September 21, 2011
On Location: Talking With the Aulani Team
So I’ve had a chance to look at Aulani by daylight, and I have to say I’m even more impressed than I was this morning. (That could be due to the coffee, of course.) There are little Disney touches throughout—a wooden table lamp might have a subtly-shaded Mickey in the base, or you might go past a small statue of Stitch from the movie Lilo and Stitch (which, of course, was set in Hawaii). But on the whole, the resort has a very grown-up feel, with natural products in the design and subdued color schemes. There's plenty that would appeal to the younger crowd, but it doesn't feel specifically designed for children.
Over breakfast at 'Ama 'Ama (the more upscale restaurant at the resort, with killer views of the beach and the pools--see above), I chatted with Elliot Mills, Aulani’s managing director (below), to find out how a Disney resort should balance its appeal to children with its appeal to their parents. The answer, he says, is not in the design or décor, but in the experiences, with different activities available for a wide range of age groups. Little kids can go to Aunty’s House for storytelling; teens can play on the beach and learn various arts and crafts (or even the art of cooking!) and grownups can relax on the beach or sip cocktails on a terrace (with views over the beach and the pool area, making it easy to keep an eye on kids) or unwind in the spa.
That spa, Mills predicts, will be the best in all of Hawaii. Spa Director Lucia Rodriguez agrees (naturally), pointing out several unique perks the spa offers, like rainwater therapies in a dedicated rainwater suite, a reflexology path for guests to walk on barefoot (soothes foot problems, she says), and the hydrotherapy program. This program is included as part of the treatments, so guests can arrive an hour early and soak in an herb-infused tub and wash off with a custom-blended exfoliation scrub before they get their massage. If guests would rather just unwind in the outdoor hydrotherapy garden and skip the massage, it’s just $35 (and that still includes the custom-blended exfoliation treatment).
Shelby Jiggets, the director of Theatrical Development, comes to Aulani with an impressive theatrical resume (she worked for years with the Public Theater in New York City). She, like Mills, points out the value of having diverse options for a wide range of ages at the resort. She especially likes the distinctly Hawaiian sense of ritual throughout the resort, and explains that the team worked with local consultants and artists—including choreographers and writers—to make the activities authentic but appropriate for the Disney demographic.
And then, of course, there’s the food. Patrick Callarec, Aulani’s executive chef, said that his cuisine will appeal to parents (nothing is fried; everything is made from scratch; lots of local ingredients; etc.) as well as the kids. Even better, to introduce younger guests to the world of fine dining, family meals are presented in a proper three-course format—even when the main course is pizza. (Hey, they’re kids. Pizza is its own food group to a 10-year-old.) In the bars, the cocktails are also made with fresh ingredients—the pineapple juice is fresh-squeezed, for example, and nothing comes from cans. (Memo to self: Try a mai tai ASAP.)
Kapa (known as Tapa elsewhere) is a distinctly Polynesian artform, but it largely disappeared from Hawaii generations ago. Dalani Tanahy (above) traveled throughout the South Pacific to learn about the unique fabric, and is now considered a master of the craft. She is responsible for a lot of the kapa throughout the resort, all of which is authentic and handmade (and strikingly beautiful). As we were talking, she mentioned that in her travels, she heard the expression "We learned this from our grandmothers" frequently, and was always saddened that Hawaiians could not say the same. But now Tanahy has a grandchild of her own, and the tradition can resume.
Oh, one more detail about my room I forgot to mention: The toilet is heated, and features a built-in electronic bidet. Yes, folks, it’s finally happened, and it was only a matter of time: We’ve gone from smart phones to smart toilets. The machines now run the world.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more on Disney's Aulani.
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!
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...
September 17, 2010
Touring Byron Bay
Once Corroboree was over, I headed back to Brisbane from Hamilton Island via JetStar. (Leaving the island is a lot harder than you’d think. The planes and ferries make it very convenient, of course, but you just imagine saying goodbye to that crystal water and all those palm fronds. They had to drag me away to the plane. It wasn't pretty.) I was met at the airport by Holly Galbraith, the sales and marketing manager of the Byron at Byron, who drove me down to the resort. (Yes, I instinctively went to get in on the wrong side of the car. Several times. Old habits die hard.) As she drove, Holly told me about the area. While the neighboring Gold Coast is highly developed, she explained, Byron Bay is more rugged and casual—a popular spot for Australians to relax, but not so much for the international market.
The resort itself seems small at first glance: The buildings are hidden by the foliage (it is set in a semi-rainforest), so it is difficult to see them all at once. In fact, the resort stretches so far out into the woods that golf carts are frequently used to help guests get from place to place. The reception area is partially open to the elements, giving it a light, airy and decidedly spacious feeling. The pool is just off the patio (yoga sessions are held nearby every morning—complimentary for guests), and the restaurant overlooks the trees and the water. (The curry fish was amazing, as was the chicken and pasta.) Head Chef Gavin Hughes has agreements with local farmers, so all of the food is very fresh, and guests can accompany Hughes to the farmer’s market on Thursday morning to help select produce.
The resort can also claim a few celebrity guests—Holly didn't want to name names, but think of a certain Oscar-winning Australian actress married to a certain rock star and you'll get an idea of who Byron at Byron attracts.
After dinner, I was driven by golf cart deep into the rainforest, which is eerily quiet at night. My spa room in the Cypress building was wonderfully spacious, with sliding shoji-style doors to control light in between the living room, bathroom and bedroom. The suite had a proper kitchen for long-term guests (and even a washer/drier combo), and the bathroom was just exquisite. The bathtub was the size of a small pool, and the shower had a little bench as well as windows overlooking the front porch. Oh, yes, the front porch: Each suite has a screened-in front and back porch where guests can relax in open air without worrying about any rainforest critters. Even better: Wi-Fi throughout the resort is complimentary.
The next morning, I met up with Jessica McClean of Northern Rivers Tourism for a kayaking expedition out into Byron Bay with Cape Byron Kayaks. Naturally, I couldn’t bring my camera out into the ocean, but I’ll just say that short, stocky girls should never attempt to wear wetsuits (so unflattering!), and that kayaking is lots of fun…or as they say here, “heaps” of fun. We saw several dolphins splashing about and even a shark exploring the reef, and enjoyed tea, coffee and Tim-Tams (a local cookie that should be a worldwide phenomenon) on the beach. Fair warning: Kayaking is serious exercise, and while it’s very exciting and a wonderful way to spend a few hours in Byron, your less athletic clients should be aware of how winded they’ll be afterwards. (Winded, but exhilarated.)
Once we’d worked up an appetite, Jess and I headed over to Byron Beach Café, which specializes in very fresh local food that’s meant for sharing. (The café’s juice bar is also an experience. Cranberry mint? Orange ginger? Why not?!) The views of the beach are also spectacular (request a seat on the back porch if possible), and the café is apparently a very popular spot for weddings.
We hiked up to the lighthouse at Byron Bay and to the easternmost point of the Australian mainland before driving down the New Tweed Coast to Mantra on Salt Beach, part of a sprawling complex (Salt Village) with some lovely one-bedroom suites (and amazing balconies with even more amazing views). I met up with a group of agents on a fam (along with Irene Morgan of Tourism New South Wales) for dinner at Peppers Resort, one of the hotels in the complex—the restaurant is not currently open to the public, but when it is, book a table for your clients on the pool deck. They’ll love it.
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.
July 23, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 19-23
I'll be honest. During the summer, it's hard to find comments by readers of Travel Agent to share in the Weekly Wrap for two reasons: 1. many take a break in the summer 2. sometimes the heat has clearly gotten to those commenting as what they write can be too outrageous.
So this week, I was pleased to see a plethora of feedback, even tough some of it was on YTB. Let's take a look.
YTB Re-Enters the Fray
When YTB recently announced changes to its compensation structure for executives, George Dooley did some investigating by connecting with noted YTB critic John Frenaye and perusing the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In addition to digging up some information, he also stirred up one reader, Doug Bauknight, who wrote:
While the "knowledgeable source" admits he's "not sure what to make of it" - anyone who can read sure can. The Founders are holding themselves more accountable - not getting ready to resign. If you think the Board of Directors would approve a single dime in severance if any of them rode off into the sunset - you belong in John's "Den". If you want to read something that knowledgeable (and accurate) hop on over to my blog. (Or read the entire SEC filing. It's in English.
Dooley spoke with Bauknight last year, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's back to defend YTB. As usual, I'm staying out of this and yielding the floor to anyone who wishes to join the discussion. Thoughts anyone?
Online Vs Human
When Orbitz announced its new program for traditional travel agents, we offered the company an opportunity to address the community, which they did. So we wanted to do the same for Expedia, which has launched its Travel Agent Affiliate Program, and they shared their thoughts with us as well. Readers shared their thoughts both at Expedia's op-ed piece as well as at our Facebook page.
Commenting on the article, a reader named Air Carrier wrote:
Intersting-Expida, like Orbitz, who both trid to put us out of business, suddenly wants to partner with us. The VP-has said nothing that I as a traditional agent dont alreay have. They are just like regular tour suppliers-trying to get our business, and elimiating us in the process. His speech is just another somkecreen. I've been an agent for 38 years.
Meanwhile, at our Facebook page, Go Marie shared her thoughts, posting:
Hmmm. Okay I've been following this for quite some time. These online giants are finally reaching out to the traditional travel agents with our little sites? Affiliates? They are trying to create a spider web into the stream of clients that traditional travel agents are gaining. Thus the Giant Google Travel site will point back to them.
Why GOOGLE & ITA software merge.
Expedia is worried about Google/ITA deal
ITA was in collabo with Orbitz. Orbitz hired ITA for the purpose of direct information on flights straight from airlines
Do you know how powerful this information is???
Yah Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz now opens it's arms to travel agents.
I get it now.
Marie is definitely right about Google. As the Internet monster enters the travel business, it's got leaders at all companies tugging their collars. Does this mean traditional agents and online travel agencies should strengthen their bond? Let me know your thoughts.
Nice Places to Go
Let's take a break from the controversial now and focus on something more positive. Two stories recently received some feedback that leads me to believe the content was helpful. First, Trevor Cartman commented on Jena Tesse Fox's recent blog entry about her Rail Europe journey to Lugano, Switzerland, saying:
This is a great post Jena. What an experience this was. Thanks for the info.
While meeting South Africa Tourism CEO Thandiwe Sylvia January-McLean in New York last night, one of the public relations representatives made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed Jena's coverage of her touring of South Africa last month. Nice to see Europe is getting a taste of her talent as well.
The Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino in Curacao is another story that got some praise this week, as Nina posted:
It is a great hotel with lots of history. I stayed there in October and can't wait to go back. You are in town so you can walk to restaurants,museums,shopping,etc.I highly recommend the hotel.
There you have it, an agent endorsement! Looks like you should start looking more into this property.
More on Cruise Rebating
The topic of cruise rebating was a hot one at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010. Travel Agent shared poll results and agent feedback on the matter back then, and now that Carnival is taking another step in the matter when it comes to advertising, I'm not surprised that the subject has come back under the spotlight. Commenting on our coverage from late 2009, CabinVacationGuide shared:
Most professionals should have the money to pay for the trip expense. I do know some companies that do trade advertising space for trips and it works out good for them
Sounds great, CabinVacationGuide. But who are these wonderful companies of which you speak? I'm sure our readers would like to know, right?
Whether its pet policies, regulation proposals or an opinion about an executive, air travel received a lot of attention this week. First, one reader, a b s, points out an update in American Airlines' (AA) policy regarding flying with pets, noting:
American Airlines according to their website now only transports "dogs/cats" no other animals 7.18.2010
Indeed, this is sad news for owners of frogs, fish, monkeys, iguanas and other exotic creatures. My violin is playing for you.
The same day a b s shared his/her update of information on AA's policy, one reader, e krueck, shared his/her opinion on Richard Branson and his attacks on the potential AA alliance with British Airways, posting:
the usual 'blah, blah, blah' by the showman himself !
Branson sure is a charismatic ham, isn't he? Just see what he had the guts to do when sitting as a guest on Stephen Colbert's "The Colber Report" in the clip below:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
As much as Branson pushes peoples' buttons, I do admire his efforts to make travel more eco-friendly and appreciate his support for Las Vegas as well as Florida during these tough times. But that's just my opinion.
Finally, another Dooley item got attention when he explored the question as to whether airlines should undergo some re-regulation. Rob S doesn't seem too enthused, writing
Oh good. The feds have airport security all screwed up. They have ancient ATC computer systems and can't keep up with air traffic demand, but they want to run the airlines again? How many more kickbacks to the unions are the democrats going to stick us with?
Between ancillary fees, tarmac delays and more, I don't think anyone is going to be too happy with airlines too soon. But we can remain optimistic, right?
As always, don't let the conversation end here. We want to hear from you. Post a comment below or at any of the cited articles. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Log on to AgentNation for real time dialogue.
While you're here, I'd like to let you know that the Weekly Wrap has been upgrade to print! (so to speak). Pick up the latest issue in print or in digital and check out Hot Buttons, were I cite some of the recent trends in the industry and share reader feedback. Maybe you'll make the pages?!
Until next week...
June 25, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: June 21-25
Independence Day is almost upon us. Where are you going this year? In the past, I've taken trips to the East End of Long Island (home to two of Dr. Beach's best beaches in the country and some of the most amusing people-watching in the world) or headed to an annual barbecue at a friends' family's house in Connecticut which is conveniently right next to the high school for the annual fireworks. This year, though, I think I am heading up to Marshfield, VT to see some former colleagues of mine at The Skidmore News. Nearly 10 years ago, we all worked together on several weekly editions, one of which won the Associated College Press award for Best Paper: Special Topic- 9/11, and it's time to re-celebrate on top of the holiday. But before Independence Day approaches, I would like to wish all of you a very happy National Catfish Day and National Handshake Day today, June 25.
With that said, let's see what readers have been saying at TravelAgentCentral.com this week.
Speaking of Independence Day
We recently shared a list of the 10 best places in the country to view some celebratory fireworks, and one reader appears to be meticulously taking things to literally. Kelly Butler wrote:
Main Chicago fireworks are actually on July 3rd.
Thanks, Kelly. The article doesn't state that each event takes place on July 4. It is suggesting places to go to see a celebration of the holiday, whether it falls specifically July 4 or not. I don't think I'm alone when saying that I have been to Fourth of July fireworks displays that have taken place on days other than July 4 due to the day of the week upon which the holiday falls or to benefit local communities by avoiding multiple shows taking place on one night. Last time I checked, this is the United States of America and we have the freedom to celebrate our national holidays as we see fit. Thank you for exercising your right to free speech and sharing a piece of information, no matter how know-it-all it may be.
No Fear for Florida
Are you tired of the oil spill yet? Whether you are or not, don't let it deter you or your clients from taking a vacation to Florida. Not only are some tourism bodies such as the Florida Keys Tourism Council reminding everyone that the destination is oil-free, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced it has suspended daily projection reports as it believes the oil slick no longer poses a threat to the region. Commenting on the NOAA, report Rosemary Purdy is feeling the joy, commenting:
I just got home to Las Vegas from Florida, Yes it is a sad situation with the oil BUT... dont let it hold you back on visiting Florida there are alot of things to do and see GOD BLESS AMERICA and always thank our Military
Considering that Las Vegas was recently named as one of the top destinations for the summer, Purdy's opinion on Florida travel hopefully holds some wait. And yes, especially on the occasion of our approaching Independence Day, bless our troops.
Azul Fives to Open, Right?
Joe Pike recently caught up with Mandy Chomat, vice president of marketing and sales for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, and exclusively broke the news that that Azul Fives Hotel in the Playa del Carmen region of Mexico will finally open this coming November. As to be expected, many are excited about the news. But some are being a bit of a doubting Thomas. Geoff Millar, for instance, said:
I'll believe it when I see it
Meanwhile, Sandy Darley is more hopeful, posting:
I really hope this happens! This is such a beautiful and unique resort, and it needs to be enjoyed and experienced.
And then there's Jill Fuller, who appears to be on board when writing:
I will be optimistic and go ahead and believe it! Yea!!!
Hopefully, Joe or someone else from the Travel Agent team (My hand's raised! Remember my work on Iberostar? ) will get a closer look at the property to share some more insight. Until then, we'd enjoy any feedback from agents or clients who experience the property.
Want A Free Luxury Home in Antigua?
We get some interesting comments, to say the least, often here at TravelAgentCentral.com. But I don't think I've ever found one in which a reader is offering something more than a professional service, that is until recently. Commenting on a report about how crime is affecting tourism to Antigua, Mae Boomfield appears so confident in the island's safety that she's challenging us with an incentive, posting:
Be Real: we live in cities where there are murders every day. Antigua has had 5 murders for 2010 and because one happened to be a tourist we have headlines on every international news network? Guess what: Antigua's 500 police officers have not only a population of 100,000 people to safeguard, but some 500,000 visitors and thusands of medical students as well. The government spends millions on electronic equipment and the latest state of the art police equipment and training. Tourists get killed in New York and London and they do not make news. I have a luxury home in Antigua and I have been visiting the island for over 20 years. Tell me a country in the world safer than Antigua/Barbuda and you can have my home for free.
Well I just did a little research on the Internet using our friend Google and found a blog post about the five safest countries in the world to visit: Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Norway. So, when can I come stay at your lovely house?
Where Did the Joy(Star) Go?
It's been about a year since JoyStar was under attack by our readers as much as YTB, and one reader is not letting it go just yet. Commenting on a report about the IRS having the first claim to JoyStar's assets, a reader named wonder agent shares:
I wonder what name they are operating under today. Especially trying to recruite travel agents to do the work, so they can take advantage and keep commissions again, Worked out pretty sweet til they were caught. Crooks are crooks they just find a different way to be a crook.
As wonder agent wonders, I am curious as well. But at the same time I'm weary of this company and the havoc it's spread across the industry. I don't want to stir up the pot again, but if any readers would like to comment on the latest on this fiasco, I'm listening and I'll share.
Focus on Southeast Asia
Extremely informative. I have visited Singapore several times and as the articl mentions-short trips. I've never visited the island and now I have incentives. Only hope there is not too much neon or it will be another Kong Kong
Thanks for sharing, Syvlia. Singapore has a lot going on for it right now. But I'm pretty sure you mean Hong Kong, not Kong Kong, right? Otherwise there's some wonderous place out there where King Kong actually exists. If so, I'm giving Jack Black, Adrien Brody and even Jeff Bridges a call.
Kuala Lumpur is getting some love this week as well, as Aland writes:
I love traveling and learning the local customs, traditions, rituals. I found Malaysia to be one of the friendliest countries. I can never forget the staff at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur where I stayed who patiently explained and guided me about places to visit, to shop and eat.
Hey Aland, sounds like you had a great vacation. Mind sharing the name of the hotel where you stayed so agents can share with their clients?
Another Southeast Asian country of interest this week is Thailand, particularly Northern Thailand. Actually, the focus is more on a particular hotel and the latest comment is a reponse to one from the past. It began in October of 2008 when Tomas wrote:
TRAVEL AGENTS BE WARE To read the copy about Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand above would make any agent eager to promote the resort instantly to his/her upscale clientele. Of course, as travel agents we depend on commissions and indeed, when I booked Sukantara for my clients last February, commission was promised by the General Manager, Rapeepat Sugunasil, himself. He was as nice and helpful as could be and would do anything for the booking to become reality. And it was. My clients stayed a few days and left. I can give you all the details of an ordeal trying to collect said commission over the last 8 months from Sukantara alas unsuccessfully. Details would certainly reveal how unprofessional specifically Mr. Sugunasil really is toward travel agents!! To be frank, there is no willingness to pay, nor even at attempt to respond to reminders, in any form!
So now, jirapan tabsanan has retorted, stating:
Any hotels be aware of this guy "Tomas" Agents company. As we knew that moments sukantara resort had already paid to this people in the real amounts that our guests stayed in the resort. But he would get more day commission from the resort as sukantara declared in unacceptable deal. Please consider the truth because sukantara resort had never even unwilling to pay in anycase if not true.
It's refreshing to see a back-and-forth be about a destination for once and not YTB or something of the like. I have not been to the Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa, so I can't make a call hear. But I am sure someone out there can. Is it you? If so, chime in here will you?
As always, the conversation doesn't end her. Keep the feedback and comments going here at the Weekly Wrap or elsewhere on TravelAgentCentral.com. You can always write us at our Facebook page, send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) or discuss anything in real time at AgentNation.
Until next week...
May 07, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 3-7
What a couple of weeks it's been when it comes to news that relates to and/or directly affects travel. From the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its potential impact on Florida, to the Arizona law regarding illegal immigration. I can't think of the last time there were so many stories for agents to comment on, especially with an absence of YTB or other constant hot topics. So let's dive right on into them.
Arizona's Law & Affect on Tourism
Last week, I shared a few of the initial comments from agents and others regarding the controversial law's impact, or lack there of, on travel to the Grand Canyon State. So, in the interest of avoiding someone feeling left out, here's a look at some of the more recent statements posted here at Travel Agent.
Commenting on our open forum on the matter, Rick Long appears to believe it is not a travel issue at all, saying:
This is no more a trend than when people cancel for any of a myriad of seemingly trivial reasons. This is an illegal immigrant matter with people on both sides of the issue. Let's not make it a travel and tourism issue unless we see some real evidence to substantiate it.
I am going to respectfully disagree with you, Rick. Although it may not be major and/or braod evidence, we've recevied a few reports from agents saying that either their clients are pulling out of travel to the region or that they would prefer not sending their customers there. Also, when the U.S Travel Association weighs in on the scenario, I think it certainly becomes a travel and tourism issue, but perhaps I'm wrong? I'd like to hear from anyone who disagrees with me. (UPDATE: The U.S Chamber of Commerce weighed in on the issue today as well.)
Meanwhile, when reading the news about the U.S Travel Association's stance on the issue, several other readers shared their two cents.
As a daugher of immigrants, it's not fair for illegals to sneak over the boarder while others wait 15 - 20 years to come in legally.
The majority of the people in Arizona support Bill 1070! And it is about time we start following the laws. I believe that tourism will be supported by others who believe in the law. What part of illegal does this country not understand.
Bradley R. Olinger added:
While I do appreciate the position of the travel industry in this, I also understand that this is a problem that needs a better approach rather than just jailing illegals. I feel the best option is to offer the illegal immigrants that are of otherwise good character a road into citizenship through better regulation. This xenophobic approach to immigration does not work in a nation built on immigrants. After all, most Americans had an immigrant in their own ancestry, so why let what should be a minor political problem cripple both an industry and a society.
Obviously, this issue is not going away anytime soon, and we invite more comments on the matter as it continues to develop.
Fuel Supplements Making A Comeback?
It's been nearly two years since agents needed to address or be concerned with the issue of cruise lines charging surcharges to counteract rising oil prices. But, after an announcement by Cunard that the line is preparing to add a fuel surcharge, it appears agents may need to be concerned again. And some are already expressing their disappointment.
Libbie was the first to comment, writing:
It's like airlines charging for luggage. I would feel much better about these companies I'm representing if they would simply raise their prices to cover all costs and eliminate the games. My message to these large companies is this: Be honest, so we can be honest, and everyone will have much more respect for you!
Harry Jones agrees, posting:
I concur w/Libbi. Make the fare all inclusive. Add ons etc just get folks more upset w/everynoe, lines, oil ocmpanies, travel agents etc etc.
What's your take, agents? Would you prefer an "all-inclusive" price if rates will be raised? What other alternatives would you prefer if this issue is here to stay?
Pay for What You Get
Speaking of cruises, we wrote a brief last year about a new cruise line's cheap jaunts to the Bahamas, and one reader does not appear too happy about the sacrifices you must accept if you are going to pay a low price. Lucy Mae was not too pleased, posting:
just sailed on this ship and all I can say is BE SCARED BE VERY SCARED. They will put you in a broom closet as your room even if you paid for an upgrade. They charge for almost everything. 2.00 for an ice cream cone, 21.00 for soda, 15.00 for a drink. The crew was great, the cruise line was not. I reported to the Florida Attorney General, Coast Guard and the Better Business Bureau. They didnt even go over the life jacket drill with the passengers that got on late. I was one of them. They changed the sailing date of my ship without telling me, they changed my room classification without giving me a refund for the upgrade I paid for. Dont do it, spend the extra money and go on a better cruise line.
I think her last sentence says it best. If you want guaranteed quality and experience, go somewhere that isn't marketing itself as a low price option. Hopefully Lucy's report to the Florida Attorney General, Coast Guard and BBB will illuminate the situation more for agents and their clients.
Take Advantage of Crisis in Bangkok
Political unrest has been infecting Thailand since late 2008. According to all of the reports we've read or written, travelers and tourists have remain unharmed from the political protests, most of which have been peaceful demonstrations. Commenting on a recent report that Bangkok is still safe amidst the protests, one reader encourages other to leverage this opportunity to save money.
John Nathaniel commented:
I think it is safe despite all these disruptions and tourists’ accommodation has become easier with some terrific Bangkok hotel discount that is now available.
Any agents out there seizing the opportunity to pass value on to their clients? If so, let us know and we'll share your experience with our readers.
Let's Hear It for the Flight Attendants!
As much as some airlines are either cutting back on services or increasing fees, you can always count on an airline's flight attendants to do what they can to make your flight more enjoyable. That's why we were happy to share United Airlines' recognition of these sky employees, and one of our readers is just as happy to read the news.
Speaking on the matter, Pat wrote:
Flight attendants have given their lives for the safety of passengers. If airline companies (particularly United) really want to show their appreciation, why not give them a new contract that is up to date and financially acceptable rather than continually asking for concessisons?
Pat, I assume you are a flight attendant, friends with one or related to one. Or, perhaps you've had a pleasant experience on every single flight while admiring their hard work. And I fully agree with you. Hopefully, reflecting on 80 years of their service will encourage United and other carriers to make these hard-working employees happier with their position.
Contest? What Contest?
Last month, I was in the Riviera Maya in Mexico for an event in which Iberostar Hotels & Resorts announced that Antonio "Desperado/Puss in Boots" Banderas is the new global face of the brand. I attended the event as a member of the press trip to the region and had the opportunity to explore the many properties at Iberostar Playa Paraiso (and I highly recommend it to agents and their consumers, be they families, couples etc). But when we filed our very first report on the event, it appears that an agent feels she was left out of a contest that, to the best of my knowledge, never existed.
Gerrie Power Sears stated:
I can not imagine why the United States was left out of the contest to win a vacation at the Iberostar resorts in Mexico or Punta Cana ect. I would have liked to send this offer to my many clients that I have sent to these properties.
Thank you for your reply,
Gerrie Sears: Leisure Manager
Gerrie, I'm sorry if there was anything written that implied there was a contest to win (I'm pretty sure there was no such mention). Had there been a contest, we would have definitely reported it. In addition, if it was solely for Mexican entities, I would have been up in arms as well. Sorry for any confusion that was caused. I still highly suggest agents look into the property. It was an outstanding, albeit exhausting, experience.
As always, the conversation doesn't end with the week, so please keep the comments coming. Post your opinion below or at any of the stories linked to above (and check out our content throughout the deep recesses of the site to learn more). You can always share your opinions with us at our Facebook page, at our Twitter page, and at AgentNation. We want to hear from you, and we want to share your feedback with our readers.
Until next week...
April 30, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: April 26-30
If you have missed the Weekly Wrap during the course of the past few weeks, I apologize for its absence. I was on the road for three separate occasions in April.
A trip to Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso for the announcement that Antonio Banderas is the new face of the company's global campaign (jealous much, Pike?) preceded my attendance at the 2010 Virtuoso Symposium in Mexico City before finishing up just this week at American Express Publishing's Luxury Summit 2010. It was as exhausting as it was engangin and intriguing, plus I got to stay in some cool places. Check out the videos below of the suites in which I stayed when at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, the St. Regis Mexico City and the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter in Las Vegas.
Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso
St. Regis Mexico City
Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
But enough of me sharing my travels, let's take a look at what readers have been talking about here at Travel Agent Central.
Names in Travel
There was sad news this as Donald N. Martin, whose firm Donald N. Martin & Company represented the 39-nation European Travel Commission in the U.S. for more than 40 years, passed away April 23. For those who did not know or work with Martin, Evan A. Pezas had some kind words to share about the man:
A sad day indeed for all of us that served in European Tourist Offices in NY.
I was with the Greek National Tourist Organization when I first met Donald Martin. His professionalism and love of Europe were most imporrtant for the success of Europe in the US. We'll miss him.
Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Martin's family, friends and colleagues.
Another name that received recognition from one of our readers was Joan Werner of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York. George Dooley recently interviewed Warner about travel to Cuba as well as her outlook on 2010 for agents. She must have made an impression, at least on Naomi Cogan, who shared:
Joan Werner is an excellent travel agent - very knowledgeable and creative.
That's quite the endorsement. Glad to see Dooley's choice of interview subject is so highly regarded.
Voices on Vacation Rentals
After reading a report about TripAdvisor's top vacation rentals in the U.S. and across the globe, we asked agents at our Facebook page if they felt the niche was a good business opportunity for them. Not only did many respond to our query, but we also received information from vacation rental businesses that are eager to work with agents. Here's some who wrote in, who you may want to look into for some sales:
On behalf of the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA), I can share that vacation rentals represent a huge area of opportunity for agents to become specialists, as the category remains one of America’s best-kept lodging secrets, but is one of the fastest-growing lodging segments today. Nearly 9 in 10 past guests plan to rent again in 3 years, and would recommend a vacation rental to family/friends, according to PhoCusWright.
The vast majority of VRMA member companies across North America work with travel agents and their clients - Commissions may vary from company to company, but rates can range from 10 to 15% on average. Visit http://www.discovervacationhomes.com for a map that lists the most established professional vacation rental management companies by destination, or for more info about vacation rentals in general to help you get started.
WE love our Travel Agents, Global Resort Homes has been in business since 1993 and is a trusted vacation management company in Orlando, Fl. We pride ourselves in high quality vacation home rentals near the Walt Disney and Universal area. #1 vacation destination in the world! We would love to do business with anyone who may be interested. Here is our website www.globalresorthomes.com
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
We love working with travel agents to bring their clients a better vacation rental experience. We know how impotant it is that the agent can trust us with their client, and do pay comission. This is a great way to show more travelers the joys and value of staying in vacation rentals.We service the beach in Oceanside CA, in North San Diego county, and can be booked at http://www.bettervacationrentals.com or call 800-277-2734 for assistance. If your clients want to go to Disneyland & Sea World or the Zoo - this is the perfect spot.
For Hawaii, Tropical Villa Vacations on Maui has a nice selection of beautiful exclusively managed villas and homes. They work with travel agents to offer their clients and nice option to hotels especially for families or groups of friends traveling together. 888-875-2818 x6 www.tropicalvillavacations.com
Nanci Benefiel Owner
Yes, vacation rentals are a good business for travel agents and an untouched market. No need to add a fee as I pay a commission. You asked to hear from suppliers. I have over 100 homes and condos in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that we offer as vacation rentals and pay all of our travel agents a commission. If you would like to discuss our services or want information please feel free to contact me by e-mail or at our toll free number 1-888-332-8477. Nanci@bajasurvacationrentals.com
But before everyone starts dialing up or surfing to these companies web sites, let's see what some agents said about their experience with vacation rentals.
Tina M Erskine posted:
I will book whatever is in the best interest of the client. There are resources to use that pay a commission and when there aren't I have no problem charging a fee for my services. I am a professional and if a client comes to me, they expect to pay me for my training and experience. Sometimes that means a commission, sometimes, it means a fee. I encourage clients to save money booking air on the airlines website that I find them on ITA Software all the time. Most of the time, they aren't confident enough and are happy to pay my service fee.
Bob Malmerg, meanwhile, seems a little cautious about vacation rentals, writing:
VACATION RENTALS HAVE A LOT: LOCATION, FACILITIES, FEATURES AND ACCESSABILITY. The single most important thing that they do NOT have is MANAGEMENT. Without management what you have is a box with beds. And that's all you have. Do agents really want to assume the risk in such a fly-by-night enterprise? Think it over. Agents have been entrusted with the customers money (which can always be replaced one way or another) but more precious is the time involved, that once spent is gone forever. In risk management, the least attractive of the threee available is to absorb the risk and that's exactly what agents are doing with vacation rentals.
Amanda Drake, whose first comment is also shared above, quickly responded to Bob, commenting:
Bob - When choosing a vacation rental from an established property management company, agents can be assured that there’s a reputable business maintaining and servicing the property and its guests each day. This includes dedicated guest hospitality services & amenities, all of the proper inspections, reservations, housekeeping, landscaping, laundry, a trained customer service staff, etc. Many feel it's the only way to travel! :)
We'd recommend looking for third-party endorsements on the websites of rental management companies, including membership in industry associations like the Vacation Rental Managers Association, Better Business Bureau (BBB) and local property management groups, or approval from AAA, among others.
After hearing from suppliers and agents, do you have any additional thoughts on this market? Let us know.
Arizona, Immigration and Tourism
The Grand Canyon State's recent legal reform about immigration has certainly been a hot topic in the news and political blogosphere. When we received a phone call from an agent saying that clients just canceled a vacation to Arizona, we asked readers on our Facebook page if they were experiencing anything similar. The responses were rapid, so we wrote a piece to share them with our Travel Agent Central readers, and got even more rapid responses. While most of them lean toward politcal views, let's take a look at ones that relate to the tourism industry and travel agents.
Carol was the first to address the topic, posting:
I have many clients who work for a major US city. They have received a directive that they are not to spend city funds in AZ, including no connections in PHX. Many nonrefundable tickets will be thrown away and public funds spent on new ones. Sensible?
And it appears that Veronica is experiencing similar situations, as we writes:
I have a group of women who do a Girls Weekend in AZ every summer. They've called to ask for suggestions for other spas not in AZ!
Meanwhile, Lillian Nawman is pleading for agents to do what they can to keep clients heading to Arizona, stating:
Arizona is in the state of emergency. Their people are scared to death of the atmosphere created there because of the failure of the politicians and government to overlook the critical situation that has been there for years. A boycott on Arizona could destroy their travel industry economyly to say nothing of the other businesses Folks, if you want your country back allow the citizens to DO something about it for a change. When the World Centers collapsed on 9-11 were we told to boycott New York City? Of course not. As for me, I will not discourage my clients to stay away from Arizona. Those Arizonans need our suppport now, and your support too.
It appears Lillian has a backer in June S, who shared:
People should only be allowed to immigrate legally like every other country in the world. If more lazy Americans would work we would not have a labor problem. I will be glad to send my clients to AZ
In addition, we got some outside perspective from an agent in Canada, named dmshea, who posted:
From a Canadian standpoint, the new AZ bill will probably have little effect on travel. Our agency has had no cancellation whatsoever because of the law thus far, and don't expect any! We have a fair few AZ home owners in Western Canada. We are far removed from it and although I don't personally condone it, I guess every state needs to try something to combat the illegal immigration issue.
With the announcement today that the U.S. Travel Association is opposed to any boycott of travel, in addition to the comments shared above, it appears Arizona has a lot of support in keeping tourism alive in the state. There are a lot of nuts out there trying to make our query about the law's effect on tourism some political statement (one even removed his comment from our Facebook page after we called him out for putting words in our mouth), and I would like to politely ask that you don't come round here with that.
I don't say that because I am aligned to one side of the issue or another. I say it because you're just wasting our time and travel professionals' time while coming across as one of those crazies that does nothing but sit on the computer all day and look for pages online to go off on a rant about an issue that, admit it, you cannot directly change yourself. I'm all for free speech in opinion, but that doesn't mean hard political rhetoric (from any end of the spectrum) is going to get a lot of air time here.
Avoid this Beach
We'll end this week on a lighter note, about a state that's not Arizona. Awhile back, one of our interns wrote a brief about the top 10 most dangerous beaches in the world. Recently, someone added their own choice of beach to the list. The reader goes by the name top ten beaches of the world, and he/she/it(?) wrote:
All 10 beaches are dengerous. But i think Long Beach Island, New Jersey is very dengerous.
I wish the reader would say why he/she/it(?) thinks the New Jersey beach is "dengerous," but there's no details. So I searched for some video about it and stumbled upon a nice piece about the region by Erik Hastings, who I met when in the Riviera Maya in Mexico while in town for the Iberostar event. Check out what he found about the area and judge for yourself.
Seems like a pretty "non-dengerous" place to me. Did I miss something?
As always, we don't want to conversation to end here. Whether it's about the issues cited above, or any others for that matter, we always want to hear from you. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. Log in to AgentNation, we have a discussion thread about the Arizona situation, among others. We look forward to hearing from you.
April 08, 2010
On Site: Like Water? You'll Love Iberostar Paraiso Lindo Hotel
As one should expect, staying at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso in Mexico's Riviera Maya while covering Iberostar Hotels & Resorts' global campaign launch with Antonio Banderas has been quite the rush. But the fun has not stopped there.
Today, I took a brief tour of another one of five hotels at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso Resort and found the perfect place to bring my kids on a vacation (when my wife and I decide to have them, of course). While walking around the grounds of the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, it felt like an aquatic paradise. Some portions even emit the feel of a bungalow in the South Pacific, not that the region's any better than Mexico. But the point remains that those vacationing at the property will truly escape within this microcosm of a place, especially if they are families.
The kids running with glee in the video above says it all. I believe they were hustling to the wave pool, which you can take a glimpse of for yourself in the video below.
In addition to the wave pool, there's a lazy river for tubing at a snail's pace, and plentiful opportunities for water sports, even a coaching in water polo. See more of the property in the photo gallery below.