It's not every agent who has had her love of travel activated by
starring in two TV shows -- but Cynthia Roberts did.
In 1996, Roberts was a cast member of MTV's "Real World V:
Miami," a documentary-style program that recorded the lives of
seven roommates for six months in the South Beach section of Miami
Beach, Fla., and as they traveled to the Bahamas.
These experiences encouraged her to seek travel opportunities.
After leaving South Beach, she went to work at Oakland,
Calif.-based Events and Excursions, specializing in arranging
travel for affluent clients and their pets. As an agent, Roberts
said, she found a professional outlet for her interest in seeing
And as someone whose real-life dramas were spotlighted on the
show, Roberts had a ready-made following among clients and
coworkers. "Watching me in my everyday life [on TV, people] feel a
little closer to me."
Roberts' encore MTV performance also involved traveling. She
joined four other "Real World" veterans to appear in "Road Rules
All-Stars," an MTV program from Bunim-Murray Productions -- also
the makers of "Real World" -- that tapes the lives of cast members
as they travel cross-country in a Winnebago.
On the journey, Roberts and her companions traveled around
Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. They were thrown over a cliff in
a clear plastic ball and scaled a 20-story building.
According to Scott Freeman, director of development for
Bunim-Murray, the show tries to present a balanced mix of
activities. "Not every mission has a death-defying theme," said
Roberts, in fact, also got to work on a dairy farm. "Who would
ever think I would be milking a cow?" she said. "I'm from
Roberts is grateful for all of these experiences that have
"snowballed into a lot of great opportunities. "I feel very
fortunate and blessed," she said. She plans to tour Europe this
summer. "Being a travel agent makes me want to go back or get
there," she said. "It just makes me want to see more."
Making TV experiences real
MTV's travel-themed shows, "Road Rules" and
"Real World," inspired cast member Cynthia Roberts to hit the road
(see story above). The programs have also been luring other young
viewers toward more active travel options.
Bunim-Murray Productions, which produces the two programs for
MTV, has received e-mail inquiries from viewers looking for more
information on specific destinations or activities featured on the
shows, said Scott Freeman, director of development.
He also noted that Bunim-Murray and MTV have discussed the
possibility of developing travel products modeled after the
programs' travel adventures. According to one operator, young
travelers are more likely to seek active travel options such as
those highlighted on the two shows, such as bungee jumping and
skydiving. "[Young adult travelers] will spend money to buy
experiences as opposed to older travelers," said Lorraine Sharp,
vice president of sales and marketing for Garden Grove,
Calif.-based Contiki Tours.
The cast members of the "Real World" and "Road Rules," ages 18
to 25, fit the demographic group sought by Contiki and similar
Sharp said she believes that many agents don't approach the
younger travel segment, because they don't know how.
Without a strategy to reach this market, Sharp said agents may
be neglecting a prime market, "not realizing that if they don't go
after [young adults], they won't have any clients in 10 years."
Got a question?
Here are the
answers to some queries about personnel and agency operations
Q: One of my employees is HIV-positive. He
asked me to keep this confidential. Is it OK to tell my agency
A: No. As the employer, you are in possession
of very confidential medical information that can be released only
to employees and medical personnel who have a need to know. If you
tell anyone, you may have to justify why they needed to know.
The same advice would apply for any other medical condition.
Take your role as an employer very seriously.
In a recent case that involved Denny's restaurants, the chain
agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a disability discrimination claim
brought by an employee and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission for unlawfully disclosing confidential and medical
Q: When customers get angry, I become
defensive. However, this usually just makes things worse. What
should I do?
A: Even the best agencies get irate customers
from time to time. When this happens, try not to take their
comments personally. They are not angry with you. They are upset
about an event or situation. Try to understand the problem from
their perspective first. After they have explained the situation,
apologize if you were at fault.
Then, you can offer a number of options to resolve the problem
or compensate customers for their inconvenience -- exchange their
merchandise or discount their purchase price, for example. Keep in
mind, though, that sometimes all they want is an apology or an
acknowledgement that there was a problem.
Dan McManus is a former agency owner and publisher of the
Successful Worldspan Agency newsletter.
The Fit for Travel kit is a product that may interest clients
who want to keep up with their exercise programs while on the
The compact "gym in a bag" consists of a small fanny pack
containing three levels of exercise bands (beginner, intermediate
and advanced), a door strap, instructional charts and photos and a
30-minute video on how to use the equipment hosted by fitness
specialist Adita Yrizarry. The fitness kit weighs less than one
pound and can easily be packed in a suitcase.
For agents, the kit carries a wholesale price of $15 with the
video, $12.50 without the video. There are also quantity discounts:
2.5% for 25, 5% for 50, 7.5% for 100 to 499 and 10% for 500 orders
The kit also is available at select Hotel Intercontinental and
Hilton hotels for guest use. Fit for Travel was created by SPRI
Products Inc., a Dallas-based company that manufactures rubberized
exercise products. For more information, call (800) 222-SPRI.
Do you have clients visiting Minnesota? Hospitality Minnesota
now has free copies of its tourism guides available. Explore
Minnesota Restaurants describes 1,449 dining establishments, with
information on location, menus, price ranges and special services.
The Explore Minnesota Hotel/Motel & Lodging Guide features 592
hotels and motels, with rates and reservations information as well
as a description of property amenities. Explore Minnesota Resorts
lists 790 resorts and includes information on activities and skiing
and hiking trails nearby.
Minnesota Campgrounds & RV Parks includes facility information
and recreational opportunities at 261 campgrounds. The newest
directory, Explore Minnesota Bed & Breakfast and Historic Inns,
contains information on 168 properties that include Victorian
mansions. To order bulk copies of these publications, call (800)
Magellan Travel Books
This Hanover, N.H.-based bookstore, after years of providing
reading lists to travel and tour companies for use by their
customers, has opened shop on the Web to make its inventory
available to the general public. You can search in a variety of
ways -- by topic, author, destination, etc. www.magellantravelbooks.com
Operated out of Atlanta, this Web service said it lists 34
destination areas worldwide and itineraries for more than 150
cruise lines. A map search accesses cruises by date for a
destination selected by the user. A subscription for unlimited
access costs $25 a year. www.cruisecalendar.com
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]