Should you mention medical concerns to your pregnant client
planning an "off-the-beaten-path" trip to Sicily? How would you
handle the couple who have assured you that they've researched
their trip to India and Nepal on the Internet, and they know that
no special immunizations are required?
These scenarios are the kind of health issues that can come up in a
typical agency, according to Judith Zacek, owner of the
Newtonville, Mass.-based industry consulting firm Zacek &
Zacek alluded to these situations during the panel on Traveling
Healthy at the recent ASTA World Travel Congress in Strasbourg,
Whereas "most agents tend to think travel health means talking
about exotic diseases, there are health issues involved in almost
any trip you put together," she said in a later phone
And although agents clearly don't want to play doctor and "say
too much," they also don't want to "say too little," which can lead
to liability problems.
She would advise the pregnant but adventurous client to check
with her physician before the trip and possibly have her doctor
recommend a doctor in Italy; or she might suggest the client
consider medical evacuation insurance.
As for the couple insisting they've done all their research on
health concerns on travel to India and Nepal, "I might have them
sign a waiver that they've checked the issue out themselves."
But "one thing a good agent can do is explain the difference
between required and recommended immunizations," she added. What
the couple might not realize is that immunizations required for
entry into a specific country "are for the protection of the host
country, not for the protection of the traveler. You still need to
protect yourself against diseases that may be rampant," Zacek
Other scenarios she raised were: A client who always has you
order diabetic meals is now planning her honeymoon in the South
Pacific. "The first question you have to ask, is 'Are you really
diabetic or have you discovered that [the meals are] a low-fat
If the client is diabetic, "you might remind her to make sure
she has enough medication and to take along prescriptions" in case
she loses her medication in transit.
Raising clients' awareness
When agents raise health issues with their clients, it's "never
a case of giving medical advice but [doing some] consciousness
raising," said Judith Zacek, a Newtonville, Mass.-based industry
For example, consider the case of a client who wants to hike the
archaeological sites of Peru the year after having had a terrible
case of the flu. An agent might say something like, "you're going
to a place with a high altitude, where respiratory ailments are
common. Maybe you ought to have your doctor check you out."
What you want is to have your client thinking, "My travel agent
really cares about me," said Zacek.
She remembered when she was an agent and had elderly clients
whose air-sea arrangements for their Southeast Asia cruise would
have meant a very long plane trip, which she knew would be
difficult for the man, who could barely tolerate cross-country
"I convinced them to break up the journey," said Zacek. "Instead
of going from the East Coast straight to Singapore, I had them stop
overnight on the West Coast."That wasn't even so much a health
issue as good customer service," she said.
Such service is facilitated by the fact that "many travel agents
really know their customers" and understand their special
Zacek also recommended giving clients tips on further resources,
such as the International Society of Travel Medicine, which has
travel health clinics all over the country. Check out its Web site
for a list of locations. Another resource is the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, whose Web site -- www.cdc.gov/travel
-- includes health recommendations by geographic regions and
updates on disease outbreaks around the world.
The health and safety review
Richard Turen weighs in on the topic discussed above:
How do you counsel your clients on health and safety matters?
This is one of those areas in which there is simply no industry
litigious nature of our society, I would recommend that owners
discuss this matter with their attorney to formulate an approach
that meets the needs of those clients visiting countries in which
food contamination, street crime and inferior medical facilities
might be problems.
Are you, for instance, going to discuss the prevalence of
pickpockets on the streets of Rome? Are you aware of those
countries in which your clients are best advised to not even brush
their teeth with tap water?
Consider including a health and safety review as a part of every
single document review -- don't allow clients to pick up documents
without this service.
Also consider forming an affiliation with a travel medicine
clinic in your area.
Finally, let the consumer know that at your agency, every
booking includes a review of health and safety concerns. In this
day and age, the pluses of such a policy will far outweigh any
negative implications about the dangers of travel.
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and agency
president. E-mail him at [email protected].Panama cruise report
Sheri Robbins, an outside agent for Costa Travel in San Diego,
gave high marks to Princess Cruises' Sun Princess, which she called
"perhaps the most beautiful ship on which I have sailed."
Robbins celebrated her 27th
wedding anniversary on a Panama Canal cruise aboard the ship.
She wrote: "The food is to die for -- whether you're enjoying a
formal dinner or hot dogs up on deck. The staff is friendly and
accommodating, and the dining room service is beyond compare.
"We celebrated our anniversary by renewing our vows in a
ceremony with the ship's captain. It was a class act, one I would
recommend to anyone thinking of renewing their vows."Gay groups on cruises
Do you have gay clients who love taking cruises? Through the
help of a new nonprofit networking organization, the Gay &
Lesbian American Cruise Association (Glaca), you can get them on
special sailings with their peers on mainstream but gay-friendly
Glaca coordinates a list of sailing dates for groups of gays
with participating cruise lines that link the reservations of the
selected dates for dining and special activities.
"The benefit for the gay client is they have the company and the
comfort of traveling with fellow gay and lesbian travelers aboard
fine ships while receiving good value," said Joseph Kantor, who
founded the association.
Agents can get more information and a list of sailing dates at
the Glaca Web site at www.cruisingwithpride.com/glaca or can e-mail Kantor
at [email protected].Blowing in the wind
Does wind have anything to do with the job you do? You bet. It
affects your clients' trips in ways far more dramatic than you
are the obvious example. You can reduce the odds that one of these
huge storms will disrupt a client's journey by remembering this:
80% of hurricanes occur in August, September and early October,
with almost none happening from December through May. The Caribbean
isn't the only place they occur, either. Africa's east coast,
Australia's north shore, Southeast Asia and Japan all regularly
Trade winds are what keep your clients cool on an otherwise hot
island. Since they occur in humid places, they bring moisture. And
because they predictably flow from east to west, a tropical island
(especially a mountainous one) will get most of its rain on its
eastern (or windward) side. It'll be drier on the western (leeward)
side, which is sheltered by mountains from the windborne
The westerlies are higher-level winds that blow through the
world's temperate zones (30 to 60 degrees latitude). They flow west
to east and can also carry rain. As a result, western coastal
regions throughout the world are rainier. Some examples: the
Pacific Northwest, the Alaskan Panhandle, Ireland and Norway's
At the core of the westerlies is the jet stream. That's why
flights that go easterly in temperate zones take less time than
those that go west.
Industry consultant Marc Mancini's geography book, "Selling
Destinations," is available by calling (800) 347-7707.