There's nothing quite like autumn in New York. At the same time, there's nothing quite like autumn in New Hampshire (where I spent a few days last week, in case there's anyone who was wondering where the Weekly Wrap was last week). I bet there's nothing quite like autumn just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. But as much as New England foliage and sweater weather in the Big Apple are what's on my mind these days, what's more important (at least at this very moment) is what you, our readers are thinking about. So let's get scrolling.
California's Credit, Cruise Conundrum
It looks like Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting out of California amidst all kinds of problems for the state, from budgeting to politics. Welfare is rarely a topic we cover here at Travel Agent, but when Susan J. Young read a report in the Los Angeles Times about welfare money being used to buy cruise vacations, it was indeed something worth noting. Needless to say, the dogs have been unleashed when it comes to comments of frustration and anger. Just take a look for yourself.
FIRST OF ALL, WHO WOULD THINK TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS... ITS ALL KINDS OUT HERE...
Margaret King posted:
That is absolutely insane. Did no one ahead think that use of these cards could be exploited? After the fact, I suppose.
Frank Herdman added:
I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't uncommon in all the states including Florida where most of the ships sail from. I would love to see the goverment look into see how many people on public assistance went on a cruise in the last year or so?Any goverment offical willing to take up the challenge?
karen peterson stated:
This has been going on since 2007? And like a lightbulb of an idea, you now decide this is inappropriate. You, the administrators, are what's wrong with this program. GET WITH THE PROGRAM!
Joe Gray, responding to karen peterson, wrote:
Oh, please, and enough already with your sanctimony. No question such behavior is reprehensible and way beyond the pale. That said, the fact this has gone since 2007 (which I presume is when such state-issued debit cards were introduced) and is only now being discovered is most likely due to no one having thought that such transactions were happening in such magnitude; not due to any willful dismissal of those transactions.
Careful there, Karen Peterson, did you not hear about the fellow in unincorporated Tennessee whose home just burnt to the ground because there was no taxing authority collecting for fire protection services? What program is it you are suggesting to get with? If simple auditing procedures, I applaud your clarion call to action; if something else, I urge you consider the consequences of whatever it is you are on about.
elizabeth Koch commented:
I am a travel agent and earn my living from clients vacation travel but using welfare debit cards is beyond terrible...other Calif residents stay home so they can pay their bills while welfare clients are gambling in fancy ship casinos...reprehensible
I don't think California Taxpayers should be funding Welfare/Unemployment Vacations. Bravo! and about time I say!
Needless to say, there's not much California loving or dreaming going on when it comes to this story. Not only is it a shame to see taxpayers' dollars being monitored so carelessly, it's even worse to think about how much business this incident may have taken away from agents. I hope none of you out there were directly affected in any large manner.
Terrorism in Europe vs. Society in the U.S.: Which is Safer?
Everyone has been well aware of the recent travel alert to Europe that the State Department issued in regards to potential terrorist attacks in the Old Country. After the alert was issued, Jena Tesse Fox spoke to several tour operators, who told us that the warning had little-to-no affect on travel to the continent. Still, there was a report by Onenewspage.com that the alert did, in fact, deter some tourism to the region. One reader, however, seems a little skeptical. Andy Fraser wrote:
About 30,000 US citizens die each year in road accidents and roughly the same number die from guns. How many US citizens died last year from terrorist activities in Europe?
By my count, Andy, the answer is zero. However, just because guns and car accidents have a high death toll here in the U.S. doesn't, in my opinion, mean we should ignore the travel alert all together. Needless to say, 9/11 changed just about everything when it comes to the travel industry and there have been plenty of incidents overseas since (from the train bombings in Spain in 2005 to the attacks in Mumbai in late 2008). I think it's always better to be safe than sorry. In this situation, it appears travelers and suppliers were playing it safe and, fortunately, little-to-no business was lost. In the end, it's great to see consumers sticking to travel plans. Not only does it keep business going, but it's symbolic in showing the terrorists that we are not afraid to live our lives.
A Question on Medical Tourism
Although it's been nearly two months since George Dooley penned his latest piece about the growing niche of medical tourism, the topic remains fresh enough that agents are seeking feedback from other travel professionals. For instance, Henk Bijl appears ready to jump on board to sell medical travel packages, but is curious as to how his business can benefit. He posted:
Extremely interesting. In order to consider business scenarios, what's a ballpark commission from hospitals in destination countries for a facilitator delivering customers?
I think that's a great question, Henk. I'm sorry I can't answer it, but I hope some of our readers can by posting a comment below or at the original article.
ME Cancun's All-Inclusive Decision
One of the most read stories on TravelAgentCentral.com as of late has been ME Cancun's offering of special travel agent rates. As much as that promo is exciting agents, a different policy of the property is continuing to turn heads— it's decision to open it's all-inclusive amenities to non-guests. The topic has been brough up in not just one, but two editions of the Weekly Wrap this year. And here we go for the third time as Robert Paisola, talking directly to Raul Petraglia, managing director of the property, writes:
Raul, Please reconsider this plan We have an incredible property that is EXCLUSIVE. Opening the doors for money will cause uncalculated damages. Look at the art, Look at the way the property is viewed. Is it really worth it?
ME Cancun's decision is a first in the industry. As some readers see it failing, others don't see it as such a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Commenting on Two Caribbean Islands
Both Jamaica and St. Croix were cited in comments this week, mostly in a supportive tone. For starters, two readers shared their take on a massive fam trip that recently took place in Jamaica. Geraldine Simpson was there, and is apparently thrilled with the results, stating:
I attended the 9/10-13/10 and it was the best I have ever attended. We had the chance to really experience various properties and excursions and were able to really see the island from many angles. Professionalism of the staff at every venue I visited was at its best. Keep up the good work Jamaica. You have my vote and my clients.
Meanwhile, Richard Post is adding his two cents, reminding agents of another supplier he believes deserves recognition, writing:
Let's not forget about Riu Hotels that also hosted agents and did a great job if I don't say so myself.
I went to Jamaica with my family when I was six years old and I remember it was all I could color/write about in class the following weeks. In 2004, my roommate and grad school went there and had to mind his tongue upon return due to my immense jealousy of not being able to go. In my opinion, Jamaica can sell itself, but it's great to see the island's investment in agents.
In regards to the Jamaica trip, Geraldien thinks such an opportunity would be a great benefit for the island of St. Croix. After reading a report about an increase in arrivals to the U.S. Virgin Islands, she commented:
Having lived in the USVI, I would still like to see them promote St. Croix a little more. Perhaps do a fam such as the one Jamaic did, but of course on a smaller scale since there aren't as many hotels.
Sounds like a good idea to me. Perhaps someone should make a call, or send me the number so I can make the call for them.
Ending with a Nice Endorsement
Ruthanne Terrero recently attended Nexion's annual conference, where she analyzed how the purchase of Nexion by Tzell will affect agents. According to one reader, no matter what happens as a consequence is just fine as long as Jackie Friedman remains at the helm. Cindy Rake shard:
Thank goodness Tzell had the insight to keep Jackie and her crew, they do a great job. Nexion would not be the same nor would it be as sucessful with them. Now if Nexion would just improve the tech department's attitude and response time it would be near perfect.
It's always nice to end the Weekly Wrap on a positive note. But don't let the conversation die here. We always want to hear from you and take your comments to heart, especially if they can benefit other travel professionals in an engaging dialogue. So keep the comments coming. Post them below or at the original articles. You can also write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page. Of course, you can always participate in conversations in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all types of travel agents.
Talk to you next week...