July 22, 2010
On Site: Classy Business Aboard Lufthansa
I am afraid to fly. There, I said it. Good thing I picked a profession that would keep me constantly on the ground. Whoops. If you are an aerophob like myself, allow me to let you in on a little secret. Two words: Business Class.
I just arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany for a press trip and, man, after a seven-hour flight in Lufthansa’s business class, I could see anyone becoming an airplane junky. Even me.
After two glasses of Coppola Shiraz and a plate of charcuterie in the Business Class Lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport, the knots in my stomach seemed to loosen just a smidge. A seamless boarding followed by a very chilled glass of bubbly was enough to almost bring a smile to my panic-stricken face. Even as we sat on the runway for an hour and a half due to air traffic (oh the joys of flying, right?) the flight attendants were sure to come by with cold glasses of sparkling water and orange juice.
Now for the kicker. As the dinner hour rolled around someone came by and asked if she may set my table. She was kind enough not to laugh at my perplexed look and instead proceeded to place a white linen tablecloth over my tray table. As for menu options I opted for the Tanqueray cured salmon served with orange, pumpernickel and mustard-dill dressing to start. For a main course I tucked into some of the most tender beef short ribs I’ve had in a while. Seriously, this is airplane food? Flight attendants rolled beverage carts by what seemed like every few minutes to top off my glass of red wine.
Feeling sleepy from a full belly (and maybe from that Tylenol PM I popped) I was delighted to find that my chair reclined to an almost 180-degree angle. Pillows propped up just right and TV tilted so that glare would be minimal, I hunkered down to watch “Date Night,” – that Steve Carell and Tina Fey movie with a star-studded cast (think Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis...). Turns out I probably didn’t need to take that Tylenol PM – that movie was a snore all on its own. Note: There are dozens of movie and television options to choose from. I also watched an episode of Entourage and 30 Rock - to which I owe my sanity after suffering through Date Night.
When I awoke breakfast had long been over but I found a nice to-go bag by my seat with a sandwich, yogurt and some fresh fruit. Well rested, satiated and safe I was ready to take on Dusseldorf. Aerophobia cured…or at least until I’m back flying coach.
Stay tuned for more tales from Dusseldorf as Travel Agent is here through Sunday.
July 21, 2010
On Site: Rail Europe Trip— Day Two, Florence
Riding the Frecciaross line
The (relatively) new high-speed train system in Italy means that it's possible to get from Milan to Florence in less than two hours, including a brief stop in Bologna. The Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) line links Milan, Florence and Naples, and the Frecciaargento line covers several other major cities. The trains offer numerous advantages over commuting by car or plane.
First and foremost, the train stations are right in the cities rather than on the outskirts, cutting commuting time in half, and often eliminating the need for parking. The trains can reach speeds of 186 miles per hour—much faster than any car can go, obviously. And since passengers don't need to clear security before boarding, they can arrive at the station minutes before departure rather than hours. If one considers the time it takes to get to an airport, clear security, wait for boarding, fly, taxi the plane, disembark, get luggage (if any has been checked), and get from the airport to the arrival city…taking a high-speed train just makes much more sense.
The first-class cars on the Frecciarossa line are spacious, quiet (several seats are divided by glass partitions for some measure of privacy) and quite comfortable (the seats recline to a very nice pitch). The ticket includes food and beverage service, though this is both a good and bad thing. It's nice to have the service, of course, but when a cup of coffee is just a shot (and not of espresso--just coffee) and breakfast is a cookie, one feels a little cheated. Fortunately, there is a bar car available with more substantial fare, and my cappuccino was quite tasty.
Boutiques and shops line a street in Florence
We arrived in Florence and immediately headed for Michaelangelo’s David…along with just about everybody in Italy, it would seem. If your clients headed to Florence have any plans to see the statue, book reservations in advance. They’ll still have to wait in line, but it will be less of a line than the non-reserved people would have. Sadly, we didn’t have reservations, but we did see David mini-statues, t-shirts, coffee mugs and bookends at every gift shop in town, so that was some small consolation.
See more of what you can tour in Italy in the video below
The city’s Duomo is also magnificent—we didn’t get to go inside, but the exterior is a beautiful and surprisingly colorful masterpiece of medieval architecture.
An exterior shot of the Duomo in Florence
We wandered through the ancient, narrow streets, stopping by the house where Dante Alighieri lived, and passing plenty of little boutiques and trendy name-brand stores alike (Hugo Boss, Prada, etc.).
The streets in Florence are surprisingly narrow, but still allow car traffic. (Granted, there seemed to be more motorbikes than cars, but there were still plenty of tight fits when a Fiat drove by.) Walking is still the best way to get around, but remind your clients to pay attention for cars and bikes that might speed by.
For lunch, we went to Cibreo Ristorante (firstname.lastname@example.org), an exclusive and very intimate little family-run restaurant that’s part of a larger network, though not a chain. (For example, across the street is their café, and a trattoria is nearby. Each restaurant is different, but part of the same group.) The menu was not printed for us—instead, our waiter sat down at our table and described each dish in detail so we knew what to order (many of the dishes were fish-based). And from the appetizers to the desserts (with first and second courses in between—so much food!), everything was phenomenal. The veal meatballs were tender, the cod soufflé was decadent and delicate at the same time, the spicy fish soup was very spicy and the desserts offered more flavors than just sweetness. (That is, the orange marmalade cheesecake tasted of oranges and cheese, not just sugar.)
Stuffed to the gills, we walked back through the narrow streets to the train station and returned to Milan completely exhausted, but exhilarated at the amazing day we’d spent. Next time, I’m spending at least a week in Florence. Seven hours was nowhere near enough.
By: Jena Tesse Fox
July 20, 2010
On Site: Rail Europe Trip— Day One in Milan
I can’t believe it’s been less than a day since we arrived in Milan. It feels like three, at least.
We landed about an hour behind schedule at 9 a.m. local time (thanks, Delta!) and headed into heart of the city, to the Hilton Milan, a perfectly nice hotel that’s walking distance to the train station—and since trains are at the heart of this trip, it’s quite apropos that we’re so nearby. For our first day, we got around the city via bus and on foot—more of the latter than the former—and explored as many highlights as could be crammed into 10 hours.
Of course, this is Italy, so we had to start off with some food. The concierge at the hotel recommended the Bar New York for lunch, and we all raised our eyebrows with concern. Fearing a deli or some kitschy pseudo-New-Yorker kind of place, we went around the corner and were delighted to find a genuine Italian luncheonette with some very tasty salads and pastas. The buffalo mozzarella was tangy and warm and very fresh, and my gnocchi Bolognese was delicious.
After lunch, we used our passes for a hop-on/hop-off bus tour of the city, heading down the Corso Venezia—this fashion-forward city’s most famous shopping street—and passing such iconic stores as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood and plenty more.
Exterior shot of the Duomo
We hopped off (as one does on these bus tours) in front of the Duomo, reportedly the fourth-largest church in the world. The piazza in front of the massive building is a hub of activity, and is great for people-watching. Warn your clients to be careful of the panhandlers and any possible pickpockets. (People were selling handfuls of corn for the pigeons, and literally put their hands less than an inch in front of my nose. Not the most effective of all marketing methods, I must say…)
Another thing to bear in mind: The cathedral does not allow bare shoulders or backs (at least for women—I didn’t notice if they let men wearing tank-tops in). If your clients plan to go inside in summer, remind them to bring a jacket or shawl.
Interior shot of the Duomo
Inside, the cathedral is simply awe-inspiring in its size, beauty and design. Dark and solemn, it still radiates an opulence of a bygone era, and the attention to detail is breathtaking. It was surprisingly crowded for the middle of a Monday afternoon, but all the visitors were quiet and respectful, and the experience was lovely, if far too short. Suggest your clients spend at least an hour—preferably more—exploring the cathedral.
See more of what you can tour in Italy in the video below.
Rather than return to the bus, we opted to wander around the narrow streets by the Duomo and find the Teatro alla Scala—more popularly known as La Scala. On the way, we ducked into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, looking to find something cold to drink. At the four corners where the two parts of the arcade meet, there is a silver shop, a Prada, a Louis Vuitton…and a McDonalds. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. (We avoided Mickey D’s and went to Savini for some gelato—the perfect thing for a hot day.)
Outside the Galleria, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele has lots of great shopping for the junior set. (Nothing as fancy as Prada or Louis Vuitton, but we found some great deals in a Zara.)
Oh, yes, and after wandering for quite a while, we did find La Scala. And yes, it’s beautiful.
For dinner, our concierge (whose word we will never doubt again) sent us to Ristorante da Berti, which has a gorgeous outdoor garden for alfresco dining. The patio is completely enclosed by topiary (well, almost completely—we could see the lawn where the outdoor grill was cooking the restaurant’s meats), making it hard to remember that one is dining in the middle of a bustling city. The food was magnificent—all of the pasta is made in-house, and everything was rich and delicious, from the prosciutto and melon to the risotto alla Milanese to the Ossobuco…The menus are not available in English, but the very friendly staff can communicate perfectly well with non-Italian speakers (the patio was a modern-day Babel), and can help diners choose the perfect meal.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to fall into a deep food coma.
By: Jena Tesse Fox
July 20, 2010
Richard Nahem's Paris Restaurant Bargains
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.
Paris is a food lover's dream come true, and many visitors choose the top restaurants to dine at regardless of cost. Smart Parisians know where to get great food at bargain prices. Top restaurants offer the best deals at lunch, usually with a prix fixe of two or three courses at about 70 to 80 euros, and some smaller, lesser known restaurants serve superb food for a lot less. Here are some great lunch bargains for under 25 euros.
Le Reminet tops our list of one of the best steals in town, offering a three-course lunch for only 13 euros, practically the price of a movie these days. The small, well-appointed restaurant with crystal chandeliers, deep plum walls and velvet banquettes is off a quiet street in the Latin Quarter.
One summer menu item we liked was smoked mackerel, endive salad with little bits of Granny Smith apple, sliced chicken breast with two sauces of curry with coconut milk, and mango chutney, and for dessert bananas with caramel sauce and home-made vanilla ice cream. Service is genial and the staff goes out of its way to please.
3 rue des Grands Degrés, 5th arr.
Tel. 01 44 07 04 24
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner
Willi’s Wine Bar
This delightful, well-respected wine bar (one of the best in the city) serves a terrific three-course meal at 25 euros that’s hard to beat. The fresh, simple food along with sumptuous desserts mostly with seasonal fruit is delicious and refreshing but hearty enough to satisfy.
You can accompany your feast with a selection of over 250 wines from the Rhone region to the Languedoc. The simple, high-ceilinged dining room has a handsome bar to enjoy wine tastings and the walls are dotted with collectible posters by artists that Willi’s commissions every year to create for their ongoing Bottle Art Collection.
13 rue des Petits Champs, 1st arr.
Tel. 01 42 61 05 09
Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner
Willi's Wine Bar
142 Creperie Contemporaine
We all know that President Obama dined at Le Fontaine de Mars restaurant in Paris last year, but do you know where French President Sarkozy likes to go? He chooses a simple creperie in the quiet, middle-class residential area of the 15th arrondissement.
142 Creperie Contemporaine serves the most scrumptious crepes this side of Normandie, where the best crepes come from. The extra thin, slightly crisp Normandie style crepes are made with buckwheat flour, which is the secret to their success. The three prixe fixe menus at 10.50 euros, 14.50, and 20 euros start with a savory lunch crepe with fillings like country ham, chicken, gruyere and goat cheese, and smoked salmon.
142 Creperie Contemporaine
Make sure you pace yourself for the extravagant dessert crepes with fillings and toppings like Grand Marnier (they light it on fire! At the table), Nutella and two really over the top ones the Adélaïde (banana, vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate sauce, and whipped cream) or the Pénélope (mascarpone, red fruit, and vanilla ice cream). A glass of authentic apple cider is the best way to wash down the your yummy crepes.
59 rue St. Charles, 15th arr.
Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner
Tel. 01 40 59 84 01
Please note the above restaurants may be closed for all or part of August, so please contact them before you arrive. Reservations are recommended.
By: Richard Nahem
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, email@example.com).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 12, 2010
Does Lebron + Miami = More Tourism Dollars?
Being neither ESPN nor Sports Illustrated, we've been doing our best to avoid engaging in the saturation of conversation about Lebron James' decision to move to Miami. But then we read a projection at the Miami Herald that said the NBA all-star's presence in the Florida city could generate $500 to $600 million to the region.
Sure enough, that number encapsulates the real estate dollars from the houses Lebron and Chris Bosh will buy, as well as retail for #23 in Miami Heat colors, among other things. But we're interested in the travel angle, and how agents can take advantage.
Some properties already benefited form the news. According to the Herald, James booked 25 rooms at the W Hotel in South Beach during the decision. Meanwhile the Fontainebleau Resort received inquiries for packages with Heat tickets, as well as calls from agents about throwing events at the resort's cabanas and restaurants and nightclubs. Are these the best places to look to book for fans?
The restaurant Prime 112 has notably been a favorite spot for Dwyane Wade sightings. In fact he celebrated Lebron's announcement there that Thursday night. So which hotels are closest to this restaurant? South Beach Marriott, The Prime Hotel, the Hilton Bentley Miami/South Beach, Century Hotel South Beach, The Mercury South Beach and The Savoy are all within steps, in case you were interested.
In the end, this is great news for Miami— which follows the big news from May that international visitors to greater Miami area and the beaches generated a record $11 billion in economic impact in 2009.
Have any of your clients already expressed interest in traveling to the region in the wake of the announcement? If so, let us know. We want to hear from you.
Post a comment below.
Send a tweet to us at our Twitter page (@travelagentmag).
Write us at our Facebook page (where Ty Tylandtravel Wilson wrote "I'm sure the groupies will be in touch soon."
Join a discussion in real-time at AgentNation.
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...
July 01, 2010
On Site: A Suite Beginning to Stay at the RIU Palace Paradise Island
Travel Agent's room during a recent, four-night trip to Riu Palace Paradise Island in The Bahamas
NASSAU, The Bahamas – I came back from The Bahamas on Sunday afternoon following a four-night trip to see the newly renovated Riu Palace Paradise Island. And, as sad as the conclusion of one of my best trips of 2010 was, the beginning still brings a smile to my face.
I arrived at my room, #1132, a newly renovated Oceanfront Suite located on the second highest floor of the building. The room was pretty big, offering a king-size bed on one side and a couch and living area on the other, with a rotating flat-screen TV separating the two.
The room wasn’t splashed with your traditional bright Caribbean colors, but rather subtle, deep purples. There’s something about dark purple that screams luxury to me.
Ok, maybe it also had a little something to do with the room-length balcony on the outside. I’ve had balconies before that couldn’t even fit a lawn chair. This one stretched from one side of the room to the next, offering not only full ocean views but also views of the property's swimming pool to the left.
The bathroom was pretty nice too. Since the TV can be rotated, you can position it so you can watch it from the bathroom while you get ready, do your hair or take care of other business.
The bottom line was this was one of the best rooms I’ve seen in the Caribbean this year and well worth the time and money RIU spent in improving it. In fact, this was one of 12 suites that were vamped up as part of a massive refurbishment of the resort. Other upgrades included a new restaurant, Krystal (which offers fusion cuisine), new linens and other decorations in all of the 379 total rooms and top shelf liquor in all the rooms as well and more.
View of the pool from Travel Agent's oceanfront suite at the Riu Palace Paradise Island
First and foremost, book this resort for couples but you’d be missing out on some clients if you ignored pretty much every other demographic including girls or guys getaways and multigenerational travel. In fact, I brought my brother on this trip and we bonded just as much, if not more, than we did when we celebrated his bachelor party in Vegas. But more on the rest of trip at a later time.
By: Joe Pike
June 25, 2010
Richard Nahem's Paris Perfume Shops
Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.
Coco Chanel practically invented the modern day perfume in 1921, giving millions of women the chance to wear Chanel without buying an expensive couture suit. French perfumers and fashion houses have always been in the forefront of innovative scents since then, creating iconic perfumes such as Joy, Poison by Christian Dior, Opium by Yves St. Laurent, Nina Ricci, Angel by Thierry Mugler, and Arpege. Here are two modern Parisian perfumers making exclusive scents.
Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido
French born Serge Lutens has been the creative director of Shiseido cosmetics since 1980 and released his first fragrance in 1981, Nombre Noir. After the smash success of Nombre Noir, Lutens opened Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in 1992 in the chic, upscale Palais Royal.
The stunningly decorated shop is hand painted with shades of purple and pale orange and has the allure of an alchemist’s lab. You can smartly sample the intense perfumes in sleek crystal bottles by dipping long white cardboard sticks into the bottles rather than spraying them all over. Lutens has designed an exclusive set of fragrances just for the Paris boutique along with his other best-selling perfumes. The shop will even personalize your bottle with your name or your initials on the label, so you will have an authentic souvenir that you can show-off and say it is only sold in Paris.
Jardins de Palais Royal
142 Galerie de Valois, 1st arr.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
After years of inventing top perfumes for Jean Paul Gaultier, Lancôme, and Elizabeth Arden, Francis Kurkdjian decided to strike out on his own. He has opened a small, whimsical shop near the Place Vendome with bespoke perfume, where he sees clients by appointment only. He will conjure up just the right scent for you with his magic kit of over 200 essences for a mere 8,000 euros. But if a custom-designed fragrance is too time-consuming and costly for you, the shop has scintillating, ready-to-wear perfumes. His Lumiere Noir is a heady mix of rose and earthy patchouli and Cologne for the Morning is a soft, powdery combination of Bergamot from Calabria, lavender from Provence, and Orange Flower from Tunisia. On a more fun note, the shop has a perfumed leather bracelet with a monogrammed clasp and bottles of perfumed bubbles to blow in flavors of pear, cold mint, or cut herbs.
5 rue Alger, 1st arr.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
By: Richard Nahem
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...