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 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...
June 01, 2010
A Short Stay at Nashville's Union Station
I just got back from a road trip down to Memphis, Tennessee and, on my way, I was fortunate enough to stay at Nashville's Union Station Hotel, A Wyndham Historic Hotel. And believe me, after days on the road this hotel was beyond paradise for a weary traveler.
The hotel was constructed out of a restored 19th-century railroad station and, while walking into the lobby, I truly felt like I had stepped back in time. Picture wood paneling, two massive clocks and the nice touch of an old-time railroad schedule behind the reception desk. No doubt the most outstanding feature is the 65-foot, vaulted ceiling which is made out of gold-leaf medallions and stained glass.
I stayed in room #620, a Station Master's Suite, which has an enormous bedroom (bigger than my apartment in New York) and a living room just as large. Nothing like ordering a glass of wine from room service and flipping on one of two flat-screen TVs before heading to the bars and restaurants Downtown, which is literally five blocks away. (Just walk down Broadway toward the river.)
The rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, but for a fee. The business center, however, is free to all guests. There is also a fitness center and 12,000 square feet of meeting space.
Before I hit the road again, the next morning I made sure to stop at Prime 108, the hotel's restaurant. I recommend the omelette, which is plumped up with your choice of fillings. A side of white cheddar grits adds that necessary Southern touch.
May 13, 2010
South Africa, Day Five: Knyssa
The lobby of The Views Hotel
After a second report from the trade show floor of Indaba in Durban, South Africa, Jena Tesse Fox takes a quick flight to Knyssa, for some unique property tours and, more, wildlife encounters.
Airlines throughout the United States, please take note: Even when flying short distances of two hours or less, South African Airways checks bags for free, provides at least two drinks onboard and offers at least a sandwich. It can be done, guys. I’m just sayin’.
So after several days of running all over Durban, we caught a quick flight over to Knysna (the “k” is silent, I’ve learned, and the name rhymes with “Liza,” but with an “n”) in the Western Cape Province and headed over to The Views Hotel, a brand-new property right on the beach that really lives up to its name. (From my window, I can see nothing but ocean and sky. It’s wonderfully Zen. From my balcony, I can see the beach. It’s still Zen.) The boutique property has just 19 rooms and suites, only five of which don’t face the sea. The rooms themselves match the sea-and-sky-theme of the view, with polished driftwood for the flooring and tiny, smooth pebbles in the open-plan bathroom. (General Manager Jackie Joubert can be reached at Jackie@viewshotel.co.za.)
The main restaurant at The Views, Sails is headed by executive chef Craig Bloemsma, who creates a new menu each day depending on what is fresh and available. Generally, he limits the menu to four starters and three entrees, though he did say that he’ll accommodate any special requests possible. (My beef fillet with mustard sauce was quite tasty.) For breakfasts, the hotel offers a first course continental buffet and a hot second course—no one in the group tried the bacon-and-eggs ice cream, but it certainly sounded intriguing. (If anyone does try it, please drop me a line and tell me how it is…or what it is, for that matter.)
A Suite's bedroom at the Pezula
We also checked out Pezula, a six-year-old seaside resort that will be hosting the French team for the World Cup. (Ha! You thought I’d get through an entire post without mentioning soccer, didn’t you?) The property has fireplaces everywhere, and—with low buildings set into hillsides—gives off a comfortably luxe vibe. The wine cellar (90 percent of which is local vintages) doubles as a tasting room; the spa has a post-treatment room with massage waterbeds; guests can borrow bikes for getting around; and there are champagne, whiskey and cigar bars for various tastes. All of the suites (both the Villa and Studio) categories have balconies, heated floors and (of course) fireplaces. Cool touch: The Presidential Suite has a dedicated butler.
If a dedicated butler isn’t enough, the ultimate place to stay at Pezula is a complex down the road from the main resort (accessible by free shuttle) called The Castle, made up of two full apartments that can be rented individually or together. A private chef and butler are included, as are all meals and activities. Ten adults can stay in the complete complex, and rates for the full property start at about $11,885 per night. For more information or special requests, agents can contact Russel Binks, director of hospitality at email@example.com.
Within an hour’s drive of The Views are two sanctuaries for wild animals: Elephant Sanctuary and Tenikwa. We started at the former and learned about their six elephants that have been rescued from Kruger National Park. Patrick, our guide, explained that each of them have disadvantages that would have made their survival in the wild very difficult if not impossible. (Ironically, a genetic condition that prevents tusks from growing has saved many elephants from ivory-hunting poachers, but keeps them from digging out roots in winter. What saves them from one fate condemns them to another.) I got to walk with Thandie, who let me pet her and explore her tail and feet…in exchange for peanuts, apples and veggies, of course. (Quid pro quo.)
Thandie enjoys a a drink
We then headed to Tenikwa, which is working to save endangered animals from extinction by rescuing abandoned, orphaned or injured birds and cats and either rehabilitating them to return to the wild or keeping them to maintain the gene pool. (Pamphlets in the reception hall offer suggestions on responsible wildlife touring.) Our guide, Sizwe, showed us around—and then into—the large outdoor pens that contained rescued cats, many of whom had been raised in the sanctuary and were not afraid of people. A leopard normally prefers to stay hidden in the brush, Sizwe told us, but their leopard was perfectly comfortable sitting around…and even stalking us through the fence. (We were warned not to get too close.) Next door were two young cheetahs, who seemed very eager to stay around us when we entered their pen, and even let us pet them. Turns out, leopards and cheetahs are natural enemies in the wild, and their pens are next door to one another. The cheetahs wanted us around for protection from the nearby leopard…or maybe for a snack; I’m really not sure.
An eager cheetah at Tenikwa
For a light meal in the late afternoon, we went to Bramon Wine Estate, reportedly the first successful wine estate “this far east” on the Western Cape in the community of Plettenberg Bay. We sampled two of their most popular vintages—a wonderfully dry and gently fruity Sauvignon Blanc (the first wine produced in Plettenberg Bay)--and a Pinotage, which we were told used to be exclusive to the region before being produced in California. We ate our tapas (try the springbok or ostrich carpaccio—delicious!) outside among the vines, which are dotted with red or white rose bushes to indicate what kind of grape is grown there. There are probably better ways to spend a warm afternoon, but at the moment, I can’t think of any.
May 12, 2010
South Africa, Day Four: South African Airways & More Indaba
Today began with a breakfast hosted by South African Airways (and with speeches by representatives of same), followed by a media panel with several members of the SAA team.
Siza Mzimela, CEO of SAA, was excited about the airline’s growth, and mentioned two new routes that the airline will be flying (she wouldn’t say where, however, until the deal s were inked), the new planes they would be getting, and the new partnership with JetBlue. (This partnership means travelers can check their luggage in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Seattle and pick it up when they arrive in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. Pretty cool.) Staff and crew are being increased (especially in preparation for the World Cup—had you forgotten about that yet?), security is being improved across the board (especially in the baggage departments, we heard), and plans are in place to expand into South America.
When the airlines meetings were finished, we headed back to the trade show floors for one last spin. A few highlights:
* Namibia recently received an impressive grant to boost their infrastructure, and several million of that has been earmarked for tourism. A comprehensive Namibia Tourism web site (www.mcanamibia.org.na) is in the works, and should be complete in a year. A new Hilton is scheduled to open around September in the capital city of Windhoek, and a new Kempinski will start construction later this year. Beyond that, Shareen Thude of the Namibia Tourism Board (www.namibiatourism.com.na) said, existing hotels are upgrading and renovating their rooms in hopes of becoming the hot new destination.
* The word “safari” apparently means “journey” in Swahili (my hotel has awful internet access, otherwise I’d look it up and confirm, so I’ll just take Kenya Tourism Board rep Anne Kanini’s word for it). In Kenya, there are lots of different kinds of safaris, and—from the pictures Kanini showed me—some pretty impressive sights to see while on them. The country sits on the equator, and certain species—like giraffes--are divided by the line. Visitors can see the “Big Five” within a four hundred-meter drive, she added, especially at the Maasi Mara. She also mentioned the “Obama Effect,” with tourists coming to the village where President Obama’s Kenyan family still lives. Serena Hotels are popular throughout the country, and there is a Fairmont in Nairobi. (www.magicalkenya.com)
* Cullinan Diamonds offer tours of their diamond mines as well as completely unique and exclusive jewelry designs. (And when they say exclusive, they mean copyrighted. You’ll never have to worry about someone else showing up to the party wearing the same necklace!)
* Here’s a unique option for animal-lovers who want a different kind of safari: Dr. Peter Brothers runs African Vet Safaris, which brings visitors out into the wild to help tag and care for endangered species. There are different kinds of trips available for different people, from casual interest to veterinary students looking for hands-on experience. The guests’ funding of the trips, Brothers said, helps the company’s conservation efforts, and the excursions offer a new perception on the issues facing the environment and the animal kingdom.
Tomorrow, we head off to George, Knysna, and the Views Hotel.
May 10, 2010
South Africa, Day Two: World Cup, Durban & Indaba
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa addresses the audience at Indaba
In the United States, we have "casual Fridays." In South Africa, they have "football Fridays," when everyone wears soccer jerseys. It makes for a pretty great visual.(And for the benefit of our North American readers, I’ll use the word “soccer” from here on in, unless I’m quoting someone directly. Seriously, though, why do we use the word “football” for a game where players barely touch the ball with their feet? But I digress…)
With the FIFA World Cup just over a month away, all of South Africa is caught up in soccer fever, and this Indaba conference could practically be called World Cup Indaba. Everyone is excited about not only the World Cup, but about the attention the world will be paying to South Africa as a nation, and Africa itself as a continent.
It only makes sense: The audience for the World Cup, both live and on worldwide TV, “gives brand awareness, and is an opportunity you can’t pay for,” said Roshene Singh, CMO of the conference, on its first day. The exhibits at Indaba cover a range of industries, covering accommodations, tour operators, car rentals, airlines, other products and nine provinces as destinations, as well as other Southern African countries and Kenya. By the end of the show, she expects over 13,000 attendees, between visitors and exhibitors, and they had to turn exhibitors away due to space constraints. (For the record, the entire campus stretches out over 60,000 square meters.)
But, she added, “the real legacy of the World Cup will be how much tourism continues afterwards.” Many new hotels have been built across the host cities; the roads and public transportation services have been improved; and employees have undergone training to accommodate the influx of guests that is expected in the next two months. “We are on a path where we can only improve where we are,” Singh said. And the influx they are getting for Indaba is a great dress rehearsal for the World Cup.
On The Trade Show Floor
While the main buzz from the officials in Durban may be about soccer, there was a greater variety of conversation on the floor. Among the 2,000 exhibitors, I spoke to:
* Jewel Africa, a small chain of high-end jewelry stores (and by “small” I mean the company only has two outlets) in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The goldsmiths will create bespoke pieces, marketing manager Kim Miller told me, and they offer private shopping events.
* For those not satisfied with just shopping for gold, the Gold of Africa Museum in Cape Town celebrates the history of gold in South Africa, and (so I was told) inspires modern gold design. (Check out their late-night tours, which include a glass of wine sprinkled with gold dust.)
* For a more sobering museum experience, the Apartheid Museum recognizes South Africa’s more painful history, but also celebrates how a political prisoner became president.
* South Africa’s wines have become increasingly popular, and some wineries are now doubling as chic getaways with luxe hotels. Mont Rochelle Hotel & Mountain Vineyards is a boutique property in the Franschhoek valley with 22 rooms (six of them suites) named for different varietals of grapes grown on the property (Shiraz, Merlot, etc. The Reserve Suite looks particularly nice, with a private Zen garden and Jacuzzi.) Cool touch: To guarantee that every room has a view of the valley, some of the rooms are built into the hillside, reachable by underground hallways. Since the rooms below blend into the landscape, guests in the upper rooms have unobstructed views. With 17 hectacres of vineyards, guests can go picnicking or even enjoy a wine-tasting on horseback. Agents should contact Marika Kok (011-27-21-876-2770, firstname.lastname@example.org).
* Drifters Adventours offers custom-built tour busses and several game lodges in Kruger National Park and Uganda. For a more active experience, guests take part in setting up and breaking camps, cooking, and other aspects of a tour.
* Wilderness Safaris are game lodges in seven Southern African countries (and the Seychelles) that focus on sustainability and responsibility in the wild. The brand’s Premiere Camps and Classic Camps are the most luxe, Carli Saxby told me, but all of their properties are three-star or above. The property in the Seychelles, for example, is the only hotel on North Island, and was recently renovated, while the Little Ongava has just three rooms that Saxby calls “palatial.” (It also overlooks a water hole where animals come to drink, and includes a blind in the brush where guests can watch the animals up close.) And each camp is unique: One camp, Abu, rehabilitates former circus elephants to help return them to the wild. The camp at Kafue offers a deal in which guests staying three nights are treated to a hot-air balloon ride—which, being largely silent, doesn’t scare away the animals below, offering a perfect chance to see wildlife at its peak.
I’m usually pretty cynical about ceremonies and speeches, but even I was quite impressed by the production put on to officially open Indaba (this was after several hours of conferences, meetings and the trade show being open, of course). Naturally, there was a soccer theme, but it all fit in quite nicely. Dr. Zweli Mkhize, premiere of KwaZulu-Natal, pointed out that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and that this year is a celebration of “the efforts of the African people to free themselves.” Dr. Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, earned cheers when he declared simply, “Yes, we are ready. Yes, this World Cup will happen.”
Even remarkable performances by a drumming group and the Drakensburg Mountain Boys Choir couldn’t top the cheers for the President of South Africa himself, Jacob Zuma. “The stadiums are ready. The host cities are ready. South Africa is ready. The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place,” he said. He called the five new stadiums that have been built for the World Cup the “crown jewels” of the country, but warned that a soccer game is only 90 minutes, and that the games were only the beginning of a new era for South Africa. All South Africans, he added, “would deliver a memorable event by being good hosts.”
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 20, 2010
Our Stay at Loberias Del Sur
Travel Agent’s fourth night and fifth day of our trip to Chile for the USTOA 2010: Out of the Country Meeting in Chile were spent at the impressive Loberias del sur hotel in the Patagonia region of the country.
We stayed in a standard room, #211. The room was pretty basic but provided pretty much all the amenities you need from a king-size bed to your basic television, which I have been without for the last few days. The lodge has 60 single and double rooms.
It offers trips to Lake San Rafael, visits to Aiken Park (an eco-tourism reserve), horseback rides fishing trips, rafting, trekking and a city tour Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén.
By: Joe Pike