June 18, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: June 15-18
I was semi-watching the United States tie Slovenia 2-2 in our team's second match in the 2010 FIFA World Cup today (semi-watching because half of the screen time was spent on my laptop working and, for the record, there were other employees with me— who will remain nameless unless I need to take them down with me), and could not miss the confusion and outrage over the referee's disqualification of a go-ahead goal in the final minutes that would have put our guys up 3-2. Not only was his call vilified by the ESPN commentators (one of which can be considered objective when, in his natural English accent, he said that even as an England fan he felt the U.S. was robbed), but there appeared to be no explanation or citation of what foul was committed.
Fortunately for that referee, the game wasn't taking place in Philadelphia, McAfee Coliseum (where the dreaded Black Hole of Oakland Raiders fans await) or even in Madison Square Garden when Bowe and Golotta are fighting. There are probably hundreds in South Africa right now, and hundreds of thousands across the planet, that want his head. This takes place just after the recent tainting of a perfect game by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga when umpire Jim Joyce made, clearly, an incorrect call at first base (he later admitted his error).
Needless to say, it has not been the best of times for sports referees as of late. Hence, I'm a little on edge this week when it comes to making calls on what readers of TravelAgentCentral.com have been saying as of late. I'd like to think that, over the course of the Weekly Wrap, I've been fair enough and have admitted when incorrect calls have been made. But that could always change. Let's see what happens this week.
Yellow Card of the Week
Mistakes happen and fouls are sometimes committed without any malicious intention. But they still happen. Last week, I had to remind someone that we are not Pet Airways but instead are a media outlet reporting about the airline. A similar instance took place this week when a reader commented on our report about Le Sereno in St. Barts naming a new general manager. Maroussia Nassief Reid apparently believes new GM Javier Vila works with us, writing:
Hello Mr. Vila,
Remember me? Maroussia from the Mayfair......my dad was going to spain so i looked you up and found you close to my caribbean home!!! Please email me so we can keep in touch! My email is email@example.com
Come on, Maroussia. The property's website is right there at the end of the story(here it is again: www.lesereno.com). We enjoy sharing the news with everyone but we can't do all of the following up and networking on our own. Have to call a foul on that one.
Red Card of the Week
As I said, mistakes sometimes happen without any ill will. But then there are those that are not only blatanly malicious, but sloppy as well. Take for instance Jonh London who, when commenting on our new full-timer Meagan Drillinger's report on adrenaline junky travel suggestions, posted:
You call this "for travellers on a budget" ? ($19999 for 1 week)....For that kind of money I can go 2 weeks to New-Zealand, and climb the vulcano's there!
Jonh, or somehow I bet you meant to add your name as "John," there is no package for $19,999. Yes, there is one for $1,999 if you want to go tornado chasing. However, not only are the rest of the packages low-cost (one as low as $96 per night) but the story says the source of the list is one that targets budget-minded. There's no line that deliberately says "these are all highly affordable" or something of the sort. Plus, I am pretty sure New Zealand is not supposed to have a hyphen in it and it's "volcano," not vulcano (Spock plays no role in magma production). You're always welcome to share your two cents, but that doesn't mean your free from penalty if you are not careful.
I enjoy seeing the passion that readers have when it comes to multilevel marketing companies like YTB, but sometimes it's exhausting and could use a break. Such is the case with a recent report by George Dooley analyzing a cheeky column written by Peter Stilphen about whether travel professionals should join an MLM or not. I shared most of the exchanges last week, and there are now more to read. The latest is a call-and-response pattern between denyse and Laura. It began with denyse's initial comment:
I'm a former YTB member and once I learned that there are definitely alternatives for me to sell MORE travel WITHOUT paying $50 per month, I jumped. I needed to sell RCCL and NCL because that's what my clients wanted. I also get much more training and support. My business has increased by 3000% since leaving and I pay $0 per month.
I had talked and talked to various YTB people to get them to see the light. I've come to understand that no matter what I say, unless you see the light for yourself you'll stay there. I don't have the time to keep saying the same things over and over again.
I wish everyone in YTB well who's looking to sell travel. But there ARE better alternatives. Think about your clients. SOME of them HAVE heard about YTB. And your business will not be as successful as it could be while with YTB.
Laura then chimed in:
Just because you WISH that MLMs didn't have a legitimate (and successful) business model doesn't mean they don't. No, YTB is not my host. There are a lot of businesses that sell their products through the MLM model...Avon, Stella and Dot, Discovery Toys, etc. Traditional travel agents have my respect...I was one myself...but they do not OWN the product of travel. It is not their decision who gets to sell travel and who doesn't. Sorry.
To which denyse responded:
Laura, I don't think this article is talking about ANY MLM outside of travel. Yes, Avon, Mary Kay, Discovery Toys, etc are successful MLM business models.
The issue with TRAVEL MLMs is that the profit margin in travel is not large enough to support a MLM business model. Therefore, you HAVE to recruit in order to make money. Those other businesses promote products. Travel MLMs promote travel websites - that's not a product. That's a marketing tool.
There is not one SUCCESSFUL travel MLM. All of them have issues. Even the ones who "claim" success have added additional products to their company so the reps can earn money.
Time out. I'm taking a break from this one on calls. But I'd enjoy to read what others have to say.
There's been some major stories taking place about air travel— only during the past few days, weeks, months and years— from airline mergers to added fees, and they are obviously of concern to agents. Two recent developments that have caught the attention of some readers are the proposed merger between Continental Airlines and United Airlines as well as American Airlines latest unbundling of fees. The former is the larger story, and Bradley is taking it quite seriously, stating:
This merger needs blocked. Ultimately, it will force airlines to keep merging until there are only one or two mega-airlines left. What this is doing is creating a position where domestic flights will cost far more than international flights. This hurts the airlines and the consumer, with us travel agents stuck in the middle.
Sounds like a good point. Does anyone out there disagree? I don't, but perhaps I'm making a bad call here.
Meanwhile, Alex appears to be on the fence regarding the issue with American Airlines, writing:
I'm a bit torn on this issue - specifically on the idea of paying a fee to reduce another fee you may or may not incurr. Also, can we file this as another fee related to baggage? With assigned seats, the only real reason to be first on board is to grab overhead bin space for your luggage - space which has become far more precious since baggage fees have driven passengers to bring more and more baggage as carry-ons. Bin space was never meant to handle the influx of passengers trying to avoid fees - if more of these bags were capable of being checked without a fee, would this kind of pre-boarding even be considered to be a perk?
I think you are on the right track, Alex. Whether it's been for business or leisure, I've tried my hardest to pack carry-on luggage only to save time and money. In the end, it seems travelers will have to decide whether to spend more on convenience or being well-equipped. This doesn't seem like a winning situation for anyone besides the airlines, those bastards.
Note to the Peanut Gallery
I am no stranger to sarcasm and Darrell Turner apparently isn't, either. From the sidelines, he makes an interesting point this week about the UK Culture Secretary's new tourism plan but I can't help but sense some heckling in his tone when he comments:
This is a great strategy, for the UK. But let me think about it a minute. Gee, if the USA did the same, and if Germany and Thailand and Spain and Italy did the same, we could collectively choke off 10 or 15% of international travel. The British can vacation at home. We'll vacation at home. Germans can vacation at home. International Airlines can reduce their routes, and all will be happy. Right??
We can and may. Or, maybe we can hear colorful tales from the Brits and Germans, among others, about some enriching and/or exciting journeys that they've taken within their homeland and become inspired to make that journey ourselves? That seems plausible to me.
Moment of Silence
No matter what's taking place on the playing field, the sidelines or elsewhere, there are some instances when all teams and fans take an appropriate moment to honor something important. This week, the travel industry lost a friend in John Shands, executive vice president of Leisure Alliance, who passed away after a battle with cancer. Christopher Flores of the Airlines Reporting Corporation's (ARC) Verified Travel Consultant (VTC) program immediately took a moment to honor Shands, saying:
You will be missed, John.
I am sure he will be. We here at Travel Agent are keeping Shands' family, friends and colleagues in our prayers.
As always, the conversation never ends here. Keep sharing your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you by posting comments below or one other articles. Write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag). Of course, you can always discuss topics in real time at AgentNation. We want to hear from you. Until next week...
May 21, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 17-21
While much of the conversation amongst the travel industry of late has focused on such crises as Icelands's hindering volcanic ash or the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, readers have had some positive, if not constructive, things to share with each other at TravelAgentCentral.com in recent weeks. Let's take a look.
Arizona's Air Travel Addition
While the immigration law in Arizona may have kept some suppliers wary of doing business in The Grand Canyon State, it appears JetBlue is not intimidated as the carrier launches service to Phoenix from Boston. It's great news for the state and anyone involved in selling tourism to the region. Clearly, one reader is excited. Diane wrote:
The state of Arizona welcomes you to our state!! Go Blue...
I know my cousin-in-law, who was a wide receive for the University of Arizona's varsity football team, may not appreciate this but isn't "go blue" also the mantra for the University of Michigan?
More Reasons to Tout Your Profession
You may have read Ruthanne Terrero's initial column which offered 10 reasons to choose a travel agent, and you may want some more. So she delivered with 10 MORE reasons to select a travel professional when planning a trip. Most of the readers were glad with the read, as one would expect. Yet two don't seem two enthused. Jane Ellis wrote:
With today's internet, you'd have to be an idiot to do any of the things described in the article. The article is an argument for common sense and minimal research, not for a travel agent.
Andy Jarosz agrees with Jane, commenting:
These are reasons why people with no commonsense should not travel at all. I seriously doubt any sensible people would make these mistakes, and the people who would do these actions would the type of nightmare customers that an agent would want to avoid! Made my laugh though :)
Before sharing some of the more postive feedback, I'm curious if any readers or agents out there agree with Andy and Jane. If so, why and what do you suggest as an alternative?
Meanwhile, readers like Jess Kalinowsky, clearly disagree with Jane and Andy, stating:
With the advent of the internet, digital photography, et al, everyone thinks they can do it better than a professional! If one believes what they read on the net, then, I am sorry, they deserve what they get, a hotel in the boonies, dirty at that! ANd no "life line" to help them! The Iceland volcano eruption solidified our clients forever! Not one penny was lost, and all were re-accommodated or fully refunded within hours!
More "honest" ammunition!
We don't want the conversation to end here. So keep the comments coming, please.
More Feedback on More Tips
Ruthanne's not the only one dishing out top 10 tips to our readers. Last week, we shared a guest column on how agents can build their revenue-generating e-mail lists for marketing purposes and John Frenaye, a frequent reader and commentator at TravelAgentCentral.com who has engaged readers as well as yours truly in conversations before, shared his two cents, saying:
You need to be very careful about putting names into your marketing database manually. Simply asking for an email address at the end of a phone call IS NOT implied consent to receive your email promotions. It is best to have an opt in(preferable to a double opt in) program to keep you out of trouble with the CanSPAM Act.
And putting your sign up form on your Facebook page is very simple and a good move.
Sounds like good advice to me. Anyone object?
More on Vacation Rentals
The dialogue on agents taking advantage of the niche markets that is vacation rentals continues this week, as Susan throws her hat into the right to solicit business from (and for) agents. She posts:
Vacation rental homes are the way to go. We have many guests who will be staying in a home for the first time vs staying in a Disney hotel, they never go back to hotels. We pay a 10% commission to travel agents and are happy to work with them. Our website is www.orlandovacationhomes.com
If any agents are getting new business through Susan's company, or others, please let us know. We want to spread the wealth (but not in Tea Party fear of Obama policies sense). Susan's offer comes on the heels of a new report on how real estate rentals benefits second homeonwers as well. We shared this story on our Facebook page and received feedback from Stephanie Shaw Gregory, who shared:
I have only had a few request for vacation homes here in the Pacific Northwest. One was a coastal home and one a cabin near Mt. Rainier. Neither places had dealt with a travel agent before but we worked it out and the clients loved the properties...
Seems to me like these opportunities are paying off for agents. Let's hope it continues to gain steam.
Susan J. Young is at it again. After writing about potential fuel surcharges on the rise and how they may affect agents, the cruise expert recently explored the notion of inclusive features on cruise ships for clients and what it means for travel professionals. Harold Hodges was the first to reply with some constructive feedback, stating:
While my cruise sales haven't diminished, All Inclusives have picked up even more. Some clients specifically mention that cruises cost more because of all the items NOT included. Since agents know at least some of their client's likes and dislikes, we could sell more cruises if certain items (perhaps even to just a certain limit) were included. $100 in bar credits, onboard credits etc. As the article points out, you must be careful as to what is included, to be sure that you don't exclude previous cruisers on a familiar itinerary. A general credit is probably the best, is of known cost and could be commissionable with hardly any extra effort on the part of the cruiseline.
For those of you agents who are note Mr. Hodges, what's your take? Have you already experienced cruise inclusivity's effects? Is it good or bad for your business? Let us know.
Targeting Traverus, NCL
It's been more than a years since George Dooley wrote his initial report on Traverus, and it's potential place as a multilevel-marketing company. No surprise to me, the comments keep coming in on the subject. There's been a bunch posted over the months, and here's the latest, submitted by Denyse H Turner:
Wow, you all are now defending TraVerus the way "we" had to defend YTB. Feels horrible, right? And since this article was written, some of you have even "seen the light".
I just want to know who has seen this magical light and what exactly is in this light that is so exciting.
But Traverus is not the only company under fire this week, so is Norwegian Cruise Line. In late 2008, Dave Eisen wrote a brief about Kevin Sheehan being named the new CEO of the cruise line and some readers aren't necessarily upset with Sheehan, but aren't too happy with his company. The latest is Gregory Guess who, when responding to another reader's comments, wrote the following:
Good luck getting a response from NCL. I did multiple contracts for NCL and when I needed to leave due to a family emergency they advised me that I could never work for them again if I did. They were correct they will no longer employee me and the worst part is that no one from the company expressed any sorrow for the death of my brother. Great company huh?
Considering the that cruise industry is the bread and butter for most travel agents, this is disappointing to read. I hope your relationships with the supplier improve, if they need to.
Goodbye, Mr. Whitley
As you may have heard, Bob Whitely, longtime president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, passed away last week. In addition to the heavy loss for his friends and family, the travel industry clearly misses the leader. Here's what readers posted on our site to share their thoughts on the man.
I only met Bob and heard him once but remember his kind manner and I appreciated that he wanted to see Cuba opened up for tours which I was glad and surprised to hear him say but his travel experience and professional manner was an inspiration to me and sure to others - He will be missed by many - hope his family has great memories and stories for their comfort
I had the priviledge to know Bob for over 30 years. He was among the true gentlemen in the Travel Indusrty. I will miss my friend and colleague more than words can express but will keep his memory alive with many fond memories
Phil Sheldon, Hanns Ebensten Travel
I participated in the US-Cuba Travel Summit in Cancun last month where Bob was an active participant. He may have been in the industry for a long time, but he was forward-thinking to the end. He was instrumental in trying to bring the various players together to open up American tourism to Cuba in a responsible way. I am grateful for everything he contributed to our industry.
He was a giant. And one of the finest industry leaders ever, My heart goes out to Carol, Kelly, Scott and Shaun.
jack richards, pleasant holidays
Goodbye my friend. It was a privilege knowing you.
Bob Was A real Gentleman and very wise. My prayers go out to his family. Top shelf hall of famer.
Agents have shared their thoughts about Whitley on our Facebook page as well.
Kim Haring wrote:
Sad to know this dynamic man is not longer with us.
David Carnegie shared:
Another of the great Tourism Industry giants who will always be remembered for his Leadership exemplified by his giving spirit. May we all learn to use these attributes from his example. My condolences to Bob´s family and friends. May God Bless You Always.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob's family, friends and colleagues. The industry will miss him, but it moves on. With that in mind, we hope you continue sharing your thoughts on any topic, whether by posting a comment here at the Weekly Wrap or at other articles. Don't forget to contact us at our Facebook page, or at our Twitter page. Of course, there's always AgentNation, where you can talk about any topic in real time. Until next week...
May 14, 2010
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 10-14
Before we get started this week, I'd like to suggest agents (particularly those with clients who are eager to visit Great Britain) take time this weekend, or sometime soon, to go see the new Robin Hood film by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and William Hurt. I had the privilege of seeing an advance screening this past Wednesday and, in my layman's opinion, not only is the film a subtle and original take on the legendary figure (that is neither hoaky nor driven by a Robin Hood that speaks with an American accent- sorry, Costner), it has some beautiful scenery that could further entice clients to make the journey across the pond. The backdrop of the film can remind clients about the bucolic regions of the country where they can go to truly escape and, perhaps, get in touch with the original sources of thei heritage. Visit www.visitbritain.com/en/campaigns/robinhood for more and you'll see what I mean.
That being said, let's take a look at what readers have been saying at TravelAgentCentral this week. I'm glad to report that most of the comments this week have been focused on helping agents through advice or warning.
More on Vacation Rentals
We've been discussing the potential impact that vacation rentals can have on an agent's business for almost a month now, and the conversation is not going away just yet. In fact, two readers shared some information on the topic just this week.
First up this week was michael chisholm, of Wimco Villas. He wrote:
As a sales agent working for a villa reservation company, we help Travel Agents all the time as we apprciate the need to further the villa vacation market. The company I work for, www.wimco.com represents villas in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and Nantucket and ALL our destinations have on island support for vactioners. In the ever expanding vacation rental marketplace, specialising in specfic destinations is important as this provides better accuracy overall.
Perhaps you are weary of potentially subjective information coming from a supplier, which is understandable. Therefore, I suggest you listen to Amanda, who posted:
Staying in hotels on vacation is a thing of the past! So many more people love the option of getting a vacation rental and having more privacy and more space. Not to mention how affordable they can be. I believe that vacation rentals are a great market for travel agents. I myself book vacation rentals and get nothing but great reviews.
Lisa is another non-supplier who is a strong supporter of this niche market, stating:
When in Hawaii, staying in a vacation rental whether it is in a villa or a home, it is the only way to go. I had the opportunity to work with the friendly staff at Tropical Villa Vacations, who showed a genuine concern for all of my travel needs. The location that we chose was perfect!
The fact that so many comments have been coming in on this topic over the course of a month (which is like years in Internet timing) is more than encouraging, to say the least. I hope agents take the opportunity to keep sharing more on the topic both here and at a discussion thread on AgentNation.
Speaking of AgentNation
Last week, we reported on Expedia's new Travel Agent Affiliate program and, although there have been no comments posted (yet) directly on the story, we've received feedback at our discussion thread on the matter at AgentNation. If you haven't signed up and/or logged in yet, here's what some agents had to share on the matter.
Angie was the first to respond, writing:
I am excited about this because now clients can't say "we booked it on Expedia". They will know we can get them the best price available no questions asked. I do have one question. I am trying to sign up online for the free sign up before June promo. It wants my bank info. Is that so they can bill us the 50dollars?
Meanwhile, user macaw_mom does not appear as enthused as Angie, posting:
I am not that excited. I see the online agencies like this worried they are losing to the True Travel Agent. Commission levels for TAAP are: 10% for Expedia Special Rate hotels $6 per booking for Agency Hotels 5% on vacation packages (flight+hotel, flight+car rental, flight+hotel+car rental). Note Minimum 3 night/3day Land Content 3% on vacation packages (flight+hotel, flight+car rental, flight+hotel+car rental). Note Less than 3 night/3day Land Content 10% for activities I just booked a 7 day vacation - Hotel/Air - my commission is $347.00 If I did it through Expedia - at 5% - my commission would have been $160.00 I work hard for my money - to build my business not theirs If people want to book from Orbitz or Expedia, I say okay... In 2010 I have seen an increase in customers, who say they are tired of spending so much time on the internet finding the best price. I will remain "true" to my agency & my customers, without affiliating with these online booking companies.
What's your take? Is the Expedia program an opportunity for agents as online travel agencies (OTAs) seek new relationships or is it, perhaps, a waste of time too late in the game? Agents chimed in on the subject at our Facebook page as well. Here is what some of them had to say.
Dedra Shahan wrote:
While it's wonderful to be recognized as valuable, I can't help but think these giant companies will market direct to our clients thus becoming Their clients. My prefered tour operators will price match. I work with companies that have always valued my expertise.
Laure Poffenberger shared:
They are chasing their tails now & realize what a great asset using a travel agent is. So much of travel just cannot be planned over the Internet & when there is a problem our clients want help from someone the know & trust. I in turn want to use a tour operator that I know & trust. I think OTA's are in trouble & are grasping at straws.
What are your thoughts? Hit us up by posting a comment below or at the original posting. You can also join the conversation at our Facebook page, send a tweet to us at our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) and join the discussion in real time at AgentNation.
Readers Request Answers
Sometimes, we write a report about a new business or supplier and some readers, apparently, believe that means we are that same business. That's flattering, in some regard, as they consider us the ultimate source of information on the matter. But as an organization that does its best to cover all aspects of the travel trade, it can be hard to answer specific questions.
For instance, we've received a lot of attention to our initial report on the introduction of Pet Airways to the industry. Most recently, one reader inquired about potential flights to Europe on the carrier.
Gisela Gonzalez Flores-Clarke wrote:
Your service looks fantastic!! When are you opening flights to Europe? I need to travel to England twice a year and need to bring my 5 kilo Yorkie. Sending him in the hold is definately not a option for me!!! I do hope you start service to Europe asap!!!!!!!!
I wish I had an answer for you, Gisela. With the company now just more than a year old, I kind of doubt they will be doing flights outside of the United States just yet. However, perhaps if you take a gander at the Help section Pet Airways web site you can find the answers you need, be it a timetable on potential flights or a straight up answer if it is going to happen, ever.
James Collier recently commented on a story in a similar manner. After learning about Tourism Ireland's new Golden Trekker for seniors riding Irish Rail, he commented:
This development is very welcome, my sister was born in UK of Irish parentd and they returned to Ireland when she was 2, she went to nurse in UKwhen she was 18 and has lived there since. She comes to stay with us each year and this will be very useful. I write for the Senior Times and I would appreciate an e-mail of this information and any other useful information for seniors travelling, including reserving seats, etc.
116 Sea Park, Malahide
James, I'd be delighted to help you by sharing any information I can find. However, you did not provide an e-mail for me to contact you. Can you post it in a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll see what I can do? Until then, if any agents and readers out there can share additional information on this program, that would be a great help. It runs through the end of the year. Here's the Tourism Ireland web site, which may provide answers: www.tourismireland.com.
America('s Vacation Center) is Under Attack!
Two months ago, there was a lot of attention on the temporary demise of Travelport and it transitioned to discussions on how an agent's leads may be affected. But as much as the conversation was based around Travelport, one reader brough America's Vacation Center (AVC) into the fray.
Mary brought it up, writing:
Beware of AVC They will take 70% of your commission and all referrals generated from that one lead will be their's, again taking 70% commision. I was promised the referrals as my own, which I thought would be worth giving up that initial commission,but boy was I wrong. I was hounded on every extra person that booked their trip and asked if they came from their live lead. They took that customer as their own because they were referred.. Also, all of my customer base that I put into their system at the time so I could market to them, are still being marketed to by AVC after I quit them as my host agency. That is so wrong. Just my 2cents worth.
Note that this is Mary's opinion and not that of the staff her at Travel Agent. Regardless, that's disappointing to read. Anyone out there able to support or rebuff Mary's take on AVC? I'd like to learn more (and I doubt I'm alone).
Advice for an Editor
Normally, an exchange between readers and writers/editors on the site involves our staff responding with some information to help our audience. But this week, we was a bit of the reverse happen as our own Jena Tesse Fox journeyed to Durban, South Africa for the 2010 Indaba trade show (the largest in Africa). Read her most recent report here.
But before Jen hit the trade show floor to share reports, she took a seemingly endless journey across the Atlantic Ocean, most of it pleasant thanks to South African Airlines. On the topic of drinking too much or not enough coffee before a flight, reader Alfredo Tor-Paz made a suggestion to Jena, stating:
In spite of the strong coffee, never drink so much caffeine after 6pm, it is a very good airline, SAA, my comment, would be over the transfer to domestic, there is no place to complain much....have you tried to fly via the USA??? Horror, thanks for reminding that, I still prefer transferring thru JNB...my grain of sand or salt.
I am currently in the midst of what has been numerous attempts to cut back on coffeed, and it is indeed hard. Still, Afredo's comments are spot on regarding drinking it at night. Hopefully Jena takes his advice before flying back next week.
Speaking of next week... we'll catch up again on what's causing buzz around the industry and at TravelAgentCentral. Keep the comments coming (below or elsewhere) and don't forget to extend to conversation to other outlets such as our Facebook page, our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) and in real time at AgentNation
August 14, 2009
Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments August 10-14
The heat is getting to the masses in politics, sports, and entertainment. Vitriolic arguments about health care at town halls have flooded the airwaves and web, the Red Sox brawled with the Tigers (I think because they're bitter about getting swept by the Yankees but that's my New York subjectivity), and OMG John and Kate got into argument last night and the police showed up. Theses scuffles are, to me, only semi-exciting in comparison to the showdown going down in District 9 this weekend.
As you could expect, there's been some tussling going on here at TravelAgentCentral, especially if multilevel marketing companies and Joystar are involved. But we'll get to that in a moment.
Vivá La Mexico!
From the H1N1/swine flu outbreak to gang violence, Mexico has had a rough going in the tourism industry this year. But fortunately many in the industry still have faith in the destination— as evidenced in a comment posted by Andrew Paul on Joe Pike's story on how the country is regaining ground. He wrote:
Great collection of articles. It's good to see Mexico may be through the worst - even though most of the bad news was hype.
They're Not Like Us!
As you may have noticed, I enjoy citing obscure cinematic references with any chance I get. An easy one has been comparing the competition between travel agents and companies like Orbitz or Expedia etc to the ongoing battles between humans in machines in such franchises as Terminator and Transformers. But I think I'm exhausting that shtick plenty. So, as Lisa Sweet shares her opinion on a report that online travel agencies are showing an increase in leisure travel demand, I'll stick to the subject. She wrote:
Those are NOT Travel Agencies! Priceline, Expedia and Orbitz! Those are the dimiz of real Travel Agencies who have real knowledge and experience! Those are just the "Walmarts" of the travel industry, trying to put real Travel Agents and Travel Agencies out of business with their less than truthful advertising and embellished promises! They are making the travel economy worse, not better as people find out they get no help, their hotels they booked are not like the pictures, or close to where they thought, and they can't change their air easily as promise! Gives the travel industry a bad name.......especially, calling them Travel Agencies, when they are definitely NOT! Please do not associate them with our name!
We've used the term online travel agency, or OTA for short, in many instances on this site (like here) and have so with concerted effort to separate them from real travel agents. It may get confusing to the laymen or outsider of the travel industry, so I understand Lisa's concern. However, I think she, and you reading this, should check out some good news regarding these evil machines: George Dooley's report on how consumers are leaving the Internet for humans when it comes to booking travel.
I Don't Like Him!
In June, David Eisen reported that former Disney Cruise President Thomas McAlpin will lead Residensea Ltd as the new CEO. A month and a few weeks later, someone had something to say about that. Daizy wrote:
Tom is arrogant and didn't make it any further than Director at Royal Caribbean and only four years as President at Disney. Good luck ResidenSea!
I know nothing about McAlpin, so I cannot say whether I think Daizy is being harsh or not. However, if this Daizy is anything like Daisy de la Hoya from the recent realty TV show train-wreck "Daisy of Love" then I must admit I don't trust her in judgment in men.
As I have now embarrassed myself by admitting I watched that show, I will fill in those of you who are not in the loop on what I mean. Daisy de la Hoya tried to win the heart of former Poison frontman Brett Michaels in season two of "Rock of Love." She lost to a woman that Brett dated for a few months before ditching so he could have a third season of hooking up with drunk groupies and make some money off of it. So she got her own show and was the one choosing a new mate. In the end, she choose an unemployed, aspiring musician who lived with his father until getting kicked out. His name is Christopher Lee but she affectionately called him "London." The first night of the show, London drank until blacking out and passing out. He then left the show because Daisy bothered him. But then he came back and bothered everyone, and she still chose him because he was what she wants, though admittedly not what she needs. So I think you get the point now. And if you don't, go to vh1.com and look the show up. I think you'll concur.
The Usual Suspects
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like here at Travel Agent to go through a week in which someone did NOT take the time to post a comment about YTB, Joystar or alleged multilevel marketing companies. Actually no I don't, because that will never happen. But I'm leaving YTB alone this week, as it seems there may be a new name to throw in the mix.
After reading about the latest bankruptcy news about Joystar and how some agents may get their money back, Joyce raised a flag about Global Travel, saying:
Now that Joystar i out when will they look into Global Travel. You can buy an Iata card from them for $16.00 talk about card mills this is the biggest. I have several friends who bought cards from them aand get the benefits I do. Something is wrong with this picture.
This sounds like an investigation for George Dooley. So Joyce, I'll shoot him a note on the subject. Maybe Dooley will get an opinion from John Frenaye on the matter, who has been the subject of conversation here on TravelAgentCentral as well.
Earlier in the year, Dooley interviewed Frenaye about the dangers of multilevel marketing companies and card mills, and the story got several comments from the months of February through April. The conversation had since died down until, this week, reader Carol addressed John directly, asking:
For john Frenaye: you stated you knew many host agencys that charge no fee to join and no website fee with a 80% split. Could you please email me a list. I am all over that one.
John, I know you read this site because I have posted your submitted comments personally (unless someone is pretending to be you, which I doubt). Carol didn't include her e-mail, so unfortunately you cannot contact her directly. So, if you can, come on back and share the list she requests, or at least get in touch with her either here or perhaps on AgentNation, the only social community for all types of travel agents. Can you help out?
As always, keep the comments coming here or in real time at AgentNation. We love hearing from you, and I love watching the words fly.
March 11, 2009
Curtain Bluff's Howard Hulford Passes Away
Howard and Chelle Hulford in their home in Curtain Bluff in January
I am so saddened to hear of the passing of Howard Hulford; he’s the owner and founder of Curtain Bluff on Antigua. I just had the pleasure of meeting Howard and his wife, Chelle, when I visited the resort in January.
Anyone who knew Howard, who passed away on Monday, March 9, at the age of 86, knew he was an exciting guy. He wore beautiful, colorful shirts that made him look quite dashing and, as it turns out, he was a fighter pilot in World War II. He discovered the site for Curtain Bluff while flying over it in 1959. This was after he’d become an executive pilot for Texaco. He ended up building a villa on the site, his friends came to visit him and his beloved wife and, finally, a full-fledged resort opened in 1962.
When I was at Curtain Bluff, I met Howard several times, since one of his favorite habits was to sit near the entrance of the lobby and personally welcome guests. He was as humble as they come, listening to guests praise the resort with a simple nod and a thank you. If you were lucky enough be at Curtain Bluff on the correct day of the week, you’d receive a personal invitation to visit Howard and Chelle’s amazing home on the top of the bluff. I say amazing because of its open-air living room and gorgeous balconies that overlook the Caribbean. Howard and Chelle have used these evenings over the years to honor guests who have hit certain milestones with Curtain Bluff. It’s not unusual for a couple to be lauded for their 10th return to Curtain Bluff or their 20th. When I was there, I met a couple who had come nearly every year since the property had opened. Even though they’d moved all over the globe since they were newlyweds, they always seemed to find their way back to Curtain Bluff, they told me.
When I met Howard and Chelle at their home, I felt they were the most hospitable couple. Curtain Bluff was very much their home and many people have been very fortunate to have been a part of their family over the years.
Howard also had a tremendous influence over the island of Antigua; his “Old Road Fund” over the years has contributed more than $1 million on medical needs and education of the village that borders Curtain Bluff. Indeed, 95 percent of Curtain Bluff's employees come from the village, including the general manager, comptroller and sommeliers.
It all contributes to that amazingly warm, hospitable ambiance at Curtain Bluff. I am glad I got to meet Howard Hulford, what a true hotelier and a true humanitarian.
As was Howard's wish, Curtain Bluff will go forward in perpetuity with the same management and staff that he has nurtured all these years. In lieu of sending flowers, it is requested that friends and colleagues make donations to the Old Road Fund in Howard Hulford's name (details are on the Curtain Bluff website, www.curtainbluff.com).
By: Ruthanne Terrero
October 03, 2008
Travel Agent Sits with Rosecita Jeffers
We profiled St. Kitt’s new CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority Rosecita Jeffers earlier this year, and now we had the privilege to meet her at the CHTA Small Hotels Retreat. We asked her about the timing of the conference and, like St. Kitts Minister of State for Tourism, Sports and Culture Ricky Skerritt, she thought the economy shouldn’t swallow the attention of the conference. “I think this conference is important because hotels are the background of this industry,” she says, “and we can’t lose focus of that.”
The government of St. Kitts has provided some relief for small hotels of the country. Afterall, of all the hotels that need to worry about a decrease in business from the struggling U.S, it’s the small ones. Jeffers said the government, in fact, has allocated a fund for marketing and incentives to be split among the small hotels of St. Kitts. No figure was given on the fund. Jeffers says the fund with be contingent on whether the hotels agree to certain standards with training staff among the highest on that list.
By: Joe Pike
September 27, 2008
Interview with Celebrity Cruises President, CEO: Dan Hanrahan
Senior Contributing Editor Susan Young has traveled to Germany to board the brand new Celebrity Solstice cruise ship.
In talking one-on-one with Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity Cruises' president and CEO, onboard Celebrity Solstice in Papenburg, Germany on Saturday, Travel Agent gleaned some intel regarding the ship's pending launch; the line's marketing and sales plans; and Hanrahan's view of what the ship will do for the brand.
Hanrahan said advance bookings "are very, very good" for the ship's launch through the third quarter of 2009. In addition, he said the new Solstice class may change the brand's guest dynamics a bit.
"The Celebrity guest has never been a first timer [new cruiser]," noted Hanrahan, but he believes "this ship has the ability to bring more first timers into the brand." While touring Travel Agent and other media guests around the new ship, he indicated it's possible that the ship may be delivered a bit early and, if so, the line might add yet another short trade/VIP preview cruise prior to the November 12 preview cruise already planned.
Hanrahan's view of the ship's pluses? He cites an “incredibly elegant design,” larger, more efficiently designed staterooms, diverse dining choices and "entertainment that sets us apart from the crowd."
Looking ahead to 2009, media-wise, Hanrahan said the line's marketing program will feature less television and more direct mail and email components. The line will add the ability to book spa treatments online by next spring. In discussing Celebrity Solstice's extensive use of solar energy, Hanrahan also said the line is also looking at other potential energy technologies including wind power testing, which will conducted on Celebrity Century later this year.
And finally, Hanrahan said the recent decision to opt out of upcoming Australian-New Zealand voyages with Celebrity Millennium was a decision based on many factors including high fuel costs, high airfare costs and the line's own guests having visited the South Pacific region in recent years; Hanrahan said past cruises in the region were successful but "maybe we're better off going every other year."
By: Susan Young