"Are you crazy? Does your husband have a real job so you can have
food on the table?" That's what Beverly Armellino typically hears
when she tells people she just bought a travel agency.
Armellino, who has
owned Travel Trends in Monmouth Beach, N.J., for half a year now,
is unfazed by the jeers. She loves her new job. And she went to
travel school for a year before she bought her agency, so "I
basically knew what I was getting into. I heard about the caps and
Armellino bought a thriving agency owned by two women who wanted
to slow down their active involvement in the business to prepare
for retirement. Her story is a reminder that, yes, there are still
good things in the travel industry.
She can't help comparing this job to her last one. As secretary
to the head of the New Jersey Department of Health, "complaints
would be passed on to me all the time," she said. "I'd have to
pacify people constantly, so I learned how to deal with the
Typically, she'd have to face "nasty, upset people" whose angry
calls for service were frequently prefaced by the phrase, "I pay
your salary. I'm a taxpayer." That's a 180-degree turn from her
typical daily encounters with "people who are happy because they're
going on vacation" -- and she's very grateful for the switch.
Armellino is also happy to be her own boss. "My husband always told
me, 'you're wasting your time working for somebody else.'"
And she enjoys using the excellent organizational skills she
developed as a secretary: "In travel school, they said being
organized was very important," she said. "Now, when people come in
and ask me about a destination, I may not know that much about it,
but I do know where to call."
All these good things translate into a new peace of mind despite
any headaches the industry will bring, Armellino said. "When I go
back to visit people from my old job, they say, 'you look better
than you ever did before.' "
On a learning curve
agent Beverly Armellino is happy with her new field. "Every day's a
learning experience," she said. And she's out there energetically
attending seminars and workshops, from ASTA's recent Vacationfest
conference in Anaheim to a tour operator show, local trade shows,
fam trips and meetings of her local New Jersey ASTA chapter. "You
learn from going, and you learn from the people you meet."
From her time in travel school, she already knew that "air
wasn't the place to go [for profits]; that comes from leisure
cruises, tours and packages." Owner of Travel Trends, Monmouth
Beach, N.J., she's also happy to learn how to be a salesperson, a
skill she had not refined in her last job, as a secretary. "I've
learned all these ways of being able to close group tour
She's also realizing that she has to switch to an agent's point
of view while traveling. "You never go to a hotel and look at it
the way you did before you got into the business," she said. "Now,
you ask yourself, 'Would I sell this hotel? Could I send my clients
there and feel comfortable?'"
She won't forget Tauck Tours president Arthur Tauck's remarks
during one conference. "He said he was there when commissions were
5%, and despite all the changes he has seen since, there are still
ways to survive and make money [in the business]," she said.
Amarillo also was impressed by how she'll "meet lots of people,
and they're all willing to help you. Competitors are friendly with
each other; we're all in the same business."
You've got mail
the simplest ways of making contact are the most effective. If you
haven't written letters to your customers lately, you're missing
out on an inexpensive and effective advertising tool. With
computers and mail merge capabilities, letters can easily be
personalized with the customer's name and hand-signed.
The more tailored the message, the more sales it will generate.
You can:Tell customers who haven't been in the agency or bought from
you for more than a year that you miss them.Ask frequent travelers what you can do to make their experience
easier, more convenient.Write first-time shoppers thanking them for a purchase and
inviting them to return.
For your very top customers, consider a personal handwritten
note. By sending just two notes a day, you can turn out 40 or so a
month, which means you can personally reach your top 500 customers
Don't have time to spend handwriting each letter? There's a new
product available from Signature Software that translates your
unique handwriting into a computer font that can be used with your
laser printer. The program requires that you handwrite a document
and send it to the firm, where your letters are translated into a
font that can be used from any PC. The program also can be used to
print thank-you cards.
The service costs about $100 and will take a little time to
learn to use. But if you're actively using direct mail (and you
should be) this product can pay for itself in just a few months.
For more information about the Signature font, call Signature
Software at (800) 925-8840.
Dan McManus is a former agency owner and publisher of the
Successful Worldspan Agency newsletter.
New links to consumers
Weissmann Travel Reports is inviting agencies who subscribe to
its Weissmann's World destination-report software service to link
their Web sites to the company's Travel Corner consumer Web site at
The connection service, called Weissmann's WebLink, is available
to Weissmann's World subscribers for an introductory fee of $50.
With WebLink, consumers who log onto Weismann's Travel Corner site
can find a database of agencies subscribing to Weissmann's
services, look up agencies in their ZIP code and go directly to
those agencies' Web sites.
"We want to steer consumers to travel agents at a time when
they're researching and planning their trips," David Bole,
publisher of Weissmann Travel Reports, said.
Other features of Travel Corner include travel articles written
by Weissmann editors, recipes and a travel personality quiz.
Weissmann Travel Reports is a sister company of Travel Weekly.
For additional information, call (800) 776-0720.
This week's Web sites offer a way to buy advance tickets to
the Louvre and to plan visits to Illinois.
The famed Paris museum now offers an on-line ticketing service
for U.S. and Canadian visitors via TicketWeb, a company based in
Oakland, Calif. Visitors can avoid lines and use a special entrance
to the museum by purchasing advance tickets at www.ticketweb.comor
by visiting the Louvre's official Web site, which links to
A trip planner feature on the site makes it easy to find
restaurants, attractions and lodging of various types for different
towns throughout the state. An easy point-and-click format lets you
design a customized itinerary and print it out. www.enjoyillinois.com
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]
Agency calling card
Get 20% commission when your clients use a Travel Communications
Co. (TCC) Travelfone card, which allows them to make affordable
international calls with an English-speaking operator while they
Another benefit is that unlike prepaid calling cards, users
don't pay in advance but only when they activate and then use the
card. That means clients don't pay in advance and risk throwing
away a card with a portion of it unused.
The card and information are printed in multiple languages and
have multilingual 24-hour, seven-day-a-week support. Agents can
activate the card by slipping it into a customer's ticket jacket
and then sending TCC a setup form for the card. Your agency's logo
can be added to the card, as well.
Call (888) 869-0111 for more information or check out the
company's Web site at www.travelcom.net.