Owners of a California travel agency have begun to diversify into
uncharted territory: the vehicle rental business.
In a period of
several months, a 37-foot Winnebago has not only promoted the name
of Sunward Adventures Travel but also generated almost $4,500 in
The Riverside, Calif.-based agency bought the tan-colored,
$30,000 Winnebago last August. A custom painter added the company's
sun logo, telephone number and Web site address.
Agency owner Gary Davis said the intent of purchasing the van
was to use it for promotions but also to pay for its cost.
In fact, said his partner, Brian Kerr, the van "does work as a
promotional item." When Kerr took the vehicle on an inaugural
camping vacation along the California and Oregon coasts, he
generated lots of interest from consumers on the road. Passing out
business cards and brochures, Kerr sold a cruise along the way.
But almost every time the van is in use, "we've gotten calls
from people [who see it and] say they want to rent it," added
After doing research on renting motor homes in the area, it was
decided to price the rental about 10% below the prevailing market,
said Davis. Rental charges for the Winnebago are based on high and
low seasons. Rates range from $800 to $1,400 a week or $200 to $250
"We're flexible about it, though," said Davis, adding the price
is negotiable depending upon the vehicle's availability. That
flexibility has helped business, he added. "Some of our renters
have told us they go to the big rental places and they won't let
them take a van out for just one day. The word is getting out that
we're willing to work with people," he said.
Kerr said the two are waiting to see how seriously they'll get
into the vehicle rental business. "But we're still travel agents,"
he added. "To us, it's an extra little way to earn some money.
You've got to explore all your different options in today's
Looking for a motor home?
Riverside, Calif.-based travel agency Sunward Adventures will
pay 10% commission to agents who want to rent the company's
Winnebago to clients traveling to Southern California.
located halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs and has gotten
a number of clients from the L.A. area, according to agency
co-owner Brian Kerr.
The vehicle "sleeps six really comfortably, but you could
probably squeeze a couple of extra kids in it," he said. Also
included are seating for 11 to 12 people and all the "comforts of
home": a television, a VCR, a microwave, a refrigerator and a
Kerr said Sunward has rented the Winnebago to a "surprisingly
wide range" of clients, from families with small children to a
group taking it to a football game tailgate party to couples
looking for a romantic weekend.
The firm only has one vehicle, but Kerr and his partner, Gary
Davis, are seriously considering buying another one -- and then it
will be marketing to other agents more seriously, he said.
"So far, the idea has worked really well," Kerr said. "And I
think we're the first agency to do something like this."
Call the company at (800) Sunward for more information or check
out its Web site at www.sunward.com
Specialize to survive
I have a client who has a full schedule of overseas speaking
engagements in the coming months.
"I hope all this business helps send your kids to college," he
said half seriously. Clearly, he doesn't realize how drastically
these commission caps have affected us. Should I tell him what I
really make on his $4,000 ticket?
Rather than consider a new career in integrated systems
management, I will continue to follow the advice of ASTA and others
to specialize. Especially for home-based agents, this is essential
For the past few years I have been focusing on several specialty
travel products, for example, adventure travel to Latin America,
and I have some suggestions for those who are considering
developing their own niche:Know your clients. Survey them to find out their future travel
interests. Note trends in type of travel (such as hiking, history,
ecotours) and destinations (such as Peru, Costa Rica, Jordan).Know yourself. What interests you? It can be a lot more fun to
sell tours to historical World War I battlefields (if that is what
you like) than a roundtrip ticket to Dallas.Research that interest. Go on the Internet and see what is
already there. A travel student of mine from Argentina was
interested in developing tours for tango dancers. She checked the
Internet and found only one company offering tango dancing trips to
Argentina. This could be a great special-interest opportunity.Where do you want to be in five years? With our busy schedules,
it's hard to find time to plan for the future. But remember, if you
know what you want to be doing, it's easier to decide which route
to take now.
Robin Fetsch operates Specialty Tours from her home in Falls
Church, Va. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
This week's Net News has a Western flavor.
Find out what your clients can do in and around this town through
an on-line guide from the Durango Area Chamber Resort Association.
The offerings include Mesa Verde National Park, the Durango &
Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Purgatory Ski Resort and all sorts
of outdoor activities. For a hard copy of the guide, call (800)
GO-DURANGO or point your browser to www.durango.org
Little Bighorn Battlefield in Crow Agency, Mont., and Montezuma
Castle National Park in CampVerde, Ariz., are just two of the sites
in the Southwest Parks & Monuments Association. The association
has 55 national parks in 11 states and posts contact information
for each. Go to www.spma.org
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]
Feeling some pain while you're working at the keyboard? Like
many of your fellow agents, you, too, may be suffering repetitive
strain injury (RSI), which encompasses a wide range of conditions
from carpal tunnel syndrome to tendinitis.
One way to learn more: Check out the book "Repetitive Strain
Injury," written by Dr. Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter. The
authors provide information on RSI symptoms along with the
following tips on what good treatment should include:Use physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the affected
muscle groups.Learn to control pain: Take adequate short breaks and recognize
the body's warning signals to stop working.Change your typing technique so you don't get caught in a cycle
And though some may think the remedy is to buy ergonomic
furniture and aids, be cautious, say the authors. "Some of these
accessories are valuable, but a lot of them are gimmicky, if not
downright dangerous," they warn.
On-line language lessons
The Internet can help the international traveler who wants to
brush up on foreign language skills, but for the beginning student,
nothing can replace old-fashioned, face-to-face lessons given by a
That's the conclusion reached in a recent piece in the Circuits
section of the New York Times.
The writer, Michelle Slatalla, first checked out Language
Connect (www.languageconnect.com), which offers a daily
vocabulary lesson of four words in a variety of languages.
Next she moved to a free on-line course at www.learnplus.com
that was less than successful because technological glitches
prevented her from interacting with the instructor.
At www.berlitz.com, she found "common phrases in 15
languages, [and] travel and culture tips for 30 countries."
Another source was www.dictionaries.travlang.com, for dictionaries in
major foreign languages.
Still, she concluded, on-line learning always gets around to one
subject: "How technology works -- or doesn't. ... You get
distracted from Spanish verb tenses by a more immediate lesson
about computer crashes."