The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Measure twice, cut once

I’m applying the carpenter’s advice of measure at least twice and cut once to the travel business. My measurement is not conduced on a piece of word rather it’s measuring a product at least two or three times before I buy (cut) it.

Here’s a conversation I had with a person the other day. They needed a pre departure airport hotel that offered a stay & park package. They had surfed a web site or two and now needed reassurance that they had booked the best deal.

So I explained that they should contact (measure) the on line booking engines like or, try their local travel agent then contact the hotel directly. Once they’re sure they have got the correct measurements (price) then cut away (book it).

With hotel fly and stay package be sure to verify that the room rate you’ve reserved qualifies for their free or reduced rate parking offers. On I recent trip my AAA room rate did not qualify for free parking so I had to upgrade to another room rate to obtain the special offer. In this instance my room rate only increased $5.00 for the night and it included 5 nights of free parking. Or I could have kept the AAA rate and pay $5.00 a day to park. Doing some quick mental math it was definitely worth it to part with the extra $5.00.

Economic impact of cruise vacations

A recent economic impact study of the cruise industry was just completed and I want to share some of the details with you. Here’s one that jumped out at me.

Based on passenger survey data, approximately 40 percent of embarking passengers stayed one or more nights in a port city and spent an average of $289 per visit. Imagine the money that could be generated if the Tri-State community as a whole could get together and convince the riverboats and barges to stop in Huntington, Ashland, Ironton or Portsmouth. A nice chunk of change for the local economy.

Among the factors behind the 2006 economic impact: In 2006, 12 million people worldwide took cruise vacations, an increase of 7 percent over 2005.
U.S. residents accounted for 78 percent of the industry's total passengers.
The top 10 U.S. cruise ports by cruise embarkations in 2006 were: Miami; Port Canaveral, Fla.; Port Everglades, Fla.; Galveston, Texas; Los Angeles; New York; Tampa, Fla.; Long Beach, Calif.; Seattle and Honolulu.

Global industry revenues increased 7 percent to $20.6 billion. The $17.6 billion in direct spending created more than 153,800 direct jobs, paying $5.7 billion in wages. By year-end 2006, the cruise industry's fleet had increased to 151 vessels with a combined capacity of 249,691 lower berths. The cruise industry operated in 2006 at an occupancy rate of 104 percent. This takes into account the 3rd & 4th berth found in many cabins so they’re not actually oversold. No one had to sleep on deck.
Tourism is big business and a huge employer. The full economic study and summary can be downloaded from CLIA's website,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vacation travel rebounding

Vacation travel is officially up over the same time last year according to the 2007 Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates Fall Travel Trends Survey. While the top overall domestic and international destinations -- Las Vegas and Caribbean cruising -- remain the same, the big news is that the number of travel experts reporting an increase in overall bookings for the year is up by nearly 4 percent to 59.5 percent. In addition, despite the extremely strong euro, Rome and Mediterranean cruising continued to climb the annual fall list with Rome coming in at number three while Mediterranean cruising jumps seven spots.

A growing number of Carlson Wagonlit travel experts say a majority of their customers have a valid passport. This fall that percentage is 46.3 percent, up from 44 percent in January and 31.7 percent in August of 2006. Also, an astounding 77.9 percent indicated that a majority of their cruise customers have a valid passport. That bodes well for the next passport deadline, which could affect cruise passengers to Mexico, Caribbean, etc. as early as January 2008. Mediterranean cruising was the "big winner" in the rankings, jumping from 12th to 5th place on the list of top 10 international destinations. The biggest drop was registered by Ft. Myers, Fla. Last year it ranked eighth in the fall survey, but this year it dropped eight spots to 16th place.

The survey was conducted July 24-Aug. 17, 2007 and includes information from 390 Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associate agents, owners and managers.

Be kind to your travel agent & get out of town!

I’ve blogged in the past about professional development opportunities as one of the perks of the travel agency business. Here’s an example of home study program followed by a field trip to the Mexican Pacific Coast resort region Puerto Vallarta. Follow this link and learn more these exciting educational experiences.

Want to discover how you can become a travel agent? Contact me at Ohio University Southern in Ironton @ 740.533.4559, 800.626.0513 ext 4559 or

Monday, August 27, 2007

Combine your love of gourmet chocolate with your love of travel by taking Costa’s Celebrity Chef Chocoholic Cruise

Costa Cruises just announced this Celebrity Chef Chocoholic cruise sailing on January 8, 2008. This is your opportunity to spend a week hobnobbing with celebrity chefs that are or have been on TV's immensely popular Food Network™. Onboard the beautiful Costa Mediterranea, the subject is chocolate and this delicious, sinful treat will be shown in its many different forms!

Join guest chefs Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes, Warren Brown host of Sugar Rush, Ellie Kreiger plus many other celebrity chefs. Your chocolate cruise sails from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic; Grand Turks, Turks & Caicos Islands

For experienced chefs, home cooks or even those who just simply love chocolate, this is a cruise program they simply won't want to miss. In addition to lectures/demonstrations about chocolate by each of the celebrity chefs regarding each of his/her areas of specialized preparation, and a two hour meet and greet with each of them, the Chocoholic Cruise package also includes: a celebrity goody bag; a $100 per cabin on board credit; a bottle of champagne; trip interruption insurance and more!

Contact your travel agent today! Contact me if you don't have a Costa Cruise Special agent.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Capture mega savings on vacations at sea during the fall seasonal cruise ship migration

At certain times throughout the year the ships of many major cruise lines crisscross the globe on their way to new port and distant seas. In the industry this is termed a “repositioning” cruise and they offer unique frequently special one of a kind itineraries. Generally the voyages are 7 days or longer offering incredible savings. But occasionally you can catch a shorter one voyage. This fall NCL’s Norwegian Pearl has a 4 day departure on September 24th that sails from Vancouver Canada to Los Angeles CA via San Francisco. Based on availability you can snag an inside cabin one without a view for a low as $50.00 per person per day! Special deals are also offered on staterooms with a window and balconies too!

Just wait until you see everything Norwegian Cruise Lines has put on board their luxurious new Norwegian Pearl. Sister ship to the wildly popular Norwegian Jewel, she’s built to impress with 10 different restaurants, 14 bars & lounges, three swimming pools, the exclusive new Courtyard Villas and the very first bowling alley to hit the high seas.

I priced air out of Columbus into Seattle and departing from Los Angeles and it was in the $250.00-$300.00 range based on travel dates. Add your airport to pier transfers & a few pre and post cruise hotel stays and you’ve built a nice getaway.

Space is limited so contact your travel professional today! If you don’t have a personal travel agent contact for an NCL specialist.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Travel agents are staging a big comeback

Interested in a career that can take your places? Enjoy working with people in many different and challenging situations? Then consider becoming a travel agent working in a traditional store front agency or from home as a home based seller of travel.

Written off as a dinosaur in the age of the Internet and technology today the travel agency business is enjoying a brisk comeback and many agencies are actually experiencing record sales and profits.

The new agency business model includes a large amount of personal service and product knowledge. These are benefits that you cannot receive from any on-line booking site that I am aware of. Hurricane Dean just pitted live agents versus their web competitors and story after story provided information on how local travel agents worked to rebook and re accommodate their customers while you heard nothing but frustrations from travelers that couldn’t talk to their web site.

Here are a couple of articles from Smart Money magazine and the New York Times that discuss the rebirth of the travel agency business.

Locally travel agent training courses are offered on the Ironton and Proctorville campuses of Ohio University and on-line at Feel free to contact me for more information on a career in travel, tourism and hotel management.

Be kind to your travel agent and get out of town!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Professional travel agents score against hurricane Dean

I’ve read and heard countless new stories where travel agents have assisted their clients by their rearranging travel plans that have been interrupted by hurricane Dean. I’ve also seen an interview or two with frustrated travelers stranding in Mexico without the assistance of a personal travel agent. It seems that they have been unable to contact the web site that sold them the trip!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Breezing through the rental car check-in process

On most of my journeys I tend to use public transportation, chartered coach service or a friends vehicle so it’s been a while since I’ve rented a car. But on a recent vacation to Orlando I needed my own wheels. After some exhaustive research I decided that Alamo Rental offered the best deal for me.

I booked my reservation and noticed on their web site that I could check in early for my rental. So I followed the easy to use instructions inputted data like driver’s license and credit numbers and in a matter of a few key strokes I had a check in confirmation from them.

Their instructions stated that after reclaiming my luggage I was to proceed to their parking area located the category of the car that had selected, load my bags and drive to the check out gate. Out.

Arriving at the gate the attendant checked my paperwork and in a matter of minutes wished me a happy trip and I was on my way.

I noticed that there were lines of 20 plus people at the Alamo check in counter in baggage claim and also the parking lot office so I guesstimated that I saved myself a ½ hour or more.

No stress, no up selling or insurance offers just affordable convenience. The biggest problem of the day was selecting what color of car we wanted to drive around in.

Score one for Alamo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Take your blue jeans cruising with you!

Are the cruise lines dress codes keeping you from enjoying a vacation at sea?

Well Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) recently updated its dress code and says it will allow jeans in all restaurants for dinner, except for one designated venue (which varies per ship, but is typically the aft main dining room).

I’m not sure if the other companies will alter their dress codes but I’ll monitor the situation and keep you informed of any changes.

So now you don’t have the jeans excuse to use anymore! Call your travel agent & book your NCL cruise today!

Get specific cruise questions then contact me at

Thoughts on Disney World & Universal Studios

It was a very hot & humid week with crowds of tourists everywhere in Central Florida’s theme parks. With the temperature climbing many peoples’ patience and tolerance was tested as they experienced the theme parks of Disney and Universal Studios. As the day wore on it seemed that more & more of the magic was sweated off and the moods got ugly in the long queues that formed on every ride.

Reverting to my old coaching mode I decided to put a stop watch on a few rides. The average was for every 1 second on a ride you spent 2 minutes waiting in line. Not really my idea of fun but my companions wanted to ride.

An alternative to the long lines and wait times were the express fast pass programs offered at both Disney and Universal. The access to fast pass rides at Disney was included in the cost of your admission while at Universal Studios an extra fee of about $10.00 per person was added. However Universal has limited amounts of these “express” passes for sale and I was unable to take advantage of them.

Universal Studios needs to be congratulated for their affordable Meal Day-Eat All Day Long dining option. For about $20.00 per adult you could eat your way through the parks whereas at Disney I paid about $8.00 for a burger, fries and a coke.

Check back as I talk more about my Central Florida getaway.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Professional development & your travel agent

Professional development and continuing education are important aspects in many career fields including the travel agency business. My students will be some of the first ones to state that I stress this in class.

Actually in the agency business it is crucial for the successful sales person to really know the products that they are selling and to be able to relate this knowledge to their travelers. The job of the travel agent is to recommend the perfect vacation getaway for you their customer.

So the upgrading of individual product knowledge is vital and also one of the perks of being a travel agent. I call this a chance to travel and learn to earn.

There are a multitude of study options today. You read brochures, watch videos tapes and DVDs, attend seminars and complete on-line lessons. Past travelers and other agents are queried for their feedback on products and destinations and all of this data is compiled in the agent’s databank.

However in my opinion the most meaningful educational opportunity is the learning that is conducted on location. The industry refers to these journeys as “fam” or familiarization trips. They pull together all of your other studies methods and let you experience the product “live” and in the field as your traveler would. This allows you to tell your customer that I’ve been there, done that or I’ve flown that carrier or cruised with this specific cruise line.

I am off on one of research trips. As a graduate of The College of Disney Knowledge and the Universal Studios-Orlando Specialist programs I am required, yes required, to visit Disneyland, Disneyworld and Universal periodically to upgrade my personal knowledge. Grudgingly my bags are packed and I am off to hot and humid central Florida. My schedule is packed with hotel room inspections, coaster rides and Disney character breakfasts. Time is also allotted for some shopping and dining and if I’m lucky a round of golf. All of this work just to keep my professional credentials current. In addition to Disney I’ll have the chance to visit Universal Studios and inspect other area attractions, all in the interest of keeping knowledge and certifications up to date. Tough job but then someone has to do it.

A visit to Disney’s Wide World of Sports and the opportunity to catch the Cleveland Indians Gulf Coast Rookie League team play the Kissimmee Braves along with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers football practice is also jammed into an afternoon and evening.

I’ll slather on SPF 100 sun block as we spend the morning at Wet & Wild, a spectacular water park located on the International Drive strip. No rest in the afternoon as my schedule is filled with visits to the Disney water parks.

All work but a lot of play too! But that’s what a vacation travel agent has to do to be able to tell you, their travelers, what to see and do at a specific locale.

My Florida trips ends with a farewell dinner and I am sent north armed with tons of brochures and plenty of first hand experiences. These will be shared with travel students and customers alike. I will also share my knowledge with other travel agents in the office and community.

Most of the destination and product specialty programs have these field based research components. How can you talk about Scotland if you’ve never seen the lowlands or highlands? How can you tell a prospect about the differences between Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines if you haven’t sailed aboard them?

This personal testimonial the agent gives reassures the traveler when they are considering vacation options. I also believe that this is one of the major reasons that a knowledgeable travel agent adds more value to your trip than the one dimensional web site offers. The good agents should know what your travel motivations, needs and expectations are then recommend the appropriate cruise line, air carrier, resort destination or so forth.

Sound like an interesting career? We have the career training classes at Ohio University Ironton. Contact me at 740.533.4559, 800.636.0513 or and we’ll discuss how we can get your travel career off the ground.

Now where in the world is my next research trip going to? Vegas? Europe or a vacation at sea, who knows but my passport has been renewed and in the interest of education I’m ready to go.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Field research

One of the perks of the travel agency business is the opportunity & need to conduct field research. I'm off on an excursion to Orlando FLA. It's been a decade since my last visit to Walt Disney World so there are a lot of changes & upgrades at the various parks, resorts and hotels for me to investigate.

Based on the wifi service at my condo I may be able to share my impressions with you. Or I may just have post when I return to the river cities

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Credit cards: The cost of doing business.

Hats off to the airline finance folks. In their yield management efforts to squeeze every dime from the passengers they are now discussing passing on credit card processing costs to the consumer. They're even thinking of developing a model that would allow customers to pay in cash.

Perhaps someone should remind these executives that there are costs associated with doing business and they need to absorb them into the product pricing.