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Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 12-16

July 16, 2010 By: Kirk Cassels

Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy scouring 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 has offered an easy to use Airline Fee Comparison tool. 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 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 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: In addition, we also linked to the respective suppliers: Cruises Cruises Cruises Inc can be reached at; Carnival can be reached at; P&O Cruises can be reached at; 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:

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, 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.

Hot Spots

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!!!!

Ed Stiles: I primarily deal with cruise vacations, and Alaska has been extremely popular.

Binta S. Yero: The Caribbean!

Lois Paganini: Tie between Hawaii and Alaska cruises - but I'm in Cali so that's probably why. Both are a short flight away...

Nancy L Brazill: Hawaii, Tahiti & Panama Canal

Betsy Long Bouchard: Caribbean cruises and Europe.

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?

At AgentNation, our own Michael Browne asked agents (primarily home-based ones) which wireless service provider they prefer using. Here's what some had to say:

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'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

Finally, we come to another exchange at AgentNation, this time with a specific query about choosing the right hotel in Jamaica.

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.

So we had our Caribbean expert, Joe Pike, weigh in. He responded:

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 protected]).
Iberostar is also pretty impressive. For a contact there, I'd suggest Luis Velez, inventory manager, at 876-680-0000.
Let me know if you need anything else. You can also e-mail me directly at [email protected] 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 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...


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