"Cheeseburger on ice." Wouldn't that headline grab you and make you
It was the topper for a chart comparing average cheeseburger
prices at major U.S. ski areas, with cute drawings of little
burgers representing each dollar of the price.
The chart ran in the fall 1998
edition of the client/supplier newsletter for Vail, Colo.-based Go
Mike Beltracchi, the company's president (and newsletter editor)
came up with the cheeseburger idea as a way to graphically show the
difference in overall prices between typical ski areas. "Lift
ticket rates wouldn't be as interesting," he said. "And everybody's
got to have lunch."
The cheeseburger chart is typical of the material in the
newsletter, which Beltracchi tries to keep both entertaining and
He also tries to provide a sense of who the people in the
industry are, frequently running client and supplier profiles.
Since Go West's sole specialty is ski groups in the West
(Beltracchi calls the firm a hybrid of a travel agent and a tour
operator) he often focuses on "common problems groups may
For instance, a piece headlined "Don't Lose Money on Empty Beds"
provided tips on how to price trips to protect against the pitfalls
of falling short of group minimums.
Beltracchi also uses humor, as was the case when he ran a photo
of four ski trippers with the following caption: "How would you
match these four guys into a 2BR condo with only three beds? How
would you break the news that two of them would have to share one
bed? Probably from a long distance."
He often writes about airline issues because "everybody thinks
their problems with airlines" are unique.
Addressing a topic that is obviously much discussed among groups
-- airline seat assignments -- Beltracchi wrote, "Please keep in
mind that this is not usually a life-or-death issue" and told the
story of how he was on a flight with someone who suffered a
seizure. "During the whole incident, I didn't hear the person who
had the seizure, nor the flight attendants, nor the paramedics, say
that the seizure was caused by the location of the person's
Improving your newsletter
Want to write a better newsletter? Mike Beltracchi, president of
Go West Tours, whose newsletter is profiled in the article above,
provided the following tips:Most important: Understand the audience you're writing for and
what you want to communicate to them. Beltracchi, for example,
intends his newsletter to serve as a "bridge between clients and
suppliers."Keep it entertaining as well as informative. The best
newsletters "can't just be a straight hard sales pitch -- that is
like hitting somebody in the face," he said.Create relationships between clients, your company and
suppliers. Beltracchi, for example, wrote about how one of his
employees was expecting twins; he also profiled various suppliers
so "customers can see there are real people making decisions for
creating their trips."Keep articles short and to the point and on topics people can
relate to. For example, almost everyone -- except vegetarians --
could relate to the cheeseburger chart he ran in one issue.Learn how to choose good photographs. Ideally, said Beltracchi,
"every picture should tell a story. If possible, they need to be
more than people just standing around."Make it interactive when possible. In one issue, Beltracchi
solicited readers' recipes for a cooking and entertaining guide he
planned to distribute to ski group leaders.Ode to the Orient
A few months back, Heidi Lakani, the senior escort for Travcoa's
around-the-world-by-private-jet program, was a guest on our weekly
cable television series. She is the best-traveled person I know, so
I asked her to recommend her favorite destination for those who can
only take one trip abroad.
pausing, she said the Orient because "the starting points of
reference are so different than the States."
She was right. I've just returned from a two-week tour of the
Orient with a group of clients.
My overall impression is pure astonishment that more Americans
are not visiting the likes of Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.
Asia delivers the excitement of strangeness and the sense of
discovery with a comfort level that can exceed any other portion of
the globe. It is a heady mix. We cooked dim sum with the chef at
the Peninsula Hotel and sailed to a small island past the beauty of
Hong Kong harbor at night, to enjoy dinner at one of a string of
shoreside seafood restaurants.
In Bangkok we stayed at, arguably, the world's best hotel -- the
Oriental -- with a terrace overlooking the active Chao Phraya
River. From time to time, we would take a boat across the river to
enter the property's spa (housed in a separate building), one of
the world's best spa facilities.
We toured ancient temples made of gold and sailed the canals
that are home to the boat people just outside the city.
In Singapore, we had breakfast with an orangutan at the
magnificent zoo and toured the "public" housing that is so integral
to a nation that is seen by many visitors as "the best-run city on
If, indeed, there is a new generation of travelers who seek to
bring something back from each vacation, the countries of Asia
ought to be recommended far more often than they are.
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
president. Contact him at [email protected].