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
July 20, 2011
Travel to Cuba is Now Open ...and I Dont' See a Catch
With three tour operators making announcements to start sending U.S. clients to the once-forbidden destination of Cuba, it’s safe to say the news agents have been waiting to hear for decades has finally arrived.
You can send your clients to Cuba.
Your clients do not have to be a certain age, do not have to have family in Cuba and do not have to be students.
And the catch isn’t really a catch at all.
A trip there needs to be set up through an operator who’s been approved through either the People to People education program or an operator who's been approve to conduct religious education tours. The People to People initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country.
But one can argue that these are usually activities a client visiting a country for the first time wants to do anyway. Now, you won’t be allowed to just sit on a beach sipping Mojitos for the entire trip, but how many of your clients do you think are going to want to do this anyway? Will they use their opportunity to visit a country they were never able to visit before just to do the same daily activities they could have done in other Caribbean islands for years?
And from reading most of the itineraries from the three operators who have already announced tours to Cuba, the cultural mandates seem to be very loosely interpreted. You won’t have to take classes there or dig ditches for a day. Instead a cultural experience can mean anything from meeting farmers who grow tobacco to driving to dinner in a 1950s classic American car.
With help from the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture, for the first time, Globus will present travelers a rare opportunity to experience the enduring faith, colorful history and lively culture of this captivating nation with its new itinerary for 2012: Cuba: A Spiritual, Historical and Cultural Journey.
Insight Cuba got the tour operator ball rolling when it announced in late June that it was reauthorized by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to send Americans to Cuba.
Abercrombie & Kent will be offering trips through the People to People program, which was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program this January.
By: Joe Pike
June 27, 2011
Gay/Lesbian Honeymoons for Married New Yorkers Could be Next Caribbean Trend
While they rejoiced and embraced equality as New York State voted to legalize gay marriage Friday night, I’m sure every member of the travel industry saw the dollar signs as well.
Not that New York City needs the tourism, but perhaps other tourism destinations would ride the monumental decision right to the bank and cash in on what should be expected to be an incredible spike in gay and lesbian honeymoons.
Sure, New York isn’t the first state to legalize gay marriage. But you didn’t hear about many hotel packages promoting the passage of same sex marriage in Iowa. To put it quite simply, New York commands more attention than any other city in the world. Further, from a tourism aspect, New York is perhaps the greatest source of tourism for Caribbean islands looking for that American dollar.
And on the first business day following the decision, Travel Agent already spotted the first package offered by a Caribbean hotel aimed at attracting gays and lesbians who tied the knot in New York.
In honor of the recent announcement that same-sex couples can legally marry in the state of New York, Kura Hulanda Resorts in Curaçao is offering newlyweds who present a valid New York marriage license a free upgrade and dinner for two when booking a four-night stay now until December 22.
“A progressive member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, on an island with a refreshing ‘live and let live’ vibe, the Kura Hulanda Resorts offer guests a heavy dose of culture, fine dining and city-life, all wrapped up in a gay-friendly, high-end village community,” said Jody DeLeon, director of sales and marketing for Kura Hulanda Resorts, said in a written release. “Kura Hulanda is the perfect destination for gay travelers looking to experience the beauty of the Caribbean.”
Rates start at $160 per night at Hotel Kura Hulanda and $140 per night at Lodge Kura Hulanda. To receive the free upgrade and a $200 food and beverage voucher which can be used at Japipur Restaurant and / or Watamula Restaurant, guests must show a valid marriage license and book a minimum four-night stay.
By: Joe Pike
November 05, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 1-5
Yearning for a fresh scare or controversy in the wake of Halloween and the 2010 midterm elections? We've got you want right here in the Weekly Wrap. If you ask me, a scary costume agents could have worn during the recent holiday would have been a NCL cruise ship, or website. Why? Keep reading to find out about why NCL may be a tad scary, among other things.
When NCL announced that 27 percent of its revenue came from direct bookings last week, our own Susan J Young followed up on the story by asking agents and executives what their take on the matter was. Needless to say, several of our reading agents chimed in as well.
Considering that it's NCL I'm not surprised one bit. I don't book them unless the client insists. Too mant past issues with them.
Is anyone surprised at this? All the cruise lines are doing this. Carnival is worse than any in my opinion.
The question isn't what are our "partners" doing to negatively impact our industry, it is in fact, how are we becoming less dependent on them? There are many outlets available besides mass market, let them have their cake.
Not being an agent, I do think major has a point in that this may be a sign for agents to begin bringing their cruise clients elsewhere. Still, it's a shame to see such a major cruise line taking this route.
So Maybe Try This Cruise Line
On the note of bringing your clients to a different cruise supplier, Celebration Cruise Lines, which touts cheap cruises to the Bahamas from Florida, got an endorsement from a reader this week. shawna commented:
I've been on several cruises before with Royal Caribbean, So I do know what to expect! We just recently traveled on this Celebration ship and EVERYTHING was Wonderful! I just don't understand where all these negative reviews are coming from? Obviously from people with UNREALISTIC expectations. The ship was in comparable shape as the other ships we've been on, Service was great-In which the pre-paid gratuities where very well earned. I expect that the pre-paids are a result of low-class individuals that don't offer tips. The food was wonderful, entertainment was Great, Spa service was good. I have no complaints at all .. check in/out was smooth. My advice is to experience it for yourself, I would recommend it to others and I would go again. This was a really neat ship! Don't pay attention to the negative nellies out there, they are the one's that would never be happy if given a million bucks!
Anyone else out there have experience to share about this cruise line?
Google Good for Agents?
While there's been much trepidation about Google's potential entry into the travel industry, one reader is amused by the controversy. Commenting on a story about a new video attacking the potential acquisiton of ITA by Google, Sweet Justice (interesting name) shared:
It is indeed ironic that the online travel providers, the very companies which skewed the marketplace with their own proprietary, preferred airline, non-transparent air fare "deals", are now lamenting the very same fate from Google. Clearly lacking the full content and total picture offering provided by traditional travel agencies, these online travel megasites are crying in their collective beer because someone more mega has found a way to oust their influence in selling air travel. Sounds like sweet justice to me. Consumers are not stupid; they're wise enough to know that their local travel agent is their best resource for booking travel ... and always has been.
Interesting point. But is this a bittersweet victory for agents, if a victory at all?
Angry at AVC
While technology and cruise issues may be frightening some readers this week, a travel company is apparently even more terrifying to one reader. After reading a piece by George Dooley that analyzed the pros and cons of using third parties to generate sales leads or not, Kay took a direct shot at America's Vacation Center, lamenting:
AVC IS A RIPOFF!! Beware. They skimped on the leads and most are not buyers but rather lookie loos. They wont hire agents with no exsperience or recent experience. My friend has a large book of clients but she was out of the industry for a little while. They wouldnt take her or her money.She went with other HB job and she is selling like 650K a month and slipped right back with no problem! WISE AVC your a downright idiots! Glad I left as well the others that left too and went to a competitor to work with!~
Wow on two things: 1. If true, that's a shame of a situation. 2. Kay may want to cut back on the caffeine. As I always say, I am not travel professional but from what I have read AVC has been useful to several agents. Can anyone else here chime in to agree with or politely disagree with Kay?
A Break from Travel
While we don't cover music much here at TravelAgentCentral.com, a recent comment about Australia promoting its YouTube Symphony Orchestra inspired a musician to share his audition tape. I am as much of a classical music expert as I am a travel professional (my studies of guitar, piano and percussion where all rock based), so I can't say if the performance is truly great or not, but I figured it'd be nice to share with our readers. Guillermo commented:
Here it is my audition!!!??http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuAxQXoXUNU??Thank you very much!!
Not bad right?
While the music strings tug at your heart, don't forget to keep those comments coming. Post a new or responding comment below or at any of the original articles. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. You can also start or join in on real time conversations at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents.
Until next week.
October 29, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: October 25-29
I just came back from the IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and, while there, was enthused to hear hotel industry leaders discuss online travel agencies (OTAs) as a thorn in their side. In the upcoming print issue of Travel Agent, I cite this "thorn" as an opportunity for agents to build their relationship with hotel companies, particularly as hotels are looking for the best ways to build their brand and business as the recession, albeit gradually, begins to fade. Checking out the variety of comments left upon my return only reiterated, to me, the benefit that agents bring to the table in this technological age. So let's take a look.
TripAdvisor may not be an OTA, but it is a part of the new age of the Internet that is irking suppliers across the industry as well. For the most part, suppliers are not fond of the idea that anonymous or non-certifable/non-accredited individuals can potentially mar the reputation of a company or product becuase of their subjective or, perhaps, deviously motivated commentary. On that note, it's a little surprising to read that one agent is taking TripAdvisor seriously enough to affect how she does business. Lorraine Kawoczka did so after reading Joe Pike's personal take on the Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua, stating:
can not sell the Verandah to a family because of negative comments on Trip Advisor
So, basically, it appears as if a travel agent is letting TripAdvisor control the conversation about the property. Doesn't that go against what being a travel agent is all about? Lorraine, if you are reading this, I'd like to know if you did any research besides TripAdvisor or if you let your potential pitches abotu the property end there? It'd be a shame to let anonymous comments trump your expertise in pitching the property to your clients.
Pike responded to Lorraine's comment, writing:
Are you seriously going by Trip Advisor's advice without visiting the property yourself? That's like Roger Ebert not reviewing a movie because another movie critic panned it. By the way, Trip Advisor is not the most reliable of sites since you never truly know who is really 'reviewing' the property or if they have a hidden agenda.
As you hopefully know, Pike is our Caribbean expert, so I would hope agents take his work seriously. I hope Lorraine's instance is not a common practice among agents.
An Agent's Take Receives Our Respect
On the subject of anonymous comments about selling travel, I'd like to follow up by noting a recent blog post we shared after receiving an e-mail from an agent. After reading up on Travel Agent's exclusive roundtable with cruise industry executives, reader and travel agent Karen Dawson of Southlake Travel contacted us to share scenarios she believes are missed opportunities in training. A reader, named Charlene, commented on Dawson's post, writing:
Interesting. Does this mean I can get my stuff published on Travel Agents Central if I email you?
Charlene poses an interesting question. My initial response is, "Yes, if what you share can be considered of use to agents, particularly if it is based on your experiences which features an analysis that can drive the conversation further."
For instance, we won't just publish anything because it is sent to us. It's not like I'd share a 500-word rant by an agent about a property he or she toured. However, I would share the agent's take if he/she discussed what agents need to better sell said property or what he/she believes the property can do to make it easier for agents to pitch said property to their clients. Make sense?
Agents Follow Up on TSA
In early August, George Dooley penned a piece about a Travel Leaders survey regarding airport security and one reader made a noteworthy comment that I cited in a previous Weekly Wrap. For those too lazy to quick through and read the comment for themselves, here it is again, Mike wrote:
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.
I wonder how it went, and so does reader Kathryn, who posted:
@mike, Did you hand out fliers? How did it go? I want to do this in my area...
Mike, if you're reading this, please share how it went. Kathryn, I'd love to hear how it goes with you in your area. I've traveled to several parts of the country within the last six months (from a trip to Las Vegas in April in addition to my latest stint there, as well as some time in Phoenix), as well as two trips to Mexico. During that time, I haven't run in to any devious situations with airport security. But then again I don't check luggage and, being a blond-haired, blue-eyed WASP who gets a shave and a haircut before every business trip I take, probably don't raise many eyebrows when passing through security. Still, since 9/11, airport security has, and forever will be, changed. If new security measures make the travel process more frustrating or uncomfortable, that's not good for anyone. Hence, it's great to read that people like Kathryn and Mike are keeping a sharp eye on the process. I encourage other agents to do the same, particularly through conversations with their clients.
The TSA was also cited in a recent comment by a reader, this time on our recent cover story about Roger Dow and the U.S. Travel Association. Rick Long provides some inciteful thoughts when posting:
The inbound travel business, like most service business, must rely on repeat and referral business to truly succeed. The acquisition is much lower than marketing to first time visitors. Without significantly improving the arrival experience for inbound visitors, it's of little consequence how much money we spend to promote tourism. Initial dollars should be spent improving a broken system in order for later promotional dollars to be spent more efficiently. It's not rocket science. It's a genuine and sincere welcome to the USA and an efficient arrival experience. Custome and immigrations and TSA must view our inbound visitors and guests and not passengers and treat them accordingly.
I concur, Rick. Well put.
NCL Gets Praise & Criticism
Norwegian Cruise Line has been in the news a fair amount lately, primarily due to the recent CruiseOne and Cruises Inc conference aboard the NCL Epic, in addition to reports of the cruise line releasing new ships in 2013 and 2014. On the topic of NCL's new ships, reader Martin, citing the NCL Epic shared:
The lack of an atrium of any sort made it feel like a suburban shopping mall. The upcharge to even use a suana was a bit much and the pool areas entertainment spots were almost impossible to see from most angles. Entire front of ship cut - off for the "ordinary" pasenger. Only accesible to the upgraded ones. Awful design.
I'll just say that I'm glad Martin is using his own experience, and not comments on TripAdvisor like Lorraine, to deliver his criticism.
Meanwhile, another agent clearly has a different take on the NCL Epic. Commenting on the wrap up of the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc conference, oscarcruises wrote:
Andy Stuart, NCL, and the EPIC ROCK!!!!
That's nice to read, oscarcruises, but could you explain why you feel that way? Just asking.
Join an MLM, Gain a Lover?
It's been awhile since the Weekly Wrap shared somments regarding multilevel marketing firms in the travel industry and, for the most part, I am glad. Most of the time in which MLMs are cited, there's vitriole and more emotional-based comments instead of logical conversation. But this week, there's an adorable combination of both as Nick N notes on Travel Agent piece that asks if you should join an MLM or not:
I enjoyed reading all the comments on the site. To me, MLM is very good.The times and effords you had spent will be fully repaid….ONLY IF you are single. LOL. Let me explain….. About 4 years ago, a girl that I really liked, asked me to join. And I did join…because of her. We went meeting together, had lunch together and finally she became my girlfriend. I told that to my single buddies and they listen to me. One of my buddy got married with a girl he meet at a MLM meeting…. So, if you are single, have problem finding girlfriend, please join MLM. Wear nice clothes, talk professionally, show your interested in there stories, never said a bad thing about MLM at the meeting, you will find your soulmate in no time. Just my two cents, MLM’s members, please dont hate me.
Sounds like MLMs may have a new pitching incentive for people to join. My only question is, what happens if/when your relationship ends? Does your membership in the MLM go with it?
As always, don't let the conversation end here. Keep sharing your comments by posting one below or at any of the original articles. Don't forget to write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page. You can also join in on or start travel industry discussions in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all kinds of travel agents.
Until next week.....
October 18, 2010
What's Your Favorite Fall Travel Package?
With summer vacations now in the rearview mirror as holiday travel for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's is on the horizon, we know there's little time to rest for the travel professional. Whether they are based on high-profile sports events such as playoff baseball, NFL or NCAA Football or NASCAR, or traditional journeys such as foliage tours and more, there are plentiful options for agents to pitch to their clients this autumn season. We asked fans of our Facebook page what they have been planning for their clients this fall, and here's what they had to say:
Steve Cousino says he already enjoyed a fantastic time at Oktoberfest in New Glarus, WI, and is already back working similar pitches to his clients. Meanwhile, Heather Christopher has clients in Munich enjoying Oktoberfest as well.
Domestically, Terri King is thinking about the "breathtaking" Blue Ridge Mountains Asheville and the Grand Bohemian Hotel for some hiking and shopping, or horseback riding in Taos, New Mexico on the Pueblo Land Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one of her very favorite U.S. destinations.
For autumn's top holiday, Halloween, Bonnie Marsh Clark is getting pumped for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World.
Finally, Phyllis R Chambers is planning a few brewing vacations herself.
But that's just a few travel professionals, and we'd like to hear more. So post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. You can also engage in the conversation in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents. We want to hear from you, and will share your feedback with our readers.
October 05, 2010
On AgentNation: How to Sell Vegas
It's been awhile since we rounded up some of the latest topics at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents. So let's take a look at what's on agents minds and how fellow peers can contribute to the conversation with hopes of supportin each other's business.
Group Dining with Carnival
I have just booked my first group on Carnival. I have learned that over half of my group is waitlisted for the 6pm dining. How could they not have groups dining together? We are about 5 months out, I am just going to hold my breath that this is going to work out. I don't want to tell my group we may not all be dining together. I'll wait and see what happens. Anyone out there with a Carnival group.... does it usually work out to be OK?
We're looking for any travel professionals who have booked groups with Carnival in the past. If you can, chime in at the discussion thread and let her know if you expect everything to work out or if there's something she can do to ensure her clients have a pleasant journey.
Going with A Good GDS, Online Lead Provider
Needless to say, the right GDS can make a world of a difference for any travel agent, be they home-based or not. Hence, stevea's query about choosing the right platform for his agency, one can assume, should hit home with some agents. He asks:
Some publications are talking about the great offers agencies are receiving for renewals- Amadeus is offering me .20 per segment after I reach 2,500. We are small and only produce 2500-3000 per year. Any ideas or input ? What are others getting ? If you don't want to post, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or just call 1-800-869-6588
Looks like the best help stevea can receive here is from any agent working with a less-than-gigantic group of clientele. Who can help him out by answering his question?
Does anyone use online Travel lead services. I am using one with no luck yet. I am looking closely at a site that gives you unlimited leads for $49.00 a month. I don't know if they are any good though. The name is compete4yourseat.com Does or has anyone used this service and if so what is your assesment?
Travel Agent basically endorsed compete4yourseat.com a few years ago, in some manner anyway, when we wrote about the company in the past. The story received a comment from a reader back in June, which relates to stevea's query. The reader, going by the name of Travel, wrote:
There are no feedback on compete 4 your seat, especially on the very questionable travel agency called: "Select Travel Club" which bids through the Compete4yourseat web. There are high suspicions raised concerning the legitimacy of this web and of the travel agency. Could anyone confirm that select travel club is not a fraud?
Between stevea's query as well as Travel's comment, who can chime in about compete4yourseat.com and other online travel lead services?
Vegas, Baby, Vegas!
Las Vegas may be one of the only cities in the world that is a destination unto itself. It's practically one of those places every traveler wants to visit before he/she dies. But that doesn't mean that selling Sin City to a client is easy. Perhaps that's why user sautieri wants some feedback from his peers. He asks:
I would like to see what others are doing to sell Las Vegas. What is your approach? Do you specialze in a particular segment of Las Vegas? Online leads for Vegas seem to be very price driven, do you respond diffrently?
Some agents already responded. j9travels wrote:
Interview your client. The interview could be a simple dialogue to learn their interests. Watch the way they are dressed and mannerism. Ask for the Budget they are working with. For instance my clients were women who wanted to experience Las Vegas but did want to stay on the strip. The wanted to a Hotel with a Spa (lux) and be able to see a show. But be in walking distance of the strip enjoying the sights, restuarants and if they wanted a casino. PH was the hotel for them. Another client he and his wife wanted to be in mist of everything. Luxor fit there budget and lux accommodations they wanted.
as a long time las vegas resident, yes, in many cases it is price driven. you have to explain the difference of being on the strip and downtown, or off strip properties. some off strip are wonderful locations, hard rock hotel, the palms, rio. some local casinos are 4 and 5 star, red rock, green valley ranch. it all depend on what type of experience the traveler is looking for.
These are some great answers which will certainly help our friend sautieri. But I'm sure other agents out there have more to share. So please add your take to sautieri's question when you can.
Who's the Best?
Everyone has their favorite suppliers and companies with which to do business. Sometimes it depends on the relationship with the supplier, the client involved or the itinerary being planned. So when sekhmet asked for some feedback on which tour operators are the best, we wanted so share, in her interest and in ours. She asks:
I am trying to establish relationships with various suppliers/tour operators and am having a difficult time trying to narrow down the best companies to do business with. In your opinion who is the best?
Tour Oprator for each region ( eg Trafalgar, A & K)
Suppliers that offer vacation packages for any region(eg Pleasant Holidays, GOGO)
Who do you like working with in these regions? Add your take at the discussion thread.
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).
September 10, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: September 5-10
September truly is a special month. The NFL and NCAA football are officially underway, baseball season is winding down to the playoffs, the kids are off the streets and back in the school room, and it seems as if everyone is back from taking or planning a summer vacation and ready to jump right back in to issues and topics of interest in the travel industry. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a jump in comments and discussion at TravelAgentCentral.com in the coming weeks, so let's dive right on in the what was posted the past few weeks.
Cruise West Woes
This week, Cruise West reported that it was restructuring and there have already been reports of the cruise line laying off employees. It's been a bit of a tumultuous time for many, including Gladys Stout, who posted:
I was very sad to hear of Cruise West's problems. They are a wonderful company, and we have had some delightful experiences with them. I will pray for a healthy restructuring and a return to happy sailing soon! Good luck!
Although I can't speak of any experience shared with the cruise line, I share Gladys' sentiment. Best wishes to Cruise West, its employees, its agent partners and its current/former customers.
A Separate Cruise Crux
As one cruise line has a rough time on its own, it appears the industry in general is giving agents a tough time in general. Susan J. Young wrote an analysis piece on the cruise marketplace as we enter the fall season and one reader is not too enthused about the upcoming opportunities for "Wave Season" sales. Doug Farrell shared:
If I see a lower price and cannot get it, I will not use that cruise line or agent again. It's about time someone stood up for the consumer and offered automatic price protection.
The issue of cruise price rebating/competition etc has been a hot one since we polled our readers about it last December. Then, in July, when Carnival began making moves to equalize pricing, the topic was reignited on the message boards. Clearly, it's not going away anytime soon. So I hope agents and readers continue to share their take on the matter, as I believe it can lead to constructive dialogue which they can leverage to improve their business operations.
Pulp of Politics
Whether it's the cruise industry or the travel industry in general, some stories as of late have inspired some readers to get political with their comments. For starters, there's George Dooley's report on the U.S Travel Association's lauding of President Obama’s new initiative to stimulate economic growth and job creation with a new round of stimulus spending by focusing on America’s roads, rail systems and airports. While some, like U.S Travel CEO Roger Dow, are excited about this news, others, like Mark M., are quite cynical. Mark wrote:
The president SAYS he is going to invest in the infrastructure by spending more money we don't have to improve our transporation system. Well, what happened to the billions of dollars designated for the same purpose in the first stimilus plan? Where did that money go? You would have to be a real fool if you continue to believe ANYTHING this president says. Sorry, Roger.
I always do my best to stay out of political arguments. But I will give Mark credit for posting a comment that is closer to the topic at hand then another comment that was posted on a different story. A similar situation happened recently when Dooley wrote a piece about Royal Caribbean's initiative to encourage Americans to travel more, particularly via a cruise line. A reader, named Jesse, took the story as an opportunity to bash the current and former President, stating:
The President may need to get away, but not as much as he has. He's kicking back during the oil spill and in Martha's Vineyard while people suffer. Same goes with Bush. He vacationed for all of August in 2001. Guess what happened then? He vacationed for August again in 2005, too bad Katrina spoiled his vacation. We definitely DO NOT need any more presidential vacations.
All I'll say is that it seems as if Jesse needs a vacation. The summer heat has clearly been getting to some of our readers.
Acquisition Affects Agents
Big news in the industry last week was the report that Nexion was acquired by Tzell/Travel Leaders. In a separate opinion piece on the matter, Dooley seems to believe this is good news for the travel agent community, particularly home-based agents. But one reader feels the opposite. Bradley wrote:
Does anyone other than me consider this bad for the travel industry? It basically comes down to there being three major power players in the host agency game: American Express, AAA, and now Travel Leaders/Nexion. It may overpower smaller hosts by creating difficult in attracting new travel agents.
Bradley makes a good point. As always, I must remind everyone that I am not a travel professional. So may take on the matter cannot be valid enough. Therefore, I encourage our readers to chime in on this one, whether they agree with Bradley or not.
Agent's Issue with Tropicana Las Vegas Inspires Gripe with Barcelo, Carnival
Every other week, Travel Agent unleashes its bi-weekly Las Vegas newsletter and, to share with those who may have missed it, we always post it on our Facebook page for readers to catch up on the latest Vegas news. So one time when we shared it, we received an interesting slew of comments from an agent who had an unfortunate incident with the Tropicana Las Vegas. We followed up by contacting the property and were happy to see that both the agent and Donna Marcou, the property's vice president of leisure sales, quelled the issue together (with our help of course). The story received a lot of feedback from readers. Sue, for starters, praised Marcou, writing:
I have had the pleasure to work with Donna Marcou numerous times. She always takes care of our clients and is a true partner--always willing to help us increase our business with her. It's a win/win/win for our clients/our agency/Tropicana. Travel agents need to partner with her and other travel professionals who support our businesses.
Meanwhile, Sharon lauded Tropicana Las Vegas' handling of the situation as well, commenting:
Great to hear that Tropical's intent was above board, and I'd venture to say that additional training was probably given.
But that's not all Sharon had to say. She also responed to a reader's comment about Barcelo exercising a practice similar to the incident involving Tropicana. The initial comment about Barcelo came from M.J.A., who posted:
Last year repeat clients wanted to stay at a Barcelo property. I called 2 air/land companies...gave the clients the best rate for the resort they wanted. Didn't hear from clients for a week. Sure sign I'd lost it. Called client ...they called Barcelo & got a "commission free rate". I lost the booking. Agents were livid. Barcelo back-peddled an apology. Too late. Since then, when I receive any thing with the Barcelo name I delete it. Yes, "Shame on them"!
Sharon's response to that was as follows:
As for Barcelo this is distressing since they have hotels in many countries I been working on recommending them as my clients that I've booked in their Riviera Maya properties throughly enjoyed themselves.
So M.J.A responded, writing:
I agree, Barcelo does have resorts all over & glad your clients enjoyed one of tbeir properties. But, I spent time researching the clients' request, then lost it to Barcelo's "commission free rate". Put yourself in my shoes.
Just as Barcelo seemed to be the new target, Paula chimed in about another supplier she feels commits practices that aren't agent family. She shared:
It was this article that gave me the inspiration to write a post on Carnival's FB page with a situation of the same. I immediately received a response from CCL and a follow-up phone call today. Hopefully, by Tuesday the entire situation will be resolved and they will honor my commission on a botched booking. Please read my CCL FB post and thank you for putting this up online for all to read.
Barcelo and Carnival are still not alone, at least according to Gerry, who commented:
I am finding that many hotel chains post rates on their website that are "not commissionable" to travel agents. After recommending the "perfect hotel / perfect location" for a client's trip, and quoting a hotel rate ( for which commission is paid)-- the client can go online and book a lower rate (often this is a pre-paid, non-refundable rate) -- but if the client is definately going, they will select this option -- and are satified that they "found a deal" without the travel agent. It saves them about 20% off the agent quoted price. The "non-commissionable rates" happen with Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Choice hotel chains. This practice of "non-cmmissionable rates" is becoming more common. Agents need to be careful!
As much as we are thrilled to see that our efforts helped the Tropicana situation and inspired one reader to bring up her concerns with Carnival, it is disturbing to see agents suffering from such incidents. We'd like to hear more from agents that have encountered similiar situations, either by posting a comment below, writing us at our our Facebook page, sending a tweet to our Twitter page or joining the conversation at AgentNation. We want to hear from you, and help you.
We Can Only Celebrate You If You Participate
In case you missed it, we recently shared our Top 25 Agents of 2010 with the community. We were thrilled to receive so many nominations, as much as it made it difficult to pick just 25. I mention the nominations because it appears as if Andy Pesky, senior vice president of Protravel International, feels he was overlooked, stating:
No sour grapes as they say but did anyone interview or ask anyone at Protravel Intl? Being perhaps the largest upscale agency in the country there are some extremely talented, knowledgeable and sophoisticated high quality agents sitting amongst the 900+ agents that make up Protravel. Just curious as CWT Travel seems to be your #1 choice? Andy Pesky, Sr.Vice President
I responded to Andy's comment on the article, writing:
All potential candidates either submitted an application on their own or were represented in the contest through a peer's or client's submission of their name. We received all nominations openly and picked the best from the pool we received.
I'd like to also point out to Andy that Robert Becker of Protravel was one of our top 25 agents of 2009. I'm sure if Andy nominates himself, or if someone nominates him, next year that he'll make the list. So just remember to submit your nominations. And speaking of that, if you know an agent under the age of 30 (or are an agent under the age of 30), then submit nominations now for our third annual 30Under30 campaign, where we profile the best of the youth in the industry. You can submit nominations here.
As always, I hope the comments and conversation don't end here. Keep your opinions coming. Post a comment below, write us at our our Facebook page, send a tweet to our Twitter page or join conversations in real time at AgentNation.
Until next week...
August 27, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: August 23-27
Two weeks ago, I signed off on the Weekly Wrap for August 9-13 noting that I'd be away on August 20 and hoped the comments would keep pouring in. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Not only did our readers continue the discussion on two then-breaking news items, but new topics of conversation emerged— one of which even inspired comments from John Peters, CEO of Tripology. Let's take a look.
The Ongoing Battle Between Humans & Machines
Peters was the first to comment on an Amadeus report that technology can help agents win the battle for consumers, saying:
Online consumers are time starved and don’t have time for either complicated booking engines or all the useless, generic travel information. Consumers don't want travel agent generalists though - they want a travel professional who specializes in the very trip they’re looking to take. They want someone who has recently been to the destination, who has local contacts and has first-hand experience. They don’t want “I can book anything for anyone.” The days of the travel generalist are numbered. I say, “Specialize or die!” By the way, “cruises” isn’t a specialty any more than “hotels” is. So, if you are a professional travel agent who specializes in either a destination or trip type, you might do very well with Tripology. If you don’t yet have a destination or trip type specialty; get one – fast. I define a specialist as someone who sells a destination or type of travel for which A) they’re an expert B) they enjoy selling and C) make a profit when they do sell.
Jagdeep Bhagat concurred, posting
Human beings are best served by human beings and not the machines. Being Travel Agent (Travel Consultant is a better name) in today's market is a tough job but results can be excellent if online technology is used by travel consultants for better delivery of service and an effective medium of communication rather than letting customer navigate online agencies and search engines for travel products.
Harry Schneider shared his experiences as well, commenting:
We frequently hear horror stories of people booking over the net without realizing all the little and big pitfalls that rather often materialize. In some cases we can help in other cases we cannot. An educated goodwilled agent is worth a lot .Lets get this out to the public.
On the same topic, but featured on a different story, Beth shares her two cents on Ruthanne Terrero's top 10 reasons to use a travel agent, stating:
too true! I hear horror stories all the time from those who "did it themselves". Sometimes, even if you think you're saving up front, you'll pay twice or three times for that savings later. Always use a professional
While it's good to read that consumers are not relying fully on the Internet to book their travel plans, I hope agents are taking note of Peters', and others', comments that speciality and knowledge are key. Show what you've got, but make sure you know what you've got.
Meanwile, there appears to be confusion over at St. Lucia as to whether it's human agents or online travel agencies (OTAs) bringing them all the business. After reading Joe Pike's report on the island's travel road show series, Laura points out an apparent contradiction, posting:
It's interesting that the tourist board would credit agents for their growth, given the fact that they only promote Expedia on their site.
I just checked www.stlucianow.com, the website cited in the story, and I don't see any mention of Expedia. I do, however, see several places where agents can log in to find promotions. Am I missing something?
Two New Comments on Two Big Stories
The biggest stories in the last edition of the Weekly Wrap were that of ME Cancun becoming an all-inclusive property that will offer amenities and access to non-guests and Unique Vacations' decision to terminate its wholesaler agreement with Apple Vacations.
As for the situation involving Unique Vacations and Apple Vacations, Teddi joined the fray, falling in line with other commentators speaking out about Sandals. He posted:
It is about time that Sandals finally discovered that they are not the only game in Jamaica... The Ultra All inclusive just does not give the experiences that our clients expect. Secrets is a great addition to the Hotels in Jamaica. Hopefully Sandals will step up to the task and improve their resorts to reflect the advertising they spend millions on.. Competition is great for everyone
I agree that healthy competition is in the best interest of the industry, including its employees, suppliers and consumers. Hopefully this scenario will accentuate that theory and will not get wrapped up in politics or useless bickering.
Responding to the first comment on the topic of ME Cancun, Nikki wrote:
This is an amazing property and I think this change is exciting. Karen I think the article is poorly written regarding non-guest because I'm assuming it's going to be like any other all-inclusive where non-guest can enjoy the aminities but at a daily fee of usually around $80 per person per day.
Nikki, in regards to your comment of it being poorly written, all I can tell you is we did the best with the information we found. As of now, there are no details about a daily fee or how the property will operate the non-guest policy. If you know (not hypothesize) something we don't, please share and we'll definitely add in the interest of keeping our readers informed.
Speaking of Extra Information
We always encourage our readers and users to share their knowledge on a story, particularly if it adds depth to the information. It appears we are on the cusp of such a situation when it comes to the news that
eTravCo is re-organizing. susan white shared:
Not anywhere in this article does it mention that travel agencies received letters from an attorney telling us it would be usless to go after Etravco and try to get the commissions they owe us. I have the letter and would be happy to foward it you.
Susan, I'll check in with George Dooley about the information of the story, since he wrote it. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me the letter at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be happy to take a look. Sounds like important and useful stuff.
Equal Opportunity to Make Sales
The politics involved in marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples will, seemingly, never go away and, in my opinion, it's best to ignore all the hubub over it. But that doesn't mean that the gay and lesbian travel market should be ignored. Jacqueline Johnson recently addressed this topic with agents and it already received a response from Val, who commented:
Of course,we cannot ignore this market. That's exactly why we decided to spent almost a year to create specific travel guide (Gayjin) for gay audience (for those with iPhones or iPod Touch). While initially it was slow business, today we see that it is a promising market and people are eager to spent they money on quality products (if fact more than average straight person).
While I normally don't enjoy posting comments that are promoting a business, I'm taking an exception here because it directly relates to the issue discussed and could aid agents in profiting from this lucrative market. The info can be found at http://gayjin.info. Check it out, and let me know if it makes an impact on your ability to sell.
As always, the conversation doesn't end here. Keep the comments coming. Post one below or at any of the cited articles (among hundreds of others here at www.travelagentcentral.com). Write us at our Facebook page (where a comment regarding Tropicana Las Vegas has inspired us to investigate the property's relationship with travel agents). Send a tweet to our Twitter page (where Henry Harteveldt, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, commented on our query if 2010 is truly a year of recovery or just a year that's better than 2009). You can always join discussions in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all kinds of travel agents.
If you share something intriguing, we'll feature it in upcoming stories, like we did when writing about the most outrageous requests clients have made to their agent.
Until next week...