Fred Anlyn, owner of Terra Linda Travel in San Rafael, Calif.,
hopes to waltz his way into agency profitability. Anlyn is turning
his hobby, ballroom dancing, into his agency's specialty by
combining dance lessons with travel for people who sit on the
sidelines and tap their feet when the music starts.
"We are marketing to people in their 40s and up who have always
wanted to learn how to dance. Now they can learn to dance while on
vacation," he said. In the past year, Anlyn created a new division
for his agency, Dance Travel International, to promote a series of
travel packages that include dance instruction and sightseeing. The
instruction typically is two hours per day, in swing, salsa, waltz
and other popular ballroom-dance styles. Anlyn said the instruction
was kept short so that husbands -- who typically only grudgingly
attend dance events -- have plenty of free time to play golf or
partake of other activities after accommodating their wives by
taking the dance classes.
He knows what it's like to be the grudging dance partner, since
he had to be coerced into taking his first lessons by his wife.
However, he quickly became an enthusiastic amateur competitor. Now,
"dancing is what I look forward to in life, " he said. Anlyn has
begun advertising his programs in dance magazines and through
direct mail. The company's Web site -- www.dancetravel.com -- also sells the programs and
includes a photo gallery of dancers for browsers to check out.
Although Anlyn said the company is "gathering a critical mass,
still, we're tryin to determine how to get people who don't dance
but would like to. "How do you find them? We haven't quite gotten
that down yet."
Dance Travel also works with those who are serious hoofers,
booking dance competitors around the country to the many
competitions throughout the year, at sites that range from
Columbus, Ohio, to San Francisco. And Anlyn is wholesaling programs
to other agents.
Dance tours available
If you have clients who want to learn ballroom dancing, Dance
Travel International, the San Rafael, Calif.-based division of
Terra Linda Travel that sells dance travel packages, will pay 10%
commission to agents on programs it is wholesaling.These include a
one-week "dance camp" for beginners and those who want to improve
their skills, held in Marin County, Calif., May 16 to 22. The trip
includes 12 hours of group lessons and hotel accommodations with
full buffet breakfast and a dance party. Optional activities
include tours of San Francisco and the California wine country as
well as hiking. The price is $649 per person, double.
There's also a dance cruise to the Mexican Riviera May 9 to 16
on Carnival Cruise Line's Elation that includes daily group lessons
and is priced from $999 per person, double.For true dance-contest
aficionados, Dance Travel is offering a package to the 1999 Hawaii
Star Ball, held in Honolulu, during the third week of September,
with accommodations at the Hawaiian Regent Hotel; prices are not
yet available. For more information, call (800) 777-8871.
And keep this in mind: Lessons are a necessity for anyone
serious about dancing, according to Fred Anlyn, owner of the
company. "Trying to dance without knowing any steps is like trying
to speak French without any vocabulary," he said.
Not long ago, I received a call from Laura Bly, a staff writer
for USA Today and travel columnist for the Los Angeles Times,
warning that even at the mega-travel sites on the Internet, she's
found out-of-date information and blatant biases. The credibility
issue also crops up for agents using the Internet to search for
travel information for their clients. So when Web surfing, it pays
to keep two things in mind.
First, although many sites are launched with great fanfare, a
significant number fail to keep themselves maintained adequately.
Second, cast a critical eye on the purpose of the site. If it is to
promote a destination, attraction or property, you can bet that
every beach will be isolated, every village quaint. Similarly,
sites that are dependent on banner advertising or travel
transactions for revenue are unlikely to be overly critical.
You can (in most cases) avoid commercial bias if you visit
traveler chat rooms, but without knowing the travel style of the
person behind the postings, can you trust his or her advice? We in
the industry know that even the best tour operator serves up a
nightmare trip occasionally, yet gripe sessions or lavish words of
praise in chat rooms are usually based on a single experience. On
the Web, anybody can take on the trappings of an expert, and you
have good reason to be cautious about what you read.
Michael Kinsley of the Webzine Slate summed it up by saying
that, in essence, when he goes out to eat, he wants his food
prepared by the chef, not the guy at the next table. Feedback from
fellow travelers, like meals prepared by fellow diners, should be
taken with a grain of salt.
Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Weissmann Travel Reports
(owned by TW parent company Cahners Travel Group), will be checking
in occasionally with his thoughts on travel agents and the
Dive trade show
Diving Equipment and Travel Trade Show (DEMA) aims to help agents
who sell dive travel with educational seminars as well as a trade
show featuring providers of destination services and scuba-related
hard and soft goods. Held Jan. 13 to 16 in the Morial Convention
Center in New Orleans, the program includes seminars on the legal
aspects of selling dive travel; relationship marketing; selling
specific dive travel products, such as land-based and eco-friendly
programs, and an introduction on taking the plunge into this
specialty, with specifics on players, packages, prices and
There's also a success story panel with tips, tricks and words
of wisdom from seasoned pros. For a more complete list, check out
the firm's Web site at www.dema.org. Sponsored in part by Travel Weekly, the
DEMA show also allows agents to add to their educational credits;
agents enrolled in ICTA's CTA or CTC program will receive seven
continuing educational credits; all attendees receive the rating of
dive travel specialist from the Dive Travel Association. The cost
is $115 including handouts, a lunch and cocktail reception. Call
Turnkey marketing program
Philadelphia-based industry consultant Bob Stalbaum thinks that
cross-selling corporate clients leisure is one of the best ways for
agencies to get more business. "What makes the most sense is to
target customers who are already using you," he said. The cost of
reaching these clients is much less than paying for an ad in your
local newspaper where you're trying to talk to people who are
completely unfamiliar with your services, he added -- and you can
piggyback your leisure message onto vehicles already reaching
corporate clients, such as flyers placed in their business travel
Stalbaum's company, Strategies for Success, is offering a
direct-mail product that agencies can use to cross-sell corporate
business on leisure or to sell directly to leisure clients.
Designed and written by Stalbaum, the pieces of the campaign
include a brochure that can be customized to feature from nine to
10 different trips and can be printed in up to five colors; four
different ticket stuffers, and an ad campaign in three different
Once Stalbaum has customized the pieces for a particular agency,
the finished product is given to the agency on a disk so it can be
used again and again. For more information, call (610)
More on fees
By Robert Joselyn
Agents can probably expect "future changes in traditional
revenue streams," according to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based industry
consultant Robert Joselyn. "In any situation where you now receive
a commission that is realistically out of proportion to the work
performed, you had better consider yourself extremely vulnerable,"
he warned. Commission cuts are "going to happen whether you or I
like it or not. The issue becomes, what are you going to do about
Speaking during an ASTA teleconference on service fees, Joselyn
told a record 4,800 listeners that to remain profitable, travel
agencies will have to get a better handle on expenses and charge
clients service fees. "We need to know what profit we are making
and losing on every single sale," he said. "In order to do that, we
need to know what it costs us to provide these services." To
determine what amount to charge, Joselyn suggested the agency
should consider its overall expenses and how much revenue is
necessary to remain profitable. Dividing that total by the amount
of time agents actually spend selling travel should help determine
a basic fee structure.
Joselyn said agencies also should pass along the marked-up costs
of other services they provide to the client, such as the labor
costs associated with express mailing documents or booking
bed-and-breakfast reservations. "There's no doubt that the agency
that implements fees will lose [some] business," Joselyn said. "But
if implemented correctly, [the benefits] far outweigh in revenue
any business lost."