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Travel Agent Professional August 2019 Issue 67

Building Like, Know & Trust – Then Loyalty Results By Cindy Bertram


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An Ideal Time To Design Marketing & Sales Plans By Mitchell J. Schlesinger

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MJS Consultants

By Paull Tickner

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Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

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Building Like, Know & Trust – Then Loyalty Results By Cindy Bertram

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Cindy's Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC

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Who’s Who... Or Who’s What In This Business By Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal

Ad Index

Cover Photo: MSC Cruises USA

Auto Europe........................................................IFC Britain Greatdays....................................................3 Avoya ........................................................................7 Riviera River Cruises...........................................12

Travel Agent Professional

HomeBased Travel Agent.com .........................21 Dream Vacations, CruiseOne® & Cruise Inc. 25 RCI .........................................................................BC

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Orchids, Tulips, Roses & An Edible Garden

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Travel Agent Professional August 2019 Issue 67

Travel Agent Professional Staten Island, NY 10312 E-mail: Ann@travelagentprofessional.com

Joel M. Abels

Legend In the Travel Industry April 1927 to January 2007

Phone: 718.360.3153 Ann M. Hoek Publisher/Creative Design ann@travelagentprofessional.com Bonnie Walling Editor Bonnie@travelagentprofessional.com Alan Cohen Vice President Marketing Alan@travelagentprofessional.com

Meet Our Editorial Board Paull Tickner, Creator of Special Interest Britain ptickner@customgb.co.uk www.customgb.co.uk Cindy Bertram, Cindy’s Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC cindybert@att.net Mitchell J. Schlesinger President, MJS Consultants mjschlesinger@bellsouth.net Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal Sue Shapiro, President Shapiro Travel Resources sue.shapiro@gmail.com www.shapirotravelresources.com

Travel Agent Professional has its roots in Home Based Trade, the first magazine of its kind, started by Joel Abels in 2004. Joel and Lenore Abels ran Travel Trade for nearly half a century – it was started by her grandfather, John S. Lewis, and her father, Sidney Lewis, in 1929, and they took the publication over after her grandfather’s passing. Under Joel’s direction, the company grew to be one of the travel agent industry’s leading publications, reaching more than 45,000 agents throughout North America. It spawned a famous series of trade shows and three monthly magazines – Cruise Trade, Tour Trade and Home Based Trade. The Abels also garnered enormous respect – Joel received the Neal Award, called “the Pulitzer Prize of the business press,” for his hard-hitting editorials. On a personal note, after working with Joel for over a decade and staying with him until the end, I grew to truly care for and respect the man. He was like a second father to me. Joel was old school, he stood by his word and believed in his work. There will never be another. While nobody can replace this industry legend, we’re hoping that this new publication, which reunites the original Home Based Trade editorial board, will be able to carry on his passion for travel and those who sell it.

This online magazine is dedicated to the memory of Joel Abels, Travel Trade's editor and publisher. Joel and his life's work may be gone, but with your help it can live on.

Ann M. Hoek The opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Travel Agent Professional.

August 2019


4 M i t c h e l l J . S c h l e s i n g e r

Perhaps the single most over-used business cliché is; “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Over-used or not, it is critically true. August is an ideal time to thoughtfully develop marketing and promotional plans for cruises 18 months into the future. Of course, much of the planning depends on several factors:

•• •

Your traditional sales patterns by products Demographics of your clientele, and prospect target audiences, particularly age, household size and life stages Opportunity to direct existing clients to new destinations and

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger C hief Marketing & Sales O fficer, MJS C o nsultants, mjschlesinger@bellsouth.net

itineraries

Purchase spend patterns

Ability to take advantage of new ships and destinations

All of this truly depends of what you sell the most; your “bread & butter”. Obviously, numerous agency organizations focus on mainstream destinations; Caribbean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, etc. which represent almost 50% of cruise passengers. I also know agents who thrive on premium and luxury clients and worldwide destination itineraries, but still have fringe sales of mainstream products since these clients may also want these products as well for getaways and trips with family and friends. Here is a review of products and planning cycles for sales opportunities over the next 18 months:

CARIBBEAN/BAHAMAS There are 2 prominent opportunities:

The booking cycle for 3-7-night Caribbean and Bahamas cruises is the shortest of all trades. This keeps Fall sailings in play for clients who can book impulse travel and those perhaps looking to spend the holidays at sea. Fall can offer lower pricing and is good for bargain hunters.

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The other prominent opportunity is the winter JanuaryApril sailings. Clients in northern regions of the country should be reminded that both winter and new ships are coming and to book ahead in order to secure the best staterooms, location on the ship, shore experiences, spa appointments, etc. And there will be early booking offers for the Caribbean. Remember, national cruise month is in October.

EUROPE/MED/ALASKA May-Oct can and has been be the most significant profit period for lines as reflected by the significant deployment throughout the Med, Baltic and Alaska. More lines are operating in all these regions and deploying new and bigger ships.

The lines have benchmarks for bookings for this period and begin offering early booking promotion in the fall in order to meet them. Targets include having 50% of the entire season booked by Jan1 and

80% by April 1st. If these destinations are part of your product mix, your clients have a variety of itineraries to choose from including east & west Med, Europe, Baltic, and 7-10-night cruises In Alaska, plus cruise-tours that enable to clients to see flora and wildlife in Alaska’s

interior. There are different ships for different types of clients depending on demographics, psychographics and spend patterns. Experiences are more immersive on smaller ships which can dock closer and visit ports that larger ships cannot. However, plenty of guests want the big ship amenities, so BE CAREFUL to discuss the experiential differences and let the clients decide which one they want.

Travel Agent Professional


6 EXOTICS The exotic seasons are focused based on seasonality and weather:

•• • •• ••

Antarctica sailings are Dec-Jan Australian summer is Jan-Mar S.E. Asia itineraries (10+ days for Americans) are focused in Q1 & Q 4 to avoid the heat of the summer S. America summer is in the fall. While the demographic pattern is changing somewhat, these destinations and longer itineraries are still predominantly for audiences 55+, particularly seniors and retires who have more time, no restrictions to seasonality or holidays and the disposable income to spend on longer itineraries. Best of all, they like to book well in advance, as far ahead as 18 months. A caution here from my days at Orient Lines; offer to sell travel insurance to these older clients. If they decline have them sign a waiver confirming that it was offered and declined. BUT, before they decline, remind them that they are about to make a travel purchase of $5,000+ for a lengthy exotic trip and use the “Best Buy� analogy.

They buy protection plans for electronics and appliances and

should really think about protecting themselves for unforeseen circumstances before they leave and during the trip.

FAMILY TRAVEL Since the dramatic increase of both parents working and/or single parent households several decades ago, family travel has taken on more meaning. The desire to plan an interesting, fun and possibly educational vacation with children has been enhanced by the guilt parents feel for work being so critical. • In most cases, family travel is focused on school holidays and the summer.

Planning becomes critical in

order to secure space on holiday cruises and reasonable airfare where needed to get to summer cruises in Alaska or Europe. • It is important that you guide your family clients toward travel at specific calendar timeframes and alert them to special opportunities for children.

More and more families take teenage children to Europe/Med/Baltic in

the summer, however on most ships there are not specific activities for children.

Although these days, all a

teenager needs is a computer or working cell phone and they can keep themselves pretty occupied. đ&#x;˜Š The key point is; whether you have just a few key target audiences or wide array, it is valuable to plan out your promotional marketing for the key sailing seasons well in advance.

Once you have organized this plan

you can augment with whatever value opportunities the cruise lines provide.

And remember to assign sales

targets for each market and destination so that you can calculate if your plan is working or if it needs adjusting. That is the true value of planning ahead, so that you can succeed.

August 2019


8 P a u l l T i c k n e r

I have a long-standing commitment to helping travel counsellors to release the potential from untapped niche markets and although you’re very busy, spare me 5 minutes and draw up a list of people you know who are Master Gardeners: members of Orchid, Rose, Herb and other specialist garden societies: Friends of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta: Landscape gardeners: TV, radio, newspaper and magazine gardening personalities: clients who are members of your local garden Club.  These contacts are potential pied pipers and as many of them return to their normal schedule of monthly meetings in September, let’s talk about some travel less, see more, value added itineraries that they may have never seen before? Orchid Societies will relish Kew Gardens’ annual Orchid extravaganza in February, while other gardeners, too busy to travel in the spring might, may say yes

By Paull Tickner Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

to a Poldark-Doc Martin infused Cornwall garden tour in March.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is renowned for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at www.customgb.co.uk and E-mail him at ptickner@customgb.co.uk

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Scotland’s Rhododendron Festival blended with a few castles and distilleries may draw attention north of the border, while others will like the look of our English tulip festivals. The mid-May Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Malvern Flower Show is also a very good reason for a visit to the Cotswolds. Read on for more hooks on which to hang a customised UK garden tour including the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show. 

Kew Gardens Orchid Festival Between 8th February-8th  March, forget the winter blues and become immersed in a celebration of vibrant colours and magnificent plant life inside the tropical paradise of Kew Gardens’ conservatories.  To find an Orchid Society near you check out www.aos.org and click on Affiliated Societies. Look carefully as there may be one near where you live.  You may even spot the name of someone you know…

Cornwall Gardens Tour in March March is when the stately homes of Cornwall fling open their garden gates to show off fantastic displays of camellias and magnolias that bloom in pastel white and pink and vibrant red, purple and yellow. In April swathes of Cornwall’s woodlands get carpeted with millions of bluebells. Along with the breath taking vivid blue flowers, giant rhododendrons burst into flower heralding the start of spring, time it to coincide with the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show (4th-5th  April) With a dash of Poldark and a hint of Doc Martin, this will appeal to clients too busy to travel in May.

Scotland’s Rhododendron Festival The wonderfully diverse world of the rhododendron will be celebrated with the Scottish Rhododendron Festival returning for its sixth year in 2020. Flowering across the country from 1stApril to 31st May, this festival features more than 90 events displaying swathes of colour in gardens, estates and woodlands nationwide. Some of the most stunning displays can be seen in Argyll and Bute, where there are 20 gardens of varying size, style and maturity, dating from the 13th to the 20th century. Add a whisky distillery or two and you’re onto a winner!

Travel Agent Professional


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Tip Toe through the Tulips With many gardeners busy in their own gardens in May, a late April tour brings together leisurely visits to the extensive and breathtakingly beautiful tulip displays at 11th century Arundel Castle, the award-winning gardens at privately owned Pashley Manor and at Chenies Manor. Your garden loving clients won’t have been offered this tantalizing combination before.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival If you’re looking for a truly outstanding castles, stately homes and gardens tour with some great recommendations for country pub lunches, here’s my suggestion. Based in the Cotswolds and in Shakespeare’s England, this “travel less, see more” itinerary with visits to many outstanding privately-owned gardens can be timed to coincide with the RHS Malvern Show (7th-10th May), a glorious spring extravaganza celebrating food, gardening and the countryside.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show Every year, world-renowned garden designers, plant specialists, florists and nurseries come together every year to show off cutting-edge garden designs, inspirational floral exhibits and stunning horticultural displays. Discover show-stopping and award-winning gardens, rare flowers and plants, creative floral artwork and spot emerging

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gardening trends. Next year’s dates are 19th-23rd  May and to ensure that jet lag doesn’t spoil the day, first spend 4-5 nights in the Cotswolds or in Kent and Sussex.

Two Flower Shows and an Edible Garden Returning for its seventh glorious year, the Blenheim Palace Flower Show takes place between 26th-28th June. By a very happy coincidence, the nearby Woburn Abbey Garden Show runs between 27th-28th  June.  The ancestral home of the Dukes of Bedford, it is also where in the 1840s, Duchess Anna Maria, the wife of the 7th Duke popularised the English social custom of taking afternoon tea. It just has to be “the place” to enjoy a cuppa and some cakes! Returning to London, I can also add an edible flower demonstration and an edible flower “hands on” session followed by a floral lunch.

The Emerald Isle, Welsh Castles and RHS Chatsworth Consider flying to Dublin for 3 days of spectacular gardens before taking the fast ferry to Holyhead, North Wales, for visits to 12th century castles, a Great Little Train ride and some spectacular gardens in one of the most beautiful regions of the British Isles. Then add a walking tour the walled city of Chester led by a Roman Centurion in full military uniform, some sophisticated shopping in the World of Wedgwood and visit the Derbyshire Peak District for a memorable day at the Royal Horticultural Society Chatsworth Flower Show (10th-14th  June), a magnificent sensory extravaganza for gardening fans. You can then fly home from Manchester or take the train to London for a few days and fly home from there.

Travel Agent Professional


12 The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show With a bit of help from me, you can offer your clients a tour that brings together up to 10 winners of the prestigious Historic Houses Association/Christies Garden of the Year Award. Based largely in the Cotswolds, the itinerary concludes with a wonderful, colour and scentfilled day at the annual Hampton Court Flower Show (6th-12th July). Many of your gardening contacts will say yes to this Collection of Excellence.

The RHS Wisley Flower Show In early September 2020, this spectacular event will be in full swing with spectacular displays from Chelsea and Hampton Court winners and from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies. It also hosts the National Dahlia Society’s Annual Show. Add a few owner and head gardener-led visits to nearby private gardens and you’ve got a great idea for the back burner.

The National Garden Scheme Most of my garden tours include properties participating in the National Garden Scheme. From February to October every year, more than 3,700 of them across England and Wales participate and most of them are privately owned. From the quirky to the grand, they open at their peak for colour, fragrance and profusion, and are perfect for tea and cakes on the lawn. You have the contacts and the UK has the travel experiences. Let’s put the two together and create a profitable outcome.

Paull Tickner, owner of U.K-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at www.customgb.co.uk or email ptickner@customgb.co.uk

August 2019


Riviera River Cruises Announces New Active Walking Excursions Riviera River Cruises is pleased to announce new Cruise, Walk & Discover excursions that can be added on to select river cruise departures starting in fall 2019, with additional excursions being planned for 2020. Guests will see fascinating European cities from a different perspective during guided active walks with local experts, following paths and trails through forests, meadows and vineyards, along rivers, and up to scenic views, castles and ruins. For more information about Riviera River Cruises and its new Cruise, Walk & Discover excursions, visit www.rivierarivercruises.com/walkdiscover-cruise or call 888-838-8820. “Our new walking excursions are the perfect addition for guests who want to be more active or experience a more natural setting during their European river cruise,” said Marilyn Conroy, Riviera River Cruises’ Vice President Sales and Marketing North America. “As with our regular visits and tours, local experts will lead the way and share their knowledge, guiding guests through forests, up hills and along rivers to beautiful viewpoints and historical sites.” The new Cruise, Walk & Discover excursions can be added on to three river cruise departures in fall 2019: Medieval Germany, Sept. 26, 2019, departure: Three active walks in Wertheim, Würzburg and Bamberg. Cost is $39 per person.

• • •

The Blue Danube, Oct. 14, 2019, departure: Three active walks in Esztergom, Dürnstein and Mondsee. Cost is $39 per person. Cruise the Heart of Europe, Oct. 31, 2019, departure: Five active walks in Hainburg an der Donau, Passau, Bamberg, Würzburg and Rüdesheim. Cost is $59 per person.

Walks will be approximately two to 2 1/2 hours in duration and range from three to five miles in distance. Descriptions for all walks are available at www.rivierarivercruises.com/walk-discover-cruise. During the Wertheim walk on the Medieval Germany departure, for example, guests will leave the river behind and climb to Wertheim Castle, known for its distinctive tower. The castle was once home to the counts of Wertheim and the ruins are a reminder of the Thirty Years’ War, when it was partly destroyed in an attack. From the castle, there are great views of the Main River and the smaller Tauber River. Guests will then climb through the forest on a panoramic trail along the Taubertal, before descending to the Tauber River and following it back to Wertheim. Riviera offers 15 itineraries on 10 rivers and waterways, including exclusive departures for solo travelers, aboard the youngest fleet of ships in Europe, with none older than six years. Riviera’s cruises include spacious cabins and suites, fine culinary experiences from sumptuous breakfasts to fourcourse dinners featuring international classics and regional specialties, and expert-led excursions to classic sights and lesser-known places. Riviera guarantees exceptional value, promising never to add hidden surcharges or fees, or to artificially inflate or discount prices. Riviera also doesn’t automatically include gratuities or drinks, so the choice is up to guests. For more information about Riviera River Cruises, visit https://www.rivierarivercruises.com or call 888-838-8820.

Riviera River Cruises Riviera River Cruises is the United Kingdom’s leading river cruise operator, with a North American office in Fairfield, Connecticut. Riviera is known for its highly rated five-star product, its ships with spacious cabins and suites, relaxed atmosphere, sumptuous on-board meals and captivating excursions, and its exceptional value. Riviera puts its guests first, hosting over 100,000 guests on its river cruises in the past five years, and is very supportive of the travel agent community, with programs such as a dedicated agent portal. For more information, visit https://www.rivierarivercruises.com or call 888-838-8820.

Travel Agent Professional


14 C i n d y

With so many diverse ways to search, find and make a purchase today, people have many choices. It’s beyond

B e r t r a m

shopping at just a retail location. Think about a purchase you made recently. What were you looking for, how did you do research, and where did you actually go to make that purchase? After making that purchase, were you satisfied? If so, have you made additional purchases there? Would you recommend this company/person to your friends and colleagues? As professionals we need to also see ourselves as offering more than just providing a onetime purchasing experience to a client. It really gets down to building that “like, know and trust” experience, and then loyalty results.

By Cindy Bertram C indy's Inside C ruise & Travel Track, LLC

Being a Fan and sharing it in positive ways I’m a fan of one airline, and not only are they easy to work with, but I feel I’m treated like a human being. And I share that in diverse positive ways. While flying back from a conference in Florida last summer, the flight I was booked on was delayed a bit due to some foggy weather conditions in Chicago, the city I was flying back to. We took off, but after only 2 hours of flying, I could feel the plane descending. Then one of the pilots made an announcement that they would have to land in Atlanta, because the Chicago airport was closed, due to heavy fog. We landed at 2 am in the morning and got off the plane. The airport was closed, but the airline brought in staff members to get us all rebooked-on flights. These staff members were so concerned and caring about us getting rebooked. I made sure I got their names and then sent off an email to one of the top executives at that airline. She got back to me a few hours later and personally thanked me.

Did these staff members go above and

beyond? Yes. Did I share this story to business colleagues and friends? Yes. And my loyalty to this airline continues.

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Insights from Ken Muskat, Executive Vice President & COO, MSC Cruises USA I had an opportunity to talk with Ken Muskat, Executive Vice President & COO of MSC Cruises USA, about their growth. In our discussion I mentioned that MSC Cruises has been around for a while, but still sometimes tends not to be known by travelers. I asked Ken, “You’ve worked extremely hard building the ‘like, know and trust’ with travel advisors. Can you share a bit more about these steps and efforts? With a few examples?” Ken said, “MSC Cruises has seen tremendous growth since its start in 2003, introducing 16 ships in a span of 16 years. And, with a $15.6 billion investment plan in for a total of 29 ships by 2027, we have no plans to slow down. Alongside this growth, there is an increasing appetite for what MSC Cruises offers — an international on-board experience inspired by our European heritage with enriching, one-of-a-kind opportunities to discover the destinations we visit.” Then we talked a bit more about their growth. Ken explained, “Along with this global growth, the company has placed a priority on expansion in the North American market, where MSC Cruises is quickly becoming a major player. And, in order to be successful here, it is paramount that we continue to work closely with travel advisors. This means providing our partners with the tools and resources to understand our brand and be able to effectively sell MSC Cruises to their clients. This effort began when we launched MSC Academy in 2017, our learning module created to help advisors increase their earning potential with MSC Cruises. And, just two years later in May 2019, we celebrated surpassing 10,000 graduates of the program.”

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Encouraging Travel advisors to experience MSC Cruises

heavily on improving service, to not only meet but also

Ken noted, “We also recognize the importance and

adjusted menus to reflect the kinds of dishes travelers in

value of experiencing the product first-hand, and noth-

this market look for and brought into the company

ing is more convincing to a client than hearing a per-

experts like Jacques Van Staden to ensure the cuisine is

sonal account of their cruise. With this in mind we

reflective of our brand and of the markets we serve.”

exceed guest expectations in North America. We’ve

began our ‘Get on Board’ campaign to encourage more travel advisors to try a cruise on our newest ships in

Another area Ken mentioned involved partnerships. He

the Caribbean. Travel advisors who have graduated

went on and said, “We are working with partners to

from MSC Academy can take advantage by booking a

bring new experiences that guests here will love. For

balcony stateroom at $499 per person, based on dou-

example, on board MSC Seaside we added an improv

ble occupancy, for Caribbean sailings on MSC Seaside,

comedy show, Beerprov. We also recently launched a

launched in Miami in December 2017, and MSC

partnership with Martha Stewart for specially curated

Meraviglia, arriving to North America for the first time

shore excursions and on-board celebration surprise

this October.”

packages.”

Adapting their product to the North American Market

Ken then explained, “Ultimately, we are committed to continuously evolving our product to bring guests a

Ken and I then covered efforts that MSC Cruises has

memorable vacation experience. Our goal is to maintain

been making to adapt to the North American market.

strong partnerships with our dedicated travel advisors.

Ken, explained, “Over the last several years, MSC

We are consistently looking for new and exciting ways

Cruises has made significant strides to adapt our product

to provide the tools and resources they need to suc-

to the North American market, and we are confident in

ceed, and we appreciate the continued support as we

what has become the new MSC. We have focused

move forward.”

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Building the Trust Element – Ken’s Suggestions Today building trust is an important part as far as building relationships. Ken and I covered more of that. I mentioned that the “trust element” needs to occur when building relationships with future potential clients, as well as existing ones. I asked Ken, “Do you have any suggestions for travel advisors when it comes to building trust, as well as loyalty?” Ken mentioned, “Travel advisors stand to gain from the incredible new product entering the industry, with more ships being introduced than ever before. But, with so much new opportunity it’s vital for advisors to be trained and up to date in order to effectively grow their business. That’s why education tools like MSC Academy are so important — it is a dedicated platform that is continuously updated with changes, new ships and new products for advisors to stay up to date.” He then went on and said, “Understanding each product is crucial to building trust with new clients and loyalty among existing clients who are looking to an advisor to help them navigate unfamiliar territory and select the right cruise for their needs. For MSC Cruises in particular, travel advisors may want to look to clients who appreciate an international experience and connecting with people from all over the world while enjoying authentic, immersive experiences in port.”

Travel Agent Professional


18 More insights from Ken on building rapport even with changes in the industry Another area Ken and I discussed were the changes in the travel industry, and how new avenues, including technology, were available for travel advisors to really embrace and use. Ken explained, “The travel industry has changed dramatically over the last two decades, especially on the trade front. The implementation of technology has inspired an evolution that has significantly impacted how travel advisors work with their customers, and how suppliers work with advisors.” He went on and said, “It has become imperative for travel advisors to take advantage of the rise in technology to build a rapport with clients and attract prospective customers, whether developing a strong social media presence to reach consumers or increasing ecommunication to existing and prospective clients. On our advisor website, Travel Advisors can access a variety of tools to help, like flyers and fact sheets, and they can even request customized brand videos for their use.”

Building relationships will build the business Ken shared a bit more as far as the need to build relationships. He said, “Building business in this industry truly stems from building relationships, and clients who feel appreciated will more than likely return in the future. At MSC Cruises, we recently started offering something unique travel advisors can surprise their guests with outside of just a bottle of champagne or shipboard credit. We recently kicked off a partnership with Martha Stewart who curated special shore excursions, celebration surprise gift packages, and onboard special holiday dinner menus and recipes. The three celebration surprise packages, with options including a wine, dessert and personalized letter from Martha Stewart, are a great special addition to a client’s stateroom to show appreciation. You can learn about them on our website.”

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MSC Cruises Status Match Program — Unique to the Industry Something MSC Cruises brought to the cruise and travel industry in 2015 was their Status Match Program. There’s no other product quite like it, and it brings a new benefit to repeat cruisers. I asked Ken to share a bit more about this along with providing details. Ken explained, “MSC Cruises Voyagers Club, MSC Cruises loyalty program for repeat cruisers, was first launched in 2015, offering members access to on board benefits and booking discounts, among other privileges. For example, when MSC Cruises opens sales for a new ship, Voyager’s Club members get the first pick of staterooms during their exclusive two-week booking period. And, when they book, they’ll receive a 5% discount on top of their regular 5% Voyager’s Club discount for a select booking period.” He then went on and said, “ Status Match is an excellent program within the Voyager’s Club. For members of other hotel, cruise line or tour operator loyalty programs, MSC Voyagers Club will match their current status, meaning these new members will be granted similar or higher privilege status than their current loyalty program. We launched our loyalty program to reward cruisers who frequently sail with MSC Cruises, and the status match element offers a channel for us to reach cruisers who aren’t as familiar with our brand.” Ken shared more on benefits, and explained, “This is also great incentive that travel advisors can use to encourage their regular cruise clients, who haven’t sailed with us, or new-to-cruise clients to try MSC Cruises for the first time. Benefits of each program level are available on our website for additional information.”

Travel Agent Professional


20 MSC Cruises’ efforts building strong relationships with travel advisors Over the years, MSC Cruises has worked extremely hard building strong relationships with travel advisors. When talking with Ken, I said, “This brings that important component of trust. Could you share a brief example or two, Ken ?” Ken shared his thoughts, and said, “We are committed to ensuring that hard work allows travel advisors to increase their earning potential with MSC Cruises, and we will continue to prioritize offering competitive commission rates on bookings and pre-booked experiences. In addition to booking commissions, travel advisors can earn 5% commission on all pre-paid packages, including shore excursions, spa treatments, specialty restaurants, and more. Plus, advisors can earn 10% commission on group pre-paid shore excursions. For spa in particular, advisors can help their clients save up to 50% on spa packages, while also earning themselves 5% commission on each spa package booked.”

New ways for travel advisors to earn commissions with MSC Cruises MSC Cruises had introduced some new ways for travel advisors to earn more commissions, which Ken and I talked about. Ken said, “We’ve also introduced a few new ways for advisors to earn commissions. First, MSC Cruises recently launched MSC Upgrade, a new bid-based stateroom upgrade program that allows clients to take advantage of fantastic upgrades on select staterooms and cruises. For any upgrades, travel advisors will receive commission on the total based on the commission percentage on the booking.”

MSC Cruises’ new partnership — rail service In addition to other partnerships they’ve added, a new one involves rail service. Ken explained more and said, “We also kicked off a partnership with the Brightline, soon to be rebranded Virgin Trains, a rail service currently offering transport from West Palm Beach to Miami. The Train-to-Port packages offered through the partnership allow MSC Cruises’ guests sailing from PortMiami to park their car, check-in and check their luggage at Brightline stations before boarding the cruise. Brightline will safely and seamlessly deliver guest’s luggage directly to guest staterooms on the ship. Advisors earn 5% on each booking, which can be a great add-on for clients who live locally in South Florida, or those who might be thinking of extending their trip before and after their cruise.”

A few more ideas when it comes to Loyalty When dealing with potential clients as well as existing ones, it’s important for them to know that we genuinely care about them and have their best interests at heart.

Utilizing technology along with that human touch today is even

more important. As Ken Muskat mentioned, helping clients navigate unfamiliar areas and selecting the cruise that best fits their needs, going beyond their expectations is critical. And this is where loyalty evolves. And our focus on this as travel advisors evolves into loyalty from our clients as well.

August 2019


22 L e s - L e e R o l a n d

We’ve all gone through those darn robocalls. Even though I try to block them on my phones, they still are on the increase. And for the few with an actual person on the other line, they get a dose from my new favorite weapon — the whistle I keep next to the phone.   I immediately say to the caller/solicitor — move the phone from your ear — and then I blow the whistle — a shrill very loud whistle. At least it gives me a way to fight back. By Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal

On another note, I have been in this business for almost 30 years now. I started on my own — an outside agent when it was looked down on, from brick and mortar people. I had no mentor in the beginning, and had to learn everything on mine own. I took a CLIA seminar, and complained that the instructor didn’t know anything. His session said we have to learn to be whores in this business — otherwise we wouldn’t succeed. After my complaint about him, he didn’t teach another class — Poof, gone that very day. The next eye opener, were the card mills. Too many people dished out $495 in order to get a CLIA card and to travel at an agent’s rate.  Remember when Princess cruises were $20 a day for travel agents!!!  So many of these fake travel agents booked hotel rooms that one major chain stopped taking bookings at agent rates.  If you wanted to stay there, you had to be a specialist — take a series of online tests and pass. Now, they make you take the classes more often.  Once a specialist is not always a specialist. You have to keep on specializing??? in order to be get an agent rate.   I interviewed a fellow who sold those $495 packages, and asked what kind of training did he provide to new incoming agents–to–be. He said they can go online and read about the suppliers and take their tests. I

August 2019


23 suggested he have training en masse, a couple times a

The focus was to purchase airline tickets at lower rates

year. His response was — that costs money, and as long

— isn’t that a consolidator??

as I get the $495, I’ve done my job — I don’t owe them anything more.

Since I had been shopping around for various clients’ needs, I decided to call this company. A friendly fellow

Today, we all get a certain percentage of spam. And hav-

said they had been doing this for quite a while, and he

ing multiple E-mail addresses, I get a lot of repetition, and

and his partner — in a different state — had access to

it is time consuming to go through them, and I know I will

numerous contracts. Some contracts were not available

get carpal tunnel syndrome from hitting that delete but-

to consolidators — but might be to private businesses.

ton. I told him an itinerary, and he promptly told me my rate I will say they are becoming more creative, and I don’t know

as opposed to the published rate. I was really surprised

how I get on some of these lists. Like the one that has a

since the rate was far lower than what I had gotten from

very similar name to one of my suppliers. The difference is

consolidators. Yes, I could use a credit card. Yes, the

that the spam has added the word “the” to the title.  

clients would get mileage points. Yes, the penalties were the same. And when I was ready to book, he told me

The focus is they sell their/training to teach you how to

that whatever upcharge I would use to sell it to my client,

become successful as a travel writer or travel photogra-

the commission would be split 3 ways. One third to him,

pher. All you really need is the desire to travel, a comput-

one third to his partner and one third to me. But the rate

er, hopefully a dictionary, and a camera — any kind. They

was so good, I felt I could take the chance. He did tell me

don’t sell that yet.

that he works with other consolidators, even mentioning my number one go to, and said he set up their computer

I am sure that some real travel agents are taking these

systems.

classes, as well as the wannabees. And perhaps some people will come out of the woodwork and actually get

He E-mailed me the PNR and I did check it with the air-

some pieces published. But most, I suspect, will face rejec-

line, Everything seemed okay, and I booked it, and

tion.

promptly got my commission check. Even one third was better than anything else I could get.

But getting back to some E-mails that should be suspicious.

I booked a couple more with him. We became “buddies” on the phone. He worked from home, and

We have all gotten some E-mails, promoting a new com-

returned calls weekends and evenings. I always email to

pany, a shore excursion, a destination, a website, on and

confirm — so I had a paper trail.

on. And one peaked my interest.

Travel Agent Professional


24 But when 2 clients returned from a luxury cruise from

So — I called ARC to find out the name of the agency,

South America, they called me and told me their horror

and if the check had been received. ARC in less than 90

story. I had arranged 2 business class tickets, and even

seconds provided the info. And it was a travel agency in

with my commission had saved them over $4000. When

Coral Gables — nowhere near my “buddy” and his part-

they arrived at the airport — printed out their boarding

ner.

passes, the seats were exactly what our paperwork showed, but at the gate they were told the aircraft had

I called the agency and the accountant reported their

been changed to a smaller plane, and they were bumped

computers were down — although I heard dings and

from first class to a lower class. Their only other option

whistles going on. She never called me back.

was to stay overnight on their own, to try to get on the daily flight the next day — but no guarantee on the size

I called my “buddy” reported the new info, and he said

of the aircraft. They didn’t want to wait any longer, so

the Florida agency had to send it to a California agency

they accepted $1200 total in travel vouchers and sat in

and then to him, and they were forfeiting their commis-

economy. Also, another passenger, also bumped, told

sion in order for the client to receive his promised

them he takes that flight every couple of weeks, and this

amount from American. With 3 people making commis-

has happened to him before as well.

sions from 3 different agencies, and still selling the tickets at a far lower rate than any consolidator had offered —

My clients asked me if they had been targeted for being

wis mindboggling.

bumped because of the lower cost of their tickets. I called my “buddy” and he had never heard of this before.

Bottom line, we finally got the check back from an agency never mentioned to me. MY “buddy’s partner doesn’t

The clients were so irritated with being treated like this

want me work with me, since I am a troublemaker

— not by me — but by American Airlines, and called

because my client complained to American to complain

customer service and followed up with a detailed letter.  

about the way this matter was handled. And I don’t want to deal with a company who operates this way.

He got a response, with an apology, and said an additional check would be sent to the travel agency to make up

I didn’t lose any clients, I got to keep my commission, but

the dollar amount difference between the first class ticket

I did get some insight on how some of these contracts

and the economy. That brought him some comfort to

work with different agencies. When I confronted my

the resolution of the matter.

“buddy” that using them as a consolidator was a big mistake. His answer was “I am not a consolidator, I just sell

I reported this to my “buddy” and he was astonished. He

travel at a discount.” I called my usual consolidator, and

said he and his partner had to look into this and when

asked it they knew my “buddy.” She said, he is just an

they received the check, he would let me know.

agent who buys from them occasionally, and resells the tickets.

After waiting awhile, my client checked on his own and found that American had sent the check — even though

It’s a mystery to me about who is doing what in this busi-

my “buddy” maintained they had not received it.

ness.

August 2019


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Profile for Travel Agent Professional

Travel Agent Professional Aug 2019  

Travel Agent Professional is a new site devoted to meeting the needs of the Home Based Travel Agent – the heart and soul of today's industry...

Travel Agent Professional Aug 2019  

Travel Agent Professional is a new site devoted to meeting the needs of the Home Based Travel Agent – the heart and soul of today's industry...

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