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

If you have missed the Weekly Wrap during the course of the past few weeks, I apologize for its absence. I was on the road for three separate occasions in April.

A trip to Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso for the announcement that Antonio Banderas is the new face of the company's global campaign (jealous much, Pike?) preceded my attendance at the 2010 Virtuoso Symposium in Mexico City before finishing up just this week at American Express Publishing's Luxury Summit 2010. It was as exhausting as it was engangin and intriguing, plus I got to stay in some cool places. Check out the videos below of the suites in which I stayed when at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, the St. Regis Mexico City and the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter in Las Vegas.

Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso

St. Regis Mexico City

Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas

But enough of me sharing my travels, let's take a look at what readers have been talking about here at Travel Agent Central.

Names in Travel

There was sad news this as Donald N. Martin, whose firm Donald N. Martin & Company represented the 39-nation European Travel Commission in the U.S. for more than 40 years, passed away April 23. For those who did not know or work with Martin, Evan A. Pezas had some kind words to share about the man:

A sad day indeed for all of us that served in European Tourist Offices in NY.
I was with the Greek National Tourist Organization when I first met Donald Martin. His professionalism and love of Europe were most imporrtant for the success of Europe in the US. We'll miss him.

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Martin's family, friends and colleagues.

Another name that received recognition from one of our readers was Joan Werner of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York. George Dooley recently interviewed Warner about travel to Cuba as well as her outlook on 2010 for agents. She must have made an impression, at least on Naomi Cogan, who shared:

Joan Werner is an excellent travel agent - very knowledgeable and creative.

That's quite the endorsement. Glad to see Dooley's choice of interview subject is so highly regarded.

Voices on Vacation Rentals

After reading a report about TripAdvisor's top vacation rentals in the U.S. and across the globe, we asked agents at our Facebook page if they felt the niche was a good business opportunity for them. Not only did many respond to our query, but we also received information from vacation rental businesses that are eager to work with agents. Here's some who wrote in, who you may want to look into for some sales:

Amanda Drake
On behalf of the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA), I can share that vacation rentals represent a huge area of opportunity for agents to become specialists, as the category remains one of America’s best-kept lodging secrets, but is one of the fastest-growing lodging segments today. Nearly 9 in 10 past guests plan to rent again in 3 years, and would recommend a vacation rental to family/friends, according to PhoCusWright.
The vast majority of VRMA member companies across North America work with travel agents and their clients - Commissions may vary from company to company, but rates can range from 10 to 15% on average. Visit for a map that lists the most established professional vacation rental management companies by destination, or for more info about vacation rentals in general to help you get started.

Diana Sheehan
WE love our Travel Agents, Global Resort Homes has been in business since 1993 and is a trusted vacation management company in Orlando, Fl. We pride ourselves in high quality vacation home rentals near the Walt Disney and Universal area. #1 vacation destination in the world! We would love to do business with anyone who may be interested. Here is our website
Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Melinda DiPerna
We love working with travel agents to bring their clients a better vacation rental experience. We know how impotant it is that the agent can trust us with their client, and do pay comission. This is a great way to show more travelers the joys and value of staying in vacation rentals.We service the beach in Oceanside CA, in North San Diego county, and can be booked at or call 800-277-2734 for assistance. If your clients want to go to Disneyland & Sea World or the Zoo - this is the perfect spot.

For Hawaii, Tropical Villa Vacations on Maui has a nice selection of beautiful exclusively managed villas and homes. They work with travel agents to offer their clients and nice option to hotels especially for families or groups of friends traveling together. 888-875-2818 x6

Nanci Benefiel Owner
Yes, vacation rentals are a good business for travel agents and an untouched market. No need to add a fee as I pay a commission. You asked to hear from suppliers. I have over 100 homes and condos in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that we offer as vacation rentals and pay all of our travel agents a commission. If you would like to discuss our services or want information please feel free to contact me by e-mail or at our toll free number 1-888-332-8477. [email protected]

But before everyone starts dialing up or surfing to these companies web sites, let's see what some agents said about their experience with vacation rentals.

Tina M Erskine posted:
I will book whatever is in the best interest of the client. There are resources to use that pay a commission and when there aren't I have no problem charging a fee for my services. I am a professional and if a client comes to me, they expect to pay me for my training and experience. Sometimes that means a commission, sometimes, it means a fee. I encourage clients to save money booking air on the airlines website that I find them on ITA Software all the time. Most of the time, they aren't confident enough and are happy to pay my service fee.

Bob Malmerg, meanwhile, seems a little cautious about vacation rentals, writing:
VACATION RENTALS HAVE A LOT: LOCATION, FACILITIES, FEATURES AND ACCESSABILITY. The single most important thing that they do NOT have is MANAGEMENT. Without management what you have is a box with beds. And that's all you have. Do agents really want to assume the risk in such a fly-by-night enterprise? Think it over. Agents have been entrusted with the customers money (which can always be replaced one way or another) but more precious is the time involved, that once spent is gone forever. In risk management, the least attractive of the threee available is to absorb the risk and that's exactly what agents are doing with vacation rentals.

Amanda Drake, whose first comment is also shared above, quickly responded to Bob, commenting:
Bob - When choosing a vacation rental from an established property management company, agents can be assured that there’s a reputable business maintaining and servicing the property and its guests each day. This includes dedicated guest hospitality services & amenities, all of the proper inspections, reservations, housekeeping, landscaping, laundry, a trained customer service staff, etc. Many feel it's the only way to travel! :)
We'd recommend looking for third-party endorsements on the websites of rental management companies, including membership in industry associations like the Vacation Rental Managers Association, Better Business Bureau (BBB) and local property management groups, or approval from AAA, among others.

After hearing from suppliers and agents, do you have any additional thoughts on this market? Let us know.

Arizona, Immigration and Tourism

The Grand Canyon State's recent legal reform about immigration has certainly been a hot topic in the news and political blogosphere. When we received a phone call from an agent saying that clients just canceled a vacation to Arizona, we asked readers on our Facebook page if they were experiencing anything similar. The responses were rapid, so we wrote a piece to share them with our Travel Agent Central readers, and got even more rapid responses. While most of them lean toward politcal views, let's take a look at ones that relate to the tourism industry and travel agents.

Carol was the first to address the topic, posting:
I have many clients who work for a major US city. They have received a directive that they are not to spend city funds in AZ, including no connections in PHX. Many nonrefundable tickets will be thrown away and public funds spent on new ones. Sensible?

And it appears that Veronica is experiencing similar situations, as we writes:
I have a group of women who do a Girls Weekend in AZ every summer. They've called to ask for suggestions for other spas not in AZ!

Meanwhile, Lillian Nawman is pleading for agents to do what they can to keep clients heading to Arizona, stating:
Arizona is in the state of emergency. Their people are scared to death of the atmosphere created there because of the failure of the politicians and government to overlook the critical situation that has been there for years. A boycott on Arizona could destroy their travel industry economyly to say nothing of the other businesses Folks, if you want your country back allow the citizens to DO something about it for a change. When the World Centers collapsed on 9-11 were we told to boycott New York City? Of course not. As for me, I will not discourage my clients to stay away from Arizona. Those Arizonans need our suppport now, and your support too.

It appears Lillian has a backer in June S, who shared:

People should only be allowed to immigrate legally like every other country in the world. If more lazy Americans would work we would not have a labor problem. I will be glad to send my clients to AZ

In addition, we got some outside perspective from an agent in Canada, named dmshea, who posted:
From a Canadian standpoint, the new AZ bill will probably have little effect on travel. Our agency has had no cancellation whatsoever because of the law thus far, and don't expect any! We have a fair few AZ home owners in Western Canada. We are far removed from it and although I don't personally condone it, I guess every state needs to try something to combat the illegal immigration issue.

With the announcement today that the U.S. Travel Association is opposed to any boycott of travel, in addition to the comments shared above, it appears Arizona has a lot of support in keeping tourism alive in the state. There are a lot of nuts out there trying to make our query about the law's effect on tourism some political statement (one even removed his comment from our Facebook page after we called him out for putting words in our mouth), and I would like to politely ask that you don't come round here with that.

I don't say that because I am aligned to one side of the issue or another. I say it because you're just wasting our time and travel professionals' time while coming across as one of those crazies that does nothing but sit on the computer all day and look for pages online to go off on a rant about an issue that, admit it, you cannot directly change yourself. I'm all for free speech in opinion, but that doesn't mean hard political rhetoric (from any end of the spectrum) is going to get a lot of air time here.

Avoid this Beach

We'll end this week on a lighter note, about a state that's not Arizona. Awhile back, one of our interns wrote a brief about the top 10 most dangerous beaches in the world. Recently, someone added their own choice of beach to the list. The reader goes by the name top ten beaches of the world, and he/she/it(?) wrote:
All 10 beaches are dengerous. But i think Long Beach Island, New Jersey is very dengerous.

I wish the reader would say why he/she/it(?) thinks the New Jersey beach is "dengerous," but there's no details. So I searched for some video about it and stumbled upon a nice piece about the region by Erik Hastings, who I met when in the Riviera Maya in Mexico while in town for the Iberostar event. Check out what he found about the area and judge for yourself.

Seems like a pretty "non-dengerous" place to me. Did I miss something?

As always, we don't want to conversation to end here. Whether it's about the issues cited above, or any others for that matter, we always want to hear from you. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. Log in to AgentNation, we have a discussion thread about the Arizona situation, among others. We look forward to hearing from you.

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