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Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments July 20-24

July 24, 2009 By: Kirk Cassels

President Obama holds a press conference on health care reform Wednesday night, and now all the media can talk about is the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr in Cambridge, MA. Now the conversation across the mainstream is revolving around who's racist, who's not and how everyone one involved, from the police officer up to The President, is a bad, BAD, person.


It's times like these in which I'm glad I never pursued a brief dream of being a political journalist. No matter what the important topics may be (i.e. unemployment) there's always something the mainstream media would rather discuss (i.e. did you hear that John and Kate Gosselin got divorced?).

Fortunately, here at TravelAgentCentral, our audience keeps us engaged on the important topics by sharing their opinions with their comments on ongoing topics that clearly affect or relate to the travel industry. Hence, I'd like to thank all of you for making my job interesting and purposeful. Now on to this week's review...

The Little Things Are What Matter

In her latest column, titled "Five Things to Ask Yourself Today," our very own Ruthanne Terrero touches on a few, important topics she believes agents should consider when conducting their business as usual. From client communication to research on Twitter, it appears her advice struck a chord with one reader, Heidi Podjavorsek, who commented:
Great article, very inspiring. We are an outbound tour operator to Africa. We actually call travelers on behalf of the travel agent to see that everything is going well on their trip. The traveler is often surprised to receive a call from the US, but then appreciates that extra bit of attention.

A little bit can go a long way. Of course I'm subjective on the matter, but Ruthanne's always got a nice nugget of advice/information to share. Get some of them in real time at her Twitter page: Easy enough to remember, right?

West Coast Getting Wise On Cruises

Whether it's Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades in Florida or Baltimore in the Northeast, the East Coast has been home to some buzz and popular cruise ports, and it appears as if the state of California may be a tad jealous. Los Angeles officials are contemplating building a $1 billion terminal to accommodate large numbers of people expected to be sailing away on cruises in the next few years. Not a bad idea right? It will be a nice companion to the cruise port in San Diego, for sure. But before we all get overexcited about new itineraries to sell to clients, we should listen to Jane, who clearly has been thinking ahead on this issue, writing:
This upgrade is long overdue. However, strong consideration needs to be given on a more inexpensive way (for passengers) to get from LAX or the city to the pier. It is a breeze in San Diego to get from any hotel to the downtown pier! I have been using cruise lines using that port for that very reason!

I'm no economist (thank God), but it seems to me that if California officials figure they have the means to put down $1 billion for this project while amidst the budget crisis currently facing the state, then they must be able to get the money somehow to implement some transit from downtown L.A. to the cruise terminal, right? Maybe this new source of business could bring some extra travel dollars to the region, as tourists hope to get onboard with celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (but they'll probably be cruising in Cannes instead).

Speaking Of Cruises

For awhile, we were getting a lot of feedback about Carnival Cruise Lines' plan to provide only electronic documents to agents as of August 3. The most recent analysis of comments on the matter can be found in the weekly wrap from July 6 through July 10. Another agent recently chimed in on the matter, posting a comment on an article from 2007, titled "Carnival Goes Paperless." Ashley Knebelsberger, CTC, DS, had this to share:
Great impression is everything. Clients look forward to their cruise experience. Paper documents are a "cheap way" to not impressed them at the beginning.

Ashley, I neither disagree nor agree with you, as I am not a travel agent and do not have a professional opinion on the matter. However, I must note that the article you found is from over 50 months from now. So I suggest you read up on the recent comments made by agents in response to the Association of Retail Travel Agents' call for Carnival to keep paper documents available by option. Your comment will likely receive more recognition there. I'm just saying.

Speaking Of Paper Documents

Popular nemesis to travel agents, JoyStar, just won't fade away, and that's probably a good thing as reader JB needs the pressure to remain focused on the host agency. Commenting on George Dooley's piece titled "JoyStar Collapse May Involve More Agents and Higher Losses," JB Asked the following:
Where is the communication? Written communication should be sent out via the postal service to all agents.

Perhaps communication got lost in the mail or went straight to your spam box? Actually, probably not. This shady lack of communique from JoyStar reminds me of the unpleasant tasks I've had dealing with my landlord in Stuyvesant Town here in New York City. In short, I received a rent statement that claimed I missed a month's payment. I didn't, and to prove it I brought my Bank of America statement that showed a copy of the check as well as the marks made when the check was deposited. I got a verbal, "Okay then you're all set," after repeatedly asking for a simple letter that stated that my rent was, and always has been, on time. I never got one, so I repeatedly e-mailed the woman I spoke with in the management office, asking for a simple "Yes"  in reply to my e-mail requesting confirmation that the matter had been settled. Still no response, although my most recent rent statement (received just this week) is back to normal.

I'm still not resting easy on the matter, and I doubt JB is with JoyStar. Good luck JB, maybe if you continue to write the host agency (in print and in electronic) every single day (or twice a day) they'll get so fed up with the inundation they'll have no choice to respond. Hey, it worked for Tim Robbins' character in the Shawshank Redpemtion when he was writing the government for funds for the prison library, didn't it?

Speaking Of United

Okay, so the JoyStar matter does not related to United Airlines like a cruise terminal relates to a cruise line as that cruise line's document policy relates to written communication. But the fact is, United Airlines has been written about so much on this site and in this weekly column that I'm running out of sub-headlines to write that don't have a "united front" pun in them. Still, the issue is of high importance to agents.

The airline recently responded to criticism of its credit card cost transfer policy and, needless to say, agents are not buying what the carrier is selling. Read for yourself.

johnnysam said:, what's left? No commissions, really bad service, debit memo's that cannot be diputed without a fee, and the list goes on. These airlines cannot manage themselves. Greed wihtin the corporate sector of the carriers must not realize the consumer and "front line" employees have had enough. I agree that it's time to throw our weight around and show UA and all the legacy carriers they are nothng without us. We do all the work, take all the grief, and get blamed for all the problems.  It should have started back with Delta and it has to end soon. ASTA and all the groups need to let me know what I can do. Nip it in the bud, and we as agents need to grow a pair and fight back.

Kate shared:
Interesting factoid: According to the 2006-2009 PhoCusWright’s Travel Agency Distribution Landscape report, over 50% of all air seats are booked by travel agents. Somthing to think about. If UA is getting 50% of their bookings from TA's, they will be in sorry shape if TA's just refuse to book them (UA is already in sorry shape and quite frankly I predict they will be out of business by this time next year unless they receive federal bailout money).

Joanne Hunt commented:
I can't being reading correctly..."and to earn a reasonable profit..."certainly not on our end!

This issue is far from over. You can read up on the several stories, and comments, on the matter by clicking here and clicking through to the sidebar's links. I know some agents are saying put up or shut up and that actions speak louder than words, but my take is that words can rally action among peers. We'll probably be sharing comments about this topic again next week, so keep 'em coming.

Speaking Of YTB!

One of our favorite controversial discussions has picked up this past week, as a judge's dismissal of a class action complaint against YTB seems to have gotten the attention of YTB members who have been clicking through to the rest of our coverage on the site so that they can brag about how great it its to be them. 

For starters, Brandden voted in our poll that asked if YTB's receipt of an award from Carnival Cruise Lines' legitimizes the company as a seller of travel, and as confident as he seems he appears to have a problem with the conception of time, saying:
YTB Rocks!! I have a lot fun, I help alot of people and make great money! Some of you old travel dogs should check us out. The world is changing kids. If you don't grow than you've got to go!!

A simple question, Brandden, how can a kid also be an old travel dog? Have you been hanging with Juan Ponce de Leon?

Meanwhile, Brandden's cohort in YTB, Charles Riggins Of CCJRIGGS TRAVEL, is obviously proud to be with YTB as he responded to the report of YTB's fines and restrictions in California, but seems to have missed a crucial fact in the most recent presidential campaign, which he cited as an example, saying.
It's hard being at the TOP. Everybody takes a shot at you. If you need to grow your business putting down another business, then you do not have faith in the validity of your Business. Did we not learn anything from President Bush Campaign? He Ran a Smear campaign and spent most of his time talking about President Obama instead of the Issues and the race wasn’t close. I've been in YTB a couple of years. And just like any other business. If you don't do anything you won't make anything. The expectation in any Business you are in is the same and if you don't recognize that you will fail. Before you make judgments find out the facts about the opportunity. And make your own decision. Email me at [email protected] Thanks Charles

Oh Chucky boy, you had me at "it's hard," then lost me at "President Bush." Hate to call you out on the spot, but it was John McCain who ran against Obama in 2008, and to call it a smear campaign is purely your opinion (also, many 527 and PAC groups were the ones producing the nearly-slanderous advertisements, not the candidates themselves). Maybe you got confused with the 2004 election between President Bush and John Kerry, where the "swift boat" campaign attacked Kerry's Vietnam credentials with some questionable statements that some say were true and others claim were false. I'm not saying who I favored, but just stating what I saw.

As always, the conversation doesn't end here. Make sure you to log on to AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents, to discuss any of the above issues, among many others, in real-time. Sign up or long in now, and we'll catch up again next week.

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