Keep your employees happy to keep them motivated -- that's
personnel lesson 101. And it's a rule that Barry Liben, president
of New York-based Tzell Travel Specialists, knows by heart.
The 200-plus employees who work at Tzell headquarters in New
York have the luxury of several company perks that go way beyond
typical office benefits.
For one, there's the rooftop garden, open since last spring. The
company enforces special rules to make sure the garden remains a
special retreat, according to director of human resources Loren
"No computers or telephones are allowed," she said. "We want to get
you completely away from your workday."
This spring the company plans to build a clubhouse -- including
video games and pool tables -- next to the garden. Then there's the
company gym, featuring 15 pieces of exercise equipment, including
Nautilus machines, plus three individual showers and a changing
room. The gym opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. and "there's
never a wait" to use it, said Andersen.
Liben has made a substantial investment in both perks -- roughly
$100,000 on the garden and $20,000 on the gym. "But you have to
spend money on your employees," said Liben. "This is a business
constantly filled with pressure. Employees [operate] at high
anxiety levels, so anything we can do to make their lives more
pleasant is good for them and good for us."
Of course, to spend that type of money for employees, you have
to make some to begin with -- and Tzell fulfills this requirement.
It ranked 35th in Travel Weekly's Top 50 Travel Agencies of 1999,
racking up sales of $250 million last year.
The employee perks "have also been excellent for recruitment,"
said Andersen. "We've increased our workforce by about 25% in the
past year, and there are more people who'd like to work here than
we have spots for -- especially when they hear the gym is
The bottom line is a company philosophy that makes fun
important. "We want them to not only get their work done but to
enjoy being here," said Andersen. "Everything is geared toward
that."You are who you know
The new millennium is going to be defined by the level of
nontraditional service you can provide your clients -- that is,
"clout" in the form of personal contacts who can make things
Who is the airport service manager for the airline you book most
often? I hope you know, because VIP clients will expect you to find
seats and upgrades when none exist.
midsize or smaller markets, have you taken steps to assure that
airline reservation personnel are familiar enough with your agency
to comment favorably when they see one of your ticket jackets?
Can you call the manager or concierge at the international
hotels you book most often on a personal matter? Some agencies that
sell a lot of cruises make it their business to know dispatchers
for the ships they sell most often. Others shower reservations
departments with Christmas gifts.
Some will scoff at these practices, feeling they are
unnecessary. But this is what some of the top agents do for their
clients because in travel, as in any other business, personal
contacts are a key tool in providing extraordinary service.
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
president. Contact him at [email protected].Picking the right car
Although rental cars in other countries are generally smaller
than their North American counterparts, they are comfortable and
well-engineered, said Imad Khalid, president and chief executive
officer of Portland, Maine-based Auto Europe. Here are some tips on
what to consider while helping clients choose the right car for a
What is the number of passengers in your client's party? If
there are more than five people (children or adults), they will
need a minivan. If your clients are particularly large or tall, you
will need to go to a higher category of rental vehicle (such as an
intermediate or larger).What about trunk vs. hatchback design? There is a common
perception among North Americans that renting a car with a trunk is
a necessary security precaution in Europe -- but that's not the
case. Many European rental cars have a covered hatchback design
that conceals the contents of the luggage area. These vehicles
provide access to the luggage space through a rear door on the
vehicle, called the hatch.
And as car manufacturers design more sleek and fuel-efficient
vehicles, more cars are being produced with a "European-style"
trunk -- which provides the space of a trunk and the convenience of
a hatchback. Only the smallest vehicles have open hatchback designs
-- more of a safety risk, since luggage stored here can be seen
through the window of the car.Can your clients drive a stick shift? Due to higher purchase
prices and lower rental demand, automatic transmission vehicles
tend to be less common and more expensive in most European
countries. But consider that automatic transmissions are often
available on larger, more deluxe models only, so your clients are
paying extra for more features than just the transmission.