It may sound punny, but musical performers do make great pied
pipers -- those folks who attract members of an affinity group to
travel together. That is a truth that Phil and Doris Davidoff have
put to good use by developing fan club cruises for their agency,
Belair/Empress Travel & Cruises in Bowie, Md.
It was the Davidoff's son Donald who first decided to tap this
market -- partly because he was a fan of the acoustic guitar duo
Lowen & Navarro and wanted to know them better.
He figured other fans would have the same dream -- and what better
place to make that dream come true than on a cruise, which is "such
a strong bonding experience," according to Doris.
"So we e-mailed [Lowen & Navarro] and they said, 'that
sounds intriguing,' " she added. Although the musical group had
never cruised before -- nor had most of their fans -- they were up
for the new experience.
The first Lowen & Navarro sailing attracted 54 passengers,
the second, 99 --with a solid base of repeaters. Now Belair/Empress
Travel is gearing up for the third version, set for Carnival's
Imagination, Nov. 9 to 13.
From this beginning the agency developed relationships with
other performers that Lowen & Navarro suggested -- such as
Eddie From Ohio; Venice, a group with a West Coast following, and
perhaps the most well-known, folk singer Christine Lavin.
Lavin is noted for her humorous lyrics; one of her songs, "What
Was I Thinking?", which laments various purchasing and other
mistakes she's made, was used in a Fruit of the Loom TV
"I sat down with her after seeing her show [and found] she's a
very friendly, open person who loves to mingle with her fans," said
Doris. "That's the kind of performers we want -- those who want to
be up close and comfortable with their fans."
Or, as Phil puts it: "She's a bundle of energy and a 100% nut --
but in a good way!
"If you come to her show early, she'll polish your nails -- and
I think it's wild when she picks up the baton!" (Lavin's encore
usually includes a baton-twirling performance).
Savvy selling: How to fan the flames
Without the Web and e-mail we never could have done it," said
Doris Davidoff of her newest specialty, musical performers' fan
Davidoff, vice president of Belair/Empress/Travel & Cruises
in Bowie, Md., promotes these cruises on her agency's Web site, as
well as the performers' Web sites, and is setting up a site just
for this specialty at www.fanclubcruises.com.
focuses on soft rock and folk performers who are known in their
market but are not superstars, such as Christine Lavin. "There are
hundreds of these kinds of performers all over the country," she
For other agents thinking along these lines, Doris and Phil
Davidoff, Doris' husband and the agency's president, had these
further tips:Pick the right performers. "They've got to have a Web site and
a large enough group of fans" to make it worth your while, said
Phil. Performers should be capable of filling midsize venues -- and
as for music genre, "you might be careful of heavy-metal groups
known for dropping their pants during a gig." They tend to attract
a fan base that "you might not want to escort on a trip," he
added.Promote the group before you promote the cruise. Most
passengers you get in this way will probably be first-time cruisers
whose reason for getting on the ship "is to be up close and
personal with the talent," said Doris.Look for the right ships -- usually those focusing on three- or
four-day trips. "The biggest challenge is the limited number of
itineraries" for shorter cruises, said Doris, although "some fans
might have the time and money to do one-week cruises."The Country Data Bank
Did you make your deposit to the bank today? I refer, of course,
to the Country Data Bank (CDB).
The concept is simple. Start an easily accessible file on the
office computer that lists every major destination
staff member, including the bookkeeper, is going to be asked to
contribute to the CDB. Deposits are monitored by the agency owner,
and those who contribute the most and best advice get rewarded.
The CDB is the melting pot for the collective wisdom of your
staff and the world's best travel writers. Sure you read about a
beachfront stand near the Four Seasons on Nevis that prepares
wonderful fish dinners. But you won't remember where you read it.
That's why you clip the article and enter its relevant points in
When a client is traveling, your agents reprint or verbally
recommend appropriate items from the CDB.
At my agency, none of us have the time to work at the bank more
than a minute or two each day. But, since you're only going to be
entering a sentence or two with an address and phone number, that
is time enough. Your CDB belongs to the agency. It could become a
valuable asset of the firm if everyone contributes.
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
Contact him at [email protected]