Group Travel


adventure-1839147_960_720Dear Travel Agent,

Let’s talk about GROUP TRAVEL, which is actually one of my favorite topics and activities.

It is definitely very rewarding to book groups. It sounds impressive, and shows confidence and experience which are all very good qualities in a travel agent. But really, how much work does it take to make a group and how do you plan a group trip?

Let’s start by talking about how to plan a group trip and what steps a travel agent should take:

  • choose the destination
  • decide on the date
  • decide on the size of the group
  • who will be the tour leader
  • is a travel agent accompanying the group (if yes, is she/he able to be the tour leader?)*
  • price of the package
  • decide if airfare will be included (if yes, from which gateway?)**
  • start promoting, advertising and getting deposits***

* Having a tour leader for a group, especially groups with more than 10 people, is very important. It is the person who goes between the tour guide and the group, and who will make sure everyone is comfortable and happy; that all concerns are being addressed and the tour is running smoothly. This person does not need to be an expert on the destination, nor know the people in the group, but as the title suggests, needs to be a leader and respected as that. The travel agent can act as a tour leader. She/he needs to know the basics about leadership, have knowledge about dealing with different personalities, and be very assertive with the group to make sure the tour guide can offer their best. Communication is a great skill.

My suggestion for first timers is to use a tour leader from the tour company, and glue yourself to her/his hip and learn as much as possible.

For those of you who have read my previous blogs on group tours, some people seem to think of vacation as “no need to take my meds time” which can make them not-so-pleasant to deal with. I have shared nightmare stories about roommate problems, and people who like to complain just because they think they can. If you are very assertive and can deal with people with a big smile no matter what, you definitely don’t need a tour leader!

** If using one gateway when people come from different cities and states, the travel agent needs to make sure that all connections are done properly, so everyone will be able to meet at the gateway.  Consider bad weather, flight cancellations and delays. Also make sure all participants have travel insurance. Keep in mind that people might blame you for delays and cancellations just because you booked the trip for them or because you suggested one gateway. This doesn’t mean IT IS your fault!  If everyone gets their own flights and meets in the destination, the travel agent will only take care of transfers and making sure everyone has travel insurance.

***Deposits, especially for tours that are scheduled in 9 months to 1 year ahead, can be a challenge. Some people give a deposit, and few months later find something else, or change their mind, and want their money back. You are already counting on them for the group and have negotiated the price of the group based on that number of participants. Make sure the deposit is for a good amount, and NON-REFUNDABLE. That way, people will not change their minds.

I know many travel agents who make a life and a living by traveling with their groups and love every minute of it.

Feel free to pick my brain and ask me questions, I have done many group tours through my 23 years of having a tour company, loved every single one, and made many great friendships with participants.

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Dear Travel Agents,

I have many travel agents who consult with me about advertising for their business. They ask, how often, how much, where, and if they should spend money on advertising.

My answer is always to compare these thoughts to something else. This helps to make it clearer, so the travel agent understands my reasoning a little better. Think of baking a delicious cake and keeping it in the refrigerator. No one will know what a great baker you are. No one will taste a sample of your delicious cake. How can you expect people to buy your cake without any exposure?

Now that we agree on the need for advertising, let’s discuss where to do it. My first question is if the travel agent specializes in any area of travel, for example: wedding destinations or adventures. In this case I would recommend the agent look for specialized media. If the travel agent doesn’t specialize, I ask what area they live or work in, and find outlets there.

Once it is clear where we are going to advertise, I recommend that they get the pricing for ads in all media that sounds suitable for their business. Then, place this information on a spreadsheet. We can then analyze which outlets will bring in more prospective clients, based on the reality of business at that time, one year from now, and five years from now. Once we have a plan for growing the business, we can determine what the budget should be now, in one year, and in five years.

We can negotiate with the different media outlets we have chosen, and voila, we have an advertising plan for the business!

I can guarantee the results will taste even sweeter than that delicious cake in the refrigerator!

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Common Sense

Dear Travel Agent,    aeroplane-164663_960_720 (1)

I read an interesting article being circulated on Facebook this week about the do’s and don’ts of airline travel. I felt that much of the advice and facts they mentioned were just a matter of common sense. Not because I am in the industry, nor because I travel quite often, but just because they all required common sense!

Why would someone walking barefoot or with socks only in the aisles and bathrooms of the airplane and imagine that they would be clean or sanitized? Or that the trays, seats, and even pillows and blankets would be sanitized between every flight? And, just for fun, let’s imagine that the bathroom is completely sanitized, in every single corner. How long does it take for it to become a contaminated zone?

Now let’s talk about another matter of common sense, a subject also related to travel that we expect travelers to know. It doesn’t cost more for travelers to use a travel agent. It actually costs them even less if they consider their time spent researching and resolving problems when they arrive, after booking, and/or during the trip.

When prospective clients compare the cost of a hotel night booked by a travel agent versus booking online through a search engine, they are doing the same thing as the traveler walking barefoot into the bathroom of an airplane… (possibly wearing socks!) They are not thinking everything through.

When a travel agent gives a price on a hotel room, it includes taxes, full buffet breakfast, and possibly even a great upgrade (or at least a nice room with nice view) for two big reasons. First, because the travel agent cares about the client. Secondly, the source she/he uses has a good relationship with the hotel, and will ensure that the client’s satisfaction comes first. A prospective client booking through a search engine is just a combination of numbers and letters making a booking code for that hotel – Mr. or Mrs. ZF098718.

The hotel story sounds funny, and the barefoot in the bathroom story sounds gross, but to me, and most of the world, it is a just a matter of common sense.

Wishing you all more honesty and common sense in 2018!

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Goals for 2018


Dear Travel Agent,

Do you set personal and/or business goals for the New Year?
Do you believe in doing this?

Allow me to share my experience in this area. I was raised in Brazil where the Afro culture is very prominent. December is summer time, and for the New Year, most people (including me) dress in white and go to the beach to send flowers to the Orixás in hopes of a good year. We ask the Orixás for all of our wishes and set our goals for the new year.

I have been living in the US for over 30 years, and haven’t dressed in white, nor gone to the beach to send flowers to the Orixás for many years, but I still set personal and business goals.

I was a size 16 for many years and set goals to lose weight. It was very hard and frustrating, and every time I thought about the goals I had set for losing weight, I ate even more. In 2004, I gave up on that goal and decided to understand myself better.  I learned that I was addicted to bread and pasta. I gave up gluten, and without promising anything to myself, I lost weight, and for years was a size 8. Last year, I gave up dairy, and now I am a size 4.

The same thing happened with my business. I have set goals every year since I started. My business really moved ahead after 09/11 when I focused on understanding my business at that moment in time, rather than continuing with the goals I had set, especially when I had no control over what was going on in the US and with travel.

From my experiences coming from a cultural background, and even later, my personal and business experiences, I have realized that setting goals does not work as well as understanding and being nice to myself.

For 2018, I suggest that you try to understand yourself better; learn more about who you are and where you stand, and things will fall into place.

Happy 2018!

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Travel and Learning About Wine


Dear Travel Agents,

I usually encourage travel agents to specialize in groups or different segments of travel, and to become experts. With my personal travel and love of good wine, I am slowly becoming more interested in winery travel. Even though I still get tipsy, I am excited to learn about different parts of the world and their wines.

We have lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years and I remember many years ago, coming to northern California and tasting wine (that was not so popular or tasty) for free. This year we have decided to spend New Year’s in Napa Valley, and what a difference a number of years can make. What a fun destination! There are over 500 wineries of all sizes, and all kinds of wines. Prices vary from $20 a bottle to much over $200 a bottle.

We have been going to Europe for over 20 years and drinking wine from France, Spain and Italy, where everyone assumes all wines are from. Port wine (not my favorite) is from Portugal and we have been there as well.

In 2014, we went to South Africa and I was surprised to learn that they have good wines: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, from Stellenbosch and Paarl. We started to buy wine from South Africa when entertaining friends. It has been a very pleasant experience.

This year we went to Australia and New Zealand and learned about their Syrah and late harvest. They offer many other delicious wines that now we look forward to drinking.

My husband is from Argentina, so we are very familiar with Malbec and the wineries from Mendoza (Argentina) and Maipo Valley in Chile, with Cabernet Sauvignon in a style like Bordeaux and Cabernet Franc.

Honestly, I love learning and I don’t feel that I need to become an expert in wines, nor in all the countries that produce good wines. I love the experience of learning about wines, and tasting them in their own countries instead of a cellar that sells international wines. I enjoy talking to people about these experiences, and am far from being a wine snob. I love sweet wines and get tipsy after my first glass (but let’s keep that a secret, since I can hold the same glass for hours! LOL!)


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