Family ties

assageways Travel of Traverse City, Mich., chose a partnership with GrandparentWorld.com as a way to further delve into the world of intergenerational travel by offering counseling and specials to the site's users and grandchildren.

The $80 million company is Michigan's second-largest agency and the third-largest franchisee in Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Passageways employs 175 people at 23 locations.

Its business mix consists of 42% leisure, 42% corporate and 16% groups, incentives and associations. The company also specializes in cruises and packaging spring/winter breaks as well as premium tours.

The agency sees the Web as a valuable adjunct to its business and provides content on www.bid4trips.com and arranges travel for members of Ebizmix.com, a business-to-business Web site for card- and gift-store owners.

The executive team of Passageways Travel, headquartered in Traverse City, Mich. Don Harmon, chief executive officer of GrandparentWorld, said that because the travel section of his company's site is the most popular area, he knows his users will be interested in experiencing trips, especially with the grandparent-grandchild relationship in mind.

Passageways president Tom Rockne explained how the process will work: "GrandparentWorld users are referred to a special Passageway hot line and learn more about the senior fare offerings of all carriers, their policies on children traveling alone, adults traveling with multiple children and destination advice."

Basically, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., calls are directed to a Passageways location in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, that specializes in the senior market, then funneled to a Traverse City office until midnight and sent to a call center until 6 a.m.

An e-mail option has been available since Feb. 1, and a direct link from GrandparentWorld.com to Passageways' home page, at www.pways.com, is planned for April 1.

GrandparentWorld also will feature information on the top places to take grandchildren, updates on senior and children's fares, and special values, Rockne said.

Founded in 1999, GrandparentWorld is designed to deliver a world of ways for grandparents to stay connected with their grandchildren, including advice, relevant links and information on travel, shopping, health, finance and grandkid trends.

-- Michele SanFilippo

Exploring the niche

ow is it that Michigan's Passageways Travel came to form a partnership with GrandparentWorld? The agency's president, Tom Rockne, said the site came highly recommended.

Beyond that, he said, "when I first sat down with chief executive officer Don Harmon and spoke about experiences growing up, I remembered having lots of fun with my grandparents and wanted to be able to bring this opportunity to others."

Vacation used to be a time to get away, but as more families have become scattered around the world, they are increasingly becoming a time to get together.

Tom Rockne.As a result, according to GrandparentWorld, multigenerational vacations can prove to be the best getaways clients have ever known, creating memories that leave a lasting impression on the whole family.

But its Web site explains that this type of travel isn't just for grandparents. "It's for anyone who wants to travel with a child, including aunts, uncles and friends ... the best part is that there are as many types of trips as there are grandchildren, and getaways can be as short as a day trip or as long as a trip around the world."

Rockne added that there is a sizable stream of business available to agents from intergenerational travel, especially when combined with other niches.

"The youngest baby boomers are now becoming grandparents, while older boomers want to maximize their time by traveling with grandchildren as much as possible," he said.

This is why he urges agents to look for the opportunities, learn what they actually are, size them up, research and then try them out.

Harmon and his staff see multigenerational travel as an opportunity to expand horizons, enhance education, venture to new places, explore different cultures and try new things while learning more about one another.

Popular choices for this type of travel include amusement parks, state and national parks, rail journeys, cruises, ecological adventures, ranches, historical sites, safaris and ski resorts.

GrandparentWorld suggests clients choose a destination that interests both parties and ask grandchildren for their input.

The company advises including activities for everyone to enjoy, such as swimming, fishing, hiking, bicycling, camping and scuba diving.

It also said clients should choose a destination offering activities for all ages, such as Las Vegas, because cities with structured programs will give adults a break and they will provide entertainment for the children.

The home-based challenge

ast year, Travel Weekly ran a Plog consumer survey that indicated the public has little regard for part-time agents." This generated a letter or two as home-based agents remain a large and vocal minority.

No one ever wants to challenge the notion of home-based travel businesses because anything one says is certain to anger someone in that community. But let me plunge ahead with a few observations and a recommendation.

Travel professionals are sometimes embarrassed by the high percentage of industry members who ought to be doing something less cerebral for a living.

Richard Turen.I haven't seen any evidence that home-based agents are any less qualified than some of our full-time practitioners. Some of our most experienced professionals have learned to harness technology and work out of a home office.

There are now tens of thousands of home-based agents who purchased their "credentials." This "bathrobe brigade" primarily books travel for themselves and perhaps a few friends. They are not to be confused with the home-based professional.

The fact is that an experienced home-based agent, even one who previously worked in a bricks-and-mortar environment as an owner/manager, can often earn a greater income by maximizing sales time at home.

Too often, the discussion of home-based businesses is really about the differences between full-timers and part-timers. Does the full-time professional encounter a greater range of experiences than the part-time practitioner? I think so. And, it appears, so does the public.

Those who purchased their credentials and lack real experience, and those who choose to devote less rather than more time to their craft, would do well to stop whining about the lack of respect they receive from their brethren.

Do you want to accept legal advice from an attorney who keeps up with the law two or three days a week while pursuing other interests?

Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency president. Contact him at [email protected].

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