November 05, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 1-5
Yearning for a fresh scare or controversy in the wake of Halloween and the 2010 midterm elections? We've got you want right here in the Weekly Wrap. If you ask me, a scary costume agents could have worn during the recent holiday would have been a NCL cruise ship, or website. Why? Keep reading to find out about why NCL may be a tad scary, among other things.
When NCL announced that 27 percent of its revenue came from direct bookings last week, our own Susan J Young followed up on the story by asking agents and executives what their take on the matter was. Needless to say, several of our reading agents chimed in as well.
Considering that it's NCL I'm not surprised one bit. I don't book them unless the client insists. Too mant past issues with them.
Is anyone surprised at this? All the cruise lines are doing this. Carnival is worse than any in my opinion.
The question isn't what are our "partners" doing to negatively impact our industry, it is in fact, how are we becoming less dependent on them? There are many outlets available besides mass market, let them have their cake.
Not being an agent, I do think major has a point in that this may be a sign for agents to begin bringing their cruise clients elsewhere. Still, it's a shame to see such a major cruise line taking this route.
So Maybe Try This Cruise Line
On the note of bringing your clients to a different cruise supplier, Celebration Cruise Lines, which touts cheap cruises to the Bahamas from Florida, got an endorsement from a reader this week. shawna commented:
I've been on several cruises before with Royal Caribbean, So I do know what to expect! We just recently traveled on this Celebration ship and EVERYTHING was Wonderful! I just don't understand where all these negative reviews are coming from? Obviously from people with UNREALISTIC expectations. The ship was in comparable shape as the other ships we've been on, Service was great-In which the pre-paid gratuities where very well earned. I expect that the pre-paids are a result of low-class individuals that don't offer tips. The food was wonderful, entertainment was Great, Spa service was good. I have no complaints at all .. check in/out was smooth. My advice is to experience it for yourself, I would recommend it to others and I would go again. This was a really neat ship! Don't pay attention to the negative nellies out there, they are the one's that would never be happy if given a million bucks!
Anyone else out there have experience to share about this cruise line?
Google Good for Agents?
While there's been much trepidation about Google's potential entry into the travel industry, one reader is amused by the controversy. Commenting on a story about a new video attacking the potential acquisiton of ITA by Google, Sweet Justice (interesting name) shared:
It is indeed ironic that the online travel providers, the very companies which skewed the marketplace with their own proprietary, preferred airline, non-transparent air fare "deals", are now lamenting the very same fate from Google. Clearly lacking the full content and total picture offering provided by traditional travel agencies, these online travel megasites are crying in their collective beer because someone more mega has found a way to oust their influence in selling air travel. Sounds like sweet justice to me. Consumers are not stupid; they're wise enough to know that their local travel agent is their best resource for booking travel ... and always has been.
Interesting point. But is this a bittersweet victory for agents, if a victory at all?
Angry at AVC
While technology and cruise issues may be frightening some readers this week, a travel company is apparently even more terrifying to one reader. After reading a piece by George Dooley that analyzed the pros and cons of using third parties to generate sales leads or not, Kay took a direct shot at America's Vacation Center, lamenting:
AVC IS A RIPOFF!! Beware. They skimped on the leads and most are not buyers but rather lookie loos. They wont hire agents with no exsperience or recent experience. My friend has a large book of clients but she was out of the industry for a little while. They wouldnt take her or her money.She went with other HB job and she is selling like 650K a month and slipped right back with no problem! WISE AVC your a downright idiots! Glad I left as well the others that left too and went to a competitor to work with!~
Wow on two things: 1. If true, that's a shame of a situation. 2. Kay may want to cut back on the caffeine. As I always say, I am not travel professional but from what I have read AVC has been useful to several agents. Can anyone else here chime in to agree with or politely disagree with Kay?
A Break from Travel
While we don't cover music much here at TravelAgentCentral.com, a recent comment about Australia promoting its YouTube Symphony Orchestra inspired a musician to share his audition tape. I am as much of a classical music expert as I am a travel professional (my studies of guitar, piano and percussion where all rock based), so I can't say if the performance is truly great or not, but I figured it'd be nice to share with our readers. Guillermo commented:
Here it is my audition!!!??http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuAxQXoXUNU??Thank you very much!!
Not bad right?
While the music strings tug at your heart, don't forget to keep those comments coming. Post a new or responding comment below or at any of the original articles. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. You can also start or join in on real time conversations at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents.
Until next week.
September 10, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: September 5-10
September truly is a special month. The NFL and NCAA football are officially underway, baseball season is winding down to the playoffs, the kids are off the streets and back in the school room, and it seems as if everyone is back from taking or planning a summer vacation and ready to jump right back in to issues and topics of interest in the travel industry. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a jump in comments and discussion at TravelAgentCentral.com in the coming weeks, so let's dive right on in the what was posted the past few weeks.
Cruise West Woes
This week, Cruise West reported that it was restructuring and there have already been reports of the cruise line laying off employees. It's been a bit of a tumultuous time for many, including Gladys Stout, who posted:
I was very sad to hear of Cruise West's problems. They are a wonderful company, and we have had some delightful experiences with them. I will pray for a healthy restructuring and a return to happy sailing soon! Good luck!
Although I can't speak of any experience shared with the cruise line, I share Gladys' sentiment. Best wishes to Cruise West, its employees, its agent partners and its current/former customers.
A Separate Cruise Crux
As one cruise line has a rough time on its own, it appears the industry in general is giving agents a tough time in general. Susan J. Young wrote an analysis piece on the cruise marketplace as we enter the fall season and one reader is not too enthused about the upcoming opportunities for "Wave Season" sales. Doug Farrell shared:
If I see a lower price and cannot get it, I will not use that cruise line or agent again. It's about time someone stood up for the consumer and offered automatic price protection.
The issue of cruise price rebating/competition etc has been a hot one since we polled our readers about it last December. Then, in July, when Carnival began making moves to equalize pricing, the topic was reignited on the message boards. Clearly, it's not going away anytime soon. So I hope agents and readers continue to share their take on the matter, as I believe it can lead to constructive dialogue which they can leverage to improve their business operations.
Pulp of Politics
Whether it's the cruise industry or the travel industry in general, some stories as of late have inspired some readers to get political with their comments. For starters, there's George Dooley's report on the U.S Travel Association's lauding of President Obama’s new initiative to stimulate economic growth and job creation with a new round of stimulus spending by focusing on America’s roads, rail systems and airports. While some, like U.S Travel CEO Roger Dow, are excited about this news, others, like Mark M., are quite cynical. Mark wrote:
The president SAYS he is going to invest in the infrastructure by spending more money we don't have to improve our transporation system. Well, what happened to the billions of dollars designated for the same purpose in the first stimilus plan? Where did that money go? You would have to be a real fool if you continue to believe ANYTHING this president says. Sorry, Roger.
I always do my best to stay out of political arguments. But I will give Mark credit for posting a comment that is closer to the topic at hand then another comment that was posted on a different story. A similar situation happened recently when Dooley wrote a piece about Royal Caribbean's initiative to encourage Americans to travel more, particularly via a cruise line. A reader, named Jesse, took the story as an opportunity to bash the current and former President, stating:
The President may need to get away, but not as much as he has. He's kicking back during the oil spill and in Martha's Vineyard while people suffer. Same goes with Bush. He vacationed for all of August in 2001. Guess what happened then? He vacationed for August again in 2005, too bad Katrina spoiled his vacation. We definitely DO NOT need any more presidential vacations.
All I'll say is that it seems as if Jesse needs a vacation. The summer heat has clearly been getting to some of our readers.
Acquisition Affects Agents
Big news in the industry last week was the report that Nexion was acquired by Tzell/Travel Leaders. In a separate opinion piece on the matter, Dooley seems to believe this is good news for the travel agent community, particularly home-based agents. But one reader feels the opposite. Bradley wrote:
Does anyone other than me consider this bad for the travel industry? It basically comes down to there being three major power players in the host agency game: American Express, AAA, and now Travel Leaders/Nexion. It may overpower smaller hosts by creating difficult in attracting new travel agents.
Bradley makes a good point. As always, I must remind everyone that I am not a travel professional. So may take on the matter cannot be valid enough. Therefore, I encourage our readers to chime in on this one, whether they agree with Bradley or not.
Agent's Issue with Tropicana Las Vegas Inspires Gripe with Barcelo, Carnival
Every other week, Travel Agent unleashes its bi-weekly Las Vegas newsletter and, to share with those who may have missed it, we always post it on our Facebook page for readers to catch up on the latest Vegas news. So one time when we shared it, we received an interesting slew of comments from an agent who had an unfortunate incident with the Tropicana Las Vegas. We followed up by contacting the property and were happy to see that both the agent and Donna Marcou, the property's vice president of leisure sales, quelled the issue together (with our help of course). The story received a lot of feedback from readers. Sue, for starters, praised Marcou, writing:
I have had the pleasure to work with Donna Marcou numerous times. She always takes care of our clients and is a true partner--always willing to help us increase our business with her. It's a win/win/win for our clients/our agency/Tropicana. Travel agents need to partner with her and other travel professionals who support our businesses.
Meanwhile, Sharon lauded Tropicana Las Vegas' handling of the situation as well, commenting:
Great to hear that Tropical's intent was above board, and I'd venture to say that additional training was probably given.
But that's not all Sharon had to say. She also responed to a reader's comment about Barcelo exercising a practice similar to the incident involving Tropicana. The initial comment about Barcelo came from M.J.A., who posted:
Last year repeat clients wanted to stay at a Barcelo property. I called 2 air/land companies...gave the clients the best rate for the resort they wanted. Didn't hear from clients for a week. Sure sign I'd lost it. Called client ...they called Barcelo & got a "commission free rate". I lost the booking. Agents were livid. Barcelo back-peddled an apology. Too late. Since then, when I receive any thing with the Barcelo name I delete it. Yes, "Shame on them"!
Sharon's response to that was as follows:
As for Barcelo this is distressing since they have hotels in many countries I been working on recommending them as my clients that I've booked in their Riviera Maya properties throughly enjoyed themselves.
So M.J.A responded, writing:
I agree, Barcelo does have resorts all over & glad your clients enjoyed one of tbeir properties. But, I spent time researching the clients' request, then lost it to Barcelo's "commission free rate". Put yourself in my shoes.
Just as Barcelo seemed to be the new target, Paula chimed in about another supplier she feels commits practices that aren't agent family. She shared:
It was this article that gave me the inspiration to write a post on Carnival's FB page with a situation of the same. I immediately received a response from CCL and a follow-up phone call today. Hopefully, by Tuesday the entire situation will be resolved and they will honor my commission on a botched booking. Please read my CCL FB post and thank you for putting this up online for all to read.
Barcelo and Carnival are still not alone, at least according to Gerry, who commented:
I am finding that many hotel chains post rates on their website that are "not commissionable" to travel agents. After recommending the "perfect hotel / perfect location" for a client's trip, and quoting a hotel rate ( for which commission is paid)-- the client can go online and book a lower rate (often this is a pre-paid, non-refundable rate) -- but if the client is definately going, they will select this option -- and are satified that they "found a deal" without the travel agent. It saves them about 20% off the agent quoted price. The "non-commissionable rates" happen with Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, Choice hotel chains. This practice of "non-cmmissionable rates" is becoming more common. Agents need to be careful!
As much as we are thrilled to see that our efforts helped the Tropicana situation and inspired one reader to bring up her concerns with Carnival, it is disturbing to see agents suffering from such incidents. We'd like to hear more from agents that have encountered similiar situations, either by posting a comment below, writing us at our our Facebook page, sending a tweet to our Twitter page or joining the conversation at AgentNation. We want to hear from you, and help you.
We Can Only Celebrate You If You Participate
In case you missed it, we recently shared our Top 25 Agents of 2010 with the community. We were thrilled to receive so many nominations, as much as it made it difficult to pick just 25. I mention the nominations because it appears as if Andy Pesky, senior vice president of Protravel International, feels he was overlooked, stating:
No sour grapes as they say but did anyone interview or ask anyone at Protravel Intl? Being perhaps the largest upscale agency in the country there are some extremely talented, knowledgeable and sophoisticated high quality agents sitting amongst the 900+ agents that make up Protravel. Just curious as CWT Travel seems to be your #1 choice? Andy Pesky, Sr.Vice President
I responded to Andy's comment on the article, writing:
All potential candidates either submitted an application on their own or were represented in the contest through a peer's or client's submission of their name. We received all nominations openly and picked the best from the pool we received.
I'd like to also point out to Andy that Robert Becker of Protravel was one of our top 25 agents of 2009. I'm sure if Andy nominates himself, or if someone nominates him, next year that he'll make the list. So just remember to submit your nominations. And speaking of that, if you know an agent under the age of 30 (or are an agent under the age of 30), then submit nominations now for our third annual 30Under30 campaign, where we profile the best of the youth in the industry. You can submit nominations here.
As always, I hope the comments and conversation don't end here. Keep your opinions coming. Post a comment below, write us at our our Facebook page, send a tweet to our Twitter page or join conversations in real time at AgentNation.
Until next week...
August 27, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: August 23-27
Two weeks ago, I signed off on the Weekly Wrap for August 9-13 noting that I'd be away on August 20 and hoped the comments would keep pouring in. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Not only did our readers continue the discussion on two then-breaking news items, but new topics of conversation emerged— one of which even inspired comments from John Peters, CEO of Tripology. Let's take a look.
The Ongoing Battle Between Humans & Machines
Peters was the first to comment on an Amadeus report that technology can help agents win the battle for consumers, saying:
Online consumers are time starved and don’t have time for either complicated booking engines or all the useless, generic travel information. Consumers don't want travel agent generalists though - they want a travel professional who specializes in the very trip they’re looking to take. They want someone who has recently been to the destination, who has local contacts and has first-hand experience. They don’t want “I can book anything for anyone.” The days of the travel generalist are numbered. I say, “Specialize or die!” By the way, “cruises” isn’t a specialty any more than “hotels” is. So, if you are a professional travel agent who specializes in either a destination or trip type, you might do very well with Tripology. If you don’t yet have a destination or trip type specialty; get one – fast. I define a specialist as someone who sells a destination or type of travel for which A) they’re an expert B) they enjoy selling and C) make a profit when they do sell.
Jagdeep Bhagat concurred, posting
Human beings are best served by human beings and not the machines. Being Travel Agent (Travel Consultant is a better name) in today's market is a tough job but results can be excellent if online technology is used by travel consultants for better delivery of service and an effective medium of communication rather than letting customer navigate online agencies and search engines for travel products.
Harry Schneider shared his experiences as well, commenting:
We frequently hear horror stories of people booking over the net without realizing all the little and big pitfalls that rather often materialize. In some cases we can help in other cases we cannot. An educated goodwilled agent is worth a lot .Lets get this out to the public.
On the same topic, but featured on a different story, Beth shares her two cents on Ruthanne Terrero's top 10 reasons to use a travel agent, stating:
too true! I hear horror stories all the time from those who "did it themselves". Sometimes, even if you think you're saving up front, you'll pay twice or three times for that savings later. Always use a professional
While it's good to read that consumers are not relying fully on the Internet to book their travel plans, I hope agents are taking note of Peters', and others', comments that speciality and knowledge are key. Show what you've got, but make sure you know what you've got.
Meanwile, there appears to be confusion over at St. Lucia as to whether it's human agents or online travel agencies (OTAs) bringing them all the business. After reading Joe Pike's report on the island's travel road show series, Laura points out an apparent contradiction, posting:
It's interesting that the tourist board would credit agents for their growth, given the fact that they only promote Expedia on their site.
I just checked www.stlucianow.com, the website cited in the story, and I don't see any mention of Expedia. I do, however, see several places where agents can log in to find promotions. Am I missing something?
Two New Comments on Two Big Stories
The biggest stories in the last edition of the Weekly Wrap were that of ME Cancun becoming an all-inclusive property that will offer amenities and access to non-guests and Unique Vacations' decision to terminate its wholesaler agreement with Apple Vacations.
As for the situation involving Unique Vacations and Apple Vacations, Teddi joined the fray, falling in line with other commentators speaking out about Sandals. He posted:
It is about time that Sandals finally discovered that they are not the only game in Jamaica... The Ultra All inclusive just does not give the experiences that our clients expect. Secrets is a great addition to the Hotels in Jamaica. Hopefully Sandals will step up to the task and improve their resorts to reflect the advertising they spend millions on.. Competition is great for everyone
I agree that healthy competition is in the best interest of the industry, including its employees, suppliers and consumers. Hopefully this scenario will accentuate that theory and will not get wrapped up in politics or useless bickering.
Responding to the first comment on the topic of ME Cancun, Nikki wrote:
This is an amazing property and I think this change is exciting. Karen I think the article is poorly written regarding non-guest because I'm assuming it's going to be like any other all-inclusive where non-guest can enjoy the aminities but at a daily fee of usually around $80 per person per day.
Nikki, in regards to your comment of it being poorly written, all I can tell you is we did the best with the information we found. As of now, there are no details about a daily fee or how the property will operate the non-guest policy. If you know (not hypothesize) something we don't, please share and we'll definitely add in the interest of keeping our readers informed.
Speaking of Extra Information
We always encourage our readers and users to share their knowledge on a story, particularly if it adds depth to the information. It appears we are on the cusp of such a situation when it comes to the news that
eTravCo is re-organizing. susan white shared:
Not anywhere in this article does it mention that travel agencies received letters from an attorney telling us it would be usless to go after Etravco and try to get the commissions they owe us. I have the letter and would be happy to foward it you.
Susan, I'll check in with George Dooley about the information of the story, since he wrote it. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me the letter at email@example.com 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 11, 2010
2010: Year of Recovery or Just Better than 2009?
At the end of the first quarter of 2010, we asked agents how business was going thus far and many shared positive news. For the most part, we've read several reports that indicate a welcome recovery for the travel industry in 2010:
* The European Travel Commission had a successfull second quarter (which is great considering the Iceland volcano incident).
* Luxury travel is being fueled by demand.
* The top three hospitality data research firms predict positive year-over-year growth for REvPar.
* The cruise industry had good news about bookings and recovery at Cruise Shipping Miami.
* Agencies such as ALTOUR are reporting improvement as well.
But there are those who aren't so confident, warning that recovery may not be coming so soon:
So we are turning to you, the agents and travel professionals, to share with us some insight on what improvement in 2010 means. If your sales are increasing and/or business is expanding, is it because the travel industry is making significant strides out of the current downturn? Or, perhaps, is this good news a tease in that it is easy to tout how things are getting better in 2010 after such a rough 2009?
At our Facebook page, Kerr Berr wrote:
I think it's a year of hope. Our agency has more inquiries than we've ever had, but honestly not many more bookings. Some are taking advantage of good deals, but some have unrealistic expectations or just want to see what's available. So we're very busy, but it's hard to determine who's serious upfront.
We were also thrilled to hear from Henry Harteveldt, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, who tweeted us, saying:
In travel, 2010 is a year that sucks less than 2009
What's your opinion? We want to hear from you. Please post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page, or send a tweet to our Twitter page. Join the conversation in real-time at a specific discussion thread about 2010 at AgentNation.
We'll share your feedback with our readers in special feature stories to come.
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...
July 16, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 12-16
Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy scouring TravelAgentCentral.com to find interesting, engaging and relevant comments posted by readers on the site. But, as I say every week, the conversation doesn't end there. That's way I'm taking the opportunity this week to share what agents, readers and users have been saying where Travel Agent is present in the deeper recesses of the Internet. But before we go there, let's take a quick look at some of the comments that have been posted this week.
Just This One Time
There are many instances where someone will post a comment that, at first, seems like an initiation into a good conversation. But by the time the text ends, there's usually a link listed hoping that our site is leveraged to drive traffic to and promote another site. I'm not usally a fan of sharing such comments in the wrap: A) because it can be a waste of time and B) we're not a marketing firm!
But during George Dooley's extensive coverage of airline ancillary fees and their impact on agents (check out Dooley's latest opinion piece on the topic here), a reader posted a comment that, although it appears to be blatantly promoting another site, could be of use to travel professionals. Commenting on a piece citing the Business Travel Coalition's (BTC) take on the matter, Steven Hall wrote:
I enjoyed your great article on airline fees and I wanted to let you know that since 2008 www.CompareAirlineFees.com has offered an easy to use Airline Fee Comparison tool.
CompareAirlineFees.com is a free web-based airline fee comparison tool helping business and leisure travelers evaluate their options in a straight-forward and logical manner. The site lets you quickly compare airline fees at all major carriers before you buy.
Hopefully, I didn't just waste time and throw someone a bone in vain. I hope this site can aid agents in there operations when it comes to booking flights for their clients.
What Are You Talking About?
Since its acquisition of ITA Software, Google has become an intimidating spot of interest for the travel industry as of late. Related to Google, but not it's latest purchase, is a story at TravelAgentCentral.com that grew some legs this week (and is the focus of our July 19 issue's Trend Watch). Ruthanne Terrero got some inciteful information from Google's industry director of travel about how consumers search online. Someone posted a comment about something, but I don't really know what that something is. Marc Donaldson wrote:
I cannot understandwhat this means:
This term is used over 30 times in this article!
I wish I understood what it meant too, Marc. But a blank space doesn't help much. Looking at the article, I have found a few terms that appear near, if not more than, 30 times: the, travel, consumer, online, a. Is it any of these? Either way, I don't think I can really help you. Sorry.
Bad Guys Busted
As you may have read, 38 people were recently indicted for committing fraud when selling travel. Safe to assume none of you reading this is involved, right? If you were involved, shame on you! You deserve to be riduculed by Bill who shared:
Wow, Look what you get for 44 cents (the price of a stamp) all that protection against identity theft!
As the value of the traditional travel professional comes more to light in the wake of the Iceland volcano crisis as well as the lack of service some find in online travel agencies, it's disappointing to see this story make so many headlines. Hopefully, agents can spin it to remind their current and potential clients about the benefits of using a professional.
Don't Shoot the Messenger
In order to provide travel professionals with as much information as possible to better sale vacations to their clients, we here at TravelAgentCentral.com turn to sources both within and outside of our organization. Sometimes, we share information but spare some details in the interest of space and time, trusting that those who seek more information will click through the links to the respective suppliers and sources. Such did not appear be the same this week when Kim and Misty Ormiston commented on our story about popular vampire themed cruises, saying:
This is fabulous information! My friends and I would DEFINITELY love to hit up one or a few of these cruises (depending on price) =) =) The only downfall about this page is that there isn't enough information. Where exactly are the cruises scheduled to hit and land? What's provided on the boat? How much are the tickets and what do they cover? Discounts? (ex. with AAA card, etc.) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email us more info! We are definitely interested however can't make 'the next step' without knowing vital info. Thanks SO MUCH for providing this excellent new "gothic" cruise line ;) :) ~Mintykiss
Kim, Misty, Mintykiss... whoever you are, if you read the piece again, you'll note that Cruise Critic was the source of the information (we provided the link but here it is again in case you want to learn more: www.cruisecritic.com). In addition, we also linked to the respective suppliers: Cruises Cruises Cruises Inc can be reached at www.twilightfanscruise.com; Carnival can be reached at www.carnival.com; P&O Cruises can be reached at www.pocruises.com; and you can reach Viking Cruises by clicking on the link at the end of this piece profiling the line's new itineraries and ship for 2011— but I am going to assume you may have trouble with that, so here's the link: www.vikingrivercruises.com.
By the way, is Misty your given name, Wiccan name, Gothic name, or just what you want to be called? Let me know when you emerge from the beautiful darkness.
Social Community Commentary
Next week, we'll be starting a new feature online titled Keep in Touch with TravelAgentCentral.com, where we'll be sharing all of our latest social media initiatives and interaction in one place for you to find and follow up on with more feedback. But until then, here's what members have been saying at our Facebook page, Twitter page and at AgentNation.
We asked agents on Facebook and Twitter what some of the more popular destination and trip types they have been booking thus far in 2010. Here's what some had to say:
Tracee Grammer Williams: Lots's and lot's of Italy this year!!!!
Serendipity Traveler: Europe and Caribbean
Sharri Moore Cta Ds: European FITs
You can obviously never go wrong with cruises and the Caribbean. It's great to see Alaska cruises in the mix after the state's decision to lower taxes on such vacations. As for Europe, the value of the dollar against the Euro is key right now. If you're selling Hawaii and want some more help, look into the Hawaii Travel Exchange, which just started accepting applications.
Gearing Up for the Games
We also asked on Facebook about what sports events are garnering interest among clients now that the 2010 FIFA World Cup has concluded. The two top items mentioned were the Tour de France and Miami Heat basketball games, obviously due to the Lebron James factor. Of course, there's the 2012 Summer Olypmic Games in London, but I am interested in seeing if the Super Bowl coming to New York is going to pick up any steam.
Sizzling Summer Sales
If you haven't booked any summer vacations yet, and if there's still time, get cracking. According to agents at our Facebook and Twitter pages, the season is bringing in the business. We asked how summer vacation business has been, and here's what some had to say:
At Facebook, Debby Boisse Stevens said business is: Crazy/Busy-much better than last!!!
Meanwhile, HeatherC06 tweeted:, Typically we're slow in the summer, we have been SLAMMED, but loving it of course! :)
Which WiFi and Why?
saykay recommended AT&T, saying it is: bundled with everything else.
But Michael has a little problem with AT&T, regarding an issue I have trouble with as well. He responded, saying
Because I'm on the iPhone, I'm stuck with AT&T, at least for now. The dropped call reputation they have is no myth...it's even worse when you call other AT&T users. But I love the iPhone.
So Andi recommended Verizon because it is: an awesome feature that doesn't use up your minutes!
Somewhere, T-Mobile is crying.
Puerto Rico Points
In addition to feedback on WiFi service, Browne also inquired about travel to Puerto Rico as his friends plan a vacation there. User jeftravel shares some helpful insight, writing:
I did a fam trip with the board of tourism a couple of years ago and one of the things i would recommend is to rent a car and travel the whole island. go beyond san juan. in a car you can see the small towns that are very quaint and quite interesting. don't forget to visit the churches. you might also want to do the rum plant and the forts in san juan (not all of them). the rain forest is nice but the girls might not like to get their hair wet. the flora is worth the trip for great pictures.
One of my best friends (who I saw get hitched in a destination wedding at Killington in Vermont last year) lives in Puerto Rico, and my wife and I plan to visit them soon. Thank you jeftravel, your feedback is certainly going to help us and I hope it helps Michael's friends as well.
Sandals or Iberostar
newjerseytravel asked the following in a discussion thread:
I have a client that can't decide whether to go to the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall in Montego Bay area or Sandals Negril. Has anyone stayed at these resorts and which beach has less rocks, seaweed, seagrass that would danger them from getting in the water.
Wow, this is a really difficult choice. The beaches at both are really clean and well maintained. In May, Sandals added 14 new beach huts that are pretty cool. But I got someone who can answer better than me. Contact Sales Manager Jeffrey Burke (876-957-5216, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Iberostar is also pretty impressive. For a contact there, I'd suggest Luis Velez, inventory manager, at 876-680-0000.
Let me know if you need anything else. You can also e-mail me directly at email@example.com or call me at 212-895-8286.
I visited Jamaica when I wsa six years old, and don't recall what resort we stayed in or what beach we visited. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour Iberostar properties in the Riviera Maya. Based on my experience, I'd say go with Iberostar. But that's because I haven't had the chance to visit any Sandals properties yet, but I'd be glad too! (wink wink).
As always, don't let the discussion end here. Keep the comments coming here at the Weekly Wrap and elsewhere at TravelAgentCentral.com. Stay in touch with us at our Facebook page and our Twitter page, and keep coming back to AgentNation for real time conversation.
And before I forget, and in the interest of shameless plugging, keep in touch with what I'm following in the print edition of Travel Agent. In every issue, the Hot Buttons column goes over some of the more popular trends in the travel industry. Give it a read by signing up for a subscription or get a copy of the digital edition today!
Until next week...
July 09, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 6-9
Predators opens in theaters today. I hope the movie is to Predator as Aliens was to Alien— a highly entertaining sequel that does not complicate plot or toy with any franchise story lines. What does this have to do with the travel industry? Absolutely nothing (unless of course you want to send your clients on a vacation to the game preserve planet where the extraterrestial hunters stalk the characters played by Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne among others). But at least we are not discussing Lebron James' free agency decision to join the Miami Heat.
So now that you have some inspiration for what to do for entertainment this weekend, let's take a look at what agents and readers have been discussing as of late at TravelAgentCentral.com.
New Cruise Ship & Policy
It was a big week when it came to cruise industry news. Not only did a long-awaited ship make its debut, but one line is changing its advertising policy— which directly affects agents.
Norwegian Cruise Line's NCL Epic took to the waters of New York City last week, and our own David Eisen was on hand to check out the ship. While there, he spoke with Kevin Sheehan, CEO of NCL, about the new area for the cruise line. Although the focus of Eisen's story is Sheehan and NCL's future, one reader took the opportunity to comment about the new ship.
Rick Anderson wrote:
just got back from new york, crused over from london. it is the worst cruise ship i hav ever been on ! should be called pick your pocket. charges for everything,the only thing that saved 7 days of bordrum was the blues club and slam allen. pick anyother ship but this one.
That's disappointing to hear right off the bat about this ship. Are there any agents or readers out there who can report more positive news about the NCL Epic?
As much as Rick is none-to-pleased with NCL's new ship, it doesn't compare to the ire some agents are feeling about Carnival's new advertising policy. As Susan J. Young wrote, "the line won't tolerate any rebating or price inconsistency in any communications— whether mass media or in personal discussions or -emails to guests, effective August 1." In short, agents will no longer be able to provide discount rates in order to entice clients as the cruise line attempts to shift the consumer's focus from price to value. Needless to say, several readers are furious.
There will be many companies that will not honor this plan. They will offer after cruise "rebates" or some other form of discounting. When a company competes on it's service and reputation rather than the lowest price in town it will be a better world for all agencies.
Will this also apply to Carnival's Personal Vacation Planners who often go out of their way to contact our clients and then undercut us?
From the articel: “... the traveling public seems to have zero loyalty to an agency and will book elsewhere for a bottle of wine or an extra coupon booklet."
That _is_ the reality. Customers DO haggle. They DO shop around and often decide based on price. They do change their mind if they can book elsewhere for $5 less. (I've seen it happen!)
Carnival - NOT just agents - would be wise to invest in educating current/prospective clients on the VALUE of the cruises they sell, then shine a great big PR light on the effort.
Look to Apple's web site for a shining example, albeit for consumer electronics. (They also use level pricing across the board.)
Frustrated Independent Agent wrote:
Make no mistake: This _is_ being done in order to get direct business.
It is going to be very difficult for an independent agent like myself to offer perks up front (which customers continue to DEMAND - don't kid yourself). I don't care how often clients praise and refer me for my service and reputation. It means nothing if I have to use increasing amounts of out of pocket expenses in an abnormally cash-flow poor economy.
Bottom line, this does _not_ make it any easier for agents like me to sell, no matter how I slice it.
Very annoyed and frustrated, even more so because I really do like Carnival's cruise offerings. "Insert rock and hard place here!" :(
So Carnival listened to the 'big guys'. They have the deep pockets to book a lot of group space thus offering lower fares and perks, that we can't match unless we discount. This is just a way to weed out the little guys and strengthen the 'big guys' Sad.
Rich Skinner stated:
Relying on rebating is a sure formula for failure. Selling cruising as a commodity is also a formula for failure. Value added service is the only way to succeed. Carnival will sell direct, but let them have all of those money-losing 3 and 4 day cruises. We need customers not disloyal price shoppers.
Cruise rebating was a hot topic of discussion at TravelAgentCentral.com in December and it looks like the issue is back in the spotlight. Many agents have been discussing the issue in real time via a discussion thread at AgentNation and we encourage you to join in.
AMEX's New Benefits?
When we reported on American Express' new advertising policy that evokes the importance of travel agents, it seemed like a great thing for those who sell travel as a profession. However, one reader appears to be confused about the policy, citing the company's previous strategies.
Tharwat Abouraya, CTIE posted:
During Roger Ballou’s leadership at AMEX, the strategy was not to compete with travel agencies in selling travel. AMEX has two arms: 1) seller of travel products & services; 2) issuer of cards which travel agencies accept for payment. The thinking was that non-AMEX travel agencies pay merchant fees to AMEX Card, therefore, AMEX should not compete for their travel revenue at the same time. It is fine for AMEX to promote its card and its benefits, but the call to action in the new ad campaign should say 'book with your travel agent and use your AMEX Card,' not just 'book with your AMEX travel agent.' Was Roger wrong?
I don't know. But maybe a reader out there does and can shed some light?
So You Don't Have to Turn the Car Around
Summer vacations, which are supposed to take us away from the trials and tribulations of the real world, can be so easily ruined if unhappy little travelers invovled. That's why ASTA released tips on traveling with kids, to ensure a smooth journey. In response, some readers have provided extra advice and feedback on the topic.
Eleanor Anderson wrote:
Make sure to have snacks and your own water. I take empty plastic water bottle and fill up at water fountain instead of paying $2.50 a bottle especially when taking children. You never know if your going to get stuck on the tarmac.
Angela Miller shared:
We started traveling with our children when they were 2 and 3 years of age - first to the Virgin Islands where we took advantage of kids clubs - then later to Europe. By the time the kids were 10 and 11, they had been to Europe three times and were experienced travelers and we had learned how to be parent travelers. We had much happier travels once we gave them a chance to offer their input in the planning of the trip. Even as pre-teens they each had an idea of the kinds of sights that interested them. By giving them a chance to include these in our schedule, we were able to keep them both happy and interested. But we found it was also very important to include some down time and play time. A park visit, hike to castle ruins or rides on a merry-go-round can do a lot to make kids feel like they are getting in some play time. And some evenings with TV and room service can also go a long way. Traveling with kids can be rewarding, fun and educational for all.
Nice to see that Angela has mastered the process on traveling with little ones. Hopefully agents can take her story as a solid example when communicating clients. As for Eleanor (are you related to Rick?), great idea with the bottled water, especially regarding tarmac delays (a recent nightmare for travelers).
Safety & Security on Airlines
Since 9/11, and even more so since the attempted bombing of an aircraft this past Christmas, airline security has been a touchy subject among agents and consumers. We found a Travel Leaders study last April that claimed most travelers were okay with the security process, but apparently wimpie is not one of those travelers. He/she wrote:
I have traveled about 20,000 miles by car this year to avoid the TSA Gestapo and their Nude-O-Scopes of Cancerous Death machines. This represents about $5000 or lost revenue for the airlines, and I know I am not alone. TSA is gonna screw the airlines - Good for them.
Wow, someone really hates to fly, eh? I understand the frustration with the process and the concern about the invasion of privacy, but to compare this to the Gestapo is a little extreme. That's the same language politik nut jobs used during the health care reform debate, insinuating that people would be ripped from their beds and marched to death camps. You definitely have a point, wimpie, but take it easy on the paranoia.
On safety matters, not necessarily security matters, there's another story generating some buzz this week as Irish low cost carrier Ryanair is ready to launch flights where passengers stand instead of sit. Innovative or insane? Mj Lunden believes that latter, asking:
Are they crazy?
Yes, I think Ryanair is crazy. They've discussed charging for use of the toilet, offering smokeless cigarettes and have considered charging a "fat tax" to overweight customers. But are they crazy like a fox or crazy like a loon? You tell me.
Again, Back Up Your Claim
The ability to comment on articles here at TravelAgentCentral.com represents how the Internet can truly celebrate the right to free speech as well as accelerate conversations on meaningful topics. Of course, with great opportunity comes, well, open questions. When Meagan Drillinger recently reported on the new Eventi, A Kimpton Hotel, one reader appears to be upset at the information posted.
Your information is all wrong with regards to the restaurant and food parc may want to have the right facts before you run a story!!!!!
this coming from someone who actually knows what is happening..
Here we go again. A bold statement with no information to support it. Dani, maybe you are right about incorrect information. But, as someone who "actually knows what is happening," why aren't you sharing the correct information? You have an opportunity here to open up what may or may not have gone wronge by backing your statement with this insider's knowledge you claim to have. Yet, you don't provide any, which makes you look like a jackass.
I always invite feedback. But if you are going to make claims without backing it up, please don't waste our time.
As always, the conversation never ends here. Post comments below or at any of the cited articles (among others). Send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Write us at our Facebook page. Join the conversation in real time at AgentNation, the only online social community for all kinds of travel agents.
Until next week...
May 28, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 24-28
Ready for the Memorial Day travel blitz? Are you or your clients visiting any of the more popular destinations for the holiday? Either way, thanks for stopping by the Weekly Wrap to check in on what's been buzzing at TravelAgentCentral.com before taking off for the long weekend. This week, there were various comments about cruise trends and "inclusivity," airline mergers and passenger clubs, New Orleans, traveling with pets, and more— quite the way to kick off the summer. Let's get scrolling.
The Travel Agent: Valued by More than Stupid People
As you have hopefully read by now, Ruthanne Terrero updated her list of top reasons to use a travel agent with 10 MORE top reasons to go through a professional. There were some who agreed with Ruthanne, as well as those who didn't, and I went through them last week. Since then, we've got some more feedback I think agents and readers would appreciate.
firstname.lastname@example.org, for starters, not only concurs with Ruthanne but shares a similar experience, commenting:
While you think in this information age it couldn't happen - well think again. Web boards tell them all the time they don't need a travel agent and if they keep reading and researching they can do it and after all that you get the question - what is a gty cabin?
Meanwhile, Ilze appears to be on the fence, writing:
It's fun to read how stupid people can be but it is a reality. Unfortunately, travel agent can not help a stupid person. Travel agent is needed in case you are not familiar with internet and some basic principles how travel offers are made.
Personally, I think anyone who is a stupid person is usually beyond help. However, I would assume that said stupid person would prefer that all processes involved in taking a vacation remain as easy as possible, and you just can't get that guarantee online. As for those who think agents are only valuable to those who don't use the Internet, all I can say is that if your journey goes wrong and you need assistance that it's much more reassuring (and probably easier) to go through a fellow human for customer service instead of a machine and it's connection to a nearly-limitless world. And this is coming from a web guy.
Cruise Trends & Fees
Susan J. Young has been uber-busy this month. Analyzing everything from the potential wave of fuel surcharges that may be hitting the cruise industry to the potential slowdown of Europe's cruise business. Seeing that cruise vacations are some agents' bread-and-butter, it didn't take long for some to respond on both matters.
Speaking on the topic of fuel supplements, a reader who goes by the name TheAnalyst is not too worried about the future, posting:
There is no chance that Carnival Corp will implement fuel surcharges are lines such as Carnival, Princess, HAL. RCCL and NCL won't either. Wake up. Last time they did this on a massive scale, the cruiselines all got sued by the government.
I think we are pretty awake to ask the question. As airlines add ancillary fees and other suppliers do all they can to leverage more business during the current economic slowdown, who's to say cruise lines won't take a risk and bring back extra charges? Could you blame them?
TheAnalyst also shared his/her two cents on a potential halt in cruise vacations in Europe due to the Iceland volcano incident, as well as British Airways strikes and the turmoil in Greece, among other situations, stating:
Eur/Med cruises are being marketed heavily to the drive markets. In order to understand if these cruises are doing well, you need to talk to Eur. agencies who are being hand fed the cabins by the cruiselines.
Fair enough, TheAnalyst. Have you talked to any Europe agencies and obtained info to share? If so please let us know.
Two other readers commented on the issue, one with positive news and the other with some negative news. Margaret Stein appears to be seeing trouble on the horizon, for instance, commenting:
I have already experienced cruise cancellations due to the volcano issues. I have also lost hotel bookings due to the BA strikes. Overheard conversations at social events confirm travellers' disgust with the inconveniencies of travelling to Europe.
Meanwhile, Jean Szabad is more optimistic, saying:
I have quite a few European Cruises and River Cruises book for travel now through August. The only ones who were concerned about the ash are the two that are on a a Princess Cruise out of London now. They made it ok and I am sure are enjoying themselves now. The other people I have who are traveling don't seem to be afraid to travel and aren't concerned about the Euro. This is probably a good time to buy a European cruise to get a bargain!
So we've heard from both sides. Anyone out there with a story to share to tip the balance in favor of Europe cruises or not?
Airline Mergers & Passenger Clubs
The biggest airline news in the recent weeks has, undoubtedly, been the proposed merger between Continental and United, which would dwarf last year's merger of Delta and Northwest. Our man George Dooley analyzed the situation, asking how it may affect travel professionals.
In case you can't pick up on the sarcasm, one reader, Maria K Todd, MHA PhD, does not appear to think good things will result, saying:
You mean they would have to compete on quality and customer service? Wow! Perish the thought!
Perish the thought indeed, especially when you consider that, on the heels of this news, both US Airways is interested in a merger as is Virgin Atlantic. Even government representatives are not enthused by the idea of a merger. But some, like MLT Vacations, think it's good news. How about you?
Some airline news I think all can agree is good is the recent announcement that American AirlinesAdmirals Club at Heathrow is going to upgrade its . In fact, the news is so good that our friend Jacqueline Johnson shared her thoughts, writing:
Great to hear this. It certainly needed an overhaul and update as it was an awful place to visit.
Another Request for Pet Airways
Although the initial story is now more than a year old, we're still getting a lot of attention to the news about Pet Airways, an airline soley for your favorite traveling companion. Some readers seem to think we have an influence on the company. Unfortunately, beyond their executives reading our reports, we don't have that much power. However, we can certainly hope they read our republishing of comments on their airline, like Diane, who wrote:
Hope you get to northern California soon! Oakland, SF, or San Jose especially!
Did you get that Pet Airways? Business potential is there.
Nice News for New Orleans
To see New Orleans has had it rough during the past few years would be an understatement. But things are looking up, right? After all the Saints won the Super Bowl and more and more travelers are feeling confident in a journey to the region. With that in mind, it's nice to see that, despite the current oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, that the Big Easy is, as of now, unaffected. Still, some are, understandably, wary.
Geri Simpson shared her concern, writing:
All in the article is true, but what I'm concerend about is the future affect of our seafood, much of which does come directly from our waters. It is synonomous with New Orleans cuisine.
Marie shares the worry, stating:
Hurricane season is weeks away. If a Hurricane hits Gulf Coast, hopefully crossing fingers. Has the government any plans on the cleanup if it goes AIRBORNE? Just asking.
I agree with you both. Hence, the "for now." Let's keep our fingers crossed for the city and hope agents are more than confident to sell the destinaion to their clients.
Remember, the conversation never ends here. We want to hear from you. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) Join real-time discussions on anything from the best GDS to use to which European tour sellers to trust at AgentNation.
Have a great weekend!
May 21, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 17-21
While much of the conversation amongst the travel industry of late has focused on such crises as Icelands's hindering volcanic ash or the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, readers have had some positive, if not constructive, things to share with each other at TravelAgentCentral.com in recent weeks. Let's take a look.
Arizona's Air Travel Addition
While the immigration law in Arizona may have kept some suppliers wary of doing business in The Grand Canyon State, it appears JetBlue is not intimidated as the carrier launches service to Phoenix from Boston. It's great news for the state and anyone involved in selling tourism to the region. Clearly, one reader is excited. Diane wrote:
The state of Arizona welcomes you to our state!! Go Blue...
I know my cousin-in-law, who was a wide receive for the University of Arizona's varsity football team, may not appreciate this but isn't "go blue" also the mantra for the University of Michigan?
More Reasons to Tout Your Profession
You may have read Ruthanne Terrero's initial column which offered 10 reasons to choose a travel agent, and you may want some more. So she delivered with 10 MORE reasons to select a travel professional when planning a trip. Most of the readers were glad with the read, as one would expect. Yet two don't seem two enthused. Jane Ellis wrote:
With today's internet, you'd have to be an idiot to do any of the things described in the article. The article is an argument for common sense and minimal research, not for a travel agent.
Andy Jarosz agrees with Jane, commenting:
These are reasons why people with no commonsense should not travel at all. I seriously doubt any sensible people would make these mistakes, and the people who would do these actions would the type of nightmare customers that an agent would want to avoid! Made my laugh though :)
Before sharing some of the more postive feedback, I'm curious if any readers or agents out there agree with Andy and Jane. If so, why and what do you suggest as an alternative?
Meanwhile, readers like Jess Kalinowsky, clearly disagree with Jane and Andy, stating:
With the advent of the internet, digital photography, et al, everyone thinks they can do it better than a professional! If one believes what they read on the net, then, I am sorry, they deserve what they get, a hotel in the boonies, dirty at that! ANd no "life line" to help them! The Iceland volcano eruption solidified our clients forever! Not one penny was lost, and all were re-accommodated or fully refunded within hours!
More "honest" ammunition!
We don't want the conversation to end here. So keep the comments coming, please.
More Feedback on More Tips
Ruthanne's not the only one dishing out top 10 tips to our readers. Last week, we shared a guest column on how agents can build their revenue-generating e-mail lists for marketing purposes and John Frenaye, a frequent reader and commentator at TravelAgentCentral.com who has engaged readers as well as yours truly in conversations before, shared his two cents, saying:
You need to be very careful about putting names into your marketing database manually. Simply asking for an email address at the end of a phone call IS NOT implied consent to receive your email promotions. It is best to have an opt in(preferable to a double opt in) program to keep you out of trouble with the CanSPAM Act.
And putting your sign up form on your Facebook page is very simple and a good move.
Sounds like good advice to me. Anyone object?
More on Vacation Rentals
The dialogue on agents taking advantage of the niche markets that is vacation rentals continues this week, as Susan throws her hat into the right to solicit business from (and for) agents. She posts:
Vacation rental homes are the way to go. We have many guests who will be staying in a home for the first time vs staying in a Disney hotel, they never go back to hotels. We pay a 10% commission to travel agents and are happy to work with them. Our website is www.orlandovacationhomes.com
If any agents are getting new business through Susan's company, or others, please let us know. We want to spread the wealth (but not in Tea Party fear of Obama policies sense). Susan's offer comes on the heels of a new report on how real estate rentals benefits second homeonwers as well. We shared this story on our Facebook page and received feedback from Stephanie Shaw Gregory, who shared:
I have only had a few request for vacation homes here in the Pacific Northwest. One was a coastal home and one a cabin near Mt. Rainier. Neither places had dealt with a travel agent before but we worked it out and the clients loved the properties...
Seems to me like these opportunities are paying off for agents. Let's hope it continues to gain steam.
Susan J. Young is at it again. After writing about potential fuel surcharges on the rise and how they may affect agents, the cruise expert recently explored the notion of inclusive features on cruise ships for clients and what it means for travel professionals. Harold Hodges was the first to reply with some constructive feedback, stating:
While my cruise sales haven't diminished, All Inclusives have picked up even more. Some clients specifically mention that cruises cost more because of all the items NOT included. Since agents know at least some of their client's likes and dislikes, we could sell more cruises if certain items (perhaps even to just a certain limit) were included. $100 in bar credits, onboard credits etc. As the article points out, you must be careful as to what is included, to be sure that you don't exclude previous cruisers on a familiar itinerary. A general credit is probably the best, is of known cost and could be commissionable with hardly any extra effort on the part of the cruiseline.
For those of you agents who are note Mr. Hodges, what's your take? Have you already experienced cruise inclusivity's effects? Is it good or bad for your business? Let us know.
Targeting Traverus, NCL
It's been more than a years since George Dooley wrote his initial report on Traverus, and it's potential place as a multilevel-marketing company. No surprise to me, the comments keep coming in on the subject. There's been a bunch posted over the months, and here's the latest, submitted by Denyse H Turner:
Wow, you all are now defending TraVerus the way "we" had to defend YTB. Feels horrible, right? And since this article was written, some of you have even "seen the light".
I just want to know who has seen this magical light and what exactly is in this light that is so exciting.
But Traverus is not the only company under fire this week, so is Norwegian Cruise Line. In late 2008, Dave Eisen wrote a brief about Kevin Sheehan being named the new CEO of the cruise line and some readers aren't necessarily upset with Sheehan, but aren't too happy with his company. The latest is Gregory Guess who, when responding to another reader's comments, wrote the following:
Good luck getting a response from NCL. I did multiple contracts for NCL and when I needed to leave due to a family emergency they advised me that I could never work for them again if I did. They were correct they will no longer employee me and the worst part is that no one from the company expressed any sorrow for the death of my brother. Great company huh?
Considering the that cruise industry is the bread and butter for most travel agents, this is disappointing to read. I hope your relationships with the supplier improve, if they need to.
Goodbye, Mr. Whitley
As you may have heard, Bob Whitely, longtime president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, passed away last week. In addition to the heavy loss for his friends and family, the travel industry clearly misses the leader. Here's what readers posted on our site to share their thoughts on the man.
I only met Bob and heard him once but remember his kind manner and I appreciated that he wanted to see Cuba opened up for tours which I was glad and surprised to hear him say but his travel experience and professional manner was an inspiration to me and sure to others - He will be missed by many - hope his family has great memories and stories for their comfort
I had the priviledge to know Bob for over 30 years. He was among the true gentlemen in the Travel Indusrty. I will miss my friend and colleague more than words can express but will keep his memory alive with many fond memories
Phil Sheldon, Hanns Ebensten Travel
I participated in the US-Cuba Travel Summit in Cancun last month where Bob was an active participant. He may have been in the industry for a long time, but he was forward-thinking to the end. He was instrumental in trying to bring the various players together to open up American tourism to Cuba in a responsible way. I am grateful for everything he contributed to our industry.
He was a giant. And one of the finest industry leaders ever, My heart goes out to Carol, Kelly, Scott and Shaun.
jack richards, pleasant holidays
Goodbye my friend. It was a privilege knowing you.
Bob Was A real Gentleman and very wise. My prayers go out to his family. Top shelf hall of famer.
Agents have shared their thoughts about Whitley on our Facebook page as well.
Kim Haring wrote:
Sad to know this dynamic man is not longer with us.
David Carnegie shared:
Another of the great Tourism Industry giants who will always be remembered for his Leadership exemplified by his giving spirit. May we all learn to use these attributes from his example. My condolences to Bob´s family and friends. May God Bless You Always.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob's family, friends and colleagues. The industry will miss him, but it moves on. With that in mind, we hope you continue sharing your thoughts on any topic, whether by posting a comment here at the Weekly Wrap or at other articles. Don't forget to contact us at our Facebook page, or at our Twitter page. Of course, there's always AgentNation, where you can talk about any topic in real time. Until next week...
May 14, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 10-14
Before we get started this week, I'd like to suggest agents (particularly those with clients who are eager to visit Great Britain) take time this weekend, or sometime soon, to go see the new Robin Hood film by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and William Hurt. I had the privilege of seeing an advance screening this past Wednesday and, in my layman's opinion, not only is the film a subtle and original take on the legendary figure (that is neither hoaky nor driven by a Robin Hood that speaks with an American accent- sorry, Costner), it has some beautiful scenery that could further entice clients to make the journey across the pond. The backdrop of the film can remind clients about the bucolic regions of the country where they can go to truly escape and, perhaps, get in touch with the original sources of thei heritage. Visit www.visitbritain.com/en/campaigns/robinhood for more and you'll see what I mean.
That being said, let's take a look at what readers have been saying at TravelAgentCentral this week. I'm glad to report that most of the comments this week have been focused on helping agents through advice or warning.
More on Vacation Rentals
We've been discussing the potential impact that vacation rentals can have on an agent's business for almost a month now, and the conversation is not going away just yet. In fact, two readers shared some information on the topic just this week.
First up this week was michael chisholm, of Wimco Villas. He wrote:
As a sales agent working for a villa reservation company, we help Travel Agents all the time as we apprciate the need to further the villa vacation market. The company I work for, www.wimco.com represents villas in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and Nantucket and ALL our destinations have on island support for vactioners. In the ever expanding vacation rental marketplace, specialising in specfic destinations is important as this provides better accuracy overall.
Perhaps you are weary of potentially subjective information coming from a supplier, which is understandable. Therefore, I suggest you listen to Amanda, who posted:
Staying in hotels on vacation is a thing of the past! So many more people love the option of getting a vacation rental and having more privacy and more space. Not to mention how affordable they can be. I believe that vacation rentals are a great market for travel agents. I myself book vacation rentals and get nothing but great reviews.
Lisa is another non-supplier who is a strong supporter of this niche market, stating:
When in Hawaii, staying in a vacation rental whether it is in a villa or a home, it is the only way to go. I had the opportunity to work with the friendly staff at Tropical Villa Vacations, who showed a genuine concern for all of my travel needs. The location that we chose was perfect!
The fact that so many comments have been coming in on this topic over the course of a month (which is like years in Internet timing) is more than encouraging, to say the least. I hope agents take the opportunity to keep sharing more on the topic both here and at a discussion thread on AgentNation.
Speaking of AgentNation
Last week, we reported on Expedia's new Travel Agent Affiliate program and, although there have been no comments posted (yet) directly on the story, we've received feedback at our discussion thread on the matter at AgentNation. If you haven't signed up and/or logged in yet, here's what some agents had to share on the matter.
Angie was the first to respond, writing:
I am excited about this because now clients can't say "we booked it on Expedia". They will know we can get them the best price available no questions asked. I do have one question. I am trying to sign up online for the free sign up before June promo. It wants my bank info. Is that so they can bill us the 50dollars?
Meanwhile, user macaw_mom does not appear as enthused as Angie, posting:
I am not that excited. I see the online agencies like this worried they are losing to the True Travel Agent. Commission levels for TAAP are: 10% for Expedia Special Rate hotels $6 per booking for Agency Hotels 5% on vacation packages (flight+hotel, flight+car rental, flight+hotel+car rental). Note Minimum 3 night/3day Land Content 3% on vacation packages (flight+hotel, flight+car rental, flight+hotel+car rental). Note Less than 3 night/3day Land Content 10% for activities I just booked a 7 day vacation - Hotel/Air - my commission is $347.00 If I did it through Expedia - at 5% - my commission would have been $160.00 I work hard for my money - to build my business not theirs If people want to book from Orbitz or Expedia, I say okay... In 2010 I have seen an increase in customers, who say they are tired of spending so much time on the internet finding the best price. I will remain "true" to my agency & my customers, without affiliating with these online booking companies.
What's your take? Is the Expedia program an opportunity for agents as online travel agencies (OTAs) seek new relationships or is it, perhaps, a waste of time too late in the game? Agents chimed in on the subject at our Facebook page as well. Here is what some of them had to say.
Dedra Shahan wrote:
While it's wonderful to be recognized as valuable, I can't help but think these giant companies will market direct to our clients thus becoming Their clients. My prefered tour operators will price match. I work with companies that have always valued my expertise.
Laure Poffenberger shared:
They are chasing their tails now & realize what a great asset using a travel agent is. So much of travel just cannot be planned over the Internet & when there is a problem our clients want help from someone the know & trust. I in turn want to use a tour operator that I know & trust. I think OTA's are in trouble & are grasping at straws.
What are your thoughts? Hit us up by posting a comment below or at the original posting. You can also join the conversation at our Facebook page, send a tweet to us at our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) and join the discussion in real time at AgentNation.
Readers Request Answers
Sometimes, we write a report about a new business or supplier and some readers, apparently, believe that means we are that same business. That's flattering, in some regard, as they consider us the ultimate source of information on the matter. But as an organization that does its best to cover all aspects of the travel trade, it can be hard to answer specific questions.
For instance, we've received a lot of attention to our initial report on the introduction of Pet Airways to the industry. Most recently, one reader inquired about potential flights to Europe on the carrier.
Gisela Gonzalez Flores-Clarke wrote:
Your service looks fantastic!! When are you opening flights to Europe? I need to travel to England twice a year and need to bring my 5 kilo Yorkie. Sending him in the hold is definately not a option for me!!! I do hope you start service to Europe asap!!!!!!!!
I wish I had an answer for you, Gisela. With the company now just more than a year old, I kind of doubt they will be doing flights outside of the United States just yet. However, perhaps if you take a gander at the Help section Pet Airways web site you can find the answers you need, be it a timetable on potential flights or a straight up answer if it is going to happen, ever.
James Collier recently commented on a story in a similar manner. After learning about Tourism Ireland's new Golden Trekker for seniors riding Irish Rail, he commented:
This development is very welcome, my sister was born in UK of Irish parentd and they returned to Ireland when she was 2, she went to nurse in UKwhen she was 18 and has lived there since. She comes to stay with us each year and this will be very useful. I write for the Senior Times and I would appreciate an e-mail of this information and any other useful information for seniors travelling, including reserving seats, etc.
116 Sea Park, Malahide
James, I'd be delighted to help you by sharing any information I can find. However, you did not provide an e-mail for me to contact you. Can you post it in a comment or contact me at email@example.com and I'll see what I can do? Until then, if any agents and readers out there can share additional information on this program, that would be a great help. It runs through the end of the year. Here's the Tourism Ireland web site, which may provide answers: www.tourismireland.com.
America('s Vacation Center) is Under Attack!
Two months ago, there was a lot of attention on the temporary demise of Travelport and it transitioned to discussions on how an agent's leads may be affected. But as much as the conversation was based around Travelport, one reader brough America's Vacation Center (AVC) into the fray.
Mary brought it up, writing:
Beware of AVC They will take 70% of your commission and all referrals generated from that one lead will be their's, again taking 70% commision. I was promised the referrals as my own, which I thought would be worth giving up that initial commission,but boy was I wrong. I was hounded on every extra person that booked their trip and asked if they came from their live lead. They took that customer as their own because they were referred.. Also, all of my customer base that I put into their system at the time so I could market to them, are still being marketed to by AVC after I quit them as my host agency. That is so wrong. Just my 2cents worth.
Note that this is Mary's opinion and not that of the staff her at Travel Agent. Regardless, that's disappointing to read. Anyone out there able to support or rebuff Mary's take on AVC? I'd like to learn more (and I doubt I'm alone).
Advice for an Editor
Normally, an exchange between readers and writers/editors on the site involves our staff responding with some information to help our audience. But this week, we was a bit of the reverse happen as our own Jena Tesse Fox journeyed to Durban, South Africa for the 2010 Indaba trade show (the largest in Africa). Read her most recent report here.
But before Jen hit the trade show floor to share reports, she took a seemingly endless journey across the Atlantic Ocean, most of it pleasant thanks to South African Airlines. On the topic of drinking too much or not enough coffee before a flight, reader Alfredo Tor-Paz made a suggestion to Jena, stating:
In spite of the strong coffee, never drink so much caffeine after 6pm, it is a very good airline, SAA, my comment, would be over the transfer to domestic, there is no place to complain much....have you tried to fly via the USA??? Horror, thanks for reminding that, I still prefer transferring thru JNB...my grain of sand or salt.
I am currently in the midst of what has been numerous attempts to cut back on coffeed, and it is indeed hard. Still, Afredo's comments are spot on regarding drinking it at night. Hopefully Jena takes his advice before flying back next week.
Speaking of next week... we'll catch up again on what's causing buzz around the industry and at TravelAgentCentral. Keep the comments coming (below or elsewhere) and don't forget to extend to conversation to other outlets such as our Facebook page, our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) and in real time at AgentNation