It didn't take too long for YTB to, once again, become the most discussed topic here on TravelAgentCentral.com. After we enjoyed a week in which we were free from the back and forth over the controversial company, it's back in the headlines again after Carnival Cruise Lines gave it the line's Pinnacle Award. But don't fret yet, there's been plenty of other gab and ramblings going on here, from international airports and West Coast cruises to travel insurance and competition from online travel agencies. And here we go.
Pacific Blues Subdued With West Coast Cruise
Within 24 hours of our report that Princess Cruises is launching a set of West Coast cruise itineraries in 2010 and 2011, reader Carol Tenney expressed her joy:
This is terrific! Finally we westerners will have access to more cruises that won't cost us a fortune in air fare! Thanks, Princess.
Having been born in Thousand Oaks, CA, I must admit I am partial to "the West is the best" attitude. Hopefully Princess' plans are a sign of better things to come to California, which has certainly seen better days as it limps through its current economic crisis.
Skytrax, a British consultancy group, recently released a list of the best airports across the globe, and one of our readers, Mike, is not at all surprised that not a single one of these lauded airports is in the U.S. He said:
It's no surprise that none of these airports are in the U.S., where air passengers continue to be treated like cattle. The FAA and TSA should take a close look at what these airports are doing right.
During the foot-and-mouth scare in Ireland in 2001, I visited a friend in Dublin for St. Patrick's Day and, for some crazy reason, slept through the alarm and missed my transatlantic flight home the day after the holiday. Fortunately, when I arrived at the airport, it took me less than 30 minutes to get a new ticket, move through security, and board another plane home. When I compare that experience to the time I visited New Orleans and almost missed my flight back to New York (even though I arrived at the airport two hours in advance) due to slow lines, overly-meticulous security, and horrible customer service, I must say I agree whole-heartedly with Mike. Am I wrong?
Speaking of Mikes, Travel Agent's Managing Editor Michael Browne penned a column last week about the benefits of receiving travel insurance, which struck a chord with agent Julia Aliseo, who commented:
I think the Insurance article you wrote can be so helpful to many agents. I suggest to use Insurance to give prospective clients "peace of mind" when they hesitate to book a vacation due to the economy and their job security! If clients hesitate and wait to book too close to their vacation date, they will end up paying much higher fares, especially for cruises that are close to capacity, unless there are special offers where the sailings have availability. I strongly suggest that agents offer clients with these concerns the best fares available with a Deposit and with specific travel protection that covers loss of employment, etc.
"Peace of Mind" when spending any amount of money today on "any" purchase is an offer that is hard to refuse!
After reading Mike's column and Julia's statement, I think I'm going to sign up now for some travel insurance for my honeymoon to St. Thomas and St. John in October. With it being hurricane season and an economic downturn (aside from my bad luck at airports), I think my lady and I could certainly use some peace of mind ourselves for what should be the greatest vacation we ever take.
Human Agents Versus Computer Agents
During the same summer in which humans battle the machines in Terminator Salvation, there's another organic versus technical showdown on the horizon. George Dooley wrote about the competition between online travel agencies (OTAs) and real travel agents, and two readers shared their two cents on the conflict.
Carroll Terra said:
Obviously the poor old hotels, airlines and all travel suppliers cannot afford to pay the poor travel agent 10 percent commission, so they go to these wretched onliners and let them have everything for a mere pittance, who is surviving, not us! I am tired after 47 years in the travel agency business of today's lack of gratitude by airlines etc for all we have done in the past. I remember after 9/11 working so hard to help all the stranded travellers, those with shattered families etc., they too use expedia and other detrements. I have become a volunteer!!
It's a shame to see what airlines+hotels are doing after 29 years in the travel industry. They are betraying their own partners in travel instead of supporting us! It's becoming more challenging than ever to survive in the travel business. If they all go on line the ultimate results is the customer without an agent to counsel and advocate for them. I guess a lot of them don't care anymore and want to take the change to go online!
It is indeed sad to see how this competition is affecting agents. But I must say, it could be worse. I mean, just like at what the computers are doing to their human competition in 2018 in the clip below:
Why Travel Agents Are The Best
Moving on from the concern of online travel agencies, Ruthanne Terrero's Top 10 Reasons to Use A Travel Agent column is a healthy reminder of what a true agent truly brings to consumers and the industry. It certainly made Tina Erskine happy, as she commented:
Delightful, humorous approach! I have similar true stories from my personal clients incidents that I share. It's great to make statements that not only make the prospective client think, but laugh at what can happen when you book on your own.
The human touch and the human spirit will never extinguish. You travel agents remain a gift to the industry and to your clients. Don't ever forget that.
More On TRUE Or False?
Last week's weekly wrap focused a lot on the debate over whether OSSN's True ID cards were truly beneficial or just another scam. The comments continue to pour in, and it appears as if two agents don't have a problem with OSSN or with Peter Stilphen, but more with the system itself.
I've been a travel agent since 1989 and an IATA/IATAN Card has always been the standard for agent identification. I don't know why the industry just doesn't pick 1 card and end it there. If you sell enough travel apply for an IATAN Card - THAT'S IT!!!! This is why this industry is screwed up - there is no continuity or standards – why is it so hard to have 1 OFFICIAL Card? You can have other cards, employee etc.. but we only need 1 universal travel agent ID card.
I agree with Mike---1 card. If ever there was an industry that needs standards it is the travel industry.
So, is it the system or the parts that are at fault? I don't have a clue. That's why I'm asking you.
YTB Cruises On
Last and certainly not least, here we are with another conversation about YTB. After Carnival Cruise Lines gave YTB its Pinnacle Award, recognizing the company as one of the top marketers of the "Fun Ship" vacation experience, Travel Agent posted a poll asking readers if the award legitimizes YTB as a travel agency. We got plenty of feedback in our comments section from supporters and naysayers. Here's just a few quips:
Carnival's repeat Pinnacle award to YTB doesn't make them legit. All it does is show that Carnival cares about what little money YTB brings them, and doesn't care about the concerns of the rest of the Travel Agent Community. The vast majority of YTB booking is for themselves, so this goes right along with Carnival condoning commission rebating.
To which Kathy countered:
YTB is sending so many people on cruises that in 2008 it actually doubled Carnival's sales! How's that for a legit business that is providing superiour service...during a recession!?! If YTB wasn't legit it wouldn't show it in the #s. The reason YTB is so great and that a few 'traditional' travel agents don't like YTB is precisely why Carnival has awarded YTB it's top award.. YTB sells travel and a lot of it to folks that would have perhaps never even gone on a trip unless someone they knew who truly cared about them was on thier side doing the booking or simply refering them to thier own online travel store. So long to nameless, faceless ways of doing business.
Meanwhile, Victoria isn't taking sides:
I am amazed that, in these challenging economic times for the travel industry, that YTB draws so much controversy. Was there all this fuss when Expedia & Orbitz entered the fray? YTB is legitimate - move on!