Last week we talked about Royal Caribbean's new ship, the Symphony of the Seas, and since our Carnival sales rep was in for a visit, I was reminded that they too have some “big” ships to boast about. One of them, the Vista, is being re-positioned to Galveston.
The Travel Factory Blog
The Travel Factory employs 4 full time agents with 100 years total experience in the travel industry. Our agents specialize in cruise, tour and resort vacations as well as corporate incentive and school groups. Our mission is to provide the best, most courteous, most detailed, most informative service. Our slogan, "Building vacations to your specifications" says it all.
A couple years ago, we took the family on a cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale on a Royal Caribbean ship named Allure of the Seas. At the time, she and her sister, the Oasis of the Seas, were the largest passenger ships that have ever been made. They topped out at 225,000 tons and had a passenger capacity of 5400 passengers.
Every time I turn around, someone is sending me a survey to complete on-line. Is that the same with you? As if I had all the time in the world. They always say that it will only take 10 minutes, but when I melt down and start one, I'm only halfway through in 10 minutes!! And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has the same experience. So, I'm always a little suspect when I read about survey results.
Did you see in our Abilene Reporter News last week the announcement from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line about their newest ship coming into service? The Symphony of the Seas had her maiden voyage last week over in Europe where she will be until next fall when she will re-position to their home port in Fort Lauderdale.
Most of the group bookings that I escort or host are associated with a cruise of some sort---Alaska, Mediterranean, Hawaii, Europe, etc.. Occasionally I'll take a group on a land-based tour with a guide. That's the kind I've just got off of....a guided tour of the Holy Land.
In my talk last week, I tried to debunk the notion of there being a lack of security and concern for the safety of visitors to certain parts of Mexico, especially the area around Cozumel and the Mayan Riviera. The government relies too heavily on the tourist trade for them to experience trouble.
We reported back in January about a revised travel advisory system unveiled by the U. S. State Department with 4 levels of designation as to the security and risks to travel to various countries. Some countries had different designations within that country. Mexico was one of those countries.
It's been a few months since we've mentioned DisneyWorld and DisneyLand in our weekly comments, so since they have notified us of some changes they were going through, or putting their customers through, I thought this would be a good time to mention it. Planning for cruising and especially for anything Disney needs early, can I emphasize enough, EARLY attention.
We mentioned in an earlier message about the success that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line had last year, and really in the past 2-3 years. We reported in that report that Royal Caribbean and their sister Celebrity reported in the third quarter $1.3 billion in profit from a revenue of $6.8 billion. That represented a 19.7% profit margin. Thirty years ago, their annual profit was $14 million.
Christopher Elliott, the Dallas Morning News Travel Troubleshooter had a very good column several months ago, so good that I'm going to take the liberty to pay him a compliment by referring to some of his “stuff”.
If you've taken a flight lately, the rush to get aboard as quickly as possible is not only to get to your seat, but primarily it is to get to an empty overhead bin to place your carry-on. Of course in this day and time, the airlines have to shoulder the blame by putting on the checked luggage fees that have caused travelers to pack the carry-ons to the gills. They can barely zip them up, and then they try to stuff them in the overhead bin that is too small for their overstuffed carry-ons. So what do they do? Well, they turn them sideways instead of rollers first, and in doing so keep someone else from being able to slide theirs in properly.
I don't know whether other travel agents in Abilene get this publication or not, but I get a weekly “tip” sheet for travel agents from The Travel Institute. That is an accredited institution that certifies travel agents after going through an educational process. It took me two years to get my Certified Travel Counselor designation back in 1985, and I'm proud to say that I am the only CTC that has ever been based in Abilene, TX.
You probably didn't need to know all that introductory information, but that's the background to my “tip” today. That institution produces a weekly “Hot Tip” for certified agents, and occasionally I choose to use some of their suggestions. Today is one of those days. Their tip today addresses a guide for tipping those service personnel who attend to your needs while traveling....who do you tip, when and how much?
A recent article in the January issue of the Travel Agent talks about the travel trends expected in 2018. A Dallas Morning News section of the January 14 issue gets real specific in describing “52 places to go in 2018”. Both issues indicate that this is going to be a good year to go somewhere!!
Now, that's the kind of prognostications we can live with!!!
Both the travel agent consortiums of Travel Leaders and Virtuoso report that from their research and surveys, Italy was the most desired location to visit in the coming year. Having been there several times, I couldn't agree more. Among the top travel trends were multigenerational travel, active or adventure trips, river cruising, and anniversary/birthday/wedding arrangements.
For several years now, the State Department has had a system of indicating which countries were unsafe, and for consumers, travel agents, and most airline personnel, it was a confusing and mostly unclear system. What was the difference between a “travel warning” and a “travel alert”? Is a travel warning mean you can go but be careful, and a travel alert means you can travel there? Or is there any difference at all?
Recently the State Department revealed a new, and according to them, a more understandable system. Under the new system, every country in the world has a travel advisory ranking from 1 (“exercise normal precautions”) to 4 (“do not travel”). On their website they also have an interactive map that color-codes each country by its ranking; red for 4, orange for 3, yellow for 2. Countries with a level 1 ranking such as Canada, Sweden and Mongolia are not color-coded.
The kind of weather we have had for the past several days makes one want to consider getting away......hopefully to some better environment. Guess what....we have had a good many calls in recent days about arrangements for a “good getaway”, somewhere where it is a little warmer!!
Probably our most ready answer to that question is somewhere along the Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun. There are some all-inclusive resorts that specialize in family activities, then there are other properties that are for adults only.
The best feature about a trip down there is that it is only a 2 hour 15 minute flight from DFW. You can leave in the morning, and in early afternoon, you are already at the property, unpacked, had a lunch that was included on the price, and are lounging on the beach getting a tan, or under an umbrella with a new John Grisham book in your hand.
If you paid attention to last weeks comments, you know that 2017 was a banner year for most entities in the travel industry. It is probably safe to say that the cruise lines experienced the largest percentage increase year over year in passengers and profit.
I was reminded coming back the first of the month from the Rhine River cruise with The Travel Factory Gang, standing at the luggage carousel, of how many folks own black luggage. The reason I paid attention to that color is because my two bags were black. It seamed the every third bag was black!!
As most people know, there was a mass shooting and killing on October 1 in Las Vegas, and the impact on the visitor count right after that event was dramatic.
So.....what are they doing to get folks to consider coming back to the “city that never sleeps”?
Like most marketers, they are reducing the cost of a room, virtually through out the Strip. Late last month, Caesars was discounting most of its Strip properties by as much as 40% for stays up until Dec. 14, and last week they were offering a sale discount of up to 25% on rooms booked for stays through next October.
The title, of course, is referring to the incessant airline fees. In my opinion, they will never stop and the airlines will continue to find ways to keep adding them in some form or fashion.
A few months ago, the Travel Troubleshooter for the Dallas Morning News, Christopher Elliott, had a title exactly like mine today. He gave some really good direction on searching out someone you can trust with your valuable vacation time. Several hints focused on experience, professionalism, travel consortium memberships. But, according to him, and according to my experience, the best way to find a good travel agent is to ask someone. He included a great statement by a travel agent in North Carolina, she said “the best credential you can have is a referral from a friend”.