Marketing. In the view of Scott Caddow,
president of San Diego-based The Cruise Place, its growing role in
the future of the travel agency industry is as crucial as it is
inevitable. Since we have to do it, he said, we have decided to
have fun with it. We try new things, analyze what works and try
A case in point: The
Cruise Place operates a private-label service, Clear Channel
Cruises, for Clear Channel Communications, a media firm that runs
1,200 radio stations. Clear Channel Cruises features popular
deejays who sail with fans and listeners on selected
Cruises are promoted
through Clear Channels radio stations. The Cruise Place creates
private shore events and merchandises items such as T-shirts for
the cruises. Also, The Cruise Place has rights to market to
consumers in the Clear Channel database.
promotional program, the Itineris Society, provides the agencys
upper-echelon clients with exclusive members-only perks. These
clients pay $299 to join the society, which enables them to partake
in three members-only social events a year, where they learn about
future sailings, network with other members and plan
members receive a gift box four times a year -- contents include
items such wines from around the world and chocolates from
Australia. Members also receive complimentary airport transfers, a
feature that Caddow said is extraordinarily popular, and a host of
Caddow said Itineris
Society members act as Pied Pipers, recruiting friends to sail on a
particular itinerary, which in some cases makes them eligible for
Caddow says his
agencys affiliation with the Signature Travel Network has helped
The Cruise Place hone its marketing skills.
Travel Network was the best move I ever made, he said. Its very
much focused on the needs of the membership and is very focused on
three prongs that really help us: training, marketing and
relationship management technology enables the consortium to target
e-mail and direct-mail promotions to The Cruise Places customers.
Clients get only whats interesting to them, said Caddow. The key is
Signature gets me back to do what I do best: training and
The Cruise Places
three agency locations -- two in San Diego and one in Tucson, Ariz.
-- collectively produce an annual sales volume of $15 million from
50,000 travelers. Ninety percent of the agencys business comes from
cruise sales and the remaining 10% from tour sales.
We knew we had to
make commitments to certain cruise vendors to meet bigger sales
goals, he said.
Although the agency
books six major suppliers, its philosophy is to concentrate on
three -- one each in the categories of premium, contemporary and
My agents cant know
150 ships and 5,000 itineraries, said Caddow.
And knowing what you
sell is what its all about, Caddow said. As president of the
Association of Travel Agents of America, he is a dedicated advocate
of retailer training.
conferences educate agents on how to maintain a competitive
business, how to create business plans and how to forge stronger
ties with clients.
Its annual Nuts &
Bolts conference, set for July 15 to 17 in Scottsdale, Ariz., will
focus on luxury and adventure travel. Featured speakers will
include SeaDream Yacht Club CEO Larry Pimentel and industry speaker
Nolan Burris of Visionistics Enterprises.
With an educated
cadre of agents behind him, Caddow plans to grow The Cruise Places
business through future acquisitions and a continued emphasis on
creative marketing and training programs.
We have some very
creative people, and my business model allows us all to jump in
with both feet, try new things, have fun with it -- without fear of
failure, he said.
I find this gives us
an edge in the creative marketing side of our business. Some things
work, some things dont -- so we keep doing what works and keep
trying new things.
To contact Agent
Life reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail[email protected].
Thailand and Cambodia
Barbara Stein, a travel counselor with Post
Haste Travel in Hollywood, Fla., designed a five-night itinerary
that combines Thailand and Cambodia. For
travelers who have experienced the major cities of the Orient,
Chiang Mai, Thailand and Siem Reap, Cambodia, are marvelous
destinations to experience, she said.
Clients stay at the
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai. The setting is breathtaking with
rice terraces surrounding the hotel grounds, said Stein. They dine
in the hotel and then head for the Night Market, a Chiang Mai
Clients travel to
Chiang Dao to visit an elephant camp. They continue on to Thaton
and dine in a local restaurant. Then they board a longtail boat for
a 30-minute ride on the Mae Kok River to Baan Mai. By car, they
travel through the highlands, visiting a Padong Hill tribe village
where the women wear brass rings around their necks. Back in Chiang
Mai, they dine at the White Lotus Restaurant for an authentic Thai
Travelers visit the
Chang Mai temples of Wat Suan Dok and Wat Chedi Luang. They also
visit some of the citys artisans in their workshops. Back at the
hotel, they can relax in the spa and experience a Thai massage.
Clients have the option to enroll in the hotels Thai Cooking
School, where they can learn to cook Thai dishes -- and then dine
on the food they prepare.
Clients fly to Siem
Reap, Cambodia, where they receive visas for $20 by supplying one
passport-sized picture. Travelers should also carry an additional
passport-size photo to visit the temples at Angkor Wat. They check
into the Raffles Grand Hotel dAngkor and spend the afternoon
visiting the Banteay Sre, Banteay Samre, Preah Khan and Pre Rup
temples. They can choose to dine at any one of the hotels eight
Travelers spend the
day exploring the Angkor Temples built during the Khmer Period and
then return to the hotel for lunch before continuing on to Angkor
Thom, the cultural home of the Khmer people. The day is completed
with a visit to the handicrafts workrooms of Cambodian orphans, who
are taught the ancient arts of carving and weaving. They dine at
the Sofitel Royal Angkor Hotel, where travelers can sample
Cambodian specialties with a French accent.
Itinerary is an example of an itinerary an agent crafted his or
herself, not available anywhere else, but can be duplicated by
other agents to sell to their clients. To send an example of an
itinerary youve customized, e-mail Covey at[email protected].
Agent bangs the
drum, and Oceania benefits
Helga Thalheimer knows a good deal when she
sees one. And shes good at spreading the word.
Thalheimer, who works
in St. Louis as an independent agent for Plantation, Fla.-based
Sixth Star Travel, was talking to another Sixth Star agent who was
putting together a group aboard a 10-day Oceania cruise between
Athens and Barcelona, Spain.
I knew a lot of
people who would be interested in a Mediterranean cruise,
Thalheimer said. Oceania has really interesting itineraries, and it
was offering two-for-one fares and free air fare, she added. People
are always looking for a bargain.
other Sixth Star agent had enough people to receive a group fare as
well as other additional bonuses, which Thalheimer knew her clients
could also take advantage of.
She capitalized on
her contacts from her former career as a training manager for a
technology firm in St. Louis. She also publicized the cruise to a
range of organizations of which she is a member.
I really just spammed
everybody I knew, she said.
Then she heard about
a column in the St. Louis Dispatch that included blurbs on travel
I wrote up the
information on Oceania and sent it in, Thalheimer said, and the
response was immediate.
She is now promoting
other Oceania sailings in the newspaper and the response has been
Thalheimer has now
booked almost $100,000 worth of business with the cruise
Oceanias director of regional sales for southern Florida, has
helped Thalheimer every step of the way, she said.
I was clueless about
Oceania before I started selling it, she said. And you can only do
so much research online. When I need something, I talk to
Reaching out to
agents is nothing new for the line, said Tim Rubacky, Oceanias
manager of public relations and marketing services.
Our commitment to
agents has been paramount to our success, he said. From Day 1 we
stated there we would be 100% committed to agents. They have
responded in kind, and theyve been responsible for our
Hand in Hand
highlights successful examples of agents and suppliers working
together. Send suggestions to Covey at[email protected].
Escorted tours. Some people
wouldnt travel any other way. Others dont realize how great a tour
can be. Here are some prime prospects for you to target:
anxious client. Perhaps clients have never been abroad and
arent confident that their experience with domestic travel will see
them through in a foreign setting. Or maybe theyre getting older
and worry about driving in an unfamiliar environment. An escorted
tour might be just what such clients need.
gregarious client. Many clients view the experience of
meeting new people a prime benefit of travel. Lifetime friendships
can be made and cemented during the course of an escorted
inquisitive client. Travel can be a broadening experience,
an opportunity to learn about other cultures, history, art and
nature. Escorted tours provide clients with just such opportunities
for a deeper understanding of the destinations theyre
4. The frugal
client. Those who worry about the add-on costs theyll
incur while traveling on their own are often relieved at how much
easier it is to control their expenses when theyre paying most
travel costs in advance.
5. The spoil
me client. One of the major pleasures of travel is
avoiding hassles. Escorted tours permit your client to enjoy the
trip without stress.
6. The exotic
travel client. Dont forget that people bound for places
they perceive as somewhat risky, such as Africa, Russia and China,
are far more open to an escorted tour, even if they are independent
Marc Mancini is
an industry speaker and consultant who teaches at West Los Angeles
Keys when buying
or selling a travel agency
Put a 10-day expiration date on offers. This prevents the seller
from playing your offer off other possible offers, said Bob
Sweeney, founder of Roswell, Ga.-based Innovative Travel
Acquisitions, a business broker specializing in travel and tour
companies that has negotiated the sale of 472 travel companies in
its 14 years of business. Without an expiration date, it would be
easy for the seller to vacillate about selling the
Place a deposit in escrow to remove the business off the market
upon acceptance of a letter of intent to purchase. This effectively
eliminates concern about any other competitive bids, he said. It is
standard procedure, Sweeney added, to put approximately 5% of the
purchase price in escrow. It would be nonrefundable unless due
diligence uncovers misrepresentation or fraud.
Follow up on promised calls and visits. Dont blow the seller off,
said Sweeney. You might be looking at three or four acquisition
opportunities, but for the seller, this is the only buyer they may
be looking at. For sellers, the deal could be the biggest
transaction of their careers. They dont want to feel forgotten,
Be prepared to give a small signing bonus to retain key staff with
two-year contracts. Sometimes the owner is not the driving force of
the business, Sweeney said. Many times its the manager or a couple
of solid producing agents. The savviest buyers, he said, reward
those valuable employees. If an agent makes $50,000, you might want
to give him or her a raise, signing bonus or free trip -- something
that shows your heart is in the right place and you know how
critical he or she is to the transaction. Those are dollars well
Be quiet about the acquisition opportunity. Loose lips sink ships,
said Sweeney. No one gains when the word is on the street that XYZ
Travel is for sale. The clients and the agents get spooked. Its a