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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

History Mystery trip stop # 1

After a brief pause for breakfast and to stretch our legs we re-boarded the coach and proceeded to stop number 1, the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History and Blennerhassett Island.

The Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History located at 137 Juliana St, Parkersburg, WV is a great starting point before you take the ferry over to the island. The four-story brick building that houses the museum itself has an interesting past. The Starr Grocer Company built it for offices and as a warehouse in 1902. Not much has changed to the exterior façade over the years but the inside has been turned into three floors of intriguing archaeological and historical exhibits of the Blennerhassetts' and the area, extensive gift shop and video explaining the Blennerhassett’s story.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's a history mystery trip!

An anxious group waited patiently on the motor coach for me to divulge the destination of our history mystery trip. They were a diverse bunch consisting of Ohio University students majoring in history, travel and tourism and other disciplines along with community members bitten by the travel bug.

Prior to departure they were provided with a few hints as to our destination; a place once visited by the 2nd most hated man in America and a journey back in time when this region was the wilderness and the old frontier. The guesses reflected that many had given it plenty of thought but only one person chimed in: “Aaron Burr’s visit to Blennerhassett Island and the Old Northwest Territory!”

Correct I replied and we settled into our seats as we headed towards Blennerhassett Island and Parkersburg, WV then over to Marietta, OH.

With the mystery solved our mobile classroom would now whisk us to the various attractions where the content for our education on location experiential learning journey would come alive.

I’ll share our activities and discoveries in upcoming posts so keep checking back frequently

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Support them & they will come

A hearty congratulations to all of you in the region that have purchased tickets and flown Allegiant Air. From humble beginnings of a few flights from Huntington's Tri State airport to Orlando FL they have built their service up to include Ft Lauderdale FL and now are adding St Petersburg FL. For flight schedules, reservations and air/car/hotel packages contact your travel agent or on-line at

Even though some of the long established and “legacy” airlines have made losing hundreds of millions of dollars their business model, Allegiant and other low cost start up carriers have prospered by offering what customers want: low fares and great service.

And believe me if Allegiant and the other start-ups were not flying fairly full airplanes they would not continue to support a low load money losing market. So keep up the good work and support the carriers that listen to you. Sure fly the other guys when you have to but continue to help keep the no frills, low cost carriers in the air.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Become a home based travel agent for free

My previous past few posts have been dealing with the process of becoming a home based or outside travel agent legally, legitimately and without spending a fortune. Here’s some information on a host agency located in northwestern Ohio. They have ARC/IATA and CLIA credentials plus they are actively seeking home based travel agents. Here is an overview of their program:

· A no fee program - no start-up fee, no monthly fee and no annual renewal fee
· 90% commission split
· Exclusive cruise pricing program
· E&O insurance coverage
· Higher commissions from being a part of one of the industry's leading consortiums
· Agents only website complete with multiple booking engines
· Amadeus or Apollo GDS available to agent or agencies requiring a GDS system
· Product education and training programs available on demand
· Unlimited assistance provided by a dedicated staff of experienced agents

For more information visit their website at or contact them at

Note: I am recommending them as a service to those of you interested in becoming a home based outside travel agent. I do not receive any compensation, considerations or benefits from my actions.

There are many other excellent host agencies and if you’d like a list contact me.

Becoming affiliated with a host agency is your 1st and probably easiest step. Some of the next phases include acquiring a wide world of product knowledge, learning how to market yourself and finally how to sell, close and service the travel sale.

Plan on plenty of study and book work as your learn what and how to sell!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Travel technology trends

Here’s some interesting travel technology news that appeared in my inbox this week. I subscribe to plenty of on-line travel related sites so my inbox is always buzzing with facts and figures.

It appears that there are falling numbers of travelers who use the internet to both research and buy are declining in what is being called a "wake-up" call by Henry Harteveldt, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Here are some of his comments and observations: "What we're seeing is an early warning signal: fix the problem or else," he said. He added: "To keep online consumers interested in online booking, travel companies need to overhaul their systems to sell the way people want to buy. This marks the first time since 9-11 that the fast-growing online travel market has seen a decline.”

Forrester's most recent study this month found that the number of US leisure travel bookers fell 9% from 2005 to 2007.

This is interesting data as during the same time period the numbers of travelers using a live travel agent keeps increasing. Refer to some of my past posts for information on this trend.

You can read Harteveldt’s report here:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Travel agencies & outside sales agents

Now let’s talk about how a travel agency is accredited and makes it money. I’d also like to examine where the agency personnel both in the office agents and the home based ones fit in the mix.

A travel agency is actually a legal relationship in which one person (the agency or agent) acts for another (the agency’s client) in a business dealing with a third party (the travel suppliers). In today’s business environment the travel suppliers (airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels & so forth) authorize approved accredited agency to represent them and sell their products. In return for this representation service the suppliers (except most airlines) pay the agency a commission and in some instances reward them with overrides and free or reduced rate travel. NOTE: Frequently the commission is included in the base fare and is not added on by the agency so the sales price is generally the same from one agency to another as well as with most on-line agencies. However some very knowledgeable agents who know a trick or two can actually save you money. When selling a commissionable product most agencies do not charge a service fee. A service fee is generally applied when they sell a non commissionable product like an airline ticket and most on-line vendors are doing the same.

The two major authorities that issue agency credentials are the Airlines Reporting Corporation ( and the International Air Transport Association ( To obtain ARC and/or IATA certification some of the processes include completing an application, passing a key personnel and security inspection, have adequate working capital, be open for business, and have a certified airline ticketing expert on your staff. There are other requirements but space requirements prohibit me from going into greater detail.

Once approved the agency receives a unique ARC/IATA identification number and is now approved to sell travel. It is this unique id number that both the in agency staff and outside home based agents use when reserving travel for their customers. It identifies them as professional agents of an approved agency and the supplier deal with them accordingly.

To increase revenue and expand their markets aggressive agency owners and managers are now employing outside (or home based) travel agents to help sell the travel products. Many legitimate travel agencies offer this service plus a wide range of other options at no charge to the outside agent. The agency benefits from increased sales and commissions and the travel agent earns a share of the agency’s commission from the trips that they have sold. This is a completely legal relationship and I’ll cover more about the host agency and the outside sale agent partnership a little later.

The largest investment that beginning home based agents will have to make is their time. That’s time to learn the business, the different suppliers and the differences between them, the destinations, lodging options, meals, attractions and the sales process. The rewards can be cash along with free or reduced rate travel. A modest payment to your host agency for business cards or liability insurance is a fair deal.

Fire away and email me your questions at or call my office at 740.533.4559. Happy travels!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines recent take on card mills

Here's an excerpt from a RCL news release:

"ROYAL CARIBBEAN'S three brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara, began terminating their business relationships with "certain travel-related companies that we have concluded are in the card mill business." The lines said they took the action in an effort to prevent a "growing and troubling trend within the travel industry." They noted that card mills offer consumers the ability to become a "travel agent" or to receive travel agent credentials with little or no professional training or certification. Such action, they said, can lead to "negative consumer experiences" that undermine the integrity and business reputations of accredited and certified travel agents. The three lines are encouraging legitimate, independent agents to become affiliated with an accredited host agency or to register on their agent Web site,"

I'll talk more about the agency and "host agency" concepts in a later blog.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Travel agency careers rekindled?

Recently I’ve been very critical of “instant travel agent” opportunities and “card mills” credentialing schemes as a means to enter the travel agency business. Please don’t get me wrong there are still some very legitimate and inexpensive ways for you to get involved in travel sales & earn money and possible free travel.

Today is actually one of the best times to consider becoming a travel agent. We have a generation of experienced agents retiring and there are not many trained replacements out there in the job market. In addition to these store front agent positions the personal computer and the Internet has changed the way the travel products are being sold it and has also helped develop a new distribution niche of the home based travel agent.

Yes people are buying some travel products online but research indicates that these are simple travel plans easy for the do-it-yourselfer to accomplish. Research also shows that for the more complex trips and itineraries many travelers are relying on the knowledge and expertise of a human being, namely a travel agent. A few of the CEO’s of the large online mega travel agencies have recently confessed to using the services of a live, professional agent instead of their own online site for their reservations. Interesting revelations and what does that say about the real value of booking on their sites!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Travel insurance purchase statistics

Thinking about buying travel insurance for your next journey? Then take a look at these stats.

Squaremouth, a leading online travel insurance comparison site, in late September unveiled its study of four years (2003-2007) of sales statistics drawn from 17 insurance companies and 250 protection policies. The study provides some interesting data on when, where and how consumers buy travel protection.
Among key findings are:
  • California (17%), New York (9%) and Florida (6.9%) are top 3 states for policy purchases. Texas and New Jersey are next.
  • 85% of policy sales occur between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 88% of policy purchases are for foreign trips, 12% for domestic.
  • 44.2% of policies are bought by single travelers, 39.7% by couples.
  • Insured foreign trips average 16.34 days and cost $2,945.
  • Insured domestic trips average 10.18 days and cost $2,312.
  • Age 50-60 (20.77%) is largest group of policy buyers, followed by age 30-40 group (18..34%), age 40-50 (18.29%) and age 60-70 (15.21%).

Still want more? Then visit

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Multi level travel marketer now is selling cars

Last July an article ran in Travel Trade magazine concerning multilevel marketing and the selling of travel & used cars.

The article states that multilevel marketer YTB International announced that their networks of “referring travel agents” are selling used cars.

They also disclosed some financial data that indicated they had paid out $2.5 million in commissions to their RTAs. I did some simple math and discovered that each of the 82,932 “travel agents” is earning an average commission of just over $30 per quarter, or $120 per year.

I am sure YTB will be successful in the car business. After all if they can convince 82,932 people to sign up as “travel agents” and pay YTB $600 per year to earn $120, they should have no problem selling them all cars!

After all selling cruises and tour packages is just the same as selling cars!

Here’ the link to the full article that was published July 18th article in Travel Trade, a travel agency trade publication:

Instant travel agent part 2

For years the travel industry has waged an ongoing battle against multilevel marketing scams and card mills. It just won needed consumer media attention from columnist John Frenaye Jr., who blasted travel frauds in a feature titled, “Want to be an instant travel agent? Beware!” Here’s the link to his article:

Like all businesses there are legitimate ways to enter the travel agency business and I’ll discuss these later. But to the best of my knowledge there is no get rich quick track into travel sales.
What was really amazing to me was that this lady was a professional with an advanced degree After years of study and practical experience in her field did she think someone could buy the same credentials and became an instant specialist and a peer of hers?

I’m sure she would discount the diploma mill degree concept as a fly by night scheme and the only way to achieve a position comparable to hers was through professional training, education and experience.

Maybe I’m old fashioned but if it seems too good to be true then it’s too good to be true. But then if we are willing to pay a one time franchise charge of $500.00 and a low monthly fee of $50.00 or so then we all could be lawyers, doctors, dentists and yes even travel agents!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Instant Travel Agent?

I bumped into a prospective student at the mall the other day and she shared some interesting news with me. This lady had asked a lot of very intelligent questions about the process of becoming a travel agent (home based) along with the training and licensing requirements.

She was now a professional travel agent, fully credentialed and ready to make a ton of money selling cruises, tour packages and airline tickets. A business card with a company name, website and her title of “referring travel agent” was proudly handed to me. This instant agent even offered to help me with any upcoming travel plans.

It was aggressive marketing and sales pitch on her part but her business card, in my mind, omitted some key business details. There was no business address, no telephone or fax contacts, not even an email address. It just listed her name along with that of her company and a booking website.

I asked the simple question of how you get started. Her response was “I paid a start up fee in the $500.00-$600.00 range plus a monthly $50-$100 charge and I had become an instant travel agent. She was now a true professional ready to advise her clients on the intricacies of the travel business.

Is that all it takes to become a professional travel agent? Just a website? A business card?

Travel is big money and scams are ever present so stay tuned as there is more to follow on this topic!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fall foliage season is near!

Here's a file photo of Shawnee State Lodge located west of Portsmouth, OH.

Fall’s arrival means the vibrant colors of red, orange and gold will start appearing in the forests and byways of our region. This is a wonderful time of the year to take a drive, hike or ride a bike and experience natures’ pallet of seasonal color changes first hand.

Ohio’s peak fall foliage viewing season is still more than two weeks away for most of the Buckeye state and it is pretty much the same for Kentucky and West Virginia. However, the first fall color reports from across the Ohio indicate trees are already beginning to don their autumn finery in some northeastern areas.

To discover more about the fall colors the states have crated some web sites and toll free information numbers. Ohio’s weekly fall color forecast will be available at or may be obtained by calling the state’s travel and tourism hot line at 1-800-BUCKEYE.

The Kentucky Department of Tourism offers a helpful online Kentucky Color Fall Guide at or call 1-800-225-8747

Fall too has arrived in the Mountain State and leaf peepers are anxiously awaiting the colorful foliage that accompanies it. In a state where forests cover nearly 80 percent or 12 million acres of land, even the most experienced observer is rarely disappointed when the leaves reach peak color. For West Virginia color updates visit or call 1-800-CALL WVA.

This is a great time for a weekend getaway, a chance to explore the small towns and many festivals of the region. Travel information, suggested driving itineraries, festival schedules and a wealth of other helpful travel information can be obtained from the state tourism offices.

The Travel Professor is dropping the top on the convertible and heading off to northeastern Ohio where I plan to take in the colors, savor a local clambake and visit some of the regions many fine wineries. Hopefully our paths will cross on our journeys of discovery.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mickey & Minnie Mouse are going Hawaiian

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced that it plans to purchase 21 acres of oceanfront property on Hawaii's island of Oahu. The property, located on the island's western side in the Ko Olina Resort & Marina, Honolulu's premier resort destination, will be home to Disney's first mixed-use family resort outside of its theme park developments. The expansive resort, scheduled to open in 2011, will have more than 800 units including hotel rooms and villas for Disney Vacation Club, which is Disney's rapidly growing timeshare business. Part of the Disney resort hotel in Ko Olina will be dedicated to Disney Vacation Club, a timeshare program that helps families enjoy flexibility and savings on vacations for decades to come.

Designs for the resort are still being finalized by Walt Disney Imagineers, who have been traveling extensively throughout Hawaii for the past several months as they garner ideas to develop a resort celebrating Hawaii's vibrant culture and rich heritage. The team is working closely with local architects, engineers and cultural advisors, conducting research and exploring the region, building on a tradition that has long been a hallmark in the creation of everything from Disney films to Disney vacation destinations. Plans for the resort hotel are expected to be finalized and revealed in early 2008.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Vegas-style hotel opens in Detroit MI on Oct 3rd

This is great news for all the gaming enthusiasts out there!

MGM Grand Detroit says its $800 million hotel opening this week is the first ever Las Vegas-Style destination built in a major metropolitan core. "Upon opening, MGM Mirage (parent company of MGM Grand Detroit) will have invested more than $1 billion into the community, demonstrating its commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Detroit and its intent to fuel economic growth while increasing business and leisure travel to the area," according to the company.

Key features in the new MGM Grand Detroit:

  • Four hundred rooms and suites ranging from 510 to 2225 square feet.
  • A 20,000-square-foot world-class spa with every imaginable amenity -- the only resort-style spa in southeast Michigan.
  • Three signature restaurants by renowned chefs Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck, and 24-hour in-room dining from Puck.
  • Five high-energy nightlife destinations.
  • Thirty thousand square feet of meeting and event space.
  • Advanced in-room technology that includes a telephone "Butler" with color touch-screen features that enables guests to access property information, schedule wake-up calls, order room service and connect to the Internet without picking up the phone.

You can visit them on-line at or call 1-800-MGM-DETR