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.
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.
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.
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”.
We do sell a good amount of cruise vacations as well as air and hotel or resort vacations to Mexico, Jamaica, other Caribbean locations as well as United States cities. But, we also sell what we refer to as escorted tours. This is a tour of a certain number of days and the entire time you would have a professional escort and driver who would be taking care of you the entire time of your trip.
This is a good time to begin thinking about applying for a passport, especially if you are interested in taking a trip next summer that would involve the use of a passport for you to visit a country requiring it. So far, after applying, you can get the passport back usually at this time of the year within about 2-3 weeks. Waiting until March, it would increase to 5-6 weeks.
In selling vacation options, of course, we always suggest that a couple or family might want to consider a cruise vacation. There are lots of advantages such as consistent dining opportunities, quality entertainment programs, and lots of activity venues. But.....we hear many objections to taking a cruise, so I thought I would present some of those we hear, then make a studied comment.
- “What about a flu outbreak?” Do you go to school, church, or for goodness sake, the mall?
- “We hear there is so much crime on a ship.” How about the daily local police blotter in the newspaper?
- “Sometimes we read about collisions on the ship”. How about daily driving a car?
- “I'm afraid of getting stuck out at sea without electricity or air conditioning”. That rarely happens, but when it does, there is immediate attention by the cruise line to correct the problems, and they always award discounted rates on future cruises for those inconvenienced.
- “There is just too much sun”. How about going to ball games?....or lay around in the shade or go inside if it's too sunny.
- “Someone has said there are lots of bed bugs on the ships”. My comeback is that I've been on about 80+ cruises and have never experienced bed bugs; too, I've sold many cruises over the years and have never had a client come back complaining about bed bugs on their ship.
- “There are so many people on those ships”. There's a lot of people at the mall, at a ball game, at some restaurants, at church.
- “How about sea sickness”. If one has a tendency to that malady, then there are plenty of excellent antidotes that are available, before you go or while on the ship.
- “What about people getting food poisoning?” My comeback is, “do you ever eat out?”. Where ever you go there is that possibility, even at home!!
- “But there is so much unhealthy food on a ship”. Just check your refrigerator and food pantry; I'll bet you'll find the same thing. The cruise line is aware there are dietary restrictions in lots of folks diets and they are extremely accommodating in making sure that you have the food best suited for your body, but only if you make them aware of your personal situation.
- “What if I'm shopping or sightseeing at a port and they go off and leave without me?” Yes, they will do that if you are not disciplined enough to follow their explicit departure times, however, if you are on one of their sponsored tours, and that tour is late, they will wait until those passengers are all back on the boat.
These are just a few of the reasons we hear about why not to cruise, but after purchasing the product, they come back saying “that was the best vacation we've ever taken”!! So, allow the travel counselors at The Travel Factory help “manufacture the vacation of your dreams”. We are at 4150 Southwest Drive, or call at 698-1421 or toll-free 800-760-4040. Website: thetravelfactoryabilene.com.
Borrowing a line from one of my favorite travel writers, “don't worry about safety in the air. In fact, sitting on a long-distance flights is one of the safest things you can do on this planet. If you want to worry, think about a strategy to get safely from the house to the airport. Statistically, that is, by a wide margin, the most dangerous part of your journey”.