September 21, 2011
On Location: A First Look at Disney's Aulani Resort
Suggestion for your clients: If they are heading from the east coast to Hawaii, strongly encourage them to book a day to travel rather than flying across country overnight. They’ll arrive in the islands as the sun goes down, and can go to bed and wake up refreshed and ready to start their vacation in earnest.
And yes, I’m speaking from experience: To get to Hawaii, I flew out of New York at 9pm, transferred at Las Vegas (having to change terminals and go through security again—fun!), and landed in Honolulu at around 4:30am, so I’m dead tired. Really, it’s better to spend a day flying and then sleep all night. A friendly little tip your clients will appreciate…
I’m here to check out Disney’s new Aulani resort, which officially opens this weekend after a soft opening last month. And, granted, I’ve only seen it in the dark, but I feel pretty safe saying it’s a doozy: It towers over the other resorts on Ko Olina (about half-an-hour’s drive from Honolulu), has lovely views over the ocean and the nearby hills, and has a lovely understated sort of luxury.
The lobby is largely open to the fresh air, giving it a spacious ambiance. (Can’t wait to see the sun coming through those skylights.)
Many of the rooms seem to be arranged in an inter-connecting suite-room pattern—ideal for families or groups. My suite is massive, with a king-sized bed that I’ll need a ladder to get into. The shower stall has a rainforest head and a sauna-esque bench. The living room has a kitchenette and a table that can comfortably sit four people.
And then there’s the balcony, which has amazing views of the surrounding landscape. I have every intention of sitting outside and working on my tan…as soon as the sun comes up.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more from Aulani!
January 17, 2011
Club Med, Sandpiper Bay--Day Two
One of the nice things about all-inclusive resorts is that they feed you. No, I mean they really feed you. Gout has to be a real danger for regular all-inclusive visitors. And, happily, the food at Club Med Sandpiper Bay is both plentiful and very tasty. Their buffet restaurant, Marketplace, has lots of food for everyone--vegetarians and carnivores, kids and grownups, those who like it hot and those who like it mild. It's a bit overwhelming. Tell your clients to take a walk around the room before making their selection (unless they see any prime rib--then all bets are off). Also tell them about the wonderous white chocolate bread, which must be tasted to be believed, and which probably gave me diabetes. It was worth it.
After breakfast, I headed over to the resort's spa, which will be getting an overhaul in coming months (more on that later). The therapist for my Signature Massage was Sandra Lamb, who pushed and pulled on all my muscles until I was wonderfully relaxed and zen. She also explained exactly what she was doing throughout the treatment and gave insights on why it was helpful. Request her by name when booking treatments for your clients--she really does a lovely job.
Soothed and relaxed, my little group toured around the resort for a few minutes, wandering around the adults-only infinity pool and different sports facilities. (In keeping with the family vibe, the resort has child-sized tennis courts so that smaller players aren't overwhelmed by a full-sized one. Nice.) We also checked out a Deluxe Family Room (one of the remodedled suites). The room has a gentle, nautical theme and nice touches like painted hardwood floors. It has plenty of room for four people (two bedrooms, two bathrooms), and lots of light.
And somehow, it was lunchtime again, and we dined alfresco at Soleil, the a la carte restaurant with a rather limited menu (some sandwiches, a few entrees and some snacks). Still, the food is part of the all-inclusive, and the views of the river are lovely, and it's nice to be able to sit and relax for hours and ask for cheese and crackers throughout a conversation. (So I hear. Ahem.)
Not content to simply taste food, we went around to a side room off of Marketplace for a cooking demonstration with sous-chef Erik, who showed us how to make a delicious duck breast over a rice pilaf. (I didn't know how important it is to score a duck breast before cooking it, so that the fat drains away. Learn something new every day!) The lesson was not overly complicated, and we were invited to ask questions about the preparation, the food and just about anything else involving cooking for a huge resort. (Apparently hot dogs and hamburgers are the most-requested dish for kids, and crabs legs are popular with grown-ups.)
And then came the moment I'd been dreading. Y'see, I'm terrified of heights. No, you're thinking I just don't like them. I mean I can't breathe when I'm up too high. (And "too high," for me, is about two feet off the ground.) On the other hand, I love great views, and I love trying new activities. And Club Med Sandpiper Bay has a full-size trapeze and a staff to teach guests how to fly, which is fantastic for anyone who wants to try a totally different kind of sport...but was just too much for me and my vertigo, alas. But encourage your clients to at least give it a try--if they can handle the high ladder, they'll be rewarded with a truly unique experience they'd be hard-pressed to find outside of Ringling Bros., and some great views while they swing to and fro. And we got to see some very small kids scaling the ladder and swinging happily above the net, so the trapeze is clearly popular among the junior set, too.
Before dinner, we stopped in at Slice, the resort's bar and nightclub, for a wine-tasting with Marcel, the sommelier, who explained what kinds of wine went best with what meals, and how to properly taste and enjoy different vintages. (Yes, we slurped the wine. Not very graceful, but it certainly does enhance the flavor!) Marcel, by the by, has some great stories in addition to a vast knowledge of oenology, and if your clients happen to spot him at Slice or when he isn't setting up wine in the Marketplace, they should see if he'll talk about his adventures around the world.
Of course, there is music every night at Slice, and families can gather to dance to Zumba or Club Med's signature Crazy Signs. And another nice feature: The nightclub serves complimentary cocktails (including frozen drinks and mojitos), but allows kids to enter so they can listen to music with their parents. Including the kids is what makes this a genuine family resort, rather than a resort with a children's program.
January 13, 2011
Club Med, Sandpiper Bay
After two major snowfalls in New York, it's wonderful to get out of the freezing city and escape to southern Florida, where Club Med Sandpiper Bay has just reopened following a $25-million renovation.
Thanks to Delta and its decision to cancel my flight to Palm Beach, I missed most of the first day I was scheduled to tour the property. (And really, Delta, what gives? Bad weather is one thing, but when my new flight leaves from the same airport at the same time as the canceled one, I begin to suspect shenanigans.) I arrived just in time to see a lovely sunset over the St. Lucie River and enjoy dinner with some GOs and GMs (the resort's lingo for event organizers and guests).
The resort is not along the Florida coast, but rather further inland. The St. Lucie river is huge (and saltwater, I hear...must find out tomorrow), and serves all the functions of a private beach. The marina my room overlooks conjures images of old-fashioned fishing villages, and the low-rise nature of the resort blends in nicely with the scenery.
The resort is presenting itself as the only genuinely all-inclusive family resort in America, and will reportedly focus on sports and athletics. I'm scheduled to try a few of those tomorrow, so stay tuned for more details about what else the resort has to offer.
October 15, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: October 11-15
There's nothing quite like autumn in New York. At the same time, there's nothing quite like autumn in New Hampshire (where I spent a few days last week, in case there's anyone who was wondering where the Weekly Wrap was last week). I bet there's nothing quite like autumn just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. But as much as New England foliage and sweater weather in the Big Apple are what's on my mind these days, what's more important (at least at this very moment) is what you, our readers are thinking about. So let's get scrolling.
California's Credit, Cruise Conundrum
It looks like Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting out of California amidst all kinds of problems for the state, from budgeting to politics. Welfare is rarely a topic we cover here at Travel Agent, but when Susan J. Young read a report in the Los Angeles Times about welfare money being used to buy cruise vacations, it was indeed something worth noting. Needless to say, the dogs have been unleashed when it comes to comments of frustration and anger. Just take a look for yourself.
What the !!@?? No wonder that state is in suc mess!!!@!@@
FIRST OF ALL, WHO WOULD THINK TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS... ITS ALL KINDS OUT HERE...
Margaret King posted:
That is absolutely insane. Did no one ahead think that use of these cards could be exploited? After the fact, I suppose.
Frank Herdman added:
I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't uncommon in all the states including Florida where most of the ships sail from. I would love to see the goverment look into see how many people on public assistance went on a cruise in the last year or so?Any goverment offical willing to take up the challenge?
karen peterson stated:
This has been going on since 2007? And like a lightbulb of an idea, you now decide this is inappropriate. You, the administrators, are what's wrong with this program. GET WITH THE PROGRAM!
Joe Gray, responding to karen peterson, wrote:
Oh, please, and enough already with your sanctimony. No question such behavior is reprehensible and way beyond the pale. That said, the fact this has gone since 2007 (which I presume is when such state-issued debit cards were introduced) and is only now being discovered is most likely due to no one having thought that such transactions were happening in such magnitude; not due to any willful dismissal of those transactions.
Careful there, Karen Peterson, did you not hear about the fellow in unincorporated Tennessee whose home just burnt to the ground because there was no taxing authority collecting for fire protection services? What program is it you are suggesting to get with? If simple auditing procedures, I applaud your clarion call to action; if something else, I urge you consider the consequences of whatever it is you are on about.
elizabeth Koch commented:
I am a travel agent and earn my living from clients vacation travel but using welfare debit cards is beyond terrible...other Calif residents stay home so they can pay their bills while welfare clients are gambling in fancy ship casinos...reprehensible
I don't think California Taxpayers should be funding Welfare/Unemployment Vacations. Bravo! and about time I say!
Needless to say, there's not much California loving or dreaming going on when it comes to this story. Not only is it a shame to see taxpayers' dollars being monitored so carelessly, it's even worse to think about how much business this incident may have taken away from agents. I hope none of you out there were directly affected in any large manner.
Terrorism in Europe vs. Society in the U.S.: Which is Safer?
Everyone has been well aware of the recent travel alert to Europe that the State Department issued in regards to potential terrorist attacks in the Old Country. After the alert was issued, Jena Tesse Fox spoke to several tour operators, who told us that the warning had little-to-no affect on travel to the continent. Still, there was a report by Onenewspage.com that the alert did, in fact, deter some tourism to the region. One reader, however, seems a little skeptical. Andy Fraser wrote:
About 30,000 US citizens die each year in road accidents and roughly the same number die from guns. How many US citizens died last year from terrorist activities in Europe?
By my count, Andy, the answer is zero. However, just because guns and car accidents have a high death toll here in the U.S. doesn't, in my opinion, mean we should ignore the travel alert all together. Needless to say, 9/11 changed just about everything when it comes to the travel industry and there have been plenty of incidents overseas since (from the train bombings in Spain in 2005 to the attacks in Mumbai in late 2008). I think it's always better to be safe than sorry. In this situation, it appears travelers and suppliers were playing it safe and, fortunately, little-to-no business was lost. In the end, it's great to see consumers sticking to travel plans. Not only does it keep business going, but it's symbolic in showing the terrorists that we are not afraid to live our lives.
A Question on Medical Tourism
Although it's been nearly two months since George Dooley penned his latest piece about the growing niche of medical tourism, the topic remains fresh enough that agents are seeking feedback from other travel professionals. For instance, Henk Bijl appears ready to jump on board to sell medical travel packages, but is curious as to how his business can benefit. He posted:
Extremely interesting. In order to consider business scenarios, what's a ballpark commission from hospitals in destination countries for a facilitator delivering customers?
I think that's a great question, Henk. I'm sorry I can't answer it, but I hope some of our readers can by posting a comment below or at the original article.
ME Cancun's All-Inclusive Decision
One of the most read stories on TravelAgentCentral.com as of late has been ME Cancun's offering of special travel agent rates. As much as that promo is exciting agents, a different policy of the property is continuing to turn heads— it's decision to open it's all-inclusive amenities to non-guests. The topic has been brough up in not just one, but two editions of the Weekly Wrap this year. And here we go for the third time as Robert Paisola, talking directly to Raul Petraglia, managing director of the property, writes:
Raul, Please reconsider this plan We have an incredible property that is EXCLUSIVE. Opening the doors for money will cause uncalculated damages. Look at the art, Look at the way the property is viewed. Is it really worth it?
ME Cancun's decision is a first in the industry. As some readers see it failing, others don't see it as such a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Commenting on Two Caribbean Islands
Both Jamaica and St. Croix were cited in comments this week, mostly in a supportive tone. For starters, two readers shared their take on a massive fam trip that recently took place in Jamaica. Geraldine Simpson was there, and is apparently thrilled with the results, stating:
I attended the 9/10-13/10 and it was the best I have ever attended. We had the chance to really experience various properties and excursions and were able to really see the island from many angles. Professionalism of the staff at every venue I visited was at its best. Keep up the good work Jamaica. You have my vote and my clients.
Meanwhile, Richard Post is adding his two cents, reminding agents of another supplier he believes deserves recognition, writing:
Let's not forget about Riu Hotels that also hosted agents and did a great job if I don't say so myself.
I went to Jamaica with my family when I was six years old and I remember it was all I could color/write about in class the following weeks. In 2004, my roommate and grad school went there and had to mind his tongue upon return due to my immense jealousy of not being able to go. In my opinion, Jamaica can sell itself, but it's great to see the island's investment in agents.
In regards to the Jamaica trip, Geraldien thinks such an opportunity would be a great benefit for the island of St. Croix. After reading a report about an increase in arrivals to the U.S. Virgin Islands, she commented:
Having lived in the USVI, I would still like to see them promote St. Croix a little more. Perhaps do a fam such as the one Jamaic did, but of course on a smaller scale since there aren't as many hotels.
Sounds like a good idea to me. Perhaps someone should make a call, or send me the number so I can make the call for them.
Ending with a Nice Endorsement
Ruthanne Terrero recently attended Nexion's annual conference, where she analyzed how the purchase of Nexion by Tzell will affect agents. According to one reader, no matter what happens as a consequence is just fine as long as Jackie Friedman remains at the helm. Cindy Rake shard:
Thank goodness Tzell had the insight to keep Jackie and her crew, they do a great job. Nexion would not be the same nor would it be as sucessful with them. Now if Nexion would just improve the tech department's attitude and response time it would be near perfect.
It's always nice to end the Weekly Wrap on a positive note. But don't let the conversation die here. We always want to hear from you and take your comments to heart, especially if they can benefit other travel professionals in an engaging dialogue. So keep the comments coming. Post them below or at the original articles. You can also write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page. Of course, you can always participate in conversations in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents.
Talk to you next week...
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...
August 13, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: August 9-13
There's no doldrums in August this year. I expected a long and hard scouring to bulk up the Wrap this week because I'm used to this part of the year involving a slow media cycle among numerous summer vacations. Not in 2010. In addition to a plethora of news that broke, dialogues have expanded and a cursed category of comments just won't go away. Let's take a look.
The Big News
For the travel industry, two significant events took place this week: Unique Vacations terminated its wholesaler agreement with Apple Vacations, and the ME Cancun announced plans to become an all-inclusive resort that allows non-guests access to the property and amenities. Both caught the attention of several readers.
Speaking about ME Cancun's decision, Karen said:
I think it would be okay if the non-guests are there to attend a wedding or family celebration. Otherwise, I would not feel good about staying at a resort where non-guests get the same amenities. I wouldn't book it for myself!
But over at our Facebook page, one agent felt otherwise.
Kerr Berr wrote:
Sounds like a win-win to me! Money from the day pass, and a chance frequent travelers will like what they see & plan a visit there.
Based on the comments at our Facebook page as well as the article, looks like most agents aren't too thrilled about this decision. It will be interesting to see how this business model plays out.
Unique & Apple
The news about Unique Vacations ending its agreement with Apple Vacations broke a day or so after ME Cancun made its announcement, and readers were quick to respond. Both nina and Ken Johnson cite a top resort company when expressing their opinion.
Ken Johnson commented:
All Sandals is doing is hurting themselves.They need every wholesaler then can get to book their properties. it doesn't cost them to do it. They are not wanting to have Apple which owns Secrets,dreams,and,Now to not be in competition with their property since Apple can push people to Secrets.
Looks like Sandals doesn't like the Secrets competition. I smell sour grapes.
Like I said about ME Cancun, it will be interesting to see how this decision plays out. I'm no insider, but I'm sure Pike will keep us posted.
More on Medical Tourism
In the most recent Weekly Wrap (I was out on a three-day vacation last week and will be next week for anyone who actually misses me) the big issue of week was medical tourism. I'll let you check back at was discussed through the link above, but here's the latest addition to the conversation on the matter.
Kathie De shared some news about companies that appear to have a strong footing in the niche already, sharing:
American Marketng Group, parent company of Travelsavers, TWIN and NEST announced their new venture into "Wellness Travel" at their convention in June. They are on the cutting edge of this new revenue opportunity.
Jack Schafer, who spoke with George Dooley in the initial article and added some comments afterward, returned to address a statement made my Kathie (not the same Kathie as Kathie D whose comment is above... at least I think it's not the same Kathie as Kathie D). He stated:
Kathie... WellBeing travel is perhaps the most "forward thinking and capable" travel consortium that is developing a business model to serve the Medical Tourism Industry, and with AMG they have the agencies and resources in place to make this happen. This article speaks of developing the conduit between the two INDUSTRIES - Travel and Medical Tourism, and no one company is going to "own" this $20 Billion industry. Each travel provider will develop their “niche”… and if done right, they will become successful. This is not a one company industry, and the successful blending of the Medical Tourism Industry, into the Travel and Tourism industry is a win-win for everyone – especially those 5 (est) Million patients that are depending on us to get it right.
I certainly applaud Rick and Anne Marie in their ability to foresee the tremendous potential of Medical Tourism. They are Pioneers and exactly the kind of company that the Medical Tourism industry needs.
Looks like a lot of companies are becoming players in this niche travel market. Hopefully agents can take advantage. If anyone out there wants to cite another company of interest when it comes to medical tourism, please share a comment below or at the original article.
A Traveler's Take
The more you know about a property, the easier it is to sell it, or, perhaps, advise against staying at it. Such may be the case when it comes to the new La Plage Resort in Sicily. We recently posted a news brief about its opening, and one reader already has some criticism to share.
Bettina Eisengrein warned:
I have visited this hotel in July: What they do not publish is that the hotel is located directly at the train tracks. Very noisy. The rooms are incredible small: 19m² and that the stuff hardly speaks English. The Beach Club's seating is so narrow that you can hear your neighbours breathing. Not recommendable for the discerning traveller.
That's not the news you want to hear about a new property, but I'd like to play the role of a devil's advocate who has no experience with the hotel in question;
* Being close to the train tracks certainly makes for easy transfers and can save travel time. Is it the train's noise itself that is the issue or does the track's rumbling shake the hotel? Is there a lot of noise from car, taxi or passenger traffic?
* I'm a bit confused about what 19m² means. If it's 19 meters by 19 meters, that's not too small. One meter equals approximately 3.2808399 feet; so 19 meters equals 62.3359581 feet. Multiplying 62.3 by 62.3 produces 3,881.29 square feet. That sounds huge. Perhaps you are saying the room is only about 62.3 feet in total? Now that is small. But then again, it's a boutique hotel.
* It is nice to have staff that speaks perfect English if it is your primary and/or sole language. Perhaps this boutique hotel is targeting domestic travel or authenticity through it's Italian roots?
* Beach Clubs tend to be loud no matter what, right? Combine sunshine, liquor, leisure and customers, and you have a lot to talk about.
Anyone else out there have something to share about the property? Post a comment below or at the original article.
Security for Airports or Passengers?
It's been nearly a decade since airport security became analyzed through the figurative microscope so closely. Privacy and safety are the primary concerns by those one either side of any issue on the situation. In April, Dooley shared some data from a Travel Leaders study that reported most Americans feeling comfortable with the current state of airline security. In July, it received a pretty entertaining from a reader named wimpie, who compared airline security to Gestapo. Now, another reader chimes in on the matter. Mike shares a take on privacy concerns that— using the term very loosely— is semi-similar to that of crazy wimpie, only more sane and diligent, posting:
Next month full body scanners are going to be installed at the three New York airports. TSA better put up signs informing the people of the possible health hazard. Most people don't know about the radiation these machines zap you with. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk. The American people have the right to know, and it should be their decision if they want to go through those scanners, they need to be informed though. If signs aren't posted, my crew will be at all 3 airports handing out flyers and interviewing people, letting them know how their government is deceiving them again.
As the saying goes, the children are our future. So I certainly hope expecting mothers are well aware of the potential hazards of full body scanners. I haven't done the research on potential effects, so I won't blindly assume Mike is 100 percent correct, but it's nice to see he cares so much. Seriously.
The Older Orbitz Story
Orbitz's new program which offers travel agents commissions is a big industry story for 2010. In February, the company's vice president of corporate communications addressed agents and readers at our Facebook page. That same story recently recevied a comment from Anant, who said:
I am not knocking there business model it is obviously successful but I think Orbitz is underestimating the memory of Travel Agents.
I'd like to suggest Anant check out our exclusive report in which Orbitz addressed the traditional travel agent community for more.
Pet Airways is a new service that provides flights for pets only. It's a great service. But we are not Pet Airways and cannot keep answering questions about it. Time after time, after time, after time again, readers post comments on our initial story about the company asking us to work miracles or assuming we are Pet Airways. The latest is Linda Burns who requested:
I need to ship a Collie LA to BALTIMORE---would love to use your service but it is at least DOUBLE any other airline. You say we need an extra large crate--we show and travel and always use a #400 crate - a large medium. Is that why you charge so much? Thank you, also- is the price one way or round trip???? You quote the same for both.....Thank you, Linda Burns
I'm near the end of the plank here. If we get one more reader asking us a question as if we are the airline and not realizing that we are a media outlet that is reporting about the airline, I am going to have to put a disclaimer on the article. And that's just embarrassing.
As always, I hope agents and readers keep the conversations going. I'm out next week but will be back for a Wrap on August 27, and hope I find plenty of user feedback at our site, at our Facebook page, at our Twitter page, or at AgentNation.
April 08, 2010
The Grand(e) Hotel at Iberostar Playa Paraiso
The oasis-esque lobby of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso at night
The big news of the week down here in Mexico's Riviera Maya is, of course, the announcement that Antonio Banderas is the new face of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts. But after staying at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso for two days thus far, what's just as big is the size of the resort. After a quick tour of our suite at the hotel, now's the time to take a tour of the lobby. Yes, just the lobby. It took nearly four minutes to take it all in for a video. Check it out below.
We'll be doing a tour of the resort and its various properties and amenities today, so come back for more, because there will certainly be a lot more. This place is huge.
April 06, 2010
On Site: First Impressions of Iberostar Playa Paraiso
Before boarding my American Airlines flight this morning, I heard a weather report that said the temperature in New York City could break 80 degrees today or tomorrow. So I was surprised when I landed in Mexico to feel the temperatures in Cancun, as well as in the Riviera Maya, were only four or five degrees higher than back in the Big Apple.
Upon arrival at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso, I was intrigued by the aesthetic combination of the ruins, architecture and landscape (photos to come later this week). But what struck me the most was the sheer size of the place, and I haven't even toured anything outside the main lobby or my room yet. Check out the copy of the property's map below and you'll see what I mean.
I am staying at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, which is a fairly large property that is a dot on the entirety of the resort. Looking at the map, this place seems like a theme park or city of its own. There's a shopping center, a convention center, an expansive golf course and five hotels. I'm sure I'll discover more that the map can't do justice for as the week progresses. But until then, check out a quick video tour of my room, #7315.
The balcony is, indeed, a nice touch. Check out a still photo of the view from it below.
I'll be sharing as much of this property as possible throughout the week (in addition to some cool news I can't share just yet), so stay tuned.
If you or your clients have been here, or are planning a visit, let me know and I'd be glad to explore certain areas or answer questions of interest as best I can. So far, we've received the following comments on our Facebook page about the property:
I loved it. My clients love it. Happy Travels
Kathy Barnes Johnson
I have a client who is staying there in June. My hubby and I are hoping to make it there in the fall. It looks amazing! Can't wait to hear about your stay.
May 28, 2009
Travel Agent Visits Hawaii's Big Island
Sunrise on the Big Island
Even at night, Hawaii (really, I feel like I should be spelling it Hawai'i) is exotic and exciting. The air is rich and fragrant, and breezes sound different when they rustle palm fronds instead of oak leaves.
After flying 12 hours from New York (I can now quote every line from United Airlines' entertainment selection), we landed at Kona Airport and enjoyed a limousine ride to Hilton Waikoloa Village.
The sun was setting as the group set out, so we couldn't see much, but perhaps the most interesting thing about the ride was that there was so little to see. There is very little development on the Kona side of the island, and the lava fields are largely flat. The highway has no billboards. Locals use white coral pieces to write messages against the black earth--environmentally friendly vandalism, as one member of the group called it. Waikoloa Village's Director of Public Relations Leanne Pletcher said that locals don't want their views obstructed, and developers have largely left the landscape in peace. It's an impressive sight by sunset, and I can't wait to see more in daylight.
View from Travel Agent's room at the Hilton Waikoloa Village
Oh, and Hilton Waikoloa Village is so big that the property has trains and boats to bring guests from one area to another. Just to put everything in perspective
Tomorrow: snorkeling and swimming with dolphins.
Right now: Sleep. It's 3:38 a.m. New York time as I write this. What am I still doing up?