Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments August 3-7

There's breaking news this morning as one of the most important panels in the U.S. welcomes a new female judge who will certainly "spice" things up. Of course, I am talking about Victoria Beckham replacing Paula Abdul on "American Idol." Why, what other female judge making headlines recently did you think I was going to mention? Oh, right, that one...

Well, while fans of pop culture and politics laud both Beckham and Sonia Sotomayor, there's been a fair amount of praise being tossed around TravelAgentCentral this week as well, and it's a nice way to start off this week's wrap up of user comments:

Agent and cruise expert Susan J. Young analyzed the Cruise Lines International Association's economic impact report this week, and there is much to celebrate as the cruise industry produced a $40 billion positive economic impact. Reader Matthew Upchurch is likely not alone in his excitement, saying:
This was a very good article and congratulations to Terry and the CLIA team for providing this study. Governments and consumers (taxpayers) need to know the economic impact of the Global Travel & Tourism Industry - it represents over 250 million jobs world-wide and nearly 10 percent of global GDP.

As the recession continues to loom, it's always pleasant to receive any positive news about any facet of the economy. Apparently, it's also pleasant to work for EtravCo, which recapitalized and signed with Amadeus this week. Just take it from Mel, who wrote:
Looking forward to great success as a member of the eTravCo consortia!

The Price You Pay

There's been plenty of mud-tossing going on when it comes to airlines, particularly from agents against Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. But this week, Ryanair upset plenty of consumers when they were stranded at Stansted after the airline failed to open enough check-in desks at the airport. It's not a low cost carrier for nothing, as M Smith notes, commenting,
You get what you pay for. If you want to pay a few pounds and fly on Ryanair that's what you get. If you want more service pay more and fly BA, BMI, or another established airline! Also, for the record I am not employed by any European airline.

If only getting stuck in airport terminals were a rarity in the industry, but unfortunately they're not. Layovers and poor service can always hold you hostage, and of course there's always the chance that the country that has the terminal doesn't recognize the country from where you came, like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

Ok so "Krakozia" is not a real place. But isn't the clip nice?

Sticking on the topic of paying for what you get, we recently ran a poll at Home-Based Travel Agent, asking if independent agents should charge service fees for their work. Perhaps the answer is obvious (87 percent have voted "yes" as of Friday morning), and Andrea shares her reasoning behind her vote, saying:
I believe that a Home Agents should charge fees. If you don;t value your time no one else will and you will become the person to call for advice but not necessarily to make a booking. I have several cancellations this year from honeymooners going to Mexico. When the swine flu hit they canceled. Several booked cruises, but they went direct or on line. I charge a cancellation fee just like Travel Impressions and others charge them. They expected to be charged.

Not sure if Andrea or anyone else caught George Dooley's piece on a Forrester Research study that claims travelers are tired of booking trips on the Internet. It's quite possible that this trend will drive consumers to agents as the service fees may well be worth the free time and peace of mind. Fingers crossed?

Comment Plus Plug

In a Web world where visitors and traffic can mean everything, we get a lot of comments that come with URLs that lead users to places we at Travel Agent do not necessarily endorse nor represent. Sometimes these websites are helpful and sometimes they are just attempts at plugs for publicity.

For example, another Dooley item recently covered how agents are seeeking quality content for their websites. It has some helpful information in there, shared from a few, various sources. Reader Erin Read Ruddick chimed in and offered more advice, posting:
Content is important, as is a site that is easy to read and navigate. Travel agents know that older travelers - Boomers and beyond - represent great opportunity. They still have assets and both the time and passion to travel. 55+ consumers are the fastest growing segment on the web. Make sure your websites are friendly for these mature travelers, so they'll take time to read your content ... and move closer to purchase. A free white paper with guidelines on website usability can be found at

Erin, you make a unique point that is separate from Dooley's article and are very thorough, yet concise. That website you're sharing must be useful, so thanks.

Then there's Tracey (editor's note: I once had a boss named Tracey- or maybe Tracy-  that was the meanest I've ever had so I may be subjective here), who posted a question about YTB's sale of RezConnect, asking:
So what does this mean for

I don't know what it means, Tracey. Maybe you should contact YTB or RezConnect directly. Please let me know if your traffic gets a boost in the next week or so because I think Travel Agent readers may have something to do with it.

Speaking Of YTB 

The company had its convention last week, and George Dooley took the opportunity to share two viewpoints on the company, one from supporter Doug Bauknight and the other from critic John Frenaye. There are more than 35 comments combined from both of these stories, and I shared some of them specifically not once, but twice (and there's even been some dialogue at AgentNation). So instead of listing them all again, how about I just share the links to the most recent stories and you can view them on your own (it's Friday, give me a break):

YTB Comes Under Fire, Again
YTB Convention Opens: A Viewpoint From A Defender
YTB Convention Opens Amidst War Of Words
YTB Critics, Defenders Exchange Points Online

Twitter Talk

The social media phenomenon that is Twitter continues to remain an item of interest to agents and consumers. Recently, we learned that travel bureaus are leveraging Twitter as well, and reader Gianluigi Cuccureddu thinks it's an excellent idea, saying:
Twitter will be a good marketing instrument for travel, location is a key-factor which to create new ways of engagement.

As nascent as Twitter may be, there's certainly potential in using it for business. You can learn more about that by checking out the recent Travel Agent webinar on how to use social media to produce better business, click here.

I Disagree With What You Write, But I Will Defend To The Death Your Right To Post It Online

Nothing is perfect, and everyone doesn't always agree with anyone. So occasionally we produce some content here at Travel Agent that seems to irk some readers and users. It's their right to do so as it is our right to respond, which we're going to do right now.

After we shared some advice from AAA on how to spend money safely when traveling internationally, a fellow named Bob Turkington was quick critic to criticize, saying:
Waffle! Tell us simply...#1 - The best (cheapest) #2 - the next best...and so on. Also you didn't cover safety very well.

Bob, all I can say is: Pancake! #1 The best (cheapest) usually depends on the options one has combined with their preferences, so it's hard to declare one as the top choice #2 Please read the following excerpts from the article:
"Carrying a credit card is safer than carrying cash..."
"Traveler's cheques are safer than carrying cash..."

Sorry we didn't cover safety up to your high standards. Perhaps you'd like to share some extensive coverage? You can post it right here or at the article itself.

Bob's not the only one who is not satisfied with some of our editorial. When reading Mike Browne's column, "Going To Extremes For Clients," Lyn Dyles, MCC shared her two cents, writing:
Many people may find it helpful if you adapted the Miami Herald information to fit in line with what we do as travel professionals. Reading that a surgeon has his assistant send Twitter updates to a family during a procedure does not extrapolate well to the business of travel consulting. Concrete, useful information that is specifically aimed at our business would be welcome. Thank you.

As I have said before, I am not a travel agent. However, it seems to me that a part of any profession is executing the best customer service you can without exhausting yourself or a relationship. So Lyn, I think you need to read the Herald piece again. It's not just about a doctor tweeting. It's about what that doctor, an architect, a broker and others are doing to continue to get the best business they can from their clients. Businesses from different backgrounds can probably learn a lot from each other without having to learn from or mimic competitors within their own industry. And as for seeking concrete and useful information, if you could state an example of what you feel would be the most concrete and useful to your business, by all means share.

As always, we hope our readers and users will continue to share their opinions here on Travel Agent, and that they are well aware that the can continue such discussions in real time at AgentNation, the only online social community for all types of travel agents. Sign up or log in now...

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