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Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: July 26-30

July 30, 2010 By: Kirk Cassels

Just as the heat wave calms down here in New York City, our message board is lighting up with comments, and I couldn't be happier. This week, there's not really any bickering. No comments were posted asking questions or making comments that could be answered if the reader simply read the article. And it seems several readers are already benefitting from what they are posting here at Let's take a look.

Medical Tourism = Target Market

We ran a cover story about medical travel in 2008, and have been covering various elements of this niche market ever since. But when George Dooley filed an update on the matter this week, speaking with Jack Schafer, president of GlobalSurgeryNetwork, the topic has had a major resurgence of interest when it comes to our readers. Check out the exchange below:

Julie Munro believes medical tourism is a great opportunity, but notes it comes with strings attached, writing:
One of the hard realities of medical travel and health tourism is you are dealing with clients/patients whose lives you may be putting at risk. The Medical Travel and Health Tourism Quality Alliance (MTQUA) online course for Certified Medical Concierge teaches and informs how to do medical tourism "right" - with quality and safety. Medical tourism is much more than an "add on" opportunity. In other words, what do you need to know before sending your mother or your child for medical care abroad? Sources of information include and

Meanwhile, some agents are looking to jump in on the game and hit the ground running.

Amiee Hamilton posted:
I am a travel agent with a mid sized firm in LA. We have been looking at overseas travel for years and thought it was only about dentists in Mexico and Cosmetics in Costa Rica. I had no idea how large the business was for more traditional procedures but it certainly makes sense. We might not be a large enough agency to get involved in promoting this but I'm sure interested in more information.

Jim Shuster added:
We're a marketing company that serves the travel industry. WOW - I had no idea that Medical Travel was even an industry, and none of our travel clients did either. How does an entire industry come into being, that SHOULD be a Travel & Tourism product, and we don't even know about it. This is going to become a really big item in the near future and could "change" both the medical and the travel industry enormously !  How do we get involved ?

Other agents made specific calls for assistance to Schafer himself and, although he did not respond directly, he is clearly available for more feedback. Hopefully, he and agents can take advantage of this situation to network for more business in addition to the right travel package for their clients.

Good Health at Sea

Keeping on the medical topic, we got a lot of comments about the latest news regarding regulations for cruise ships while at sea. Simply, and shortly, put, our readers are ecstatic.

Eleanor Anderson stated:
That is a great bill. It is about time. I am a frequent Cruiser.

Norma Swartout shared:
Wonderful = could use those peepholes at least. Thank you.

Gene Shaddix added:
Long overdue!

It's great to see the excitement. I wonder if John Kerry had been this aggressive on the policy back in the 2004 election season if it would have made a difference. Probably not.

Speaking of Politics

Oh no! I just mentioned a Democrat when writing about travel! I must be a pundit!

But I'm not. I actually do my best to steer clear of politics because it gets you nowhere. But this week I must address a politics-based comment posted at one of our stories for home based agents. Citing Reuters, we shared the news about a small business bill not passing the Senate this week. We mentioned that Republicans blocked the bill, which they did. We did not say we agreed with them or not. We just shared the facts we found in the Reuters article. Still, someone went into a tizzy.

Dennis wrote:
Did Republicans really block the bill? What happen to "Pay as you Go" that the democrats said they would only accept 7 months ago! Since then they have a party spending us to Mars... There is about 400 billion left from the stimulus. Why not that? There is also $166,800 that could have been used BUT! Nancy "botox" Pelosie had to have a bigger office to the tune of $19,900 a month! Oh yeah, $166,800 is the difference that could have been saved from her $6,000 a month rent. That could feed a lot of hungry children. The $30 billion wouldn't have made the banks lend any money anyway. $12 billion is a drop of water in the ocean. What the banks need is reassurance from the top down that housing, jobs, and deficit control would be adressed. Stay away from polotics in your forums.

Dennis, if you click through to the Reuters article, GOP representatives proudly said they blocked the bill. So that answers your first question. Secondly, it's Pelosi, not Pelosie. And yes, she is a botox queen who, in my opinion, is hard to watch on TV. Thirdly,  it's politics, not polotics (unless you are reading your high horse with a mallet in hand). Finally, we'll gladly stay away from "polotics" in our forums if you stay away from our sites if you are going to go off on such oddly passionate tirades.

Domincan Republic: Bad for Cruises?

We reported this week that the Dominican Republic is going to host an annual cruise ship conference and you would think that would be great news for the Caribbean island. Not so, according to Eleanor Anderson, who wrote:

I was in Santa Domingo with Carnival Cruise Lines several years ago. Went on a Tour bus into old town. Police escorted us the whole time and it was recommended by Cruise line not to go anywhere on your own. I hope they have improved on that because it was a little scary.

That's unfortunate to hear. Perhaps this conference will shed light on this apparent security issue. Have any agents out there (or their clients) had a similar experience when cruising to the Dominican Republic?

Keep the Ideas Coming

Needless to say, the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast region is goingwhere nowhere, fast. With that in mind, George Dooley shared a piece with our audience with the goal of gaining agent interest on selling travel to the region and supporting the U.S. Travel Association. Although it wasn't a proposed idea, Gwyn Gordon did share some relevant feedback, commenting:

Just to let you know that I own a condo in Ft. Walton Beach, Fl- in the Florida panhandle & am here today. The media needs to let the public know that there is no oil to be found anywhere here. The beaches are as they always are - white luscious sand. It's beautiful! We have lost income from our rentals unnecessarily. Thank you.

This is the kind of information agents and travelers need to hear and share with each other. I hope more readers out there can chime in to support the areas.

Azul Fives, Agent-Friendly?

When Joe Pike wrote about the highly-anticipated Azul Fives opening in Mexico last month, we initially received several excited comments from readers about the property. But the latest raises an issue as to whether the resort can do more to benefit travel agents or not. Patrick wrote:

The Azul Fives has been heavily promoted as a timeshare for the past two years, both online and at the Karisma resorts. Indeed, I've lost several upscale clients the last two years to onsite timeshare salesmen. I understand that timeshares are an important part of the total revenue mix in Mexico and as such are unavoidable. Its time for Karisma to step up and begin a program to compensate travel agents (either through cash or marketing dollars) for clients lost through timeshares purchased onsite. After all, are we not the original referring source?

Has anyone else had this experience that Patrick has gone through? It seems to be a massively unfortunate shame that a new property, which must be tempting to all kinds of travelers for a visit, is not leveraging the travel agent community to sell vacations. I encourage anyone who has had any contact or business with Azul Fives to chime in here, as it's important to know what's going on with this new property's relationship with the agent community.

As always, don't let the conversation end here. We've been having great discussions about tarmac delays at our Facebook page this week, as well as conversations about hotel inspection lists at AgentNation, the only social community online for all kinds of agents. Of course, you can always hit us up at our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) or post more comments below and elsewhere at Until next week...

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