives each passenger his or her own space to stretch out and unwind for the nine- or so –hours-long flight from New York to Istanbul. During the flight, business class passengers are treated to gourmet snacks, from fresh salmon canapés and a sampling of fruits and cheeses to filling entrees and an array of fine wines and spirits. The flight includes a dinner meal service, as well as a breakfast service just prior to landing in Istanbul. For breakfast service, passengers must fill out a menu request before turning down for the night following dinner.
Onboard bathroom facilities are spacious and included L’Occitane verbena-scented toiletries, and Turkish Airlines also offers a wide-range of movies, music, games and television shows from which to choose through its on-demand entertainment system.
When your clients arrive in Istanbul, be sure to advise them to obtain a visa first, which costs approximately $20, and then to pass through Passport Control. Business-class passengers with Turkish Airlines have the advantage of going through a fast-track line (look for window 30) to get through more quickly. This turned out to be a blessing for me, since my flight from JFK was delayed and I needed to make sure I got onto my flight to Izmir.
Lucky for me, I made it on time and to the domestic terminal. The flight to Izmir from Istanbul, which took place onboard a Boeing 737, was very short (a little more than an hour) and Business-Class passengers are also served a light lunch during the flight. Arriving in Izmir, clients will find a modern airport facility, perfectly suited for sending them on their way to explore the region.
Be sure to visit TravelAgentCentral.com often for more updates from Turkey throughout the week.
May 15, 2011
On Site: Travel Agent Arrives in Turkey
|A guestroom at the Moevenpick Hotel Izmir // (c) Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts 2011|
IZMIR, TURKEY—Travel Agent just arrived in Izmir, Turkey, for our press trip to explore Izmir, Turkey’s third most popular city, which is home to a history of more than 8,000 years, as well as a modern port city. Today, in fact, the city is an official candidate to host the 2020 World Expo.
While in Izmir, we are staying at the Moevenpick Hotel Izmir, a prime property located just steps away from the heart of Izmir’s Kemeralti beachside zone. We’re staying in room 507, which has a view of the water--I can even hear the sounds of the ship horns as they pass by. The room offers a king-size bed with plush linens and a nice array of amenities, from complimentary water bottles to Molton Brown toiletries and Wi-Fi accessibility. The room also features a flat-screen TV and a comfortable leather armchair for relaxing. I’m looking forward to later using the hotel gym (Coral Health Club) and the on-site restaurant, Margaux Restaurant, later in my trip.
This property seems ideal for leisure travelers who want to make the most of its ideal location—just steps from the water—and, of course, for fans of Moevenpick’s world-famous Swiss ice cream, too. More to come later from Izmir, Turkey, so please check in with TravelAgentCentral.com throughout the week for more posts.
April 17, 2011
April in Paris
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.
Spring is in the air in Paris, and nothing says spring more than the flowers blooming in the beautiful gardens of the city. Here are some of our favorite gardens boasting their buds this month.
|The Bagatelle Gardens|
The glorious Bagatelle Gardens, located inside the Bois de Boulogne Park on the border of Paris, has a most interesting history. It started as a hunting lodge built in 1720 for Maréchal d’Estrées, a marquise. Purchased in 1775 by Comet d’ Artois, Louis XVI’s brother, d’Artois tore it down and his sister-in-law Marie Antoinette wagered that he would not have the new chateau built in less than three months. She lost the bet, and d’Artois completed the stunning chateau and grounds in 63 days. The chateau and gardens were purchased by the city in 1905 and Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier created the new gardens.
The 59-acre park is most famous for its variety of more than 1,100 rosebushes with a special award given every year for the most outstanding rose. The park also features an iris garden and a pond that inspired Monet’s Water Lillies series of paintings. A festival celebrating the music of Chopin is another much-loved annual event that takes place in June.
42 Route de Sevres, 16th Arrondissement
Bois de Boulogne
Open from 10a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
|Albert Kahn Museum & Gardens|
Albert Kahn Museum & Gardens
Albert Kahn was a wealthy French banker and philanthropist living in Paris the early 1900s. He was a passionate collector and acquired a sizeable plot of land in the Paris suburb of Boulougne-Billancourt. Here, he created a special Japanese garden, which includes an authentic Japanese house and tearoom and also a traditional English garden along with a rose garden. Kahn was also an avid photography collector and sent photographers to more than 50 countries to enhance his collection to amass more than 72,000 photographs. Unfortunately, Kahn’s fortune was wiped out during the Great Depression in 1929, but the city turned his plot of land into a museum with his photos and the gardens.
10-14 Rue du Port
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
|The Luxembourg Gardens|
The most beloved park in Paris, the Luxembourg Gardens has some of the most beautiful flowerbeds in the city. Located on the Left Bank, it’s the second largest park in Paris, sitting on 55 acres. It was once the private garden of Maria de Medici and the magnificent Florentine palace that was built for her in 1615 at the foot of the park now houses the Senat, a branch of the French government. The park has many activities for adults and children including tennis courts, playground, donkey rides, puppet shows, and pond on which to sail toy boats. The secluded Medici Fountain, flanked by plane trees, resembles an Italian grotto and is a delightful spot to bask in.
Rue Vaugirard, 6th Arrondissement
Open daily from sunrise to sunset
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.
What the !!@?? No wonder that state is in suc mess!!!@!@@
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
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...
October 01, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: September 27 - October 1
When it comes to issues that matter to travel agents, the autumn season is starting off with quite a bang. It's been a bit since I wrote a Weekly Wrap, primarily in part to my recent participation in covering The Lodging Conference 2010 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix (check out www.hotelworldnetwork.com for details). Needless to say, there were plenty of comments to review upon my return, so let's take a look.
When someone posts a comment on a previous Weekly Wrap, I always make a point of leading with it the next week. Rosemary posted a comment on the last Weekly Wrap, focusing on how consumers' search for travel online causes competition for agents, writing:
I wish I had answer, Rosemary, but I'm not travel professional, just a journalist covering your experiences. So I am going to defer to our readers and hope one of them can give you an answer that my experience cannot support.
Shots at Sheehan, NCL
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has received some criticism from readers as of late, most of them posting their take on articles pertaining to the cruise line's CEO, Kevin Sheehan. I'd try to explain, but I'll let the comments speak for themselves.
went on a cruise "jewel" nick for kids. 8/28/10... room was dirty, 8:30 pm they came to keep it. 2 days later we were asked to leave our room so they could clean the rugs @ 8:30 am. When we pulled into port my mother was told that there was no shuttle to take her from the ship so she had to stay behind... she couldn't sit on the balony because they were varnishing it. SHE CRIED THE WHOLE TIME!!!!!!!! when we spoke to someone ( head of hotel mgmnt) he could care less.
carolyn is not alone in her disappointment. When commenting on a nearly two-year-old news item about Sheehan becoming the CEO of the company, TAMMY CAREY, wrote:
WENT ON A CRUISE , HAD BOOKED TO GO TO ATLANTIS, AND HORSEBACK RIDING THE SAME DAY. GOT TO ATLANTIS AND IT STARTED RAINING, AND THE PARK CLOSED. NCL REFUSED TO GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK $596.00 FOR 3 OF US, FOR SOMETHING WE DID NOT USE. WE NEVER GOT OUR TIME TO SWIM WITH DOLPHINS TILL THAT MORNING,. THEY TRIED TO GET ME IN A OFFICE SO OTHER PEOPLE WOULD NOT HERE WHAT TEY HAD DONE. BESIDES ALL THE NO REFUNDS, FOOD WAS TERRIBLE, SEWGE ON THE 8TH FLOOR, JUST A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE COMPARED TO REAL CRUISE SHIPS. THIS ONE SUCKS.LOOK AT THERE RATINGS.
I think the capital letters alone demonstrate the readers' frustration. It's unfortunate to read these experiences. Anyone out there have a similar or contrarian take on this matter?
More on Cruise West
The news of Cruise West's downfall is a few weeks old but, understandably, some are still coping with the shocking turn of events. Here's what two readers had to say:
As a former CFO and worked under Chuck West , it is very sad to see it comes to this. I did start a new small boat cruise company 14 years ago. It was based on Chuck's basic principal of provide intimate cruise experience with the nature. Chuck's spirit lives on.
Madelyn Tyson of Cruise Planners shared:
I am sorry to hear of Cruise West's need to restructure. Dick West has been a leader in authentic Alaskan tourism for many years. As my husband and I took our photography group on our Alaskan cruise this summer I heard more than one cruiser comment that he wished he could have been able to join Cruise West on one of their Alaska sailings. It's also been a goal of mine to sail with Cruise West. I hope I will still get the chance in the future.
I also am offended by the photograph Travel Central chose to illustrate this article. I do not feel it does Cruise West's superb product justice.
I cannot speak with any authority about the Cruise West situation. But I will note that it was I who chose the image of the stranded Cruise West ship for the story (seen below).
Why? I feel an image of a Cruise West strip stranded on land was emblembatic of the travelers, agents and tour operators who felt "stranded" by the situation. So, that's my bad. Wait, not my bad, my decision. It was not my intent to offend Madelyn or Cruise West.
Cruise Center Call Hours
Another cruise line that got some attention lately was Princess Cruises, which recently reduced its call center hours. For some, it's a schedule adjustment. For Patrick Fok, it's something else. He stated:
Polar supports Princess, Cunard, and Holland America, the three lines we require the least phone contact with. Coincidence?
I don't know if it's a coincidence. But perhaps someone else can add more to this conversation?
Collection of Caribbean Comments
As winter approaches, it's time to start looking at the cold weather getaways clients can find in the Caribbean. One of my best friends, Brad, just spent his honeymoon in Barbados and won't stop talking about the incredible time he had. I wonder if he ran into Anthony Feliciov, Jr. who, after reading news about Barbados' tourism numbers soaring, shared:
Just returned from a weeks stay in Barbados. Beautiful island and will definitely be returning and recommending to many of my clients. Outstanding beaches, great restaurants, and most importantly a very warm and friendly people.
My buddy Brad had the same thing to say about the island and it's people. Any agents looking to learn more abour Barbados should check out our special Featured Channel on the island, where they can get the latest information they need to to sell the destination.
I'm sorry to say Aruba will not be a happy place for me again. It will be a place a girl named Natalie died and was disrespected. So sorry.......But best of luck.
I traveled to Aruba last November, and the Holloway story was unavoidable down there, mainly because anyone I talked to is waiting for that stigma to go away. It's a shame that one incident can mar the island's tourism industry, even five years later. My advice to anyone who feels the same as Joy about Aruba is: get over it.
Again, it's sad. However, if every destination were to suffer due to a lack of tourism after an unfortunate incident that was not directly the fault of said destination, then countless communities would suffering. After 9/11, New York needed tourism more than ever. The same can be said now for the Gulf Region of the United States (just to name another).
Downplaying peoples' misfortunes is not my intent here. My intent is to say that travel brings much needed business (and education) to so many places that those who are able to put bad news aside and still go through with leisure or business travel plans to particular destinations, in my opinion, should be lauded.
Speaking of Tough Situations for Destinations
Let's take Mexico as an example of what I'm trying to say about keeping travel plans going. Needless to say, our North American neighbor has taken a beating over the past few years when it comes to bad news: swine flu, earthquakes, the economy and drug violence that is at the border (not in or near tourist destinations). So when Joe Pike writes about how the country is rebounding, it's interesting to see what some readers have to say about the matter.
First, B.S. wrote:
Ur kidding right? You can't call an inevitable reality "bad press". This is far worse than people living in Mexico are willing to accept. Forget H1N1 or the Mexicana bankruptcy. The reason why travelers from the biggest markets (US & Europe...) are having second thoughts about visiting Mexico is simple: all out violence. The drug war is poisoning it all. No matter what the government tries to say to the world, this will not change overnight and it will only get worse before it gets better.... Nevertheless, I hope the gruesome violence will stay clear from travel destinations in central Mexico and beach resorts so that leisure travelers thinking about visiting Mexico will do so and return as often as possible, taking advantage of the amazing travel deals, service and hospitality that are characteristic of Mexico...
Before I could respond, citing my experiences traveling to the Riviera Maya as well as my time spent in Mexico City, MJ Carr chimed in for me, saying:
The last comment is obviously someone who does not know Mexico well nor travel there. As a US Citizen living in Mexico for 5 years, the press has blown things WAY out of proportion. Who are YOU kidding? Do we tell our own citizens not to visit New Orleans, with a murder rate of 22 per 100,000 now the most dangerous city in the US? Or better yet, should we say don't visit all of the US because of what happens in ONE or a few cities? The violence is almost strictly contained to drugs. Use common sense, stay in tourist areas in daylight, and don't buy our use drugs and you have nothing to fear. The truth is, there is still way more violent crimes against innocent people in the US than in Mexico. Our own press doesn't care to make this known.
But MJ and your friend Kirk aren't the only ones speaking out in support of Mexico. Pike recently spoke with Mexico Tourism Board director recently and (guess what?), the country cites travel agents as a strong reason for it resurgence! Just check out these comments for yourself:
Jennifer Constantinos wrote:
I was in Cabos two weeks ago and the service was superb! That's what my clients are always looking for...
Bryan Alvarez posted:
Mexican destinations are getting better all the time. Customers are asking about other destinations but it's difficult to get the deals that you can get in Mexico. It's important to put things into context since the problems are not taking place all over the country.
luisa Allen shared:
Mr. Sumano seems to forget that in July of last year, Mexico was up to it's neck in the swine flu pandemia, and tourism went down by at least 50%. So the increase is not really that impressive...however, it is good that the correct information about the "violence" is getting out.
Good point about the increase, luisa, and kudos to you for noting that the "violence" is abating. In other words, people, don't stop selling Mexico.
AA Gets an A, from this Reader
For those interested in traveling to or sending clients to any destination in Europe via Heathrow, take note of American Airlines' upgrade of its Admirals Club at the London airport. It received some positive testimonials from two readers:
I can vouch for the renovation. Spent a couple of hours in May. It's superb. A good variety of tasty food, hot and cold, wine beer, liquor, and all of the amenities one could need
Jacqueline Johnson commented:
Great to hear this. It certainly needed an overhaul and update as it was an awful place to visit.
I can only assume that Jacqueline is the same Johnson that writes such insightful pieces about selling wedding travel. That being said, I can attest to how much weight her words carry (hint: it's A LOT!)
It's always pleasant to end the Weekly Wrap on a fun note and this week, it's a "hip" note. It appears that Travel Agent has made a new friend through our report about Travel Insured's light-hearted marketing campaign as of late. Sharing his take on the story was Tony Brent, who wrote:
I'm the Travel Hippie and I think you guys are groovy!
Maybe Tony's complimenting Travel Insured and not us. Either way, thanks for the "free" love, brother.
Whether it's telling us how jive you think we are, how bad you think or choice of pictures are, or what your take is on a matter we cover, we always love hearing form you. So please keep the feedback coming. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. Join the conversation in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents (maybe one day we'll have a movie made about OUR social network, and hopefully it will be directed by David Fincher and scored by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails— I can dream, can't I?). For those who aren't getting my reference, check out the trailer for "The Social Network" below, which opens in theaters this Friday (been awhile since I dropped a cinematic reference).
July 16, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 12-16
Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy scouring TravelAgentCentral.com to find interesting, engaging and relevant comments posted by readers on the site. But, as I say every week, the conversation doesn't end there. That's way I'm taking the opportunity this week to share what agents, readers and users have been saying where Travel Agent is present in the deeper recesses of the Internet. But before we go there, let's take a quick look at some of the comments that have been posted this week.
Just This One Time
There are many instances where someone will post a comment that, at first, seems like an initiation into a good conversation. But by the time the text ends, there's usually a link listed hoping that our site is leveraged to drive traffic to and promote another site. I'm not usally a fan of sharing such comments in the wrap: A) because it can be a waste of time and B) we're not a marketing firm!
But during George Dooley's extensive coverage of airline ancillary fees and their impact on agents (check out Dooley's latest opinion piece on the topic here), a reader posted a comment that, although it appears to be blatantly promoting another site, could be of use to travel professionals. Commenting on a piece citing the Business Travel Coalition's (BTC) take on the matter, Steven Hall wrote:
I enjoyed your great article on airline fees and I wanted to let you know that since 2008 www.CompareAirlineFees.com has offered an easy to use Airline Fee Comparison tool.
CompareAirlineFees.com is a free web-based airline fee comparison tool helping business and leisure travelers evaluate their options in a straight-forward and logical manner. The site lets you quickly compare airline fees at all major carriers before you buy.
Hopefully, I didn't just waste time and throw someone a bone in vain. I hope this site can aid agents in there operations when it comes to booking flights for their clients.
What Are You Talking About?
Since its acquisition of ITA Software, Google has become an intimidating spot of interest for the travel industry as of late. Related to Google, but not it's latest purchase, is a story at TravelAgentCentral.com that grew some legs this week (and is the focus of our July 19 issue's Trend Watch). Ruthanne Terrero got some inciteful information from Google's industry director of travel about how consumers search online. Someone posted a comment about something, but I don't really know what that something is. Marc Donaldson wrote:
I cannot understandwhat this means:
This term is used over 30 times in this article!
I wish I understood what it meant too, Marc. But a blank space doesn't help much. Looking at the article, I have found a few terms that appear near, if not more than, 30 times: the, travel, consumer, online, a. Is it any of these? Either way, I don't think I can really help you. Sorry.
Bad Guys Busted
As you may have read, 38 people were recently indicted for committing fraud when selling travel. Safe to assume none of you reading this is involved, right? If you were involved, shame on you! You deserve to be riduculed by Bill who shared:
Wow, Look what you get for 44 cents (the price of a stamp) all that protection against identity theft!
As the value of the traditional travel professional comes more to light in the wake of the Iceland volcano crisis as well as the lack of service some find in online travel agencies, it's disappointing to see this story make so many headlines. Hopefully, agents can spin it to remind their current and potential clients about the benefits of using a professional.
Don't Shoot the Messenger
In order to provide travel professionals with as much information as possible to better sale vacations to their clients, we here at TravelAgentCentral.com turn to sources both within and outside of our organization. Sometimes, we share information but spare some details in the interest of space and time, trusting that those who seek more information will click through the links to the respective suppliers and sources. Such did not appear be the same this week when Kim and Misty Ormiston commented on our story about popular vampire themed cruises, saying:
This is fabulous information! My friends and I would DEFINITELY love to hit up one or a few of these cruises (depending on price) =) =) The only downfall about this page is that there isn't enough information. Where exactly are the cruises scheduled to hit and land? What's provided on the boat? How much are the tickets and what do they cover? Discounts? (ex. with AAA card, etc.) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email us more info! We are definitely interested however can't make 'the next step' without knowing vital info. Thanks SO MUCH for providing this excellent new "gothic" cruise line ;) :) ~Mintykiss
Kim, Misty, Mintykiss... whoever you are, if you read the piece again, you'll note that Cruise Critic was the source of the information (we provided the link but here it is again in case you want to learn more: www.cruisecritic.com). In addition, we also linked to the respective suppliers: Cruises Cruises Cruises Inc can be reached at www.twilightfanscruise.com; Carnival can be reached at www.carnival.com; P&O Cruises can be reached at www.pocruises.com; and you can reach Viking Cruises by clicking on the link at the end of this piece profiling the line's new itineraries and ship for 2011— but I am going to assume you may have trouble with that, so here's the link: www.vikingrivercruises.com.
By the way, is Misty your given name, Wiccan name, Gothic name, or just what you want to be called? Let me know when you emerge from the beautiful darkness.
Social Community Commentary
Next week, we'll be starting a new feature online titled Keep in Touch with TravelAgentCentral.com, where we'll be sharing all of our latest social media initiatives and interaction in one place for you to find and follow up on with more feedback. But until then, here's what members have been saying at our Facebook page, Twitter page and at AgentNation.
We asked agents on Facebook and Twitter what some of the more popular destination and trip types they have been booking thus far in 2010. Here's what some had to say:
Tracee Grammer Williams: Lots's and lot's of Italy this year!!!!
Serendipity Traveler: Europe and Caribbean
Sharri Moore Cta Ds: European FITs
You can obviously never go wrong with cruises and the Caribbean. It's great to see Alaska cruises in the mix after the state's decision to lower taxes on such vacations. As for Europe, the value of the dollar against the Euro is key right now. If you're selling Hawaii and want some more help, look into the Hawaii Travel Exchange, which just started accepting applications.
Gearing Up for the Games
We also asked on Facebook about what sports events are garnering interest among clients now that the 2010 FIFA World Cup has concluded. The two top items mentioned were the Tour de France and Miami Heat basketball games, obviously due to the Lebron James factor. Of course, there's the 2012 Summer Olypmic Games in London, but I am interested in seeing if the Super Bowl coming to New York is going to pick up any steam.
Sizzling Summer Sales
If you haven't booked any summer vacations yet, and if there's still time, get cracking. According to agents at our Facebook and Twitter pages, the season is bringing in the business. We asked how summer vacation business has been, and here's what some had to say:
At Facebook, Debby Boisse Stevens said business is: Crazy/Busy-much better than last!!!
Meanwhile, HeatherC06 tweeted:, Typically we're slow in the summer, we have been SLAMMED, but loving it of course! :)
Which WiFi and Why?
saykay recommended AT&T, saying it is: bundled with everything else.
But Michael has a little problem with AT&T, regarding an issue I have trouble with as well. He responded, saying
Because I'm on the iPhone, I'm stuck with AT&T, at least for now. The dropped call reputation they have is no myth...it's even worse when you call other AT&T users. But I love the iPhone.
So Andi recommended Verizon because it is: an awesome feature that doesn't use up your minutes!
Somewhere, T-Mobile is crying.
Puerto Rico Points
In addition to feedback on WiFi service, Browne also inquired about travel to Puerto Rico as his friends plan a vacation there. User jeftravel shares some helpful insight, writing:
I did a fam trip with the board of tourism a couple of years ago and one of the things i would recommend is to rent a car and travel the whole island. go beyond san juan. in a car you can see the small towns that are very quaint and quite interesting. don't forget to visit the churches. you might also want to do the rum plant and the forts in san juan (not all of them). the rain forest is nice but the girls might not like to get their hair wet. the flora is worth the trip for great pictures.
One of my best friends (who I saw get hitched in a destination wedding at Killington in Vermont last year) lives in Puerto Rico, and my wife and I plan to visit them soon. Thank you jeftravel, your feedback is certainly going to help us and I hope it helps Michael's friends as well.
Sandals or Iberostar
newjerseytravel asked the following in a discussion thread:
I have a client that can't decide whether to go to the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall in Montego Bay area or Sandals Negril. Has anyone stayed at these resorts and which beach has less rocks, seaweed, seagrass that would danger them from getting in the water.
Wow, this is a really difficult choice. The beaches at both are really clean and well maintained. In May, Sandals added 14 new beach huts that are pretty cool. But I got someone who can answer better than me. Contact Sales Manager Jeffrey Burke (876-957-5216, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Iberostar is also pretty impressive. For a contact there, I'd suggest Luis Velez, inventory manager, at 876-680-0000.
Let me know if you need anything else. You can also e-mail me directly at email@example.com or call me at 212-895-8286.
I visited Jamaica when I wsa six years old, and don't recall what resort we stayed in or what beach we visited. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour Iberostar properties in the Riviera Maya. Based on my experience, I'd say go with Iberostar. But that's because I haven't had the chance to visit any Sandals properties yet, but I'd be glad too! (wink wink).
As always, don't let the discussion end here. Keep the comments coming here at the Weekly Wrap and elsewhere at TravelAgentCentral.com. Stay in touch with us at our Facebook page and our Twitter page, and keep coming back to AgentNation for real time conversation.
And before I forget, and in the interest of shameless plugging, keep in touch with what I'm following in the print edition of Travel Agent. In every issue, the Hot Buttons column goes over some of the more popular trends in the travel industry. Give it a read by signing up for a subscription or get a copy of the digital edition today!
Until next week...