Bermuda's endless appeal

gents can't sell what they don't know.

The following four Bermuda specialists typify how successful agents come to bond with their destination.

When agent specialist Janet O'Leary, owner of OK Travel in Boston, sells Bermuda to honeymooners, it brings back memories of her own Bermuda honeymoon 50 years ago. Recently, she and her husband returned to the island to celebrate their golden anniversary.

"There's a natural charm to the island that makes you want to return," O'Leary said.

And return she has, more than 10 times over the years, witnessing first-hand the evolution of the islands from a spot marketed mainly to honeymooners and other lovers, young and old, into a destination with an eclectic appeal.

"In recent years, the tourist board has been appealing to all kinds of clients -- families, golfers, the younger set, adventure travelers and ecotourists," she said.

Bermuda's Royal Regiment leads parades through the downtown area of the seaport town of Hamilton. O'Leary said she decided to become a Bermuda specialist because "it's an easy sell (she sends about 60 people there a year), it's accessible, and it offers great packages."

Besides, she said, "I love it."

While O'Leary's personal relationship with Bermuda is evergreen, Lucretia Lee's bond with the islands is fresh and new.

Lee, a Bermuda specialist with Business Travel International in Beverly, Mass., visited the islands on a fam trip last July and quickly fell in love -- struck, she said, by the friendliness of the people and, on a practical level, by the number of accommodations available for a range of budgets.

Hamilton's Front Street is popular for its shopping, dining, and nightlife. She said she recommends Bermuda to her upscale clients but considers it an option for families who want to stay at affordable inns or rent apartments and cook their own meals.

It isn't always fams that bring agents back to the islands, nor even its history, culture, pastel cottages or pink-sand beaches.

For specialist Charles Koski, owner of GIT Travel in Leominster, Mass., it's the laid-back atmosphere -- and a family tradition. Since the mid-'70s, Bermuda has been the venue for the annual Koski Thanksgiving family reunion.

Perhaps because of his own enthusiasm for the destination as a quick getaway (he said he takes his nuclear family there at least three times each year), Koski said he has had success selling Bermuda as a long-weekend trip.

"The big factor for repeat travelers is that it is easy to get to and keep coming back to."

For Gail Patriquin of Wolfeboro (N.H.) Travel, Bermuda isn't just easy to get to, it's easy to get around. It's also safe and accommodating to visitors, she said, "a place I wouldn't hesitate sending any of my clients to."

This Bermuda specialist and her husband have visited the destination 12 times since 1972, mainly for the golf, the beaches and the food, she said. Like O'Leary, she has seen a change in the way Bermuda is being marketed.

While she sells it mainly as a leisure destination, Patriquin said she increasingly is recommending Bermuda for meetings and incentive travel because the resorts have become equipped to accommodate large groups.

Following are some of the sites the four specialists recommended visiting:

  • The 1846 Gibb's Hill Lighthouse, a 117-foot cast-iron structure set on a 245-foot hill.
  • The historical town of St. George on Bermuda's eastern end. The town is home to one of Bermuda's oldest buildings, the state house, built in 1620.
  • The Royal Naval Dockyard in Sandy's Parish, home to the Maritime Museum. Sandy's Parish is also the site of the Somerset Bridge. At 22 inches wide, it is said to be the world's tiniest hand-operated drawbridge, just wide enough to accommodate the mast of a passing sailboat.
  • Taxing problems

    A client booked a trip overseas in April so he could qualify for a two-month automatic extension for paying his taxes. Can I do this myself next year?

    A: Bad idea. I hope your client had a good trip, but it probably did not help his status with the Internal Revenue Service.

    Dan McManus.To qualify for the absentee two-month extension to file your return and pay federal income tax, you must:

  • Be living outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico and have your main business place or post of duty outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
  • Be in the military or naval service and on duty outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
  • So, unless your vacation becomes permanent, you should file before you leave on vacation. Nice try, though!

    Absenteeism is escalating in my agency. How can I encourage my employees to come to work?

    A: Other than for vacation, employees typically take non-sick days off when they are stressed, burned out or just plain exhausted.

    Take a close look at your work schedule to see if you are placing unnecessary burdens on your employees. If so, take action to reduce the demands.

    First of all, be more flexible. If employees feel they can ask for personal time to attend to errands, such as taking a child to the doctor, run-ning to the bank to make a deposit, or stopping in at the car tag agency, they won't call in "sick" to attend to personal business.

    Look for bottlenecks in productivity and ways to process work more efficiently.

    Next, you can reward employees for meeting important goals, completing a big project or taking on more job responsibilities by giving them an afternoon off or a whole Friday or Monday off so that they get a three-day weekend.

    This will give them a break or "breather" between projects and make them less likely to burn out.

    Former agency owner Dan McManus is president of the McManus Group, publishers of business management advice. Contact him at [email protected].

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