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...
June 18, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: June 15-18
I was semi-watching the United States tie Slovenia 2-2 in our team's second match in the 2010 FIFA World Cup today (semi-watching because half of the screen time was spent on my laptop working and, for the record, there were other employees with me— who will remain nameless unless I need to take them down with me), and could not miss the confusion and outrage over the referee's disqualification of a go-ahead goal in the final minutes that would have put our guys up 3-2. Not only was his call vilified by the ESPN commentators (one of which can be considered objective when, in his natural English accent, he said that even as an England fan he felt the U.S. was robbed), but there appeared to be no explanation or citation of what foul was committed.
Fortunately for that referee, the game wasn't taking place in Philadelphia, McAfee Coliseum (where the dreaded Black Hole of Oakland Raiders fans await) or even in Madison Square Garden when Bowe and Golotta are fighting. There are probably hundreds in South Africa right now, and hundreds of thousands across the planet, that want his head. This takes place just after the recent tainting of a perfect game by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga when umpire Jim Joyce made, clearly, an incorrect call at first base (he later admitted his error).
Needless to say, it has not been the best of times for sports referees as of late. Hence, I'm a little on edge this week when it comes to making calls on what readers of TravelAgentCentral.com have been saying as of late. I'd like to think that, over the course of the Weekly Wrap, I've been fair enough and have admitted when incorrect calls have been made. But that could always change. Let's see what happens this week.
Yellow Card of the Week
Mistakes happen and fouls are sometimes committed without any malicious intention. But they still happen. Last week, I had to remind someone that we are not Pet Airways but instead are a media outlet reporting about the airline. A similar instance took place this week when a reader commented on our report about Le Sereno in St. Barts naming a new general manager. Maroussia Nassief Reid apparently believes new GM Javier Vila works with us, writing:
Hello Mr. Vila,
Remember me? Maroussia from the Mayfair......my dad was going to spain so i looked you up and found you close to my caribbean home!!! Please email me so we can keep in touch! My email is email@example.com
Come on, Maroussia. The property's website is right there at the end of the story(here it is again: www.lesereno.com). We enjoy sharing the news with everyone but we can't do all of the following up and networking on our own. Have to call a foul on that one.
Red Card of the Week
As I said, mistakes sometimes happen without any ill will. But then there are those that are not only blatanly malicious, but sloppy as well. Take for instance Jonh London who, when commenting on our new full-timer Meagan Drillinger's report on adrenaline junky travel suggestions, posted:
You call this "for travellers on a budget" ? ($19999 for 1 week)....For that kind of money I can go 2 weeks to New-Zealand, and climb the vulcano's there!
Jonh, or somehow I bet you meant to add your name as "John," there is no package for $19,999. Yes, there is one for $1,999 if you want to go tornado chasing. However, not only are the rest of the packages low-cost (one as low as $96 per night) but the story says the source of the list is one that targets budget-minded. There's no line that deliberately says "these are all highly affordable" or something of the sort. Plus, I am pretty sure New Zealand is not supposed to have a hyphen in it and it's "volcano," not vulcano (Spock plays no role in magma production). You're always welcome to share your two cents, but that doesn't mean your free from penalty if you are not careful.
I enjoy seeing the passion that readers have when it comes to multilevel marketing companies like YTB, but sometimes it's exhausting and could use a break. Such is the case with a recent report by George Dooley analyzing a cheeky column written by Peter Stilphen about whether travel professionals should join an MLM or not. I shared most of the exchanges last week, and there are now more to read. The latest is a call-and-response pattern between denyse and Laura. It began with denyse's initial comment:
I'm a former YTB member and once I learned that there are definitely alternatives for me to sell MORE travel WITHOUT paying $50 per month, I jumped. I needed to sell RCCL and NCL because that's what my clients wanted. I also get much more training and support. My business has increased by 3000% since leaving and I pay $0 per month.
I had talked and talked to various YTB people to get them to see the light. I've come to understand that no matter what I say, unless you see the light for yourself you'll stay there. I don't have the time to keep saying the same things over and over again.
I wish everyone in YTB well who's looking to sell travel. But there ARE better alternatives. Think about your clients. SOME of them HAVE heard about YTB. And your business will not be as successful as it could be while with YTB.
Laura then chimed in:
Just because you WISH that MLMs didn't have a legitimate (and successful) business model doesn't mean they don't. No, YTB is not my host. There are a lot of businesses that sell their products through the MLM model...Avon, Stella and Dot, Discovery Toys, etc. Traditional travel agents have my respect...I was one myself...but they do not OWN the product of travel. It is not their decision who gets to sell travel and who doesn't. Sorry.
To which denyse responded:
Laura, I don't think this article is talking about ANY MLM outside of travel. Yes, Avon, Mary Kay, Discovery Toys, etc are successful MLM business models.
The issue with TRAVEL MLMs is that the profit margin in travel is not large enough to support a MLM business model. Therefore, you HAVE to recruit in order to make money. Those other businesses promote products. Travel MLMs promote travel websites - that's not a product. That's a marketing tool.
There is not one SUCCESSFUL travel MLM. All of them have issues. Even the ones who "claim" success have added additional products to their company so the reps can earn money.
Time out. I'm taking a break from this one on calls. But I'd enjoy to read what others have to say.
There's been some major stories taking place about air travel— only during the past few days, weeks, months and years— from airline mergers to added fees, and they are obviously of concern to agents. Two recent developments that have caught the attention of some readers are the proposed merger between Continental Airlines and United Airlines as well as American Airlines latest unbundling of fees. The former is the larger story, and Bradley is taking it quite seriously, stating:
This merger needs blocked. Ultimately, it will force airlines to keep merging until there are only one or two mega-airlines left. What this is doing is creating a position where domestic flights will cost far more than international flights. This hurts the airlines and the consumer, with us travel agents stuck in the middle.
Sounds like a good point. Does anyone out there disagree? I don't, but perhaps I'm making a bad call here.
Meanwhile, Alex appears to be on the fence regarding the issue with American Airlines, writing:
I'm a bit torn on this issue - specifically on the idea of paying a fee to reduce another fee you may or may not incurr. Also, can we file this as another fee related to baggage? With assigned seats, the only real reason to be first on board is to grab overhead bin space for your luggage - space which has become far more precious since baggage fees have driven passengers to bring more and more baggage as carry-ons. Bin space was never meant to handle the influx of passengers trying to avoid fees - if more of these bags were capable of being checked without a fee, would this kind of pre-boarding even be considered to be a perk?
I think you are on the right track, Alex. Whether it's been for business or leisure, I've tried my hardest to pack carry-on luggage only to save time and money. In the end, it seems travelers will have to decide whether to spend more on convenience or being well-equipped. This doesn't seem like a winning situation for anyone besides the airlines, those bastards.
Note to the Peanut Gallery
I am no stranger to sarcasm and Darrell Turner apparently isn't, either. From the sidelines, he makes an interesting point this week about the UK Culture Secretary's new tourism plan but I can't help but sense some heckling in his tone when he comments:
This is a great strategy, for the UK. But let me think about it a minute. Gee, if the USA did the same, and if Germany and Thailand and Spain and Italy did the same, we could collectively choke off 10 or 15% of international travel. The British can vacation at home. We'll vacation at home. Germans can vacation at home. International Airlines can reduce their routes, and all will be happy. Right??
We can and may. Or, maybe we can hear colorful tales from the Brits and Germans, among others, about some enriching and/or exciting journeys that they've taken within their homeland and become inspired to make that journey ourselves? That seems plausible to me.
Moment of Silence
No matter what's taking place on the playing field, the sidelines or elsewhere, there are some instances when all teams and fans take an appropriate moment to honor something important. This week, the travel industry lost a friend in John Shands, executive vice president of Leisure Alliance, who passed away after a battle with cancer. Christopher Flores of the Airlines Reporting Corporation's (ARC) Verified Travel Consultant (VTC) program immediately took a moment to honor Shands, saying:
You will be missed, John.
I am sure he will be. We here at Travel Agent are keeping Shands' family, friends and colleagues in our prayers.
As always, the conversation never ends here. Keep sharing your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you by posting comments below or one other articles. Write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Of course, you can always discuss topics in real time at AgentNation. We want to hear from you. Until next week...
March 26, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: March 22-26
Most comments I read over the week are posted anywhere but here at the Weekly Wrap. So when someone shares their opinion on a previous column, I prefer leading off the next one with their say. And this week it's John Frenaye, who commented on last week's wrap, saying:
@Kirk, I can;t speak for YTB, but as I have repeatedly said numerous times over the past few years, this is NOT about YTB. This is about MLM.
YTB (for good or bad depending on which side of the fence you are on) is the poster child due to their rapid growth, their arrogance, the fact they are publicly trained, their lawsuits, the consumer rip offs, and the lack of training for most of their participants.
The fact remains, you cannot squeak level upon level of compensation from a 10% industry. The penny can only be sliced so thin.
MLM does indeed work when there is a product that can support the payment structure and it is run and managed ethically.
Rather than taking pot shots at both YTB members and myself, why not do you own investigation and not rely on me, Doug, or any of the other TA sources and present your own conclusions?
And in terms of the hate-hate relationship, I am on very good speaking terms with several people currently involved in YTB--from lowly RTAs to Coach's Corner, to Directors to a few employees. I am friendly with many who have left--also in those capacities.
As to Tracy (who declines to offer her last name, but I do know who it is), I am not looking for your respect. But I do find it interesting that when I make a point, rather than debate the issue, most in YTB will resort to name calling.
Just a correction of a typo...
publicly trained=publicly traded
Thanks for writing John. I don't think I've ever taken any pot shots at you. In fact, I think if you read past pieces that you'll find I've said some fairly neutral and/or positive things about you (after all, you could be one of Travel Agent's most involved and engaging readers). If you do find a pot shot I took against you, please send it my way or repost it below and I'll take responsibility for what I wrote.
As for pot shots at YTB, I have made light of some of the weirder things some of its alleged members have posted here at Travel Agent (especially those that reference their interpretation of God's viewpoint on the matter) but don't attack them directly but instead cite the comments that do so. It is meant to stir the pot.
As for my own investigation on the matter, I'm afraid I may be stepping on George Dooley's toes on the subject as he's the one who has his ear to the ground and the connections to investigate. I'll e-mail him over the weekend to see if I can get him to write somehing new. The man has a long reach and could probably knock me out with one punch if I angered him enough (but I don't see him as the angry type).
Finally, props to you for owning up on your typos. Look around the site, and you'll see no one else really does that.
The topic of the week here at Travel Agent has been how agents and/or agencies can leverage social media to create more and better business. It began last week when Michael Browne wrote about the business of social media, which spawned a couple of comments throughout the weekend and into the following week. The first to comment was Marion, who posted:
It would be so great if I could find a website on how to network FACEBOOK, with detailed instructions on how to network FACEBOOK. I have my page on FB but am confused on where to go from there.
Jeff shared Marion's sentiment, and added some color, stating:
It would def be nice to have a "Social Networking Guideline" but in all reality everyone is sailing into uncharted waters and very few people have a proven track record of how to effectively utilize the technology. I would be interested in knowing what kind of return these companies are seeing from their efforts, or are they just utilizing the social media outlets for customer service, brand marketing, awareness, etc...
After reading the comments, our our Ruthanne Terrero responded very quickly— not just on the comment side but on the content side with her own column about agent success stories on Facebook. I hope this satisfies Marion and others.
Other important comments to note on this matter were made by agents who added their own advice to the social networking discussion.
Rick pointed out:
Social networking can help a company, but you must have a plan for coherent communication with your intended customers. Bear in mind, most social networking is just that, social, so it is essentially an extension of word-of-mouth. You need to provide interesting content and specials that keep your customers coming back to your site(s) to be successful with social networks in a business environment. Worse than nothing at all is a lackluster, confusing trail that confuses your potential customers.
The only downside is IF you do not deliver excellent service, social media can expose that quickly as customers now have the ability to broadcast this experience to other potential customers.
Overall, this technology is a great way to engage customers..but id does take time to learn and see the results.
These are all great points, and the best part about them is that they exemplify the benefits of social media. Without little-to-no time constraints or barriers, agents are swapping tips back and forth right here on our site, and are hopefully making a difference in each other's operations.
While we are on the topic of Facebook, I wanted to point out one of the more amusing comments a fan recently posted on our page when we recently asked our dear readers: Cruise lines say they are increasing their prices in April...is this encouraging your clients to book now?
Golden Robert posted:
Cruise lines are still using the traditional peak season calander. I was in Tampa DEC-FEB on land during the coldest winters that city has ever seen. Enough was enough and I decided to jump land and try to book a cruise for 4d5n f $199...guess what? It was full because every Floridian decided to leave Tampa. Cruise line should price accordingly to global warming or sunami forecasts. News 9 in Tampa has the best radar in the world, they can be the travel agent!
Wow. We were all over how the cold weather in January was prompting more flights and travel to the Caribbean, but this little nugget of an anecdote is intriguing. Looks like agents may have a new backup plan for next winter: Florida residents seeking cruises. My buddy Nicholas Ciarcia must have been one of those cruisers. He lives in Tampa and recently took a trip by sea to the tip of South America. I'm still waiting for his pictures.
BTW, feel free to join in on that topic of conversation (the one about imminent cruise rate increases leading to more bookings now) at our Facebook page or at a thread on AgentNation. While you're at it, don't forget to vote in our poll.
Careful with Cuba
In the interest of transitioning as smoothly as possible from one topic to another, I just mentioned the Caribbean so let's talk about Cuba. As U.S. and Cuba officials met in Cancun this week to talk possibilities about travel between the two countries, there's been news about some tour operators tricking U.S. travelers with shadiness— and Walt is proud to not be one of them, at least in his words, which read:
Unfortunately, there are companies/operators who will try to lure individuals and groups and enticing them to "skirt" the law. The article uses the descriptive "some" for those companies and I for one am grateful for that. My business "Cuba Travel Club" does NOT use that questionable tactic as do other legitimate companies. Having said that, we will welcome travelers from The U.S.A. when they ARE legally able to visit Cuba.
Any travel professionals out there been exposed to shady tour operators selling travel to Cuba? I'd like to hear more about it.
Hot and Cold on Cook Travel
Tour operators selling Cuba travel aren't the only ones under fire here at Travel Agent as of late. Although George Dooley wrote about Cook Travel's success online back in December, some are coming back to either attack or defened the company. Two readers seem unimpressed with Cook.
One chose the metaphorical username Cook/AMEX is the worst, and wrote:
My recent experience with Cook Amex in NYC was the worst travel relationship I have ever had bar none. Poor communication, bad prices that they attempted to add an additional 900 fee for themselves, rude, no skilled staff. Avoid at all cost, remember I warned you.
Sam concurred, with his story:
I called Cook Travel twice and both times my calls were dropped. I wouldn't deal with them again. It was a waste of time.
Coming to Cook's defense is Luke, who shared:
I beg to differ. I use cook a lot for my corporate travel and they're great. If I can't get a hold of someone on the phone, I can always reach my agent via text or e-mail. They're tech savvy and they're real human beings. A lot more trustworthy than a booking engine if you ask me.
I know little-to-nothing about Cook Travel but am sure some of you agents and readers out there do. So fill me in, is Luke right in his defense of Cook or are Sam and "Cook/Amex is the worst" just in their criticism? It's two against one right now. Let's see if someone can even it out or tip the scales more in one direction.
iTrek, I'm Sorry, You're Just A Tool
iTrek's "The Travel Agent is Dead" contest continues to brew storms online here at Travel Agent. First is appeared as if Travel Guard and Chartis pulled the plug on the program, which made the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) very happy. But happiness has gone sour as it appears the contest is, sort of, still on and, on top of that, mocking agents on the iTrek website. This did not please ASTA one bit, nor did it amuse any of our readers.
Yet as some readers seem to be encouraged by ASTA (i.e. DONNA, who wrote I THINK ALL TRAVEL AGENTS NEED TO GIVE THEM HELL SO NO OTHER COMPANY DARES TO ATTACK US AGAIN!), two seem to think ASTA can spend its time more wisely.
First, Murray chimed in:
All ASTA is doing is adding fuel to iTrek's campaign. The more TAs complain, the more it will appear to many people that iTrek's claims are true.
Alan Fiermonte added:
I think ASTA has bigger fish to fry, such as 1) stop losing money; 2) find a new CEO; 3) boost membership rolls; 4) come up with a plan for strategic redirection in the face of continued involuntary dis-intermediation and consolidation of small and mid-size travel agents. ASTA should FOCUS on what ASTA can do for agent business development, not on what others are blabbing about in a stupid contest thousands of miles away in Australia.
Based on Alan's his recent history with ASTA, one may say that he's just being bitter. For those who feel that way, I would like to point out what I wrote about the iTrek situation in last week's column:
Who cares what iTrek thinks? Let them play their didgeridoos, drink their Fosters, and argue about whether Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, or Eric Bana is the bigger stud actor from Australia (we know it's not Mel Gibson nor Orlando Bloom).
I don't care what iTrek thinks, but I certainly do care about two comments posted on the most recent story about the insurance firm. Both J Bartz and Pete gave me a good laugh this week. First J Bartz shared a clever idea:
Why don't travel agents start their own promotion "itrek is dead"? I'm sure travelguard/travelsafe would help promote it!
I think J's definitely on to something. Anyone want to pick up the idea and run with it?
Finally, Pete described iTrek with one of my favorite words this year (especially when it comes to reality television), saying:
I wrote to iTrek after the first attack on TA's. I didn't get a response. What a bunch of tools.
Tools! Based on the behavior I've seen at iTrek's website, I agree with Pete. More importantly, thanks to Pete, I can share with you my opinion on what truly constitutes a tool. You see, there's this reality show on VH1 called "The Tool Academy,"where (mostly) girlfriends sign their toolish boyfriends up for a reality show. The twist is that these guys think they are going on a show to be crowned Mr. Awesome, made the spokesman for a lady's energy drink or employed as the party ambassador to Mexico. Feeding the tools' bellies with alcohol and energy drinks, and feeding their egos with actors who pretend to flirt with them, the show gets these guys on camera acting out... and their girlfriends are watching. At the end of the first episode of each season, the tools are gathered together and told (as fireworks go off) that they are not in a contest to be Mr. Awesome etc, but are about to go through therapy and physical challenges in order to win their girl back (as well as $100,000- how else would they get them to stay?).
The show is the biggest can't-look-away train wreck since Brett Michaels' "Rock of Love." I'm not proud that I watch it, but I'm not ashamed either. It's just too hypnotizing. Just take a look at the clip below and you'll see.
And on that note, I hope to continue reading constructive comments from all you readers. Keep them coming by posting comments below and elsewhere. Write us at our Facebook page. Send us a tweet on our Twitter page. Keep coming back to AgentNation. Until next week.
January 29, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: January 25-29
I follow politics, but rarely get too involved in taking sides or arguing for one issue or another. So when President Obama made an extensive call during his State of the Union speech to eliminate the bickering in Washington that he believes is hindering progress on issues he feels the country must improve I began to wonder if the plethora of entertainment I find in crazy exchanges between punidts, politicians, and their commenters and fans would soon diminish. Then I realized that even if such an improbable taske were achieved that I can still look forward to the occasional wackness submitted by readers here at TravelAgentCentral.com. It only took a month for someone to bring God into a conversation fused by comments about a controversial company in the travel industry... and it's not YTB this time.
In The Name of Traverus
As we approach 365 days since the story was first published, it seems more and more readers keep coming back comment to George Dooley's initial report on Traverus. As noted above, one reader, Seneca Johnson, feels pretty holy on the subject, saying:
TraVerus is changing lives one person at a time. TraVerus is not a get rich quick scheme! TraVerus is a company created to help the new network marketer with no experience have a fair chance in the industry. I thank the lord for being TraVerus in my life. Now I tell God less about my problems and tell problems more about my God. TraVerus4LIFE!
After weeks of re-publishing much vehement vitriole about Traverus, I admit it is refreshing to see such joy in a comment about the company for once. This story has been a solid one for quite some time and, if you looked carefully, you can see that it may be subject to a court case involving one Peter Stilphen.
Speaking of Stilphen
"Who is Peter Stilphen?" you may ask. It just so happens that George Dooley checked in with the man about his latest venture, STARS. The name of the piece is "Will STARS Gain Traction Among Agents?" If you look at the comments, it appears the answer may be "No.
I think anyone under 80 doesn't want to hear his mouth. If anyone looks at the membership, which is free, I think there's a total of 17 in CA. This shows you the value of the membership!
What stymies me is why he continues to get press. This publication, ASTA, etc. should exercise a bit more discretion in their choice of "news."
Kyle Bruening commented:
Me too! This guy marketed me I sent in the application twice. Then reached out to him and he never responded. I then faxed him and wanted confirmation to remove me from his list. He never responded. He provided poor follow up and communication. Forget STARS.
Tim Huggins posted:
Is anyone else tired of hearing this guy go on and on. Nothing worse than a miserable old man. Peter retire already. Any Travel professional under 45 doesn't want to hear your mouth.
Seems like STARS is far from traction and actually quite slippery among agents. Anyone have anything positive to say about the host agency?
We received several comments about whether Royal Caribbean was right in choosing to continue its cruises to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. Click through the hyperlink to see them yourself, but I wanted to spotlight one in particular as it appears one reader was a recent passenger and has shared their experience. Roberta wrote:
Sailed on the Independence that docked on Friday. We did bring some relief supplies and all proceeds were donated as promised. Due to poor weather conditions, most passengers did not take advantage of the the island's festivities. The general feeling was while we on the island, we were bring in some humanitarian supplies and we were happy to be there.
I just got an iPhone last month and am addicted to its ability to entertain me and make work easier. Clicking through e-mails and articles while on the bus saves me so much time. Which is why I enjoyed reading Michael Browne's piece on using mobile technology to improve business. One reader, Norm Rose, added a nice suggestion, stating:
Home based agents should work with their consortium or host agency to develop a downloadable app
The efficiency of mobile devices combined with the conveneince in home office operations should make for quite the streamlining of business, eh?
Until those magical mobile applications for agents come out, and even after they do, don't forget to connect digitally with your peers in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel professionals.
Until next week...
September 09, 2008
ASTA Announces Winners at Annual Meeting
Travel Agent's George Dooley reports from the American Society of Travel Agents' annual meeting, THE TRADESHOW, in Orlando, FL. Click the links below for detailed updates.
Minkoff Inducted to Hall of Fame
Al Minkoff, the founder of consortia giants GEM and Cruiselink, was inducted posthumously into ASTA's Hall of Fame.
Sudeikis Is Travel Agent of the Year
Former ASTA president Kathryn W. Sudeikis, currently vice president of corporate relations for All About Travel in Mission, KA, was honored with ASTA's 2008 Travel Agent of the Year Award.
Lee Named Young Professional
Stephanie Lee, marketing director for TravelQuest in Albertville, MN, was awarded ASTA's Young Professional Award.
Conlin, Miller Win Lifetime Achievement Award
Tom Conlin, founder of Conlin Travel in Ann Arbor, MI, and Fred Miller, former vice president of travel industry relations for Marriott International, were given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
By: George Dooley
July 30, 2008
Adventures of the Traveling Single Parent
Amanda S. Klimak, CTIE, is vice president of Largay Travel Inc. in Waterbury, CT.
Three years ago, when I joined the world of single parenting, the idea of taking a vacation without backup seemed somewhat horrifying. How could I possibly manage two small children outside my beloved comfort zone of home sweet home? What if I lost one of them? What if they got sick while traveling or, even worse, what if they decided to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the airport terminal or on the plane? It all sounds somewhat silly now but, at the time, these were all very, very real fears.
Early explorations with my then five-year-old daughter, Courtney, and seven-year-old son, Tristan, were limited to short trips only miles from our Connecticut home. A day trip to a local museum or a weekend away in Cape Cod seemed like great choices, but I was wrong. Our journeys somehow transformed me into what I now refer to as the “24-hour entertainment committee,” which was unfamiliar territory for this working mom. Somehow managing a $20 million company seemed like a cakewalk compared to trying to contain two little ones on my own for an extended period of time. What seemed like a brilliant idea of a relaxing weekend away at a friend’s beach house in Cape Cod was an exhausting proposition, to say the least.
There we were, privileged enough to be in a beautiful home on the beach—the problem was it was quickly transformed into a prison in which I was locked up with the energy twins. There was no escape from the constant activity and I was a caged animal who returned home with what I now refer to as “post-traumatic vacation disorder.” I was fearful of our next adventure, but I would not be broken. For years I had witnessed my single-parent clients traveling all over the world in vacation bliss with their little ones and somehow I knew that this self-proclaimed “super mom” would prevail in the world of vacationing.
With much angst and deliberation, the decision was made to once again venture out alone with my two little ones. This time, however, I was jumping in with both feet and cruising the Caribbean on a Voyager Class ship. Convinced by Royal Caribbean Cruise Sales Rep Lisa, I booked our cabin. The pre-trip mental turmoil I was experiencing may sound somewhat strange for a 20-year travel industry veteran, but I was venturing out alone into unfamiliar territory and completely outnumbered by my little angels. Would they break me once and for all? I think not. This time was different, and I was determined and prepared for battle—DVD players, iPods, video games, crayons, notepads and snacks were all a part of my single-mom survival kit. As we left for the airport, I felt empowered and convinced that this would be the best single-mom vacation ever.
Our journey was incredible and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line could not have been more accommodating. Each day, Tristan and Courtney bounced in and out of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program, allowing this overworked mom a few hours of alone time by the pool or in the fitness center. Explorations on shore were exciting for the three amigos and included swimming with dolphins and long walks through Old San Juan. Even the dining experience was transformed into a single parent’s paradise. Each evening the kids and I would venture up to the Windjammer Café for a nice buffet dinner for Tristan and Courtney, then they would ditch their boring mom and quickly retreat to Adventure Ocean for a Pajama or Pirate Party. Meanwhile, I would enjoy a magnificent five-course meal in the dining room with other single travelers, which the maitre d’ gladly arranged. Each night, we retired to our cabin for some great snuggle time on our bunk beds while watching movies and reminiscing about the day’s adventures.
We returned home with a newfound appreciation for our non-traditional family. I had a confidence and feeling of success in my abilities as a single parent that could not be described. I had conquered my fears of being the sole provider, the lone ranger and the family cruise director, and I was ready for our next adventure. I was no longer “super mom” but now “super mom extraordinaire,” and I realized that traveling as a single parent does not have to be feared but can be a gift to be savored. I realize now that I have something that most married parents may never enjoy—uninterrupted, one-on-one time with my children. The truth of the matter is that, with a little bit of planning and the right vacation choice, life as a traveling single parent can be the best vacation ever.
Stay tuned for details of our next adventure.