Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: October 25-29

Happy Halloween!

I just came back from the IHG Americas Investors & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and, while there, was enthused to hear hotel industry leaders discuss online travel agencies (OTAs) as a thorn in their side. In the upcoming print issue of Travel Agent, I cite this "thorn" as an opportunity for agents to build their relationship with hotel companies, particularly as hotels are looking for the best ways to build their brand and business as the recession, albeit gradually, begins to fade. Checking out the variety of comments left upon my return only reiterated, to me, the benefit that agents bring to the table in this technological age. So let's take a look.

Don't Let TripAdvisor Control Your Operations

TripAdvisor may not be an OTA, but it is a part of the new age of the Internet that is irking suppliers across the industry as well. For the most part, suppliers are not fond of the idea that anonymous or non-certifable/non-accredited individuals can potentially mar the reputation of a company or product becuase of their subjective or, perhaps, deviously motivated commentary. On that note, it's a little surprising to read that one agent is taking TripAdvisor seriously enough to affect how she does business. Lorraine Kawoczka did so after reading Joe Pike's personal take on the Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua, stating:

can not sell the Verandah to a family because of negative comments on Trip Advisor

So, basically, it appears as if a travel agent is letting TripAdvisor control the conversation about the property. Doesn't that go against what being a travel agent is all about? Lorraine, if you are reading this, I'd like to know if you did any research besides TripAdvisor or if you let your potential pitches abotu the property end there? It'd be a shame to let anonymous comments trump your expertise in pitching the property to your clients.

Pike responded to Lorraine's comment, writing:

Are you seriously going by Trip Advisor's advice without visiting the property yourself? That's like Roger Ebert not reviewing a movie because another movie critic panned it. By the way, Trip Advisor is not the most reliable of sites since you never truly know who is really 'reviewing' the property or if they have a hidden agenda.

As you hopefully know, Pike is our Caribbean expert, so I would hope agents take his work seriously. I hope Lorraine's instance is not a common practice among agents.

An Agent's Take Receives Our Respect

On the subject of anonymous comments about selling travel, I'd like to follow up by noting a recent blog post we shared after receiving an e-mail from an agent. After reading up on Travel Agent's exclusive roundtable with cruise industry executives, reader and travel agent Karen Dawson of Southlake Travel contacted us to share scenarios she believes are missed opportunities in training. A reader, named Charlene, commented on Dawson's post, writing:

Interesting. Does this mean I can get my stuff published on Travel Agents Central if I email you?

Charlene poses an interesting question. My initial response is, "Yes, if what you share can be considered of use to agents, particularly if it is based on your experiences which features an analysis that can drive the conversation further."

For instance, we won't just publish anything because it is sent to us. It's not like I'd share a 500-word rant by an agent about a property he or she toured. However, I would share the agent's take if he/she discussed what agents need to better sell said property or what he/she believes the property can do to make it easier for agents to pitch said property to their clients. Make sense?

Agents Follow Up on TSA

In early August, George Dooley penned a piece about a Travel Leaders survey regarding airport security and one reader made a noteworthy comment that I cited in a previous Weekly Wrap. For those too lazy to quick through and read the comment for themselves, here it is again, Mike wrote:

Next month full body scanners are going to be installed at the three New York airports. TSA better put up signs informing the people of the possible health hazard. Most people don't know about the radiation these machines zap you with. Pregnant women are at the greatest risk. The American people have the right to know, and it should be their decision if they want to go through those scanners, they need to be informed though. If signs aren't posted, my crew will be at all 3 airports handing out flyers and interviewing people, letting them know how their government is deceiving them again.

I wonder how it went, and so does reader Kathryn, who posted:

@mike, Did you hand out fliers? How did it go? I want to do this in my area...

Mike, if you're reading this, please share how it went. Kathryn, I'd love to hear how it goes with you in your area. I've traveled to several parts of the country within the last six months (from a trip to Las Vegas in April in addition to my latest stint there, as well as some time in Phoenix), as well as two trips to Mexico. During that time, I haven't run in to any devious situations with airport security. But then again I don't check luggage and, being a blond-haired, blue-eyed WASP who gets a shave and a haircut before every business trip I take, probably don't raise many eyebrows when passing through security. Still, since 9/11, airport security has, and forever will be, changed. If new security measures make the travel process more frustrating or uncomfortable, that's not good for anyone. Hence, it's great to read that people like Kathryn and Mike are keeping a sharp eye on the process. I encourage other agents to do the same, particularly through conversations with their clients.

The TSA was also cited in a recent comment by a reader, this time on our recent cover story about Roger Dow and the U.S. Travel Association. Rick Long provides some inciteful thoughts when posting:

The inbound travel business, like most service business, must rely on repeat and referral business to truly succeed. The acquisition is much lower than marketing to first time visitors. Without significantly improving the arrival experience for inbound visitors, it's of little consequence how much money we spend to promote tourism. Initial dollars should be spent improving a broken system in order for later promotional dollars to be spent more efficiently. It's not rocket science. It's a genuine and sincere welcome to the USA and an efficient arrival experience. Custome and immigrations and TSA must view our inbound visitors and guests and not passengers and treat them accordingly.

I concur, Rick. Well put.

NCL Gets Praise & Criticism

Norwegian Cruise Line has been in the news a fair amount lately, primarily due to the recent CruiseOne and Cruises Inc conference aboard the NCL Epic, in addition to reports of the cruise line releasing new ships in 2013 and 2014. On the topic of NCL's new ships, reader Martin, citing the NCL Epic shared:

The lack of an atrium of any sort made it feel like a suburban shopping mall. The upcharge to even use a suana was a bit much and the pool areas entertainment spots were almost impossible to see from most angles. Entire front of ship cut - off for the "ordinary" pasenger. Only accesible to the upgraded ones. Awful design.

I'll just say that I'm glad Martin is using his own experience, and not comments on TripAdvisor like Lorraine, to deliver his criticism.

Meanwhile, another agent clearly has a different take on the NCL Epic. Commenting on the wrap up of the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc conference, oscarcruises wrote:

Andy Stuart, NCL, and the EPIC ROCK!!!!

That's nice to read, oscarcruises, but could you explain why you feel that way? Just asking.

Join an MLM, Gain a Lover?

It's been awhile since the Weekly Wrap shared somments regarding multilevel marketing firms in the travel industry and, for the most part, I am glad. Most of the time in which MLMs are cited, there's vitriole and more emotional-based comments instead of logical conversation. But this week, there's an adorable combination of both as Nick N notes on Travel Agent piece that asks if you should join an MLM or not:

I enjoyed reading all the comments on the site. To me, MLM is very good.The times and effords you had spent will be fully repaid….ONLY IF you are single. LOL. Let me explain….. About 4 years ago, a girl that I really liked, asked me to join. And I did join…because of her. We went meeting together, had lunch together and finally she became my girlfriend. I told that to my single buddies and they listen to me. One of my buddy got married with a girl he meet at a MLM meeting…. So, if you are single, have problem finding girlfriend, please join MLM. Wear nice clothes, talk professionally, show your interested in there stories, never said a bad thing about MLM at the meeting, you will find your soulmate in no time. Just my two cents, MLM’s members, please dont hate me.

Sounds like MLMs may have a new pitching incentive for people to join. My only question is, what happens if/when your relationship ends? Does your membership in the MLM go with it?

As always, don't let the conversation end here. Keep sharing your comments by posting one below or at any of the original articles. Don't forget to write us at our Facebook page or send a tweet to our Twitter page. You can also join in on or start travel industry discussions in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all kinds of travel agents.

Until next week.....