All Aboard The AMRewards Express

If you are among those who eke out an honest living outside the travel industry and also possess a passion for personal travel, this humble little blog was created with you in mind.  The vast majority of the posts are intended to harmlessly entertain and painlessly educate you about various travel destinations.

However, as time goes by, I seem to have acquired a number of devotees to this blog who, like me, toil in the hot sun (not to mention soft sand) of the travel industry.  Many of those are front line travel agents spending their days . . . and likely a few sleepless nights . . . making their clients’ travel dreams come true.  (A few of them are almost as good as our own agents!  See “shameless plug”.)

This particular post is written with those folks in mind.  You who belong to the first category have my permission to jump off the train at any point that your eyes start to glaze over.  The good news for you is that this post is going to be shorter than one of Paris Hilton’s miniskirts if not quite as titillating.

Loco Motive:  Four Not So Crazy Reasons To Enroll In AMRewardsI was recently asked to contribute an article to one of the travel industry’s premier online trade publications called Travel Research Online.  The article I wrote recommends a new program for travel agents called AMRewards.   The title of the article is:

4 Great Reasons To Climb Aboard The AMRewards Express

I am not going to replicate any of the content here for two perfectly sound reasons:

  1.      It would only bore those of you who belong to my primary audience.
  2.      Equally important, if you know anything about how internet search engines work, you may know that Mr. Google (as well as his first cousins Bing, Ask, Yahoo etc.) frown upon duplicate content floating around in cyberspace.

Thus, if you are a travel agent and are dying to read my provocative article, you could buy a ticket, stand on the platform and jump on the AMRewards Express . . . or I suppose you could just click here.  I highly recommend you step on board this milk run to greater prosperity and higher customer satisfaction.   Don’t worry, there is plenty of time to thank me by way of a small but thoughtful gift later.

As for all my non-travel-professional followers, one quick clarification and I am done.  If you are worried in general that any rewards earned by a travel agent are going to compromise their objectivity in selecting the right vacation for you, let me drive a silver stake right through the heart of that old vampire.  In the first place, several of the items referred to in my article accrue directly to the benefit of you, the consumer, not the agent!  Secondly, travel agents live and die on happy repeat customers.  No agent with half a brain would trade loyalty and trust for a trunk full of trinkets.

Come back soon and I promise you more tantalizing travel tales, all written to the same impeccably high standard you have come to expect from this space.  No, really, I’m serious!

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Travel Deals And Other Mythical Creatures

For front-line travel agents, there is a term which is certain to elicit a “fingernails on the chalkboard” response every time they hear it and which, unfortunately for them, is thrown at them several times a day.  That word is “deal“.  It is invariably wrapped inside a question like a cold frankfurter inside a stale bun.  “Can you get me a really good deal on Europe?”  “Do you have any deals currently going on for Cancun?”

Unicorn Mermaid Phoenix

From the point of view of the experienced travel agent, the client might as well be asking “Have you seen any Unicorns lately?”  Or, “I am in the market for a cute little Mermaid.”  (OK, who isn’t?)  Or, “I would like to book a flight on a Phoenix departing from, naturally,  Phoenix”.  The problem is, don’t you see beloved reader, that the word deal is so amorphous, meaning such different things to different people, that it ends up having no meaning at all.  If you spend your life chasing a deal, you will end up more frustrated than a blind man searching for the Loch Ness monster in Sasquatch country.  I was going to say more frustrated than a lonely man looking for lasting love in a strip club but I was afraid you might leap to unwarranted conclusions about your humble scribe.

May I be so bold as to offer up a substitute term that I believe better captures what you really have in mind and has the added benefit of preserving the collective sanity of travel agents around the world.  Next time, try this out for size.  “I am looking for a really good value at an all-inclusive beach property in Cancun.”

Pepe Le PewAt first blush, this might strike you as a distinction without a difference.  But, au contraire mon ami . . . my little buttercup . .  my little wildflower.  Don’t ask me why I drifted off into a Pepé Le Pew rift.  I have no idea.  At any rate, the distinction is very real.  The word deal implies you are looking for a bargain basement, rock bottom price with no other considerations.  No sane traveler this side of Neptune really wants that.

Suppose I told you I can get you a room in Cancun for $20.00 a night?  I probably can, by the way, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be carried off in the night by cockroaches the size of Yao Ming’s sneakers.

By way of contrast, the term value implies that elusive nexus between price and features.  When you consider the fact that you most likely have limited vacation time and a finite amount of discretionary funds (we are not talking to you, The Donald), a vacation is way too precious to sacrifice on the altar of a supposed deal.  We know you want a good price.  That pretty much goes without saying.  What is almost always left unsaid is that you want as good a price as possible on a really unforgettable vacation that exceeds your expectations.

You’re in luck.  You have come to the right place.  That is precisely what professional travel agents, like ours, are trained to do.  They find the perfect vacation for you at the best possible price.  So the next time you are looking to travel, just think back on your last disappointing travel deal, slap yourself up the side of the head (gently, of course), chug a cold V-8 and remind yourself:  I could have had a great travel value.

Funjet Vacations Happy Couple

We Get You. We Get You There.

As many of you know who follow this blog, our agency Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel is an associate of Travel Leaders, one of the travel industry’s fastest-growing and most robust networks of travel agents.  Just a couple of months back, at our national meeting in Dallas, a new marketing campaign was unveiled and I thought you might enjoy a little backstage view of the rationale behind this branding effort.

This campaign, “We Get You.  We Get You There” is anchored by a new shortenedWe Get You with Logo tagline “Travel Better”.  Please don’t ask me to share the older, longer version because I could never remember it which, I am told by savvy marketers, is not considered a strong selling point for a tagline.  Granted, I have the attention span of a gnat but even I can remember “Travel Better.” 

WE GET YOU

I recently wrote a post about the value of travel agents called “Travel Agents:  Dinosaurs or Crocodiles?”  in which I addressed the tremendous value travel agents add to the equation.  One of the primary tools we use is asking customers a series of discovery questions to better understand our clients’ specific interests, their personal budget, their previous travel experience, etc.

We prod and probe (in an ever-so-gentle manner, I hasten to add, and thankfully without ever asking you to disrobe or bend over), until a clear picture begins to emerge of you, the traveler.  As has been aptly pointed out . . . by me, I think . . . prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

Perhaps you are thinking at this point, “Sheesh, I didn’t come into your office to get psychoanalyzed.  I just wanted to go on vacation.”  OK, fair enough but here is an interesting thing I have discovered over the years, “People generally don’t care how much you know about them once they know how much you care about them.”  Once you realize our objective is not to sate our prurient interests (the National Enquirer and Star serve that purpose nicely, thank you), but to understand and thus serve you better, hopefully you will not care either.

It is when we get to know your preferences, your expectations and your aspirations that we well and truly “get you.”  It is then we are prepared to move to the next step.

We Get Your Priceless Moments

WE GET YOU THERE 

So you are probably thinking, “After I have confessed in front of God (and let’s not forget my spouse who is a little less forgiving), to every secret travel fantasy I’ve ever had, I hope to heck you are going to put that information to some good use!”   We are and trust us, all will be forgiven when you get back from the perfect vacation.

It is at this juncture that we take off our doctor’s lab coats and pick up the pins, patterns and measuring tape of a tailor to fashion a memorable vacation that is perfectly suited to your needs.  I like to think of it as fitting you to a T since that was my dad’s nickname for me and has nice associations.

Think about it.  Wouldn’t you much rather have us tailor a vacation that fits you instead of grabbing “garments” off the rack and trying to squeeze you into them?  I did that years ago with a leisure suit which may explain my uncanny ability to sing falsetto.

THREE COMMERCIALS

Now for a little entertainment.  I know, it’s about time!  Travel Leaders has fashioned  three clever thirty second commercials in support of this new campaign, all of which can be found on YouTube at Travel By Terry Videos.

Travel Leaders commercial

We Get You – Humor

Travel Leaders Commerical

We Get You – Heartstrings

Travel Leaders Commerical

We Get You – Aspirations

I would be very curious to know which one of these commercials most resonates with you.  Please take a moment and cast your vote below.

Travel Agents: Dinosaurs Or Crocodiles?

Not so much now but for several years after the internet burst onto the scene, I would get a very predictable reaction whenever I would mention to people that I was in the travel business.  They would muster their most sympathetic look and say, “Gosh, that has to Dinosaurbe really hard, what with the internet and all.”  What they didn’t say but were obviously thinking was, “Thank God I am not in a business that is going the way of the dinosaur.”

But thankfully the intervening years have shown that we are not extinct dinosaurs but extant crocodiles.  You see, crocodiles also date back to prehistoric times but unlike their lumbering, land-based neighbors, crocs have kept trucking right along.  They were able to adapt to anCrocodile ever-changing environment and they still thrive in many parts of the world today.

So why have travel agencies not only survived but by most measures enjoyed a renaissance in recent years?  Before I offer three answers to that question, here is some journalistic evidence for their revival as well as unsolicited appreciation for the work travel agents do.

Forbes Magazine article by Larry Olmsted –  Hurricane Sandy’s Lesson to Travelers: Use A Travel Agent

The New York Times article by Michelle Higgins – Are Travel Agents Back?

US News article by Daniel Bortz – Why It Pays to Book with a Travel Agent

I know with the advent of the internet you can book a trip without using a travel agent but why in the world would you?  Every good travel agency and their stable of expert agents consistently provide three things you will never get from the web.

Before you go, we offer you RELIABLE ADVICE.

In the olden days, before Google was a noun, much less a verb, our role as travel agents was quite different.  Information was hard to come by and thus we were viewed as mystical high priests, the keepers of the sacred books, the all-knowing ones.  People would come into our offices with confused looks on their faces and we would perform secret travel incantations.

Travel agent advising clientNow, of course, a deluge of information is just a few keystrokes away.  Strangely, customers still stumble into our offices with a dazed look but for a totally different reason.  Now the dilemma for the traveler is not too little information but an avalanche of confusing and often conflicting information.

Where we used to just deliver reliable information, we now curate, organize, evaluate and interpret it.  We can do this because we travel extensively, one of the key reasons we got into this industry.  We know what the beach at that resort you are thinking about is really like because we had our toes in it last month.  We know which hotels are under renovation and which cruise line has the best cuisine.  Of course none of us has been everywhere but we belong to networks inside and outside our own companies where we can source great experiential information.  Plus, we are constantly being updated by our suppliers.

By the time we dispense any travel moonshine, it has been carefully distilled.

Should things go wrong during your trip, we provide ROBUST ASSISTANCE

I often read media travel experts conceding that for complex cruise or tour packages using a travel agency makes sense but for routine flights or simple hotel bookings, you should go online.  Like most conventional wisdom, this is utter rubbish.  One of the compelling reasons to use a travel agent is to buy a little back-pocket insurance policy in case things go awry.  And, if you have taken more than a couple of trips in your life, you don’t need me tell you that things can go all pear-shaped in a hurry.

Just read Larry Olmsted’s article mentioned above.  Wicked weather or routine mechanical delays can have you crying at a ticket counter like a lost child at the mall.   You can either be that person standing in a long line praying all the options are not gone by the time you reach the front of the queue or you can be that relaxed traveler standing to the side, sipping a latte and talking calmly to his or her travel agent.

Should unresolved issues linger after your trip, we supply RELENTLESS ADVOCACY.

If you are in a bar brawl, who would you rather have in your corner:  Mike Tyson or PeeWee Herman?  Sometimes when things go badly there are financial knots to untangle.  You may well still be angry, defensive and vindictive.  You know, sort of like a divorce.  What you need is a trusted advocate.

We know who to talk to and more importantly, how to talk to them.  We have two big advantages over you in this regard.  We are not emotionally vested because it wasn’t us who was denied boarding at the cruise ship because we forgot our passport.   Secondly, this is not our first rodeo with these sorts of problems or with the particular cruise line or tour company.  We have a long-standing relationship to call upon.  We have significant production with that supplier to bolster our position.  We don’t promise the perfect outcome but we usually manage the best possible outcome given the circumstances.

So next time you travel just remember, don’t dial a dinosaur, call a croc!