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Travel Agent Professional September 2018 Issue 61

Sharing the Differences By Cindy Bertram




64 Sharing the Differences

Cindy's Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC

12 Inspirational UK Garden

Festivals For Green Fingered Clients

By Paull Tickner Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

16 Are You A Great Agent?

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger MJS Consultants

Travel Agent Professional September 2018 Issue 61

Sharing the Differences By Cindy Bertram

Ad Index

Cover Photo: Windstar Cruises

Auto Europe........................................................IFC

RCI .........................................................................BC

Britain Greatdays....................................................3


Travel Agent Professional


By Cindy Bertram


— Then Creating the Best Experiences for Your Clients

Travel Agent Professional September 2018 Issue 61

Travel Agent Professional Staten Island, NY 10312 E-mail: Phone: 718.360.3153

Joel M. Abels

Legend In the Travel Industry April 1927 to January 2007

Ann M. Hoek Publisher/Creative Design Bonnie Walling Editor Alan Cohen Vice President Marketing

Meet Our Editorial Board Paull Tickner, Creator of Special Interest Britain Cindy Bertram, Cindy’s Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC Mitchell J. Schlesinger President, MJS Consultants Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal Sue Shapiro, President Shapiro Travel Resources Rusty Pickett, ECC Shellback Cruises Sherry Laskin, ACC Travel Writer/NACTA Webinar Moderator

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.

Ann M. Hoek 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.

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

September 2018

4 C i n d y B e r t r a m

By Cindy Bertram Cindy's Inside Cruise & Travel Track, LLC

Today people get inundated with so much information on a daily basis. When they’re trying to make a decision about a purchase, they do research online, reach out to others, check online reviews and more. The “information overload” is even truer when it comes to making a decision about taking a trip – whether it’s an ocean or river cruise, a land tour, or domestic and international packages. As travel agent professionals, how do we best differentiate ourselves to our clients, existing ones as well as potential ones, by showing we can reduce that “information overload”? We do that exploratory work with them. By asking questions, and learning more as we listen to their responses? We’re then able to share the unique differences between these different products and showing what the best fit is for them. The result? We are creating the best travel experiences for our clients.

September 2018

5 Then Creating the Best Experiences for Your Clients

A recent example While on the phone recently with someone who was a referral, he was trying to figure out the best surprise trip option for his girlfriend. He was going to propose to her on this trip, so this made it more of a bigger decision. While we talked, I asked questions, listened carefully to his answers, and got a better pulse of what he and his girlfriend enjoyed doing. As I went over two different trip options, I also made sure I shared their unique differences. Then he said, “After everything we’ve talked about and with what you shared, I really feel this one is

Steve Simao, Vice President of Sales

the best fit.” And I got the booking lined up.

Insights from Steve Simao, Vice President of Sales, Windstar Cruises Windstar Cruises continues to bring amazing unique experiences to cruise travelers, along with their commitment to travel agent professionals. I had a chance to talk with Steve Simao, Vice President of Sales for

Travel Agent Professional

6 Windstar Cruises. He oversees both the international sales and domestic sales in his role at Windstar Cruises and has worked in the cruise industry for over 20 years. In our conversation, we covered several areas, including key things that differentiates Windstar Cruises as well as key tips for travel agent professionals to use.

The ideal guest who sails on Windstar Cruises I mentioned to Steve that Windstar Cruises focuses on and is known for providing its guests with an intimate luxury experience, having six sailing and all suite ships that accommodate no more than 310 guests. Then I asked Steve, “How would you best describe the ideal guest that would sail on Windstar Cruises?”

Steve said, “Windstar guests

are travelers and not tourists. They are very destination minded and true bucket list travelers.  They are adventurous and are seeking true, authentic experiences away from the crowds.  They are upscale, but not showy and while they appreciate and can afford the finer things in life they like to travel in comfort without the formality.” Steve then went on and explained, “For example, rather than see a port of call from the comfort of a private car and driver, a Windstar guest would rather be guided with a group of 4-6 other like-minded guests on a walk through the back streets of Rome or on a hike into the Costa Rican rainforest.”

Key things to keep in mind when going through potential clients Steve and I then focused on key things that a travel advisor should keep in mind when it comes to their portfolio of potential clients and possible fits sailing on Windstar Cruises. Steve explained, “Windstar guests are couples.  And often couples traveling with other couples.  A great way to upsell is to ask if they are traveling with anyone else that the travel advisor can also book.  Windstar guests may be cruisers who have traveled on larger ships and want to get away from the crowds.  But similarly they may be people who would never have considered a cruise or river cruisers.” I then asked Steve, “What makes Windstar Cruises a bit more unique and different from others?” Steve said, “Windstar Cruises is true small ship cruising.  With each of our ships 300 guests or less we are truly able to

September 2018

7 provide personalized travel experiences for each of our guests. As other cruise lines in the small ship realm are building bigger ships of 600+ guests our ships remain the size where we can provide unique experiences.  For example, each of our meals is cooked a la minute in our galleys.  Or because of our size we are able to still offer an open bridge which allows our guests to visit the ship’s navigation bridge while at sea and connect with our officers and understand how the ship is being sailed.”

Key differences travel agent professionals should know about Windstar Cruises Steve and I then covered more about the benefits Windstar Cruises provides due the size of their ships. Windstar Cruises is known for bringing people closer to places that other cruise lines can’t get to, because of their larger ships. I asked Steve, “Can you share a bit more?” Steve explained, “I think the best example of this is our new Signature Expedition Program which debuted this year in Alaska.  This program includes 6 expedition leaders on the ship from Marine Biologists to Botanists to Glaciologists who do lectures and then actually accompany our guests on zodiac and kayak trips that are launched right from the ship.   This is in places like Misty Fjords National Park where our ship literally sails into the fjord vs. the big ships which do shore excursions from Ketchikan.”  

Travel Immersion with rich itineraries The area of travel immersion was the next area Steve and I discussed. I mentioned that Windstar Cruises is known for providing a travel immersion experience and there are some key things they provide that travel agent professionals should be aware of as they work with clients. These include overnight and late night port calls, Signature Expeditions, cultural activities, being more port intensive. Steve said, “First time to Windstar guests will often choose our brand because of our rich itineraries.  We carefully craft these itineraries to include a mix of marquis ports which are on everyone’s bucket list along with what we refer to as hidden harbors which offer truly unique and authentic experiences far from the crowds.  We will often be the only ship in port or, if we are in port together with a big ship we will typically dock much closer to the action like in downtown St. Petersburg Russia vs. being docked out at a container shipping terminal.  This is why Windstar’s itineraries will often include a number of tender ports because many of the ports we visit don’t maintain docking facilities but still have a lot to offer our guests.”

Travel Agent Professional


Steve then explained a bit more and said, “Our shore excursion program is designed to allow our guests to truly experience a port of call. For example, I took a tour in Costa Rica to a chocolate farm.  We traveled with 10 guests and the tour was led by the owner of the farm himself who had inherited his family business.  This wasn’t a hired tour guide – this was a true Costa Rican farmer telling about how he supports his family with his farm.   Our new concierge collection of tours are truly immersive one of a kind experiences.”  Another part of Windstar Cruises’ immersion efforts is offering some extended stays on their itineraries, staying longer with two-night stops at some ports. Steve said, “Our Asia cruises are really great examples of itineraries that offer these extended stays.  My personal bucket list itinerary is the Icons of Southeast Asia itinerary.  On this itinerary we offer 4 ports of call in Vietnam, 3 of which offer overnight stays.  The overnight in Halong Bay is designed that guests can access the beautiful historical city of Hanoi on the first day and still enjoy the beauty and landscapes of Halong Bay on the second day.”

September 2018

9 Another part of the Windstar Cruises experience — Innovative culinary programs Steve and I then talked about Windstar Cruises’ innovative culinary programs, including its exclusive partnership with the James Beard Foundation. I asked Steve, “Can you share a bit more about this, your partnership and what’s involved?”   Steve explained, “We are the exclusive cruise line






Foundation. We elected rather than partner with one particular chef in one particular genre that we would partner with a leading organization in the culinary arena offering more variety of experiences and tastes for our guests.  As part of the program a number of renowned chefs travel on culinary themed cruises doing cooking demonstrations onboard and interacting with our guests.” Then Steve shared more, and said, “On other voyages where a chef may not be present, our guests still have the ability to taste some of the unique flavors as our partnership allows us to incorporate recipes into the regular menu cycles. Outside of the James Beard partnership we also do offer local market tours with the ship’s executive chef.  Because we source a number of ingredients locally, our guests can join our chefs as they go into the market in search of local seafood, vegetables, cheeses, etc. It’s a fun experience and then it all comes to life when you see the items you shopped for served that evening onboard.”

Travel Agent Professional


In 2019 Windstar Cruises has some special James Beard Foundation Culinary Themed Cruises scheduled. Suggestions for travel agent professionals - Windstar Cruises’ differences Steve and I went through a recap of what makes the Windstar Cruise experience more unique for their guests, both onboard as well when they’re off the ships in diverse destinations. We covered suggestions he could provide to travel agent professionals regarding the differences Windstar Cruises offers, ways to share and then sell this to their clients, creating the best experiences. Steve explained, “I think the key for travel agents is to understand their clients and matching them with the right brand.  Windstar guests are well traveled and are looking for true, in-depth travel experiences.  I encourage travel agents to review the day to day itineraries and the unique shore excursions we offer and the amount of time we offer in port.  We deliver destinations so that these travelers get to see what they are traveling to see.   We have carefully designed our deployment so that our sailing ships are more often in the tropics – areas such as Tahiti, Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Greek Isles.  These ships have lots of open deck space and are perfectly designed for these types of programs.  Our all-suite Star Class ships on the other hand are doing more worldwide deployment and cooler destinations like Alaska, Asia, Canada New England, Northern Europe, and Iceland.”

Last thoughts Today the world is not a “one size fits all.” And when it comes to our clients as well as potential ones, making sure we understand their needs, what’s important to them, and what they want to experience when traveling on a vacation is critical. Once we know that, we can highlight and share the differences, so they make the best choice. From there? This results in our creating the best experiences for them. And this is another positive for travel agent professionals being seen as the experts.

September 2018

You create. You take risks. You live your passion. You are an entrepreneur.


Today we celebrate YOU — the entrepreneur that continues to shape our industry. Thank you for your dedication, inspiration and passion. We proudly stand and applaud you.


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

With garden clubs returning to their normal schedule of monthly meetings this month, impress them with a selection of itineraries they will have never seen before? Spice them up with visits led by owners and head gardeners and time the departure to coincide with one of these outstanding horticultural masterpiece shows and festivals.  When creating a customised garden tour, remember that if an itinerary includes nothing but gardens, while living up to its title, the appeal will be restricted to a limited number of people.  Don’t lose sight of the main theme but jazz up each day with unexpected touches that will delight

By Paull Tickner


Paull Tickner & Associates Ltd.

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 and E-mail him at

September 2018

13 Kew Gardens Thai Orchid Festival: Next February, forget the winter blues and become immersed in a celebration of Thailand’s vibrant colours, culture and magnificent plant life inside the tropical paradise of Kew Gardens’ conservatories.  Beyond the flower displays, Kew will put on a program of evening events, with traditional dance performances, Thai cooking tips, Kew orchid expert talks, cocktail making and spa treatments. 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. With a dash of Poldark and a hint of Doc Martin, it may 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 fifth year. Flowering across the country from April 1 to May 31, 2019, this festival features more than 90 events dis-

Travel Agent Professional


woodlands nationwide. Some of the most stunning

2 Flower Shows and an Edible Garden

displays can be seen in Argyll and Bute, where there

Returning for its seventh glorious year, the Blenheim

are 20 gardens of varying size, style and maturity, dat-

Palace Flower Show takes place over the weekend of

ing from the 13th to the 20th century.

21st-23rd June.  By a very happy coincidence, so does

playing swathes of colour in gardens, estates and

the Garden Show at nearby Woburn Abbey where in RHS Malvern Spring Festival: If you’re looking for a

the 1840s, Duchess Anna Maria, the wife of the

truly outstanding castles, stately homes and gardens

7th Duke of Bedford popularised the English social

tour with some great recommendations for country

custom of taking afternoon tea. It has to be THE

pub lunches, base your clients in the Cotswolds for a

place to enjoy a cuppa and some cakes! Returning to

“travel less, see more” itinerary with visits to many

London, I can arrange an edible flower demonstration

outstanding privately-owned gardens. Time it to

and an edible flower ‘hands on’ session followed by a

coincide with the RHS Malvern Show (9th-12th May),

floral lunch.

a glorious spring extravaganza celebrating food, gardening and the countryside.

The Emerald Isle, Welsh Castles and RHS Chatsworth

A Celebration of English Gardens and Chelsea.

Consider flying to Dublin for 3 nights and spend a day

For nearly 35 years, the Historic Houses Association

most spectacular gardening event before taking the

and Christies, the fine art auctioneers have sponsored

fast ferry to Holyhead for visits to 12th century cas-

an annual competition to find their Garden of the

tles, a Great Little Train ride and some

Year. The list reads like a who’s who of great British

spectacular gardens in one of the most beautiful

gardens and with 10 of them in the south of England,

regions of the British Isles. Then via the walled city of

with a bit of inspired creativity, they make a perfect

Chester and a walking tour led by a Roman

addition to a day at the Chelsea Flower Show (21st-

Centurion in full military uniform, some shopping in

25th May).

the World of Wedgwood, into the Derbyshire Peak

at Bloom (30th May – 3rd June), Ireland’s largest and

September 2018

15 District for a memorable day at the Royal Horticultural Society Chatsworth Flower Show (5th-9th June), a magnificent  new celebration of plants and gardens.  You can then fly home on one of the many non-stop North America-bound non-stop flights or take the train to London for a few days and fly home from there.

Rose Tinted Gardens This time around and with a bit of help from me, you can offer your clients a tour that brings together 10 more winners of the HHA/Christies Garden of the Year Award. Being based largely in the Cotswolds, the itinerary  concludes with a wonderful, colour and scent filled day at the annual Hampton Court Flower Show (1st 7th July 2019).  Many of your gardening contacts will say yes to this Collection of Excellence.

The Royal Horticultural Society Tatton Park Flower Show Set in the magnificent parklands of Tatton Park, Cheshire and first staged in 1999, this well-established RHS floral spectacular features innovative Show Gardens, the National Flower Bed Competition, a huge Floral Marquee, talks, demonstrations, advice, trade stands and exhibitors, all wrapped up in a vibrant carnival atmosphere. As the focal point of a 3-night stay, you should also include visits to the stately homes and secret gardens that play a leading role in Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction programme. Thanks to the increasing number of non-stop flights into Manchester, it’s now much closer than ever before.

The Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Flower Show 12 months from now, in September 2019 this colour-filled 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/head gardener-led visits to nearby private gardens and you’ve got a great idea for the back burner. 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  or email him at

Travel Agent Professional

16 M i t c h e l l

purchasers? I said I realized that clients like to try different prod-

J .

ucts, especially as the cruise industry introduces new and excit-

S c h l e s i n g e r

ing ships, but they should be buying these trips from your agency. He was silent for a moment and admitted that he should work harder at retaining a higher percentage of clients. Some of the criteria mentioned at the ASTA convention included being dedicated to customers, going above and beyond, building lasting relationships with customers and the focus on advice and service that separates great agents from just good ones. The eventual winner of the award was cited for commitment, passion, attention to detail, level of knowledge and ability to listen and provide feedback so that clients were able to make

By Mitchell J. Schlesinger Chief Marketing & Sales Officer, MJS Consultants,

informed choices for travel. For decades, cruise & tour executives and CLIA have been providing training, marketing and sales seminars at conferences,

I read an interesting article about ASTA’s

webinars, podcasts, branded educational programs, etc., all

Travel Advisor of the Year award

designed to enhance “salesmanship” and marketing skills of trav-

announced at the recent ASTA Global

el professionals who still provide a dramatic majority of book-

Convention in Washington D.C. This got

ings for cruise lines. And in the 21st century this has become

me thinking about the conversation I had

more valuable with both the expansion of demographic target

with a travel agent many, many years ago,

groups and numerous marketing outlets available today, particu-

that led me to pen my series entitled

larly online.

“Clients for Life”, which has appeared here and was a stand-alone chapter in the book

The “bottom line” for good agents to become great agents is

I co-authored with Joannie and Tom Ogg.

focused on 4 main criteria:

The travel agent proudly told me that

Understanding that clients aren’t “sold” but are provided with

roughly 35% of his clients were repeat cus-

expert knowledge, insights, and advice about suppliers and des-

tomers of his agency. This, he explained,

tinations to insure the purchase decision customers make aligns

was a far better result than the 25% repeat

with their own psychographics insuring they return having

rate expressed by Carnival Cruises, at the

enjoyed the experience.

time. I thought about that for a minute and then asked him, wasn’t he concerned

Agents must use marketing message content that appeals to a

that 65% of his clients were not repeat

diverse group of clients and prospects. Various demographic

May 2018

17 target audiences have different desires, expectations, and experiences in mind when purchasing vacations. Marketing messaging to millennials, families, seniors, adventure seekers, etc. all must be very specific to each target market. Marketing messaging must also promote value, extol experiential opportunities and address expectations of specific demographic target groups rather than promote prices and just list itineraries. Customers will respond positively to a marketing approach that involves them in the description of the vacation and the value of purchasing upgraded accommodations. Back to “Clients for Life”, agents must build relationships with clients that by design, last a lifetime. This is critical from 3 standpoints: Every client you successfully obtain comes with a “cost-of-acquisition”, based on how much time you spend before closing the sale, applicable marketing costs and potential extra benefits you provide. The more times your clients repeat, the “COA” is reduced as you have already done the foundation work the first time they purchased from you. REFERRALS, REFERRALS, REFERRALS. — In between your clients purchasing trips, clients are a primary source of referral business, IF YOU ARE AGGRESSIVE ABOUT SETTING UP A REFERRAL PROGRAM. Clients should be rewarded for every referral they provide who purchases from you. Clients are a wonderful marketing tool and provide 3rd party endorsement of you based on their experiences. You should urge them to post photos online, and perhaps even speak at an open house you host. And remember, it is far more efficient to obtain new clients via referrals than spending media dollars THE ANNUITY FACTOR. — The longer clients buy travel from you and the older they get, eventually they will buy longer, more expensive trips. It is crucial that you are communicating with them on a consistent basis, sending them travel opportunities that are selectively interesting to them during the various stages of their lives. Annuities are investments you make early in life that pay dividends and interest later in life, that is why you consider your clients annuities to you and your agency. Being a great agent means being fully customer centric. Clearly this takes determination, dedication and perseverance. Think about being a consumer and the businesses you encounter, and which ones provide attention that makes you feel special. In truth, there are less of these businesses than decades ago due to conglomeration, mergers and the elimination of traditional small merchants. Fortunately, you have the opportunity, ability, product knowledge and supplier relationships to be extraordinarily customer centric and have clients who will regard you as a GREAT AGENT!!

Travel Agent Professional

Profile for Travel Agent Professional

Travel Agent Professional Sept 2018  

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 Sept 2018  

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...