I say Potato/You say Tomato

Dear TA’s,

Or you can call it Limits versus Rules!

In my last blog I said that a New Year is like a new relationship where we should set limits, but I never said we should “set the rules!” Limits have to do with oneself, and rules to all parts.

The same happens in the relationship between travel agents/advisors and their clients/prospective ones. We, the TAs, can and SHOULD set the limits from the beginning, but never dictate the rules.

So, for example, setting a fee to work with clients/prospective ones, hours of operation, what we will do or won’t do for clients, all of these should be settled by the Travel Advisor from the beginning. It’s better if it is done in writing, so both parties clearly understand the relationship.

I have seen too many times Travel Advisors going out of their comfort zone, doing “more than they think they signed up for” and feeling like clients are taking advantage of them.

By the same token, clients feel like once they “hire” a Travel Advisor who is making “big bucks” they should be available to them 24/7 to answer their questions, and even “packing their bags” for them. After all, if they work in tourism, between commissions and perks, TA’s make a great living.

The best way to start a new year is with new resolutions. Review your contracts and make sure that they very clearly spell out your limits: your fees, your hours, what your service includes, and if you need to provide extra services, such as collecting money from the group for extra tours, making lists of names for those who want to have dinner on top of the mountain, etc. There is an extra fee for those services – or you don’t do it at all. But most importantly: SPELL IT OUT on your contract. That way, when your client assumes you will do all of this, you won’t feel like you are being taken advantage of, and your client will understand that all the “billions” of dollars you make on their booking is not enough to cover “packing their luggage.” LOL!

IF your clients/prospective ask why you have so many “rules” on your contract; you can explain that the only rule is that you will help them determine where and when they should go and how much they should spend. The rest are not rules, but limits, and clarify for all parties the scope of your services and expertise, to avoid future misunderstandings and disappointments.

I am sure that the good clients will appreciate this, and the non-appreciative ones will look for a good deal someplace else!

Cheers to good clients!

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Are you ready?

Dear TA’s,

Are you ready to move forward despite and in spite of Covid?

I felt like when the year 2020 began, it was going to be a great year. I am not a numerology person, or a person who believes in prophecy, I just liked the sound of 2020 and was betting on it. I have made up a little story about the past few years.

2020 was kind of like meeting a guy and thinking that he was the ONE! After a year of verbal abuse (and thanking God it was not physical!), I renewed my vows with the same guy for 2021 because he promised to be a much better guy.

2021 really tried, but the roses had the taste of vaccine, they became wilted and didn’t have much smell – but, they were roses and we made up. I really thought he was the ONE again with those “roses” and couldn’t wait to “walk down on the aisle” together in business class and have a blast.

Well, towards the end of 2021 he couldn’t keep to himself and the abuse came back. I don’t know if I got used to it or if it wasn’t as bad, but it felt like forever.

And now we are on the first month of 2022 and I have decided to set limits on this relationship.

Are you with me so far?

I have invested too much in this relationship, I can’t quit!

So here we go: In 2022 we will “walk down the aisle” as many times as we want to. And we will cruise together, we will celebrate life, and my tears will be only of happiness! I will not listen to 2022 if it tries to be abusive, it better be kind to me and to everyone else!

We are in charge of our own lives and there are no pity parties allowed! Travel agents/advisors are more important than ever. Clients who still don’t understand that an agent’s time is valuable and that they are worth the investment need to understand that they can’t pick our brains for free! Amen!

There is still time to get ready for a great 2022!

Cheers!

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CLIA x CDC – See you on a cruise!

Dear TA’s,

I have been thinking about cruises and reading a lot about this, and I agree with CLIA’s statement from last week below:

“The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore.”

We have all seen that since December 30th, the CDC is screaming that cruises should be avoided: 

On December 30, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to its highest level and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status. The move “reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant.”

My friends have asked me if I will book my cruises and travel anyway, since travel is so important. I tell them that for me travel is like oxygen for my brain, it is therapy for my anxiety, and re-energizes me body and soul. IF I feel anxious or nervous about traveling or unsafe, I would rather stay home.

I would prefer to travel on cruise ships with fewer people, and check that the rules state 100% vaccination rate for passengers and crew. I will wear N95 and KN95 in the places I feel it is necessary. I don’t mind. I don’t believe that cloth or surgical masks offer as much in terms of effectiveness. This is what I BELIEVE based on science.  (For those who think differently, let’s agree to disagree and respect each other’s opinion. 😉)

I think that cruises are still the safest way to travel but it will depend on people’s behavior. Every time I have traveled on a cruise ship prior to COVID (about 3 times a year) I only saw a lot of people when I went for dinner or to a show. At other times I barely saw anyone. Why? We used the stairs to go up and down. We had private tours, so there was no need to leave together with the crowd. We had breakfast in the room and lunch outside or in other places, but never at the buffet. I used the gym very early in the morning or power walked outside on the last floor. I always take a nice nap before dinner.  Almost 95% (or more) of the time the weather was perfect, so I was able to avoid being inside with crowds. Now, I will wear my N95 inside the ship. The good thing is I won’t need to worry about having to reapply my lipstick!

See you on a nice cruise! Cheers!

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Just make it happen!

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Happy 2022!

I would love to start my first blog of the year with only good news, but life is more about how we act with each piece of information we receive, and not about how we sit with our feelings about each fact that comes to us.

As you probably know, the airlines are canceling many flights for the first two weeks of 2022. It is not as much because of the weather, but because of “science.” The question of whether quarantines should be 5 or 10 days for pilots and crew. The unions say it is 10 days, and the airlines and industry say it is 5.  Airlines need crew and pilots to operate the airplanes, so they prefer to cancel the flights ahead of time until this issue is resolved, which gives passengers more time to rebook.

In the corporate world, many companies decided to hold their conventions and meetings virtually instead of in person. The months of January and February used to be slower for leisure travel, but airlines traditionally relied on corporate travel to start the year. The good news for leisure travel is that airlines have lowered their prices. So, use those lower prices, combined with TRAVEL INSURANCE and send your clients on a safe vacation. Corporate travel is still weaker than usual, and its future depends on when companies feel comfortable sending employees back to work and people are comfortable at large conventions.

Yes, you can! Some people may disagree with me (when we talk about guidelines and masks) but following the CDC guidelines, especially by getting the right Travel Insurance, wearing masks inside and outside (in crowded places) people can still have a great vacation by taking advantage of low airfare and awesome destinations.

I enjoy warm weather and can’t wait to go someplace where I can relax on the beach, walk on the sand and rest my eyes looking at the ocean.

To a 2022 where you can make it happen!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Have a Merry New Year!

Dear All,

We are ending the year of 2021 with many blessings!

We can count our falls as a way to learn and grow, and for all our victories, we should think how blessed we are.

We’ve had a whole year to get together and celebrate birthdays, even without blowing out the candles on the birthday cake. A whole entire year of going back to some kind of life, where you could go out to eat, travel, get together with people, exercise, do as many things as you did pre-COVID, and feel sort of normal.

Now, for a moment, let’s stop and think what has made us more resilient, what we have learned about ourselves and how much we’ve grown this year.

Can’t we all say that since COVID, the minutiae that used to bother us are now just little annoyances? Can’t we all say that life has much more meaning, so we want to spend more time with people who make us feel good and not waste our time trying to please everyone?

Can’t we all agree that money comes and goes, but kindness is the real deal?

2022 is at our door and we need even more understanding, more kindness, and to care more for each other. Let’s try to judge less and help more. Let’s try to give more and take less. Let’s try to agree to disagree instead of show “who is ‘mas macho.’”  Let’s try to forgive more for our own sakes.

I wish you all a beautiful 2022, where you can feel blessed, happy and safely hugged!

Cheers!

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Friendship and Cruises Together!

Dear TA’s,

I am writing this blog from a beautiful beach in Florida where the temperature has reached 80F and the breeze is making the day even nicer. Yes, the sand is warm and looking at the water makes me feel all my stress go away. I ask myself if I could live like this. Why not?

When we arrived from the airport and rented a car to come to this beautiful hotel on the beach, we saw many cruises parked at the port. It has been a little over 2 years since I’ve been on a cruise, and I could feel my body going through bad withdrawals! For the first time, my body and brain both reacted to my cruise lover addiction – and I feel I desperately need to go to one.

We are already booking cruises for 2022. Unfortunately, I have more time than my husband to travel. I love company when I travel, so I will soon post my cruises and invite my FRIENDS (from Facebook and from other places) to join me and party. Let’s celebrate life! Since I haven’t booked all my trips yet, I am welcoming suggestions. I am not soooo picky, but it must be a nice cruise, preferably on the Caribbean side. I am not available April 10, 24; Memorial Day, and June 1-15, and the end of August (all weddings I have already RSVPed for!) Go ahead and use your CLIA knowledge and invite more girls to make it even more fun.

I can’t wait to meet you, especially some of you who I feel I already know so well through Facebook where we’ve already built a friendship. Life is what we build, and it is happier and more enjoyable the more we travel and the more we get together to celebrate it. Life is most beautiful on the Caribbean side!

Cheers to life, travel and friendship!

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Blogs @ http://www.travelwithrosana.com

Senior Travel

Dear TA’s,

For the last 4 months I have had problems with my left foot. It first started with both feet having serious plantar fasciitis. I went to a podiatrist and he suggested orthotics, special tennis shoes, and physical therapy. The right foot got much better but unfortunately the left one got a tear on the fascia and put me in a boot for over 2 months.

I promise that I will never take walking for granted again. Before, I used to power walk between 8-10 miles a day. Now I have just started again with baby steps.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I started to think more about seniors traveling. How to travel when you slow down? Who specializes in senior travel? How much has senior travel increased, and how safe is travel for seniors?

We are now in Fort Lauderdale where many cruises depart. I have always seen many seniors taking cruises during this time of the year to the Caribbean, a very popular destination for November through January.

I have gotten some requests to speak to groups of seniors about traveling. Honestly, I don’t think I am an expert in senior travel. I believe cruises are still the safest, and booking groups is the most profitable. If you have experience in senior travel or want to learn more about group travel for seniors, I highly recommend this as a profitable area for travel advisors. Talk to me about places and groups where you can show your expertise and get more business from there.

As always, I am cheering for you!

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Welcome Back. How?

Dear TAs,

In my opinion, your “Welcome Back” email is the best tool you have towards client retention and self-promotion. A well written and precisely timed “Welcome Back” email from you is the key.

Let’s review the precise time to send it first:

If you send your email too early, when most folks are still opening a bunch of emails received while they were away, your email could be mistaken as junk mail or something they got from you during their trip, so it is not important anymore.

But, if you take too long to send it, it loses the main goal of client retention and becomes one more piece of junk to deal with in their everyday life.

All people deal with their email differently; some are collectors, they don’t rush to read them, especially during vacation. Others are kind of OCD about email, even the inbox on their phone needs to show zero, so whenever they find Wi-Fi they read and clean out the junk.

So, the big question is when is not too late but also not too early? I have a rule of 10 days.

Let the collector catch up, and the OCD relax –  and if either group of people had any stopover before coming home, or any bad experiences during their flight  such as a flight delay, a person kicking their seat, or nowadays, someone not wanting to wear a mask (anything that could make the trip a little unpleasant), you don’t want to be the target of their frustration since it had nothing to do with your planning!

Now in terms of what to say in the body of your “Welcome Home” email:

Let’s remember that there are people who are givers, and others who are takers. From the givers, you can expect a thank you letter as soon as they come back, saying how wonderful you are and that they will tell their friends and families about you.

From the takers, expect a letter of complaint as soon as they come back, asking for a refund or a compensation for their troubles, or they will tell ALL their friends and families how awful you are.

Now that we have taken care of the givers and takers, let’s concentrate on the other types of clients. These are the ones who will receive your “Welcome Home” email. In my opinion, don’t ask any questions, don’t ask them to give you feedback, if they wanted to, they would belong in one of the other groups. Also don’t push them so hard that they eventually become eventually a complainer. Instead, tell them how much you enjoyed creating their dream vacation and can’t wait to do it again.  If you want, you can give them a gift certificate for their next vacation if they call you by certain date, or choose a vacation of a certain value, etc.

The shortest and sweetest email you can send will be the most successful one. If you are working with a large group, make sure you write an email to every single member, no cc’ing or bcc to anyone. Treat each person as they deserve to be treated, by giving them individual attention. This is very important, just like a thank you note after a nice gift!

Cheering for you as always!

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Groups and Contracts

Dear TA’s,

I am very supportive of TA’s who prefer to work with groups only. There is a lot of work involved, and each and every group member has a different request to be addressed. Nevertheless, once the group planning starts and everyone has their down payment paid, it is easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s make sure the contract for this group is signed by the leader/s. In the case of a destination wedding: the groom and bride. For a church group: the pastor and/or organizer. The organizer should sign for all types of other groups. Also, each member of the party needs to sign for their room based on the rules of the hotel, and flights when applicable. Don’t make ANY additional verbal agreements once you have a written agreement – the verbal agreement portion will not be enforced. This is a very important issue in case of cancellation, especially on the part of the leaders!

So how to handle the cancellation fees when the leader of a group decides that there will not be a trip anymore? Who will pay for the cancellation fees for each individual party (guests) of the group? Well, it is not fair that each guest pay for his/her own penalty when they are not responsible for the cancellation.

My suggestion is to have a line in the contract specifying exactly this point. If the leaders or organizers decide to cancel the trip, they are responsible for ALL cancellation fees for ALL guests. This should be stated in the written contract. If they need to, they can get travel insurance for that specific situation and not lose money from their pocket or their organization.

Along the same lines, I HIGHLY recommend that all guests get travel insurance within 15 days of booking a trip.

A group trip is only great when EVERYONE – from leaders, to guests and TAs are happy from the beginning to the end. If any party feels taken advantage of, it is not a good deal anymore!

I hope you think seriously about each important point in the contracts for group travel. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

Always cheering for you!

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The Chicken or the Egg

Dear TA’s,

How many travel agents does it take to make the best vacation? A great ONE!

I hope that GREAT ONE is YOU!

So, let’s do some math here. Your client or prospective one calls you because he/she believes you are THE ONE.  YOU and I believe you are the ONE.  Are you adding that up? That’s 3 against NO ONE! So, why should you work for free?

Why are you feeling uncertain about charging a service fee? And my last question for you to consider: what should your service fee be?

I definitely do not believe in increasing service fees for no reason. I actually I think that it sounds better to have a set service fee and offer a discount if a person comes recommended by someone else, if the group is bigger than… (you name it!), or any other reason you can find to justify it – IF, and only IF you wish!

Those who have read my previous blogs will find it easier to understand my reasons for this recommendation. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, in the past I have explained that once you have the experience (that you already have) you can set your fees high enough so there is no reason to increase them just because you’ve gotten “busier” or “better.”  You should charge your fees based on your experience, and the number of clients that you already have.  Believe in yourself and create your own reality – (use the “which came first – the chicken or the egg theory!”)

Remember the important word I mentioned before: BELIEVE.

You need to believe in yourself, in your experience and your capabilities of delivering the best trip to your clients.

I believe in YOU. Your clients or prospective ones believe in YOU.

Do you believe YOU are the ONE?

Cheering for you! Send a message my way with any questions!

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