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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Drive to your cruise ship

As airlines cut back on the number of flights and passenger dissatisfaction grows, the idea of driving to a cruise ship, unpacking once and enjoying entertainment, meals and sightseeing at various ports of call is becoming more popular.

Instead of the traditional south Florida departures many of the major cruise lines have redeployed their fleets to alternative U.S. ports. Cruise ships now depart from ports in Baltimore, Charleston SC, New York City, Jacksonville FL, New Orleans and many other coastal cities. Many of these locales are within an easy days drive from the Tri-State and even with $4.00 a gallon gas they offer an affordable alternative to air travel.

I allow myself a minimum of 6 hours travel time by air unless I catch a great deal out of Huntington’s Tri-State or Charleston’s Yeager airports. My calculation includes a 2 to 2 1/12 hour drive to the airport, an hour plus to check once you arrive there then a couple of hours travel time. Add in another 6 hours of drive time and now many of these east coast ports can be reached within a 12 hour car trip.

When I fly departing on schedule and arriving at my destination in time to catch the ship is always my main concern. With driving you control the pace of your trip instead of the airlines. I always recommend departing so you arrive the day before the ship departs. Spend the night in a local hotel then mid day head over to the ship relaxed instead of stressed out from a day of hectic air travel.

Concerning group cruise travel (20 plus travelers) I have priced out a few departures and discovered that motor coach transportation is cost effective. The bus has frequently been around $100.00 per person cheaper than air and again allows for plenty of pre-departure time lee way.

Got travel questions? Send them to

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New lost cost air service out of Columbus Ohio

In today’s airline environment of flight schedule reductions, increased fees and surcharges some good news was recently shared by AirTran Airways. The low cost carrier recently announced plans to begin service from Columbus, Ohio on November 6th. The carrier will offer nonstop daily flights between Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta, Orlando and Ft. Myers. Passengers can also connect to 37 AirTran Airways destinations through their Atlanta hub.

According to their news release: “AirTran Airways is thrilled to be offering our unparalleled service out of the Columbus Ohio market,” said Kevin Healy, senior vice president of marketing and sales for AirTran Airways. “We are confident that our passengers will enjoy traveling to/from such fantastic destinations. Business travelers will appreciate our full-sized Boeing jets with Business Class seating available on every flight while leisure travelers will love our low-fares and friendly service.”

For reservations contact your local travel agent or

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More research bullish on the roles of travel agents

PhosCusWright research recently documented the vital role of travel agents. According to their research travel agents are not only here to stay but how important their role will be in growing the travel industry. PhosCusWright projects:
  • Travel agent cruise sales will grow from $9.6 billion in 2007 to $10.9 billion in 2011.
  • Travel agent sales in hotel/tour sales will grow from $13.3 billion to $17.2 billion in the same period.
  • Travel agent sales for car rentals will remain stagnant through 2011.
  • Travel agent of air sales will continue to decline through 2011 when they will total $9.7 billion.

PhosCusWright is bullish about the entire travel business even though our economy is sluggish and predicts travel agents will play an even larger role in selling vacations. They conclude their report by stating "Agents are in control of their own destiny because the market is there"

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why is the number of on line travel bookers falling?

This year US travel sales booked online will reach $105 billion, up 12% from 2007. Internet research company eMarketer forecasts that US online leisure and unmanaged business travel sales (including airline, hotel, rental car, vacation package, intercity rail and cruise) will reach $105 billion. Furthermore it predicts that from 2007 to 2012 online sales will increase at an 11.6% average annual rate.

Even though online travel sales are growing the trend also shows that fewer travelers are booking their trips online.

"The fact that fewer travelers are booking online is not due to economic concerns—online travel bookers are an affluent demographic—it is caused by frustrations related to the planning and booking capabilities of online travel agencies," says Jeff Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer and author of the new report, US Online Travel: Planning and Booking. "This, in turn, is spurring a renewed appreciation for the expertise and personalized services offered by traditional travel agents."

“In other words, online travel sites are steering customers back to offline travel agents—a complete turnaround of what has been happening in the category for the last decade. Not so long ago industry observers cast traditional travel agents as has-beens," says Mr. Grau. "Perhaps this has helped them to focus on what they do best: provide travel expertise and personalized service."

According to the current research growing customer dissatisfaction with online travel agencies (OTAs) stems from unfriendly booking engines, poor navigation tools and the lack of human interaction (customer service).

Most OTAs offer the same products and have had a hard time building customer loyalty and have driven travelers right into the open arms of traditional travel agencies.

Support your local travel agent and Get Out of Town!

New U.S. Passport card good news for Caribbean cruisers

The U.S. State Department has started issuing U.S. Passport Cards and has advised travel suppliers and travel agents that they should expect to see the new document soon. The Passport Card has been developed as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to serve as a less-costly alternative to the traditional Passport. The Passport Card is an acceptable form of identification for entry into the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and most Caribbean locations at land and sea ports of entry only. It is not valid for air travel. The cost of the Passport Card is $45 for travelers 16 and older and $35 for travelers under 16 years of age.

If you have travel plans that may take you beyond Canada, Mexico, Central America and/or the Caribbean then the traditional Passport is the route to go.

For more information on the U.S. Passport and Passport card contact your local post office, travel agency or visit the U.S. State Department's website

Friday, August 22, 2008

Locating the perfect host agency

Here is a link to an April 2007 listing of host agencies. More current listing may also be available at or

You’ll notice that start up & membership fees run from zero to thousands of dollars. For a beginning agent I suggest looking at the no fee agencies like or These are both Ohio based companies & have zero start up fees.

As you gain experience and build up a clientele then you may want to join another host agency that offers a more complex range of services. This is where and I would expect to pay a fee.

Another way to sign on as outside travel seller is to enquire at local agency. Simply ask if these use outside sales people. If the answer is yes continue your investigation if they say no then move along. One plus of a local host is their availability and possible use of their office space for sales and training.

Please remember that I am neither endorsing nor recommending any specific host agency but will gladly help answer your personal questions.

Happy travels! Email your questions/comments to

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travel agent's educational opportunity from Carnival Cruise Lines

Earlier in the week I talked about educational (FAM) opportunities that industry suppliers provides for travel agents and group leaders.

Here's one that ended in the Travel Professor's inbox this afternoon:

Join Jenny Halligan Business Development Director for Carnival Cruise Lines on a "Fun Ship" FAM Trip in Miami, October 24 - 27, 2008.

Carnival Cruise Lines is pleased to extend to you an invitation to learn what the "Fun Ship" experience is all about. You will have the opportunity to tour the CARNIVAL LIBERTY, CARNIVAL VALOR, CARNIVAL DESTINY, CARNIVAL VICTORY and CARNIVAL IMAGINATION.

Experience the cuisine and participate in our selling skills seminar. We guarantee you will return to your office with an enthusiasm about our product that will result in more Carnival sales for your agency. Your weekend includes transfers, three nights hotel accommodation (based on double occupancy), three shipboard luncheons, two breakfasts and one dinner.

The price for this educational trip is ridiculously low plus reserved for industry member only. I’ve sent a message to Carnival requesting permission to share the price but what I really want to do is illustrate the type training that is available for travel agents.

Carnival has an on-line Carnival University plus they offer these experiential experiences. They also offer Carnival College at Sea-what a way to learn about cruising the Carnival way.

Happy travels! Got travel questions or concerns email them me at

More on becoming a travel agent

I’d like to get back to Linda’s question concerning getting started making money as a travel agent.

Once you have decided that you want to pursue this as a career you will to establish a relationship with an authorized industry appointed travel agency (host agency). Regardless of whether you’re looking for full or part time employment either as a home based agent or in store front travel agency you will need permission to use their industry credentials when you make reservations and eventually earn commission of these sales. These professional agency identification numbers are what the suppliers utilized to identify you as a legitimate agency making you eligible to earn commissions on their products.

I would look for a host agency that wants you to succeed by selling travel for them and offers to affiliate with you for little or no costs. A good host agency should make industry specific available training available to you either free or at a nominal cost. For example the Sandals workshop that I recently attended cost me $25.00 while plenty of other training programs are offered free of charge. You just need your agency’s credentials (id numbers) to access the training. Supplying free or very affordable errors and omission insurance is another plus. There are many other factors so if you’re still interested it is time check out the information posted on the websites of NACTA (National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents) and the Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN).

I still believe that if you work (the optimal word here) smart and on your business you can earn $$ and qualify for free or reduced rate travel. But you have to sell travel to earn these travel benefits. This is where some of the MLM pitch people cloud the issue.

Believe me if all I had to do was to plunk down a couple hundred of dollars to get a free trip Europe I would be asking “Can I pay with my credit card?”

It all comes back to that nasty four letter word WORK! And I would also like to add the 5 letter word LEARN to the equation. In others word you have to LEARN to EARN.

Want to talk personally about becoming a travel agent just email me at and I will be glad to answer all of your questions.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am neither recruiting nor selling affiliations for any specific travel agent or agency. This is just an op-ed piece.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting Sandals Resorts certified

Tuesday Aug 19th was a glamorous day clear blue skies a light breeze and low humidity. Just perfect conditions to be out on a golf course but I was inside a meeting room at the Sheraton North Hotel in Sharonville OH.

I was participating in a Sandals Resorts certification class completing product specific training that many industries require of their employees. Professional development, continuing education and acquiring certifications are frequently encouraged or demanded by employers so I was joined by about 30 other agents.

So forgoing the golf course until this weekend I completed phase 1 the classroom training component of the Certified Sandals Specialist (CSS) program. We were introduced to the products and services that makes Sandals the leading “Luxury Included” premier all inclusive Caribbean resort company.

Phase two of the certification process will be the tough part. I will need to travel to Caribbean islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua and the Bahamas. During my journeys there I will have physically inspect Sandals sleeping rooms and suites, dine in the restaurants, enjoy the water sports and golf courses. All work and no play just in the name of professionalism. Actually for me it will be both an educational and enjoyable experience.

Yes I will do this all of this in the name of certification and professionalism. It will take of couple of trips and a few bucks but the results will be worth it. I will be able to advise you the traveler or honeymooner on the advantages of a Sandals vacation discuss the pros and cons of each Sandals resort then match you with the perfect property.

Sandals is not the only company the offers specialization and certification courses. Many cruise lines, tour operators, hotels, railways, rental cars and destinations conduct training classes locally and/or on location. Professional development opportunities in the travel industry are almost limitless. I have been fortunate to complete many of these programs and recommend them to all travel agents that encounter.

Another positive outcome of this session was the opportunity to interact with travel agents from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. We shared plenty of stories and information like who is the best tour operator to use for a Sandals trip where are the best beaches in Mexico or the Caribbean plus the customers from hell tales. Hopefully you do not fall into that category! Good useful information that will be shared with other travelers.

It’s time to book some air flights into Montego Bay Jamaica and get phase 2 off the ground.

Happy travels! Does becoming a travel agent sound like fun? Email me at and I’ll answers your questions and get your new career off the ground.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting Started as a Home Based Travel Agent question

Linda from Wheelersburg asked: “Steve you have been very critical of what you call card mills but can someone still become a home based travel agent and make money?".

Absolutely! If you have a passion about selling travel and are willing to work at it you can earn good if not great money.

I believe that you need to have a passion about a product or destination and become a specialist in that area. For example if you love cruising and have only sailed on Carnival then become a Carnival Cruise Line specialist. As you get comfortable selling one product then progress and study a new one like Norwegian Cruise Lines.

There are many programs available to help your learn what to and how to sell. Both Carnival and NCL offer web based and ship training classes.

There are professional organizations that offering sales training and product knowledge classes. In the cruise industry the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers some excellent and affordable training sessions. Once you get involved in the industry you will be amazed at the training opportunities.

By investing your time and energy you become a product specialist and offer your knowledge and expertise to your potential cruise customers.

This is a good start but there in much more to talk about so check back here frequently. We need to examine topics like locating the perfect host agency, how to sell and market yourself.

Got travel questions? Email them to

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hotel searches

Earlier today I mentioned that I was heading to the Greater Cincinnati region for a Sandals Resorts seminar. The workshop hotel was offering a reduced conference rate of $129.00 per night but my professional development budget is limited so it’s time for plan B.

Plan B was to do a quick search that provided alternate lodging options within a specified distance. I secured a hotel within ½ miles of my morning meeting location at a fraction of the cost.

I gave up the comfort beds, restaurant, cocktail lounge and other amenities but scored a $39.99 a night rate. And they have ESPN on cable in the room so I can watch the Browns & the NFL football Giants tonight. Plus I've got a microwave for the popcorn!

Coaching point: Be flexible! There are multiple options.

Happy travels!

Discovering the Sandals Experience

I am off to Cincinnati to attend an early morning workshop hosted by Sandals. Sandals Resorts offer the ultimate experience of all-inclusive excellence in the Caribbean. Sandals delights couples in love with supremely luxurious accommodations, gourmet candlelit dining for two, gorgeous tropical settings and some of the world's most exquisite beaches.

Golf, water sports, engaging entertainment and other splendid recreational activities are also part of the Sandals mystique.

I have visited all of their Caribbean resorts but it has been awhile so it’s time for some training and product updates.

I’ll share my discoveries a little later. Happy travels!

Huntington Museum of Art & YTB Travel

Guests were in from out of town and being Civil War enthusiasts I thought a trip to view the photographic exhibit at the Huntington Museum of Art (HMOA) and dining at Pullman Square would be a perfect way to show off our region.

Not really sure when the HMOA was open I checked out their web presence and was shocked by a link I discovered on their home page. Initially blown out of the water but what was displayed I crossed my fingers and clicked on the “Turn Your Vacations into Donations” button.

I have been very critically of the “become an instant travel agent and get rich quick” pyramid schemes (scams) that are everywhere and now on the HMOA website.

I dismissed ( a year or so ago as one of these pyramid operations. Now the states of California and Illinois have brought legal proceedings against these folks and are siding with my opinion.

Travel always has and will continue to be a major fund raiser for organizations large and small. It is my hope that the HMOA is only selling travel via their website and not recruiting people to buy into the YTB instant travel agent program.

What if you have travel questions like “What is the difference between Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean cruise lines or is there a difference between staying downtown or on the Strip in Las Vegas?”

Who do you ask at the HMOA? The curator? Executive Director? Doubtful and I'm sure “Just check our website” will be the textbook reply.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Product review: The Cruising Caddy

I came across a new travel gadget called the Cruising Caddy recently. It is a handy little tote bag that holds a lot.

This caddy will hold a 1.5 liter bottle of water or if you’re shopping in the Caribbean a liter bottle of local rum fits nicely. It’s got a couple of convenient pockets to stash your passport, wallets, flash stick memory cards & cruise cabin key cards.

I am used to using a book bag-back pack bag and find myself frequently searching through the various pockets and pouches looking for items. This compact
Cruise Caddy will reduce my search time because it will also limit the amount of stuff I can tote along. If I’m off on a shore excursion heading to the golf course or shopping mission it is a perfect companion. But when I’m heading to the beach then I need the large bags to fit in all the beach gear.

Most definitely it will accompany me on my next vacation. And my mother a retired travel agent loved it! We had to buy her one to take home.

Got travel questions? Email them to

Results of my Las Vegas package price shopping exercise

My December Columbus OH to Las Vegas trip has been researched the data analyzed and a booking decision reached.

The winner based on a price of $424.53 and desired flight schedules was the on-line mega travel agency followed by an a la carte booking process that created a package rate of $430.20. This rate was achieved by booking the air directly with Continental and the rooms on

I search about dozen sites some were travel agent only and the other general consumer ones. The prices varied by a few bucks on most sites but some suppliers like Continental Vacations did offer the IP as part of their vacation deals.

My search took about 10 to 15 minutes and I am fairly confident that for my travel dates, times and hotel choice that $425.00 is the going rate. There may be cheaper rates on different dates or properties but I’m locked in to these because of the conference dates.

Also please beware that travel prices are like oil and stock prices which means they will fluctuate often drastically. My advice is once you find a price you can live with then purchase the tickets and/or package arrangements. Yes you know your pricing comfort zone so when the rates fall within that range it’s a buy time.

Happy travels!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fare shopping for a Las Vegas package

There’s a conference and tradeshow in Las Vegas that I’d like to attend so I thought I’d try a new site at least to me to search for airfares. This is one of those web sites that will price out your air, hotel and car travel needs on a variety of travel booking search engines.

My travel dates are departing from Columbus to Vegas in the morning of December 1st 2008 with a return on Friday afternoon Dec 5th 2008. At I had a selection of 12 web sites to price my air trip on.,, all of the major search vehicles were present so with one click my travel requirements was sent to a dozen sites.

My faithful old computer took its time but site by site and side by side the results were finally displayed. As expected there was very little difference in the air fare. The lowest fares were all on Continental Airlines (CO) and ranged from $332.00 thru $340.00 with the difference being the taxes based on the route flown plus some small booking fees.

Next step was to visit and check directly with the source. Same dates, same time and same fare of $337.50. Armed with a Continental Airline affinity credit card it makes sense to me that when I am ready to book I’ll will have my travel agent book it on their agents only Continental web portal directly plus I’ll with the CO credit card. This will earn me extra OnePass (frequent flyer program) bonus miles plus I’ll collect mile on my flown segments.

But there are still two more research steps to be completed so I hope the $337.50 fare last for about 15 minutes. Step two is researching air & hotel package prices and step three is to price the hotel separately. I’ll combine the hotel prices with the air and essentially create my own package.

There are 4 Las Vegas hotels that I’m going to price out-the Imperial Palace, Excalibur, Luxor and the Tropicana. I am going to keep all the variables-dates, times, carrier and hotels the same so I can determine the best value.

Next I will analyze and interpret the data then make my reservation.

Hopefully this process will only take a matter of minutes for me as I am aware of what sites to search but this could take the novice travel planner much longer as you sort through the multitude of air & hotel package web sites .

For the novice travel planner you may want to get a travel agent involved and have them check out the package deals for you.

It’s time to resume my search so I’m signing off & but will report my findings later.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How does a travel agent make money?

For years it has been a mystery to many people as to how travel agents eked out their humble existence. Mystery solved: We got (get) paid to tell people where to go!

Actually it is a fairly simple business model comparable to the insurance industry.
We (travel agents) make money on what we sell. As authorized agents for our suppliers (cruise lines, tour operators, hotels, trains, a few airlines & others) pay us to represent (sell) their interests.

Many agents are multiple line representatives selling the world while others have specialized and only sell certain products or destinations.

Today’s agents are located in brick & mortar shops, on the Net and home based.

Recent trends are reporting that many travelers are researching their travel needs on the Internet but making the actual reservations with a live travel agent.

The travel process for many travelers is a combination of high tech & high touch. The Net is the high tech while the personal interaction with their live travel agent is the high touch.

Interested in becoming a home based travel agent? Email me at

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Taking Off As A Home Based Travel Agent!

In previous posts I talked about some potential scams circulating out there promising to turn you into an instant travel agent thereby entitling you to free travel and thousands of dollars in commissions.

These inflated promises have really stretched the truth but YES YOU CAN legally, legitimately and honestly work and earn as a home based travel agent.

Technically a home based travel agent is anyone engaged in the marketing and selling of travel products from a home office. Your home office could be your lap top, an Internet connection and a cell phone. There are a wide variety of home based travel agent programs for you to explore so do your homework. You can spend thousands of dollars to get started or affiliate with a host agency for nothing.
As a field based travel agent you find your customers, determine their needs then book the appropriate travel products. You act as an authorized outside representative of an accredited licensed travel agency usually referred to your "host agency." You use their credentials when you book with the cruise lines, tour operators, hotel and other industry suppliers. The host agency normally handles the business transactions, provides/supplies the travel documents and functions as the liaison between you, your clients and the suppliers.

In exchange for your services the host agency agrees to share the commissions paid by travel suppliers according to a negotiated percentage split. This commission split is based on how much work you do or don’t do. Do all the work yourself and you should earn the bulk of the commission.

I’ll continue to expand home based travel agent opportunities this in future posts. Please due your research invest plenty of your time before you invest your cash!
Getting affiliated with a host agency is the easy part. The hard parts are learning who (product knowledge) to sell, how to sell (oh say can you say salesmanship) and where to sell (who are my customers & how do I market to them).

Happy travels!

More bad news for YTB referring travel agents

The problems for (YTB) continue to multiply. Following last week’s legal action by the California Attorney General a class action law suit was filed in a federal court in Illinois and a regional Better Business Bureau (BBB) released complaints about YTB.

According to industry reports the federal action was filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Illinois charging that YTB was operating an illegal pyramid scheme.

Two plaintiffs brought forth the suit and are seeking class action status on behalf of as many as 1,000 people who were members of the YTB travel network. As with the California suit, the defendants are YTB International Inc., YourTravelBiz.Com, YTB Travel Network Inc., YTB Travel Network of Illinois and its technology unit Rezconnect Technologies.

I admit that for today’s consumer there is a confusing mix of travel sellers and programs out there. When someone wants to sell you on the concept of recruiting travel agents walk but yet run away from the offer.
If you would like to learn how to sell travel and earn $$ and possibly qualify for free/reduced rate travel then you need to explore the “outside sales” approach.

I’ll explain more about this home based travel seller approach in future posts.
Got travel questions? Email them to me at

Monday, August 11, 2008

Last minute FLA flight specials from Huntington's Tri-State airport

Looking for a late summer beach getaway? Allegiant Air has some $29.00 each way airfares from Huntington Tri-State airport to St. Pete Beach in sunny FLA. The dates that I checked were August 18th thru the 22nd. Act now and enjoy the Gulf Coast!

You should be able to snag some great summer green fees and off season hotel rates so visit the
St. Petersburg/Clearwater Visitors Center or call your travel agent for assistance in planning your Gulf Golf getaway.

Allegiant Air’s website and check back frequently for low last minute specials!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to find a good travel agent

BS from Russell, KY asked “Hey Steve you’ve recently talked about finding a clean hotel room. Do you have any thoughts on how we can find a good travel agent or tour operator?”

BS that is a great question actually 2 different questions. One concerns finding a good travel agent while the second one deals with locating a tour operator.

Let’s take a look at finding the right travel agent for you first. If you find and work with a solid agent then they will address the second question of finding a good tour operator for your trip.

I believe that there are two ways to check out a personal travel agent and see if you are a good fit. Your first step should be to seek word of mouth referrals from friends, business associates or basically anyone whose opinion you would trust. Have them suggest names of agents that they’ve worked with and would use again.

Secondly I would interview the prospective agents. After all you will be entrusting them with both your finances and vacation plans.

Questions that I would ask: Have you been there? If not do you send your clients there? Can you recommend a tour operator, airline, cruise line, hotel and so forth that will meet my expressed needs? Why are you recommending these specific suppliers? Are you a certified specialist in this area? What destinations do they have a passion for?

My list of interview questions can continue but I believe that you have the idea.

Do you feel like you’ve developed a personal rapport with this agent and that you understand other? Or do you catch the drift that you are just bothering them with your inquiries? Do your personalities click or clash?

If you get that warm fuzzy feeling that a professional friendship is in the works then this is probably the agent you should work with. I truly feel that as customers we like to do business with people that we like and if it seems that you’re progressing in that direction stay with that agent.

Also be guided by the "caveat emptor" (let the buyer beware) strategy. Do whatever checking you can, but be careful. Pay with a credit card when possible and insist on a timetable for delivery of tickets and documents. Obtain the quotes in writing and read all of the fine print. Buy travel insurance to cover big up-front payments. Be willing to pay a bit more for the assurance of dealing with a supplier you trust or upgrading to the proper product.

I suggest buying local with a traditional store front or home based agent. There are just way too many websites out there that promise the world but don’t deliver. The Net is a wonderful research tool but the local person adds accountability and hopefully saves you both time and money.

So BS do your homework and trust your instincts! Does this make sense?

Got travel questions? Email

Friday, August 8, 2008

Illinois Attorney General investigates (YTB)

Yesterday I informed you that the California Attorney General's office was filing suit against YTB ( and today I received news that this action is now being followed by an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's office.

This is great news for me and countless number of travel agents and travel industry and I congratulate the states are finally taking action against the card mills and MLM companies. These companies and organizations make unbelievable and unobtainable promises to these “instant” agents then send them forth a religious fervor claiming to be professional travel agents to pry on you the customer. With a horde of unqualified $499.95 wonders out there claiming to be a professional travel and offering to get you a great deal I can understand why some folks shy away from the real travel agent.

As long as people are looking for a get rich quick scheme in a box (or web site) and willing to pay for instant credentials the battle will continue against scam artists. But at least action is being initiated to haul the current generation of card mills and MLM’ers.

There are dedicated truly professional travel agents available to assist you in your vacation and/or business planning. In a latter post I’ll share some thoughts about how to locate a good agent.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Postscript on becoming your own YTB travel agent

I wrote earlier today about an investment opportunity in an on-line travel agency offered by YTB ( and here's an interesting twist that appeared in my email inbox this morning.

On Wednesday August 6th California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit, which seeks $25 million in fines and restitution, charges YTB with operating a “gigantic pyramid scheme” that recruited tens of thousands of members with deceptive claims that members could earn huge sums of money through its online travel agencies.

“ operates a gigantic pyramid scheme that is immensely profitable to a few individuals on top and a complete rip-off for most everyone else,” Brown said. “Today’s lawsuit seeks to shut down the company’s unlawful operation before more people are exploited by the scam.” The attorney general’s office issued a statement that said and its affiliates operate an illegal pyramid scheme that only benefits members if and when they find enough new members to join the scam.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and other travel industry suppliers have already pulled YTB's credentials and do not permit YTB agents to sell their products.

I'm glad that I opted out of this investment opportunity!

Got travel questions? Email

Own your own travel agency pitch: Too good to be true?

A fanatical representative of YTB ( read my blog and figured that I was a perfect recruit. She has been aggressively trying to sell me on the virtues of becoming an YTB travel agent.

“It’s a gold mine! All you have to do is direct people to your personalized web site and have them book their travel. The money will start flowing in. Better yet recruit them to be referring travel agents (RTA) for you and you’ll make even more! Tell your friends, relatives and anyone you run into that you’re a travel agent. Give them your business card and you are on your way to free travel and mega bucks!” she explained.

She figured she had me hooked so the pitch continued “Your initial investment is only $449.95 to set up an “online travel agency” then it’s a low monthly fee of $49.95 to maintain the website. What could be easier?” she asked.

“You can earn up to 20% of the commission on the products that you sell!” as she continued her well rehearsed scripted sales pitch. Trying to close the sale she beamed “Don’t forget about free cruises, tropical vacations and the bonuses for recruiting new RTAs!”

Admittedly this was a very enticing offer for the normal person someone who has no idea about the workings of the travel agency business. But having owned my own agency and being in the business of teaching about the travel industry I was not awed by her presentations. Actually I was awed that any sane person would buy into this classic pyramid pitch. But then there are plenty of infomercials promising great riches with a minimal investment of time and money so yes there is a forest of gullible investors ripe to be plucked.

I was amazed that she didn’t add “It’s only 2 easy payments of $224.975 and if you give me your credit card today you’ll receive an 110 day around the world cruise (valued at $154,458.95) free. “

Some quick mental math arrived at the sum of $1000.00 as the annual investments. With the average agency commission level at 10 % I would have to generate annual sales over $50, 000.00. This is a pretty hefty amount to sell even for an experienced agent with a following so I passed on the deal.

I explained that I was not interested in YTB as I was aware of other outside sales programs available without a fee. Free! Yes you can affiliate yourself with an accredited host agency without paying a dime and still split the commissions. These folks actually want you to sell travel and reap the rewards. They do not want to become a recruiter and look for RTA prospects.

Thank goodness for caller id as she continued to call my office for a couple of weeks before finally taking the hint that I was not YTB material.

PS: Sure you can make money & earn free/reduced rate travel as an outside agent legitimately and without spending a fortune. I’ll touch on this concept in a later piece.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Single supplements are sometimes being waived.

The price for that dream vacation is only $299.00 double (2 people paying 7 sharing the room) but the single supplement increases it by extra $200.00. Your affordable getaway has increased by 50 % or more because you do not have a traveling companion or have elected to travel solo. You either bite the bullet and pay it or put it off until later.

The single supplement is the additional fee tacked on by cruise lines and tour operators when there’s only one occupant in their cabin or hotel room. This has haunted solo travelers for years but some progressive companies are starting to waive this extra fee.

Alerted to an increased trend in unaccompanied travel and recognizing the growth potential in this market segment some companies are either substantially reducing or dropping the single supplement all together.

Globus Vacations for example has waived their single supplement fees on 11 up coming off season 2008-2009 European vacations. Another tour operator Tauck World Discovery has also reduced many single traveler fees for their cruises and tours too.

Carnival Cruise Lines frequently offers a stateroom with bunk beds and no window (inside cabin) without the traditional 50% single traveler fee. Carnival also has a tariff reduction for what I term a “night owl” cabin- a cabin that shares common walls with the ship discothèque. Can you party until the wee hours of the morning?

The rest of the travel industry will keep a keen watch on these initiatives and if Globus, Tauck and Carnival are successful I am sure we will see a mass movement towards dropping or reducing single supplement fees. After all the travel industry loves to play follow the leader then line their product line behind them.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Airfares are rising faster than the price of a barrel of oil.

I have not shopped for air prices lately but a conference that I would like to attend got me on the computer late last week checking out airfares. There were multiple dates and locations for these meetings so I checked a few different city pairs and dates. I was shocked at some of the prices that were being quoted for fall and winter travel.

You can fly round trip from Columbus OH to the heart of Europe cheaper than you can to Quebec City, Canada. During my fare search last Friday (1 Aug 08) Las Vegas and New Orleans quotes were off the chart and way out of line for my travel budget for this conference.

Last summer I paid $140.00 to fly nonstop from Columbus to Boston. Discounted advance purchase fares this summer or fall to Beantown were at least doubled. Then add in all of the a la carte charges (bags, pre-assigned seats, etc) and the fare has soared through the roof. The downsizing of flight schedules will and have impacted fares but not enough to justify 200% increases in some markets.

Sure increased fuel and operating costs for the carriers means higher airfares but some of the fare spikes seemed outrageous. Are the airlines trying to copy the large oil companies’ business models and increase their corporate earning and profits accordingly?

As far as air fares are concerned there may be some price relief coming soon. How soon I’m not sure but historically the airlines sharply raise prices then watch their passenger loads plummet. After they run their sophisticated computerized revenue model programs then pour over the spreadsheets and at long last take look at the empty seats in their cabins. After these steps we should see a fare correction with prices dropping.

Gazing into the Travel Professor’s crystal ball I do see ticket prices falling but I do not see a roll back of the add on pricing. Paying for the extras that the flying public took for granted as complimentary are here to stay. Sorry gang but there’s no free lunch or Coke on the legacy carriers these days.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Cruise ship migration season nears

It’s almost cruise ship migration time. The cruise lines are repositioning their fleets to new home ports for the upcoming winter Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexican season.

This means that there will be many unique once of a lifetime cruise itineraries available in the next few months. Many of these sailings will be originate in Europe or Western Canada and will offer Transatlantic, coastal Pacific and/or full Panama Canal transit sailings. A few will depart from Western Canada or Seattle Washington and sail for Hawaii and beyond.

Costa Cruise Lines vessel the “Costa Fortuna” departs from Savona Italy on Dec 6th 2008 and calls on Barcelona Spain, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, St. Maarten, Hispaniola, the Bahamas and finally docks 16 days later in Ft. Lauderdale FL. An inside, windowless cabin starts at $799.00 per person. Of course airfare, fuel surcharges, port charges, shore excursions and other items are extra.

Because of the special nature of these sailings cruise lines may not have prepared a brochure but information may be obtained for the specific cruise lines web site or by contacting your travel agent. Be sure to ask for a “repositioning” cruise”

If fall or early winter is not a good time for you to travel then the cruise lines will start the spring repositioning in April and May.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Make your holiday and winter air travel today

U.S. airlines continue to report downsizing of schedules and reductions of markets served.

How does this impact the vacation/leisure traveler or frequent flyer mileage traveler?

Less seats for sale in places that you want to fly to! This reduced seat inventory also means higher ticket prices. The chances are the longer you wait the more expensive your flights will be or they may be SOLD OUT.

This really hits home for the frequent flyer planning on redeeming their miles for free travel. Sorry folks but these free seats are very limited or even non existent.

Someone inquired the other day about a Hawaiian cruise in February. They just needed the cruise portion as they had free frequent flyer tickets. "Good luck and call me after you get your air booked" was my advice.

If you haven’t thought about it let me remind you that Thanksgiving & Christmas are only 4 moths away plus the peak winter travel season to warmer climates starts around the New Year.

Airlines generally will take reservations around 330 days into the future so book your holiday and/or winter air travel flights now!