Larry Fishkin, a pioneer in cruise-only retailing, died Sept. 25 in Florida after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 65.
One of Fishkin’s agencies, Yellowbird Travel, was one of the first agencies to use a toll-free number to sell cruises.
The practice enabled Florida agencies, which at that time received 15% commission from cruise lines, to sell nationally, opening up new opportunities for booking air.
But Fishkin was probably best known for Cruise Line Inc., which grew to be one of the largest cruise agencies in the country before it became part of the TSI Inc. rollup in 1998, two years after it was acquired by Wyndham Jade.
Fishkin also started Leisure Link International, a land packaging company, which he sold to Online Vacation Center.
In 2008, Fishkin started Travel Themes and Dreams, which packages cruises, air, car and hotels.
Jim Smith, president and CEO of Jimsmithctie.com, who worked with Fishkin in the early days, said Fishkin was “a gregarious guy on the cutting edge of cruise distribution. He always saw where the market was going.”
“He was brilliant using public relations as a way to get his brand out there,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for Royal Caribbean International. She said that he used his expertise to build trust with consumers, who then had the confidence to buy a cruise from him.
“He was at the forefront of customer service,” said Cruise Guy President Stewart Chiron.