Hotels and All Inclusive Resorts: Case In Point

Dear Travel Agents/ Advisors,

Thank you to all who read last week’s blog: Fake It Until You’ve Been There, and especially to those who commented on it. One comment sparked the reason for this blog.

“Totally disagree. Case in point. Two resorts looked very much the same. The research I did made them seem the same. Both had the same inclusions. Until I visited, I had no idea how very different they could be. I can sell anything to anybody. I just don’t want to sell something I don’t know. My experiences have proven it.”

I explained that we were talking about countries and not about hotels or all-inclusives but thanked the writer for giving me a great opportunity to write about this issue.

So how can a TA know ALL the hotels in a city or a country? No one can!

Even if you have an opportunity to visit a hotel or an all-inclusive Resort at any point, you can’t guarantee how it will be in a couple of years.

Many travel agents/advisors use the internet to check out hotels, but which sites can you trust? How old are the pictures on the site you are checking? How updated is the information for each and every hotel or AI?

Many people rely on and trust Not only is this a booking engine, you don’t really know the criteria of the people who are reviewing these hotels as compared to your clients who might call you at 3:00am to complain!

For All-Inclusive Resorts, go through the BDM. Learn as much as you can about the AI Brands and what is important at each one. Learn how they are structured and what their procedures are in terms of how often they update, and if they keep same standards in all countries, etc.

Once you are familiar with each brand and build a rapport with a BDM from the ones you want to work with, it will be a piece of cake – or a bucket full of dreams and shells!

For hotels, it is a little bit different. First, you need to understand that what is considered 5 stars in a different country is not necessarily 5 stars in the US. There are some countries that list 5 stars, and 5 stars (by US standards.) TA BEWARE!!!!

In Europe, most hotels in great locations are very tiny (location, location and location!) Be careful when quoting a price and thinking that 3 people can fit in a room!!!

When choosing hotels in other countries, first understand the star system for that country. Then learn about hotel brands: American brands have a different standard than European ones, than Chinese ones and so forth. Learn the structure within each brand, for example: the hotel groups from IHG: Sheraton, Westin, Hyatt, Hilton, Doubletree and more can all be independently owned as a franchise.

Feel free to pick my brain for more information on how to select hotels without visiting each of them personally.

Stay tuned for information about different cruise ships and how to choose each one of them.

Cheering for you!

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Fake it until you’ve been there

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Revisiting the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

When I first started my career as a travel agent, the only countries I had ever been to were Brazil (born and raised) and the U.S. (Los Angeles), where I moved in 1988. How could I sell another destination without “experiencing” it?

The use of computers was in the earliest stages, so I used books, videos and maps as resources and even more importantly, CREATIVITY! I FAKED IT UNTIL I COULD AFFORD TO VISIT IT! This is also how I became a country collector; so far, I have been to 86. Not a shabby number!

I definitely believe in taking advantage of FAM Trips in order to sell a destination, but I trust those who do their due diligence by learning all of the information they need to help a client much more. I did it myself, and I know that it is not only possible, but seeing a place is not enough to teach ourselves all we need to know and make sure everything is covered in order to help a client have the best trip.

Caring and life experience are two essential factors that make using a travel advisor a more successful experience for your client. By caring, you will better understand your client’s expectations, and with your own life experience, you will know that many times what the client is saying is not necessarily what he/she really means. These components carry much more weight than knowing what the temperature of the water on the beach is, or how many restaurants are open in the resort. Knowing that your client needs a resort that will take care of their kids full time and finding the perfect kid friendly/safe resort for their family is much more important. 

Once you have the opportunity to visit all the places on your bucket list you will do it, in your own time. Know that this will not only be a legitimate business expense, but also the cherry on top of your cake!


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Having Fun with Group Travel

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I personally love group travel, especially when I organize the group and am part of it. If that is something that you would like to do, we can call it: HOW TO MAKE CLIENTS YOUR FRIENDS!

Or, we could rephrase it to say, how to have a great time with your clients. 

I consider myself to be very lucky! I have traveled with many travel agents who became my dear friends, and I hope to continue to do so. These are some of the great gifts of life: travel and friends. What a joy to meet new people with one big common denominator – travel.

I would never have met these wonderful people if I hadn’t organized those tours. In these cases, they were FAM Trips and Tours for Women. The travelers were travel agents and their companions from all over the USA and Canada, from different backgrounds, ages, views of the world, but all sharing a love of travel and traveling together. I have to confess that this is the cherry on top for me, the part of my work that I look forward to the most!

To ensure the success of a wonderful and smooth group tour, you need to make sure that you will be the Travel Leader. (Yes, if you organize a group, you become the Travel Leader.)

Let’s go over some basics:

  • Decide who will pair the roommates: you, or will you let the travelers interview each other? If you decide that you will be doing it, ask questions, such as, do you snore? What do you expect from your roommate? Also, ask other questions pertinent to your specific trip.
  • Decide if you will all travel together from one gateway or meet at the destination.
  • Decide how much “free” time and/or optional tours you will offer to your group.
  • Decide on the number of people you are willing to include on your trip. In my opinion, keep it small for your first few groups to make them more manageable.
  • Decide if tips for drivers and tour guides and are included or not. And if not, whether you will collect from the group and present the tips to each professional, or let each traveler give individually. (Please advise your travelers ahead of time to avoid surprises!)
  • Set some ground rules before the trip, or as soon as you arrive to avoid future problems. (Trust me, problems happen, and I could write a book about them!). For example: ask travelers to let you know that if they have a problem “today” to tell you “today,” and not “tomorrow.” It is hard to solve problems from “yesterday.”
  • Medication – People seem to believe that once they are on vacation, it means “I will not take my medication.”  This is a big mistake and can jeopardize a great trip.
  • Respect: Personal views on politics, race and religion are very sensitive.  Decide how you want to handle them if they come up! 
  • Make sure that you will be the only one communicating to the tour guide and tour organizer. That way, you avoid “too many tour leaders” and everyone knows who is who.

Always cheering for you!

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Travel Advisor/Agent or Sales Person

Dear Travel Advisors/Agents,

As the owner of two tour operator businesses in the past, one of my duties was to hire TAs to sell our tour packages. We hired many travel agents and I had to train them all to sell our specific packages to Latin America. I taught them our market, geography, and product.

At that time, most of the sales requests came by phone from all over the US and Canada. We tried finding good TAs through newspapers ads, going to local travel agent schools, and offering good commission to experienced TAs from other tour operators (spreading the word through our own TAs.)

Let me remind you that this was during a time at the very beginning of the internet’s popularity in business. Big companies had very expensive websites, but there wasn’t much more – like Google, Social Media and all these tools that make life a bit easier.

It came to a point that in desperation I started to try to hire salespeople from other industries and tried to teach them travel, thinking that if they could sell one thing, they just need to learn a new product.

Well, that experience totally backfired! I realized through this experience that if an experienced salesperson can’t really relate to a product, it made it much harder for them to sell. I realized that if they couldn’t or wouldn’t buy the product that they were selling and really relate to it, it was harder for them to sell. I also noticed that novice travel agents were so in love with travel that they did much better learning new sales techniques than the other way around.

I don’t regret taking this time and learning from this experience. The company was short on staff to answer phone calls at that time, and we couldn’t afford to lose calls. I learned a lot and never made the same mistake again. I actually improved and focused on teaching experienced travel agents and lovers of travel how to be more comfortable in dealing with prospective clients.

If you are a new travel agent/ advisor and want to improve your sales skills, feel free to pick my brain! After all, I improved my skills in teaching in the best way. 😉


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The American Dream

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I have been posting blogs about how to succeed as a travel agent since 2017. Once in a while, I post other types of blogs that are not specific to travel agents, but more about kindness, empathy and caring for others. For those who know me, I really believe in being kind, and that if you don’t have anything nice to say, avoid making a fool of yourself and don’t say anything at all.

I’m not sure how long you have been reading my posts and blogs, but in case you don’t know much about me or my reasons for writing and wanting to help travel agents/advisors, here is a very short version of the story of my life. I call it The American Dream.

I was born in Brazil, and in January of 1988, my husband, my 1-year-old son and I came to Los Angeles. All we had with us was $2,000 and 3 suitcases. We lived in a 1 bedroom, where we slept on the floor. It was a very hard beginning.

All of the ups and downs of almost 35 years belong in a good book with lots of laughter and tears. The point I want to get to here is that I started to work as a travel agent, and soon after that I decided to start a tour company that specialized in Latin America. The company became very successful. When Travelzoo started, we had a weekly Top20.

Eventually, I sold that company, and years later I started another one with a partner.

It came to a point in 2016 that I felt that I had worked enough, I had conquered enough. My husband and I live in a beautiful home, we travel extensively throughout the world, and we have more than enough material things. We are also blessed with successful and happy kids.

These are my beliefs:

– If I do something I love, I don’t ever need to work a day in my life.

– I can’t take material things with me when I die – only my good deeds and my legacy.

– I truly enjoy seeing people succeed, life is not a competition.

– I have so many blessings to count, and am especially grateful to this country. I love to pay it forward.

So, if you are reading this blog for the first time, or have read my other blogs, please know my true intentions. I am truly cheering for you!

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