Letters to the Editor: March 2, 2009

Yet more noncommissionable fees? Go ahead, cruise guys: Make my day

Regarding your article and the comments by the equity analysts that cruise lines should cut commissions ["NCF squeeze gets tighter during tough economic times," Feb. 9], here is my answer: Go ahead.

We were a cruise-only agency for about 12 years. Now our cruise/all-inclusive vacation mix is about 50/50. Our cruise sales are down about $500,000 for 2008, and our land sales are up by about the same amount. Guess why.

Cut my cruise commissions, and our land sales will go up further. These analysts have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. The agency network is the lifeblood of the cruise lines. If there were no cruise lines tomorrow, we would still be selling vacations (all-inclusive packages).

So, go ahead, shoot yourself in the foot. Let the analysts give more bad advice to the cruise lines, and I will watch our bottom line grow even more.

Peter Ulbrich
Holiday Cruise and Travel Inc.

Smart hoteliers continue to grow, despite a tanking global economy

Regarding Arnie Weissmann's "From the Window Seat" column in the Feb. 2 issue, "How the recession rewrites the rules":

My entire 50-year career has been in the hotel industry, in marketing. Over those years, I have experienced a number of economic downturns. Admittedly, the downturns are not as extreme as the one we are now facing, but I have no doubt that the current economic cycle will improve over time and that we will again find ourselves in a more robust environment.

I really believe that those in the hotel industry and in other travel-related industries who stay focused will survive.

Now is the time to stay smart and not panic. Lowering room rates or deleting services and amenities is not the way to go. If there are vacant rooms, this might be the time to do renovations. Companies that do that work also need to keep busy, and this is likely a good time to get lower costs for whatever renovating you do.

In spite of today's economy, there are hoteliers that understand that the cycle we are in will come to an end, and they need to be ready for the next phase. To cite a few examples:

  • Hilton just announced its new Home2 Suites by Hilton extended-stay brand, and the company will announce its new lifestyle hotel brand at ITB in Berlin this month.
  • Marriott and Ian Schrager are moving forward with Edition, another new lifestyle brand.
  • And Nylo, a new brand, is also growing.

These are just a few examples of the growth to come from those with cool heads and a plan.

The global economy is certainly not what we want it to be. But today is not doomsday for those who stay calm, develop a plan that makes sense and then put the plan in motion.

Neil W. Ostergren
Neil W. Ostergren & Associates
New York

If feds get oversight of card mills, things will actually get a lot worse

Looking at the present "card-mills" problem as I celebrate my 62nd year in the travel industry, I feel [Cruise Planners CEO] Michelle Fee, though well-intentioned, is perhaps going a tad overboard. In fact, jumping the ship, one could say ["Cruise Planners CEO wants new administration to regulate franchisors," Jan. 12]. 

The problem of these scurrying rats is nothing new, for it has surfaced more than once before. This time, it's no different, especially in my home state of Florida, and the industry has (so far) been able to handle and cope with it independent of Washington interference.

In my opinion, it would be a bad mistake to involve the inept politicians in Washington, who demonstrate time and again their idiocy with their hands in our pie. We have to assume that too many cooks spoil the broth, and the federal agencies have demonstrated time and again what a mess they can make of the simplest of soups.

So let's not make our present mess, which is still manageable, even worse. What we need to do is pressure these weak-willed principals ("vendors" in today's lingo) to stop playing patty-cake with what they know (and everyone knows) are just plain thieves in lamb's clothing. Just because they come up with marching bands and fancy websites does not make them less thieves than their predecessors. Just look at what's happened on Wall Street and with our good friend Madoff: They ran unregulated by their own kin, and of course they did what thieves do best.

ASTA certainly is totally inept and incapable of anything. I was an ASTA member long ago and worked long and hard for it and its betterment, and that got me absolutely nowhere. So much for them.

ARTA may be of help, since it has not sold its soul to the devil like ASTA did. And, since the main problem is that travel agents need to stop being so suspicious and afraid of each other, we need to band together against these common enemies and put the screws on the vendors to help us, or else.

After all, it's the vendors who hold the economic and authority-lending frying pan's handle.

J.E. Masson
Skipper Travels

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