Apologies for those who have been jonesing for their fix of the TravelAgentCentral.com's Weekly Wrap after there was no appearance last week. I was in Richmond, VA for my cousin's wedding and had the fortunate of staying at The Jefferson Hotel. Check out some of my coverage here, and note I'll be following up next week on the property's Rotunda and Palm Court lobbies as well as its highly-reputable Sunday brunch and daily tea time.
Having returned, I found a plethora of comments in my inbox. Let's check them out.
There's never an instance here at TravelAgentCentral.com when a piece on multilevel marketing or "card" mills doesn't cause a stir. So when George Dooley shared a recent newsletter by Peter Stilphen about whether agents should join one or not, needless to say, we weren't surprised to see the comments pour in to us. As much as I could make a pithy remark on each one, I think they speak for themselves.
shopheresavehere was the first to comment, going right after Stilphen, saying:
Excuse me Mr.Vetran Travel Agent, I beg to differ with you. If you are so successful...how in the world do you have time to bash MLM's and YTB? Seems to me you need to get a life.
Peter Stilphen immediately responded, writing:
You asked me a direct question and this is my response. My host agency is one of the most respected hosts in the country. I take the time to put back into this business that has been so good to me and my wife, Billie. I simply chose to write about the ills in our industry in hopes of making a change. It is agents like yourself that feel anyone putting time and money into projects that may benefit others must have an "angle" are a detriment to the growth of the travel professional. Fortunately agents with your attitude are few and far between.
Stilphen's subjects of conversation were, not surprisingly, YTB, among others. Most readers agree, and one does say citing another company.
Alyse Cori posted:
You forgot to mention the wonderful people who are popping up at all your home, boat car & antique shows. I complained to OSSN about them. They need to not be allowed to sell travel
Tamyra Nash, who apparently works for YTB, wasn't about to take any criticism while standing, writing:
I am a professional Travel Adviser and YTB happens to be my host agency. I recently booked a $100,000.00 group with HAL and another $200,000.00 in numerous honeymoons, Disney vacations, European tours, etc. I receive 75% commission, soon to be 80%. I just returned from Vancouver, BC where I experienced CLIA's Cruise 3Sixty, attended several classes, and did two ship inspections, which completed me requirements for my ACC accreditation. I am too busy helping my clients fulfill their dreams to bash other companies, but I did want to respond to this silly article. There are many successful, professionals in YTB, who only sell travel. I know one lady, who also uses YTB as her host, who has booked two world cruises. I could give you many other examples, but I am too busy with clients who want my assistance. What have you done to promote travel, which is, after all, what our industry is about?
Debbie was quick to respond to Tamyra, writing:
Tamyra, if you are doing that kind of business selling travel then why would you even want to be associated with a host agency let alone YTB?? I have met people that joined ytb that actually sell travel but they are few and far between. I ask them the same question. answer, "I don't know"
Diane D chimed in regarding Tamyra as well, saying:
Seems to me Tamyra, if you are only getting 75% commission, then you shouldn't have to pay any fees. Since you ARE making all that money for YTB, why pay them anything? Isn't that what the 25% is for? I have independent agents that work for me and aside for paying the $15 per month for Client Ease (no profit to me at all), they don't pay anything else and if they are experienced agents, they start out at 80%!!!
Meanwhile, TB, like yours truly, just wants the madness to end, commenting:
Stop fighting! It sounds like the age old battle of religions. Get on with selling Travel. Vendors like YTB clients money just like other companies money. I was at cruise 360 and most everyone had a home based biz with a host agency. Everyone (LOTS of YTBers included) were there to learn more. So storefronts sell to your walkins and Interneters sell to everyone else. Remember the golden rule, and if you don't have something nice to say... rethink your answer.
Virtually Improve Your Business
Michael Browne shared an interesting take, recently, about how travel agents, specifically those working from home, can leverage help from virtual assistants to make their business more efficient. For the most part, it received positive feedback.
Jason Coleman, for instance, believes the practice should be implemented more throughout the industry, writing:
YES, YES, YES!!! This has been a huge key to my success. My business philosophy is "do what I do best, and leave the rest to everyone else." I actually have a number of offshore virtual employees I've never met, never talked to, and it's working out so well! For a fraction of what I can hire a part time office employee, I can hire a number of virtual employees whose shifts run 24-hours a day! I'm so happy to see you reporting on this trend. I think it's an untapped business key for agents!
But some readers weren't so enthused. JESS Kalinowsky, for instance, sees virtual assistants as a suckling tap on the U.S. job market, stating:
"Offshore" virtual assistants? With millions of people out of work in the good old USA, why are we employing "Offshore" people? Delta airlines, and others, received so many complaints about their Res Centers in foreign countries they are slowly bringing re s centers back to the USA, allowing people to work at home as few or many hours as they need. JETBLUE is almost 100% virtual agents. Instead of putting people in other countries to work, how about putting people in the USA to work? Just wondering? I know there is rampant unemployment in travel and tourism, and all that talent could be used, right here in America! Just saying!
I understand Jess' concerns, particularly in this economy. However, I don't think Michael suggests hiring virtual assistants from outside the country. They can work from anywhere, even right here in the United States. So, if you ask me, this practice may not only improve your travel business but may bring some extra clash flow to an American worker's home.
Fear of Facebook?
If you are reading this, then I'm guessing there's a 50/50 chance you are currently logged in to your Facebook account. The web monster has practically overtaken Internet porn in its popularity and is considered by some agents to be an effective tool while others appear to feel threatened by it. We learned about these feelings when writing about a new feature in the social community in which users can become "travel experts."
Steve appears unmoved by the option, writing:
Just my opinion...but seems most people on FB don't have much of a life.....posting stupid comments everytime they move. Ridiculous.
But some are a little concerned, like chuff0153, who shared thoughts at a discussion thread on AgentNation, stating:
Everyone talks about us evolving....well I think if we are not careful we are going to evolve ourselves right out of business. It is true facebook people may not be "experts" but many will put all kinds of roadblocks and hurdles in your path. We may not consider them experts...they THEY will and they will express themselves as so. Its just one more nail in the coffin..wait and see. One thing for sure if we aid in this process it WILL be used against us. Bet on it.
Meanwhile, there are those like Denyse, who see an opportunity. She wrote:
I think professionals should look at facebook in another light. It's not all people sitting around all day chatting. I use FB for my travel business and literally 97% of my business comes from FB! I also have some very professional people who are my clients. My very first client from FB is an attorney. Not too shabby. So, its not all stupid comments every time you move but a valuable resource to build your business and to FIND what you want. I have a very busy life (with my business) but I've found methods to market on FB without spending 12 hours there.
I love my friends and contacts in my Facebook network. But, seriously, there's no way their comments on travel (which usually begin and/or end with an "OMG" or "LOL") or pictures of someone acting like a jackass are going to influence my travel planning. I wouldn't be too concerned if I were a travel agent. But I'm not. So maybe I'm missing something? If so, let me know. Let's discuss.
Change in the Cruise Society
In addition to her detailed reporting on cruise3sixty 2010, Susan J. Young has been all over the cruise beat, including a recent report on Royal Caribbean's changes for its Crown & Anchor Society. The changes appear to benefit the consumer, but some agents have questions about the update.
Dale Borske of Cruise Planners, for starters, is not leaping out of the chair just yet, writing:
It is ridiculous to not have automatic registration for a guest in the Crown and Anchor. C'mon Vicky lets get RCCL up to date!
Darlene is skeptical as well, asking:
Should we be excited that they are returning a few benefits to members that were taken away just ast year? RCI has proven that they no longer value their best return customers, so I am not sure what Betsy is talking about.
From a consumer's perspective, these changes aren't so worthy. Robert Gellatly shared:
My wife and i have taken 7 trips with royal Caribbean, It;s apearent that the bigger the ship the worse the service, The Soverine had them all beat with service and hospitality. Crown and Anchor society members used to be treated special .Chocolate in the room, Robes, Coupon books given on the first day of travel, Now we have to ask for them only to get them on our last day at sea.Take lessons from the smaller ships.
So here we have readers on both the agent and consumer side saying this doesn't seem like such a big deal. Anyone want to weigh in on way this program change is worth noting?
Reminder: We are NOT Pet Airways
People LOVE their pets, obviously, and they clearly love to explore options for bringing them on vacation. That's why our initial report on Pet Airways pets-only flights receive so much attention on the site. Yet almost every comment seems to ask us to make changes to the airline, when we are simply reporting the news.
The latest reader that apparently feels we here at TravelAgentCentral.com are powerful enough to change operations of an airline with which we have no relationshipis Jane, who wrote:
I love this service. However, I have not been able to use it as there are no options for Boston (Logan) or RI (Greene) airports. There are many dog/cat lovers that would jump at your services instead of placing them in the "lower" quarters. You may need to rethink the areas you service. Thanks.
I'll see what I can do but, let's be honest, what can I really do besides contact them? I suggest you do so instead so I can spend more time scouring the site for zany and insightful comments, thank you.
And on that note, it's back to the inbox I go to see what you're talking about leading into next week. Keep posting your comments. You can also write us at our Facebook page, send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) and join discussions in real time at AgentNation. Until next week...