a seasoned agent would know the nuances of flight schedules from
New York to Jamaica. Or that Beaches Negril can accommodate five
people to a room -- and that it also offers kids state-of-the art
video game equipment.
co-owner of No. 1 Travel in Merrick, N.Y., knows all those things
and, its safe to say, a whole lot more. In fact, her prodigious
knowledge of the travel industry is what landed her on the Travel
Channels Vacation Challenge, which debuted in September.
Each episode features
one set of travelers who are presented with three vacation options
tailored by three agents. In the Oct. 18 episode, three retailers
were given a limited budget to design a Caribbean vacation for a
family of five from the New York area.
The family was
offered vacation options to Nassau and Puerto Rico but, in the end,
opted for Guttmans Jamaica vacation to Beaches Negril.
Guttman said her
skills at qualifying clients were aptly showcased by the familys
vacation choice. The father, a police detective who was active in
the 9/11 rescue efforts, and his wife, an occupational therapist,
had three children and told Guttman they wanted to relax and
They wanted a place
where the kids could be occupied and where they could spend some
time alone, explained Guttman. The kids hadnt ever been on a plane.
They hadnt really traveled anywhere but local destinations like
Virginia, but they were definitely open to new
Beaches Negril, she
said, fit the familys demographics. They had young kids, and he was
a fifth-generation police officer very much affected by 9/11 who
wanted to totally relax. They were just a very down-to-earth
The Travel Channel
show, said Guttman, illustrated the value of using travel agents.
For her part, Guttman has visited Beaches Negril and knows the
resort inside and out. She knows how its rooms are configured, what
amenities are available for children and adults -- and what type of
client would find this vacation appealing.
For instance, only a
qualified agent would know that Beaches has an Xbox video game
center where kids can play a variety of Xbox video games, and a
Kids Kamp, which keeps kids occupied.
Sales skills are as
important as product knowledge, said Guttman.
I think what makes me
a good agent is my interpersonal skill, she said. People feel
comfortable with me knowing that Im booking their trips. I foster
Guttman, who is a
second-generation retailer who works for the agency her parents,
Irwin and Beverly Markman, founded 25 years ago, held part-time
jobs at the agency in high school and college.
After graduating from
college, Guttman worked as an account executive for an advertising
agency. I didnt like the ad business, she said. I needed to be out
Her next job, selling
pharmaceuticals, was much more to her liking. The job taught her
first and foremost how to deal with rejection. Its tough to sell to
doctors, she said. Its a hard sell.
Her attitude now is:
You try to figure out what you did wrong and not make the same
mistake twice. Just move on when youre not going to close the
Although No. 1 Travel
always has sold a high percentage of upscale travel, its
affiliation with Virtuoso that began four years ago has greatly
boosted the companys sales.
Virtuoso, Guttman said she shied away from booking on-site
destination trip elements. That has changed, thanks to the
consortiums on-site travel partners.
Previously, I never
pushed creating individual elements of trips, she said. I would
always tell clients theyd be better off going to hotel concierges
to arrange day tours. Now, I contact a Virtuoso on-site and they
create the whole specialized itinerary -- and Im making more
Guttman added that
she also has forged stronger ties with cruise and hotel suppliers,
thanks to Virtuoso. For instance, she met the general manager of
Italys Palazzo Sasso, Stefano Gegnancorsi, at Virtuoso Travel Mart
and was able to capitalize on the meeting in an unexpected
A week after the
Travel Mart, I sent clients for the first time to Palazzo Sasso in
Ravello, she said. When they arrived at the hotel, the general
manager came out and told them what a wonderful travel agent they
had -- and he immediately upgraded them. This is something the
client told me they will never forget.
Which, she added, is
the very thing selling travel is all about -- unforgettable
To contact Agent
Life reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail [email protected].
Five days in
John Clifford, president of San
Diego-based International Travel Management, created an itinerary
to Fijis main island of Viti Levu on the Coral Coast that is well
suited for shorter itineraries. This stretch is a sunny locale,
safe from the rains and high humidity of Suva, Clifford
Clients check into
Shangri-Las Fijian Resort on an islet linked to Viti Levu by a
causeway. This place has the most recreational features of any
Fijian resort as well as a pristine beach and a crystal-clear
lagoon, said Clifford. He suggests dining at the waterfront
Vilisites Seafood Restaurant near the Shangri-La. This restaurant,
owned and operated by a friendly Fijian woman named Vilisite,
doesnt look like much from the outside, but it offers a nice
selection of excellent seafood to complement the fantastic view of
Fijis Coral Coast from the veranda, said Clifford.
Travelers take a ride
on the Coral Coast Railway located right outside the resort. The
railway uses two restored sugar cane locomotives for a variety of
excursions on narrow-gauge railroads through the cane fields and
along the coastline. The most popular trip travels to Natadola
Beach for swimming and a beachside barbecue lunch, said Clifford.
Prices run about $57, including lunch.
Clients visit the
remote and scenic villages of the Nausori Highlands. Along the way
theyll visit Nakabuta, the Pottery Village, where the residents
make and sell authentic Fijian pottery. They have dinner in Nadi at
Chefs, the Restaurant. Chef Eugene Gomes establishment offers
gourmet cuisine, excellent service and many fine touches that make
for one of Fijis finest dining experience, said
A day cruise takes
travelers to one the Mamanuca islands resorts for lunch,
snorkeling, swimming and boating.
Clients tour the
capital city of Suva, with stops at the cultural center at Pacific
Harbour. They can shop for handcrafts in Suva and then finish the
day with a visit to the Fiji Museum. The site for lunch is Suvas
Old Mill Cottage. Diplomats and government workers fill this old
colonial cottage at breakfast and lunch for some of the regions
best and most affordable food, Clifford said. The site for dinner
is the Shangri-Las Takali Terrace, which features Asian cuisine and
sweeping views of the bay.
agency find common ground
people probably havent heard of Mountain Home, Ark. But when Joseph
Cavarra, senior vice president of sales development for North
America at Costa Cruises, met Cameron Tucker, who owns Professional
Travel Services here, bells went off.
Joe was familiar with
the place, said Tucker, recalling that initial meeting at Julys
Vacation.com conference in Las Vegas. It was one of his first sales
territories many years ago, and he knew it was a [popular] place to
into group business, a segment that Costa has long aggressively
pursued. Capturing group business also is a priority at
Professional Travel Services. We do a lot of groups, and were
always looking to produce more, said Tucker.
Soon after the
Vacation.com meeting, Cavarra and Tucker strategized on ways to
capture a large share of group business from the surrounding
Costa and the agency planned
several cruise shows, the first of which drew 100 people to a local
hotel for lunch. The decor and meal were carefully chosen to
reflect Costas Cruising, Italian Style image, said
attendees to buy, Costa offered complimentary upgrades and an array
of prizes for attendees who signed up at the show.
At least 15 to 20
signed up that day, said Tucker, adding that Costa and the agency
were promoting two different cruises during the lunch.
Costa also has helped
the agency subsidize the cost of a billboard that promotes the
cruise line, and the agency is cosponsoring several other cruise
promotions in regions just outside Mountain Home to help the agency
capture even more group business. Theyve bent over backwards for
this agency, said Tucker.
Cavarra said Costa
looks to form partnerships with agencies just like Professional
aggressive and followed through on everything we had discussed
during our Vacation.com meeting in Las Vegas, he said. They took
immediate action. When we recommend what we think they should do,
they do it.
Hand in Hand
highlights successful examples of agents and suppliers working
together. Send suggestions to [email protected].
The Amazing Race
When it debuted in
2001, CBSs The Amazing Race pulled in anything but amazing ratings.
But the show, originally overshadowed by the popularity of
Survivor, came into its own this season.
Winner of two
straight Emmy awards as best reality series and high on virtually
every critics list, The Amazing Race ought to be required watching
for anyone who has designs on a career in travel.
It serves to
illustrate just how frustrating, difficult and wonderfully
inspiring travel to the far corners of the earth can be. Take, for
example, the first episode of the spring 2002 season.
Teams of two gathered
in Pahrump, Nev. They received their instructions to book the first
flight to Rio. From Rio they had to meet the Big Guy (the Christo
Redentor statue) on Corcovado, Kiss Fat Maria on Paqueta Island,
take a gondola to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain and then rappel
down the mountain.
Each week, one team
is eliminated. Each week, obstacles are placed in teams paths. Each
week, teams have to choose from travel alternatives. There are, of
course, the personality conflicts. And there is the money at the
end. Some of the contestants ask for the Lords guidance, while
others pull every scam possible to defeat the
On limited funds,
contestants have to negotiate fares in the airport, figure out
routes and choose seats near the exit door for the fastest
I like the scenes at
international airports. Many of the facilities are better
organized, cleaner and more service-focused than ones in the
Yes, one or two of
the younger contestants felt Calcutta smelled rotten and they saw,
along with viewers, unbridled poverty. But there was also something
in the hearts and souls of the Indian people that came through the
You could trust the
local taxi drivers. People would try hard to give contestants the
right directions to their next location. No one in Calcutta tried
to rip them off.
Ive never been an
advocate of armchair travel. But this television show is happily
addictive, and it offers inspiration to anyone who wants to go off
and see some of this planet.
And when the new
season airs, likely in the coming months, be sure to watch for the
one skillful team that learns that the best way to navigate
flights, routes and nasty situations is with the assistance of a
good local travel agent.
It turns out that
when youre smack in the middle of travel reality -- the Internet
isnt all that helpful.
consultant Richard Turen owns the vacation-planning firm Churchill
& Turen Ltd., based in Naperville, Ill. Contact him at [email protected].
successful fund-raising cruises
enough time to promote the event. If youre going to try to
promote a fund-raiser in a short period of time, you wont be
successful, said Susan Zoller, president of Tampa-based Cruise
World, an agency that specializes in fund-raising cruises. You need
at least a year to a year-and-a half.
2. Select the
right cruise line and look for corporate sponsorships.
Enter negotiations on the nonprofits behalf, said Zoller, and
select several lines and see which will give you the best
concessions. Corporate sponsorships will help offset costs. For
instance, if youre promoting a church group, most houses of worship
have corporate professionals who attend services. These people can
sponsor events, advertise and make donations, said Zoller. Theyll
get some nice recognition and feel good about giving a few extra
dollars to a special cruise.
3. Form a
committee of volunteers to assist you in your endeavors.
Its vital to get volunteers involved, said Zoller. If theyre going
to work as pied pipers theyll be enthusiastic and enjoy the feeling
of being part of the venture. If you do it alone, you wont get the
support you need.
4. Make the
promotions process fun. Invite as many people as possible
and generate enthusiasm, said Zoller. If youre promoting a church
group, invite the cruise rep, feature door prizes and have a
raffle, she suggested. Our agency had a raffle for a church group,
and we ended up raising $12,000 just from that, she said, adding
that her group of volunteers helped create the ambience of the
promotion in the church community center. Theres no way one person
can do it all alone, she said. If you do it together as a committee
its really wonderful.
the group. Its important to be hands-on throughout, said
Zoller. If, for some reason, agents cant sail, they should make
sure to accompany the group on board for embarkation -- and throw a
bon voyage party of some sort. Its important to bond with the
group, she said.