For much of her working life, Pam Coskey has wished upon a star.
She has been heavily reliant on the entertainment giant Disney to
earn a living. She worked in a restaurant and as a travel agent at
Walt Disney World. Also, she sold many, many Disney travel packages
as a travel agent in New York and in Orlando.
She does not often book
Disney trips these days, however, because it is right in her
backyard. She is manager of Go Travel, the only agency in
Celebration, Fla., a small but affluent "new town" of about 2,000
people started by Disney. The concept here, where homes typically
cost a half-million dollars, is to create a family-oriented place
where people can live and work in close proximity (in addition to
homes and a small downtown, offices and a downtown hotel are being
The majority of Go clients work at Disney, and many of them are
the "Imagineers" -- those who design rides and perform other
creative functions at the theme park. The advantage of having so
many upscale clients is that average trips tend to be more
expensive, offering higher commissions. "I would say our average
trip is probably $3,000 a person," Coskey said. One of her clients
recently booked a Concorde flight and a weeklong hotel stay in
London and Paris that cost $14,000; another booked a family cruise
to Panama that added up to $28,000.
In addition to escorted tours, her clients like cruises to the
Caribbean, Coskey said. "We also book Disney's own cruise ship. We
had a lot of people booking the second ship who aren't going now"
because of the delay in delivering the vessel, she said.
Coskey's husband works at Disney, so the couple regularly visit
the complex. When she goes, she has a favorite place: the MGM
Studios. She once saw actor Michael J. Fox there. Getting his
autograph was another reason she is grateful to Disney.
Small town pluses and minuses
Being located in a small but upscale town such as Celebration,
Fla., has marketing advantages and disadvantages, according to Pam
Coskey, manager of Go Travel here. "It's a small-town atmosphere
but with residents who have a higher-than-normal income," said
In that atmosphere,
Go Travel agents have regular client contact at the tiny post
office, the bank and at businesses along Front Street such as the
grocery store and Max's Grille. Relying on repeat customers, Go's
agents try hard to maintain friendly relationships. "Ticking
somebody off can really hurt you, so you try to avoid that," Coskey
The town has its own closed-circuit television station, which
enables Go to reach residents with various on-air promotions, such
as $10-off coupons for cruises. Coskey said the agency also is
adding an Internet site. Most residents have personal computers, so
Go Travel can also use e-mail to keep residents informed about
Many of her clients are sophisticated and "know pretty much what
they want," she said. Despite that knowledge or, in part, because
of it, Coskey said, her agents also tend to spend a lot of time
with clients making sure they are prepared for their trips. Also
because the clientele is so knowledgeable about travel, Coskey
said, her agents tend to take as many fam trips as possible so they
can answer most questions that inevitably come up.Got a question?
the answers to some queries about personnel and agency operations
Q:I've decided to sell my agency. Should I call
other agencies in my area to find a buyer?
A:No, not if you want to get top dollar.
Another agency owner may seem like an ideal prospect for buying
your travel business, but most of the time you can command a higher
price by putting your agency on the open market.
Your best bet is to list the agency with a business broker
specializing in selling travel agencies. A good broker will have
prospects looking to get into the business who, as a rule, will be
willing to pay more than someone who already owns an agency.
The broker can also keep the fact that your agency is for sale
confidential. It is almost impossible to advertise on your own
without letting the employees know that the business is up for
sale. Your agency may take a year or more to sell, and some
employees may choose to leave in that time, making the agency less
attractive to buyers.
Q:How concerned should I be about the security
of my financial records on the office computer?
A:Take precautions. The old saying, "locks keep
honest people honest," is true. A recent study indicated that 48%
of employees admitted to committing one or more illegal or
unethical act on the job. The most common breach of security,
experts say, involves a trusted employee whose money handling is
left unchecked. The second-most common area involves employees
whose knowledge of computer accounting systems surpasses that of
their manager, enabling them to use the system to divert money.
Chances are all of your employees are honest, but make sure you
haven't created an environment that tempts them to be
Dan McManus is a former agency owner who publishes the
Successful Worldspan Agency newsletter.Universal Benefits
Universal Studios Escape in Orlando, Fla., is again offering
year-round benefits to qualified visiting travel agents -- and is
now extending these benefits to the company's newest theme park,
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, opening this summer. Travel
agents must show their IATAN card along with a preprinted business
card for free admission. They can get a $2.50 discount on the
regular one-day rate for up to six of their guests. Universal
Studios Escape also is offering agents a 50% discount on rack rates
for its new resort, Portofino Bay, a Loews Hotel, when reservations
are made within 45 days of arrival. The resort is set to open this
Another special industry benefit is the travel agent package
program. For a nominal fee, qualified agencies can send up to five
of their agents on a three-day Universal Studios Escape vacation
that includes three nights' accommodations, a VIP tour and an
Orlando FlexTicket, which provides admission to Universal Studios
Escape, SeaWorld Orlando and Wet 'n Wild.
For more information, call (800) 224-3838.Internet Directory
Looking for a way to cut down on your Web search time? You might
check out Internet Travel Resources, a 120-page directory of travel
Web sites with more than 700 listings for suppliers and information
sources. The guide is published by Notebook Publications in Fort
The directory, which will be published twice annually to
accommodate updates, was searched and compiled by Judith Albright,
a former travel agent and tour operator. The listings are organized
in alphabetical order in 10 main sections -- transportation,
accommodations, cruises, etc. -- and each listing contains the name
of the supplier, the Web address and a brief description of the
product or service.
The directory can be ordered on line at www.notebookpublications.com or directly from Notebook
Publications at 2601 S. Lemay St., Suite 7150, Fort Collins, Colo.
80525. The introductory price, valid until June 1, is $29.95 plus
$4.95 shipping and handling.Ireland.com
This Irish Times site has a lively Dublin guide that's not only
helpful but fun to read. You'll find new restaurant reviews,
current information on the arts and entertainment scene and basic
tourist pointers about the weather and driving.
A Social Customs section on "the things the Irish do" explains
such niceties as the system of rounds in a pub, where one buys or
at least offers to buy a round for everyone in the group. www.ireland.com
Go here for an overview of the Seychelles islands and a quick
course on the geography, climate and people. There is plenty of
practical information on air service, departure taxes and the like,
as well as what visitors can do when they get there. The activities
section includes information on coral reef diving, the islands'
main sporting attraction. www.sey.net
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]