Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: May 24-28

Ready for the Memorial Day travel blitz? Are you or your clients visiting any of the more popular destinations for the holiday? Either way, thanks for stopping by the Weekly Wrap to check in on what's been buzzing at before taking off for the long weekend. This week, there were various comments about cruise trends and "inclusivity," airline mergers and passenger clubs, New Orleans, traveling with pets, and more— quite the way to kick off the summer. Let's get scrolling.

The Travel Agent: Valued by More than Stupid People

As you have hopefully read by now, Ruthanne Terrero updated her list of top reasons to use a travel agent with 10 MORE top reasons to go through a professional. There were some who agreed with Ruthanne, as well as those who didn't, and I went through them last week. Since then, we've got some more feedback I think agents and readers would appreciate.

[email protected], for starters, not only concurs with Ruthanne but shares a similar experience, commenting:

While you think in this information age it couldn't happen - well think again. Web boards tell them all the time they don't need a travel agent and if they keep reading and researching they can do it and after all that you get the question - what is a gty cabin?

Meanwhile, Ilze appears to be on the fence, writing:

It's fun to read how stupid people can be but it is a reality. Unfortunately, travel agent can not help a stupid person. Travel agent is needed in case you are not familiar with internet and some basic principles how travel offers are made.

Personally, I think anyone who is a stupid person is usually beyond help. However, I would assume that said stupid person would prefer that all processes involved in taking a vacation remain as easy as possible, and you just can't get that guarantee online. As for those who think agents are only valuable to those who don't use the Internet, all I can say is that if your journey goes wrong and you need assistance that it's much more reassuring (and probably easier) to go through a fellow human for customer service instead of a machine and it's connection to a nearly-limitless world. And this is coming from a web guy.

Cruise Trends & Fees

Susan J. Young has been uber-busy this month. Analyzing everything from the potential wave of fuel surcharges that may be hitting the cruise industry to the potential slowdown of Europe's cruise business. Seeing that cruise vacations are some agents' bread-and-butter, it didn't take long for some to respond on both matters.

Speaking on the topic of fuel supplements, a reader who goes by the name TheAnalyst is not too worried about the future, posting:

There is no chance that Carnival Corp will implement fuel surcharges are lines such as Carnival, Princess, HAL. RCCL and NCL won't either. Wake up. Last time they did this on a massive scale, the cruiselines all got sued by the government.

I think we are pretty awake to ask the question. As airlines add ancillary fees and other suppliers do all they can to leverage more business during the current economic slowdown, who's to say cruise lines won't take a risk and bring back extra charges? Could you blame them?

TheAnalyst also shared his/her two cents on a potential halt in cruise vacations in Europe due to the Iceland volcano incident, as well as British Airways strikes and the turmoil in Greece, among other situations, stating:

Eur/Med cruises are being marketed heavily to the drive markets. In order to understand if these cruises are doing well, you need to talk to Eur. agencies who are being hand fed the cabins by the cruiselines.

Fair enough, TheAnalyst. Have you talked to any Europe agencies and obtained info to share? If so please let us know.

Two other readers commented on the issue, one with positive news and the other with some negative news. Margaret Stein appears to be seeing trouble on the horizon, for instance, commenting:

I have already experienced cruise cancellations due to the volcano issues. I have also lost hotel bookings due to the BA strikes. Overheard conversations at social events confirm travellers' disgust with the inconveniencies of travelling to Europe.

Meanwhile, Jean Szabad is more optimistic, saying:

I have quite a few European Cruises and River Cruises book for travel now through August.  The only ones who were concerned about the ash are the two that are on a a Princess Cruise out of London now. They made it ok and I am sure are enjoying themselves now. The other people I have who are traveling don't seem to be afraid to travel and aren't concerned about the Euro. This is probably a good time to buy a European cruise to get a bargain!

So we've heard from both sides. Anyone out there with a story to share to tip the balance in favor of Europe cruises or not?

Airline Mergers & Passenger Clubs

The biggest airline news in the recent weeks has, undoubtedly, been the proposed merger between Continental and United, which would dwarf last year's merger of Delta and Northwest. Our man George Dooley analyzed the situation, asking how it may affect travel professionals.

In case you can't pick up on the sarcasm, one reader, Maria K Todd, MHA PhD, does not appear to think good things will result, saying:

You mean they would have to compete on quality and customer service? Wow! Perish the thought!

Perish the thought indeed, especially when you consider that, on the heels of this news, both US Airways is interested in a merger as is Virgin Atlantic. Even government representatives are not enthused by the idea of a merger. But some, like MLT Vacations, think it's good news. How about you?

Some airline news I think all can agree is good is the recent announcement that American AirlinesAdmirals Club at Heathrow is going to upgrade its . In fact, the news is so good that our friend Jacqueline Johnson shared her thoughts, writing:

Great to hear this. It certainly needed an overhaul and update as it was an awful place to visit.

Another Request for Pet Airways

Although the initial story is now more than a year old, we're still getting a lot of attention to the news about Pet Airways, an airline soley for your favorite traveling companion. Some readers seem to think we have an influence on the company. Unfortunately, beyond their executives reading our reports, we don't have that much power. However, we can certainly hope they read our republishing of comments on their airline, like Diane, who wrote:

Hope you get to northern California soon! Oakland, SF, or San Jose especially!

Did you get that Pet Airways? Business potential is there.

Nice News for New Orleans

To see New Orleans has had it rough during the past few years would be an understatement. But things are looking up, right? After all the Saints won the Super Bowl and more and more travelers are feeling confident in a journey to the region. With that in mind, it's nice to see that, despite the current oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, that the Big Easy is, as of now, unaffected. Still, some are, understandably, wary.

Geri Simpson shared her concern, writing:

All in the article is true, but what I'm concerend about is the future affect of our seafood, much of which does come directly from our waters. It is synonomous with New Orleans cuisine.

Marie shares the worry, stating:

Hurricane season is weeks away. If a Hurricane hits Gulf Coast, hopefully crossing fingers. Has the government any plans on the cleanup if it goes AIRBORNE? Just asking.

I agree with you both. Hence, the "for now." Let's keep our fingers crossed for the city and hope agents are more than confident to sell the destinaion to their clients.

Remember, the conversation never ends here. We want to hear from you. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page (@travelagentmag) Join real-time discussions on anything from the best GDS to use to which European tour sellers to trust at AgentNation.

Have a great weekend!

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