MAC Chat: An Interview with Laurie Guzda, Director of Marketing for Woodloch Resorts

by Admin 2/1/2011 5:22:00 AM


I am excited to introduce you to Laurie Guzda, Director of Marketing for Woodloch Resorts. I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Laurie while shooting the video tour of the Lodge at Woodloch. 

Hi Laurie, thank you for joining us today! You have three unique properties as part of the Woodloch Experience. Our first video focuses on the Lodge at Woodloch which was named one of the Top Ten Destination Spas in the US by Forbes. Com. While I visited the Lodge at Woodloch I was very impressed with the attention to detail and customer focused attention to every guest needs. Can you share with us what a guest can expect during their stay? 
Unrivaled hospitality. Really. As soon as you pull under the portico our staff will welcome you by name and escort you in the front doors. Once you check in you’ll be given a private, guided tour of the facilities. Then you’re free to take advantage of all our luxurious and health-conscience amenities. You’re going to experience TREATMENTS, FACILITIES. Cuisine. Comfort and relaxation.

The sister resort, Woodloch Pines has been named "ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS" by Family Circle Magazine. What type of activities do you offer your guests?
More appropriately, what don’t we offer?! Woodloch Pines is really focused on the whole family, “From 2 to 82” we have something for everyone. Set on beautiful lake Teedyuskung we have every lake-activity available for you. Our entertainment department develops and runs the most interactive, fun and exciting games like the Woodloch Winter Olympics, Scavenger Hunt and so many more – if you’re not a part of it you’re missing out. But of course there other activities and amenities, for example in the winter we’ve got snow tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, indoor fun like our pool and kids splash zone, the Woodloch kid’s forest… Really I could go on and on…

The Country Club at Woodloch Springs is nationally recognized by GOLF Magazine as "one of the finest courses in America" and rated “4.5 Stars” by Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play. Can you expand on what the type of facilities that you offer the golf enthusiast?
Woodloch Springs is truly an amazing golf course. We have an 18-hole par-72 Championship style course that winds its way over 6,500 yards of fern-carpeted forest, lush wetlands and broad upland meadows. Our greens are kept in such great shape we really are a hidden gem in the northeast plus we have an impressive 16 acre practice facility available to all players to warm up or tune up. The course is fun for everyone, we encourage families to play together and to learn together, there are 4 sets of tees for all skill levels. Our PGA Director of Golf has been named by US Kids Golf as one of the top 50 kids instructors in the nation, we are really family focused.

During the video we hear directly from Woodloch’s President, John Kiesendahl and his commitment to Travel Agents. Can you please expand on the agent commissions you offer?
We welcome and embrace the travel agent market with open arms. We have made a consistent, standard 10% commission available at all our properties and accommodation styles, all year round. We will also be offering higher commissions for some select dates where we have some extra inventory.

Many agents are excited to experience your facilities. Do you offer agent rates? 
We do, our properties are open for any travel agent interested in a site tour. $99 per person per night includes 1 night, 3 meals, tour of the property and of course access to all of Woodloch’s endless activities, amenities and entertainment. Offer excludes holidays and is subject to availability of course.

Thank you for your time Laurie. We look forward to learning more during your webinar!



MAC Chat: An Interview with MailPound's October MVP

by Admin 12/8/2010 5:25:00 AM


This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound's October MVP, Harini Narasimhan of American Express Travel.  

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior? 
My degree is in journalism and English and for many years I was an ESL teacher. It was a very rewarding career and worked great when my kids were young. During this time, I was also able to do outside sales for leisure travel for my friends and family.

Currently my career with American Express Business Travel allows me to continue my passion for helping others in my work life. I do a lot of volunteer work in my personal life and have always carried my passion into my work life. After all, we spend the bulk of our waking hours at work five days a week and with this job, I have the opportunity to help someone every hour, every day. 

If a client is stranded in an airport, or sick while travelling or any one of a million scenarios that occur daily- with every action, there’s an opportunity to use my knowledge to help out which gives me tremendous job satisfaction. Take for example- by selling preferred vendors, I am enabling my employer and vendors to build market share and prosper. In my travel career spanning over 28 years, I have evacuated people, helped doctors reach remote areas, arranged for transportation of remains, coordinated large, fun reunions, and met people of various temperaments.

Some people I meet are so unhappy in their jobs and only believe that being a doctor, nurse or work in the medical field is the only way to help others.
I disagree!! 

One can help others in any field of work if one dedicates every action into the act of helping. It does not have to be a dramatic gesture.

I took early retirement from work 4 years ago and was at home. One night, I got a call at 2 am from a close friend whose dad was dying in India. I felt so helpless, not being able to help out (no Sabre set at home after retirement) though I had the travel knowledge! At 5am PT, I called my wholesaler on the East Coast, and got my friend on a flight at 9am PT. He was very grateful and managed to reach Chennai and see his dad before he passed on. 

At that moment, I decided to get back to work in the travel business since I realized that I could still continue to help others in this field. In fact, my salary helps me with all my volunteer work - which makes it a win-win situation!

Knowledge is only good if one shares it and uses it to help others.

What was the biggest obstacle (if any) that you had to overcome in the beginning of your career as a travel professional?
Since I started with outside sales and leisure bookings, finding clients was a challenge initially. Then finding the time to research each detail for custom trips became a challenge- since I did still have a full time job as an ESL teacher!
But the biggest hurdle I faced was separating work from my social life. Every friend was a client, and conversations at social or religious events would invariably turn to business with questions like” So, what is the best airfare to xxxx- we are thinking of going there in xxxx “and I had to learn how to gently maneuver my way out of making it the focus of our conversation!!!!

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 

I used to write a chatty style newsletter which my clients looked forward to every week- and I could spotlight the item with the best discounts and commissions (remember those days when we got commission!!!)
Currently, in this internet age, we have to be “Consultants” not order takers. To maintain clients, we stick to good old fashioned excellent customer service - and making our team indispensableJ.

What is the most challenging aspect of this industry for you? 
* I also believe that while "online" is definitely the cheaper channel for travelers, it does not yield the cheapest product, nor the best value. Clients tend to make mistakes on self booking tools and ask us to fix the mess! 
Staying current in an internet frenzied world.
We need to grow enough young talent to replace the specialized counselors in the industry.

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career?
With careful analysis, and after trying out both leisure and business travel, I consciously chose the path for business travel. The fact that corporate travel is unpredictable and not by choice (unlike leisure trips) is a challenge I really enjoy. I tend to utilize many tools and reports available at American Express to make a positive impact on a person’s day by ensuring a smooth trip. 

My best advice to the newcomers in this industry is to take time to figure out whether you like leisure or corporate travel. Drill down to the various aspects/niche markets/specialties and build your future on the aspect you really enjoy. Then focus your energy in that direction. When you enjoy your job, it reflects in your demeanor and voice and the enthusiasm you project is the best sales tool you can find!

To every newcomer who is coming into the travel business for the glamour or the free perks, I would like to say:
“Come for the tremendous job satisfaction you will get from helping others every day".



MAC Chat: An Interview with MailPound's September MVP

by Admin 11/8/2010 6:59:00 AM


This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound's September MVP, Vivian Villena of MWR ITR LEISURE TRAVEL.  

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior? 
With a father in the military traveling was not unusual. My mother had a passion for travel and adventure. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my mother is that wherever you go don’t look at what’s NOT there to see look at what opportunities to see that this location has to offer you with regards to history, entertainment and education. Because of that I have never been somewhere that I didn’t find something to see or participate in during my visit or stay. However, my original plans were to be an outside sales agent to work from home while I focused on a full time music career. I allowed “life” to get in the way and put my music career aside. Although I am still involved with music it is not to the extent I had originally planned and my passions are with offering my travel services and experience to our military community.

What was the biggest obstacle (if any) that you had to overcome in the beginning of your career as a travel professional?
The biggest challenge early in my career was lack of knowledge and experience. I was just about to turn 20 when I started my career so I was always referred to as the “new kid.” In addition, we didn’t have the internet accessible to us like we do now. So, finding resource information was attending seminars, meetings and asking questions of my colleagues. Now, I can practically “Google” everything. However, I still rely on the knowledge and experience of colleagues to help me in areas I am unfamiliar.

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 

There really is no “best” since our clients our constantly in transition. Most military installations have a representative available to assist them on their leisure travel plans. Although I have the ability and opportunity to continue working with clients even when they transition our focus is to promote the local facility at their new base to assist them. This maintains a level of teamwork and shows our military families and community that we are not trying to compete for business against our sister bases. 

Most of my clients do not contact me unless something has gone wrong. In that sense, I’ll consider the expression, “No news is good news.” The other way I know my customers are happy with my service is when they come back again or they pass the word to a friend/family to contact me for a booking. Anytime I have had customers ask if they think they can find a better price elsewhere, my answer always, “YES.” However, I follow it by explaining to them that they have the choice of having themselves a few extra dollars at the sake of losing valuable time in their life to do other things they would likely enjoy more. By allowing myself to handle their travel plans tells me they are happy with my service and expect a great value for what they have paid, based on what I sold them.

What is the most challenging aspect of this industry for you? 
One of the great lessons I have learned to take on is focusing on looking an opportunity versus a challenge. People may view the fact that we do not have a CRS to book airline reservations for customers where I see the opportunity to offer air tickets in conjunction with a package. By doing so, I am able to earn commission for hotel, car, added options and insurance. The nice thing is when that happens is the customer tells me they were trying to piece it together themselves online and now they don’t have to worry since I did the work for them. The only challenge I see at this point in my career is when it comes time for my soldier to transfer to another base is whether or not that installation has an opening for me to continue the job I do now as I can truly say that it is the best career I have had till now.

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career?
The opportunity to sell the world! J  

My best advice to agents starting their career is one I’ve taught many agents starting their career, “Learn to answer the customer’s questions before they even know what is the question.” A good example is when it comes to a customer choosing to purchase the air offered by the cruise line explain to them why they should consider choosing an air deviation. The explanations I have given many a time over are in their ability to know what airline they are confirmed on far enough in advance to obtain seat assignments which may not normally be available to them until approximately 30 days prior to sailing. In many cases, 30 days prior the seat choices are limited and can cause an even greater challenge when people want to sit together. Another example is when a customer calls asking for the “cheapest” room type or category you can easily upsell them when you explain what “cheapest” may mean and what the price difference is to them (most times breaking it down to a daily or per person cost) allows them to see they are getting a great value with the upgrade. Most people really don’t want “cheapest” they want the best value that their money offers them.



MAC Chat: An Interview with MailPound's August MVP

by Admin 9/22/2010 4:28:00 AM


This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound's August MVP, Jason Izzi of VIP Vacations, Inc.  

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior? 
I became involved by accident. I was planning several trips while in high school, and really enjoyed it. As time went on it became a passion to be a part of making great memories for my clients. I was in the customer service industry my whole life.

What was the biggest obstacle (if any) that you had to overcome in the beginning of your career as a travel professional?
I think my biggest obstacle was finding a host company I could trust. I only had to go through one before finding my current company. I signed on with VIP Vacations Inc. and that has been the best decision of my travel career. I can honestly say that I work with the best team in the travel industry.

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 

I use several. I use the social media outlets that are available, and have had some positive outcomes with them. I also do several mailings a year with my sales letters. I advertise in the local papers and the wedding sections of those papers. I still find that word of mouth is the best.

What is the most challenging aspect of this industry for you? 
I would say the state of our economy. Although, this year has been good so far I still think people have in their head that it is too expensive to travel. If they only knew the deals out there I feel they would reconsider. Everybody needs to take a vacation, all work and no play is not healthy.

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career?
I enjoy turning my clients travel dreams into lifelong memories. My passion is working with a client to meet their budget and overcoming all obstacles in the way of that once in a lifetime vacation. What makes all of this possible is working with a great team. I believe that I work for the best travel agency in the industry in Vip Vacations Inc. They truly are the best at what we do. I am lucky to work for them.

My advice to new agents is to educate yourself about the industry. Find a company that you can trust and that will help you along. There are many companies that will collect a big fee and then you will be left on your own. Last but certainly not least is follow up! Do not leave your clients and potential clients hanging. Follow up with them either through email, text, or a phone call. Don't be afraid to ask for help.



MAC Chat: An Interview with Mitch Schlesinger, Voyages to Antiquity

by Admin 9/2/2010 5:35:00 AM


Interview with Mitch Schlesinger from VOYAGES TO ANTIQUITY 

For more information go to

Mitch Schlesinger
Vice President, Sales and Marketing 

What is the most interesting thing that you have learned while operating during the inaugural season?
It is extremely rewarding to see how many travelers are interested in an experience that includes the unique enriching and educational product approach we are offering, featuring the amazing sites from civilizations thousands of years old and the ability to experience foods and wines from throughout the region. The MOST interesting thing we learned is that there is a HUGE audience in the 40-60 year old demographic that would like to sail with us, but could not due to the length of trips in 2010.

So what has changed for 2011 to provide this audience with this opportunity?
  • All itineraries have been re-designed as 14-16 day Cruise-Tours (ala Orient Lines), featuring a cruise (7-12 nights) + included pre and/or post cruise hotel stays (2-3 nights) in Rome, Athens, Istanbul and Cairo.
  • The full itineraries are still 14-16 days for the audience who has plenty of time.
  • The sailings themselves are now anywhere from 7-12 nights for those with limited time, but want an in depth destination experience of this nature.
  • This is particularly important for the younger demographic who needs and wants to travel in the summer.
  • New destinations include a unique Black Sea cruise (including Russia, Georgia, Ukraine & Bulgaria), Corsica, Sardinia and a return to Libya on two n. Africa itineraries.

How should travel agents approach selling the product for 2011?
  • The redesign of the itineraries provides them with a significantly expanded audience to promote the product.
  • For mature travelers 60 + with more time, they can promote the full itineraries.
  • For more of a baby boomer audience (40-60) who are still actively working and have limited time, they can just take the cruise. Or in the case of our seven (7) night sailings in July and August, they can opt for either the pre or post cruise hotel stay (2 or 3 nights) plus the 7 night cruise and do the entire trip in 11 days..

Does this change how travel agents should target customers?

  • Agents should still be looking for clients who can travel at least 10 days roundtrip and have experience traveling internationally
  • As mentioned above, now they can promote to clients 40 + years of age due to the shorter sailings.
  • The best targets also have a history of spending in excess of $3,500 + pp.
  • There is a very strong crossover from clients who have taken river cruises and longer land tours.
  • The product will have a distinctive appeal to clients with interests in history, art, architecture, theology, etc.

Are there any booking incentives for 2011?
  • We are offering FREE AIR to guests who book by December 31, 2010.
  • The Aegean Odyssey also has 16 dedicated single cabins with only a 15 % long as they last.
  • Once they are sold, we still have guest-friendly single supplements of 25-75% depending on the category in double occupancy staterooms.

Thank you Mitch!



MAC Chat: An interview with Tami Horvath, ATAHOTELS

by Sheona 7/26/2010 3:02:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with Tami Horvath, Sales Consultant of ATAHOTELS. 

For more information go to

ATAHOTELS was founded in Italy in 1967. It is a dynamic private company that is constantly expanding and strengthening its properties. It has (22) four and five star properties located in the most beautiful locations throughout Italy. ATAHOTELS is anxious to get to know US travel agents and is now offering a 50% discount on rooms to agents visiting Italy. 

Agents receive a 50% discount when they stay at an ATAHOTEL?
Yes, ATA wants travel agents to become acquainted with their properties and invite you take advantage of this excellent discount. For more details and to make your booking visit

Does ATAHOTELS pay travel agents commission? 
-ATAHOTELS values our partnership with travel agents and is pleased to compensate you for booking our hotels. Our GDS code is AQ. 
-For bookings made via the GDS: 15% commission is paid upon actualization of the reservation, sent monthly via the GDS provider.
-For bookings made via our brand web site or call center: 10% commission is paid on the amount before tax. To obtain the amount due the agency is requested to issue a Commission Statement.

What is the STAY 4 PAY 3 package? 
ATAHOTELS created a package where agents can earn 15% when they book this special package through October 31 for stays until March 31. The guest pays for 3 nights and gets the 4th night free, plus a complimentary welcome meal. 
You can book this package through your GDS or via

Does ATAHOTELS have a travel agent website? And are they conducting any kind of promotion for agents at this time?
Oh, yes they do! Check out the eat stay love promotion at their trade website located at where agents can win a Grand Prize trip for 4 to Italy, including flights on Alitalia and your choice of any ATAHOTEL! Other prizes include (5) $100 gift cards for dinner and a ticket to the movie to be awarded on August 13th – the premier of eat pray love. 

Plus, copies of the eat pray love book will be awarded weekly to agents who play the game or register a booking! 

Thank you Tami for that great interview!



MAC Chat: An interview with Thorunn Reynisdottir, Fly International

by Sheona 7/14/2010 5:43:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with Thorunn Reynisdottir, President of Fly International. 

For more information go to

For those agents who are not familiar with Fly International, can you
please tell us about your company?
For over 50 years, Fly International's parent company Auto Europe has been a
leader in worldwide car rental services. In recent years, we have expanded
our services to include over 4,000 car rental locations worldwide; scheduled
air from the USA to Europe; over 30,000 three, four and five star European
hotels; chauffeur and transfer services; prestige and sports car rentals;
mobile phone and GPS rentals.

Our philosophy is, 'If you think that there is something more important than
a client...then you need to think again.'

Fly International strives to provide our customers with competitive rates
and the best service available anywhere. At Fly International we do not
believe that customers should expect less because they pay less. Our rates
are always competitive, but we never forget that we are in the service
business. If you have never used our services before, give us a try.

Can you share with us what benefits agents can expect by working with Fly
Ticket cost prints as bulk
Commissionable published fares
No credit card fee's
Up to 12% commission
Low change/cancel fee's
Discount last minute fares
One way and open jaws
Package with land components
Seat assignment on selected carriers

Share with us a little about your Group Program.
Please click here.

Can you tell us about Fly International's Affiliate Program?
Worldwide Car Rental Services
Scheduled Air from the USA to Europe and Beyond
Over 15,000 3, 4 and 5 star hotels
Prestige and Sports Car Rentals
Chauffeur Drive and Transfer Service
European and South Pacific Motorhome Rentals
European Cellular Phone Rentals
Referral commission earned with every reservation.
Added value and content to your website
Worldwide Car Rental Services
For more info, see our Partnerships Reward page

A referral commission will be earned with every reservation that is booked by a visitor from your site.

A unique ID number will be assigned to your affiliate site and will be embedded in all e-mail requests for rates and reservations, identifying your organization.

Payment & Reporting:
Reports and Payments will be negotiated on an individual basis.

Getting Started:
To activate your online partnership, simply complete our on-line affiliate
form. You may select any or all of our products and services that are of an
interest to your website visitors. Go to affiliate form.

Do you offer any incentives?
Please click here to view our incentive reward program.

Tell us about one of your favorite destinations that Fly International
caters to.
Hard to select one destination, so I am mentioning several of our
destinations, see below:

Italy is one of our favorite destinations; Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice,
all great places to go and see. There is also Asia, many places there
for example: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Beijing, and Singapore.

Thank you Thorunn for that great interview!


MAC Chat: An interview with MailPound's June MVP, Pam Brown of White Sands Travel

by Sheona 7/13/2010 6:35:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound''s June MVP, Pam Brown of White Sands Travel. 

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior? 
I was in the legal field for 20+ years prior to getting involved in the travel industry. In 2004, the law firm I was working for closed it’s doors, giving me 2 weeks notice to find another job! I had already been booking travel for myself and family members as a hobby, so I decided to pursue that as a career, rather than go back to the legal field.

What was the biggest obstacle (if any) that you had to overcome in the beginning of your career as a travel professional? 
Finding clients!

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 
E-mail campaigns that are specific to my niche. I get them to become repeat clients by providing personalized service and adding extra touches that make them want to return to me!

What is the most challenging aspect of this industry for you? 
Staying relevant in a world of internet “shoppers!”

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career? 
What I enjoy the most is planning the perfect trip for my clients.

My best advice to beginners in this industry would be to take the time to figure out a specialization. In the beginning, it can be hard, especially when you’re trying to just get business…any business…but you will eventually start to gravitate to a specific niche (it will probably be where you love to travel yourself). Once you find that niche, concentrate all your efforts to it…eat, sleep, and breathe it…become a walking, talking billboard for your business and your niche. You’ll be surprised at how much business you’ll get when you stop trying to be all things to all people and become really, really, good at that one thing!

Thank you Pam for that great interview!



MAC Chat: An interview with Mark Carlson, Star Clippers

by Sheona 6/15/2010 5:23:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with Mark Carlson, Director of Marketing for Star Clippers. 

For more information:

What makes your cruise line unique from others?
Star Clippers is a cruise line that operates a fleet of authentic tall ships. The unique four- and five-masted vessels boast wide-open decks and the thrill of cruising under sail. Yet the ships have all of the modern luxuries travelers have come to expect. 

The size of the ships — they carry just 227 or 170 passengers — enables them to call at lesser-visited ports and exclusive harbors that the larger ships can’t visit, allowing guests to become totally immersed in the regions we explore.

Water sports also play a big part in our experience. With plenty of water time on many of our itineraries, guests can take advantage of complimentary water sports directly from the ships’ aft marina – including snorkeling, water skiing and wind surfing; and Star Clippers also offers scuba instruction. 

On our ocean crossings, Star Clippers even allows guests to go for a swim in the middle of the ocean, weather permitting, of course!

What destinations do you visit?
Our itineraries are extremely diverse. There’s something for everyone, from tropical to historical to nature infused. 

In the summer, all three ships explore the eastern and western Mediterranean, calling at ports in Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Spain, Morocco, France and Turkey, to name a few.

Come winter, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper cruise the Caribbean, while Star Flyer heads to Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua.

We also offer grand ocean crossings that are about more than simply getting from here to there — they are journeys that allow guests to experience the thrill of traversing an ocean under sail, to look out onto the horizon and see nothing but a blue backdrop behind the billowing sails. 

What should clients expect to experience on your ships?
A Start Clippers cruise is like taking a vacation on your own, private mega-yacht — with 170 or 227 of your closest friends. On board, guests dress in resort-casual attire and dine in a single, open seating. And passengers are exposed to an authentic clipper ship experience, whether they enjoy the bowsprit net suspended over the sea, attend a knot-tying class, help raise and lower the sails or climb the mast for a panoramic view.

Staterooms are elegantly appointed, with all the amenities one has come to expect from a fine resort. The decor is tastefully traditional. Guests will find the accouterments of a luxurious classic yacht. Burnished brass fittings and mahogany brightwork recall our nautical heritage. Soft natural fabrics reflect the colors of the sun, sea and sky. Prints of famous clipper ships and sailing yachts grace the walls.

Most days guests can be found lounging on our expansive teak decks with swimming pools and plenty of space to relax and read a good book.

What are your key selling features?
Authentic sailing adventure. 
Just 170 or 227 pampered guests. 
All the modern amenities of a private mega-yacht. 
International cuisine complemented by fine wines. 
Dine with whomever and whenever you want. 
Casual, relaxed ambience – no need to dress up. 
Off the beaten path ports of call. 
Sail in full harmony with the environment. 
No crowds or long lines. 
Full range of water sports. 

Who are the best target customers for travel agents?
Passengers who love to sail or who are looking for adventure. Passengers looking for an intimate experience. We offer a unique vacation, from the type of ships we operate to the intimate mature of our line. Also, travelers who are social. We do not have a casino or show lounge on our ships. The evening entertainment may consist of local performers coming on board or music from our on-board musician, but most of the time our guests socialize with each other in the Tropical Bar in the evening. Our guests are extremely friendly and by the end of the voyage everyone knows each other.

Thank you Mark for that great interview!





MAC Chat: An interview with MailPound's May MVP, Craig Stevens Corey of Craig Corey Vacations

by Sheona 6/8/2010 7:26:00 AM

A series of 5 minute interviews featuring travel industry leaders. 



This week's MAC Chat features our interview with MailPound''s May MVP, Craig Stevens Corey of Craig Corey Vacations.. 

In 1995 you won "Best Office Design in the Nation" from Travel Weekly Magazine's annual Travel Agency Achievement Awards. What attracted you to the renovated loft space off the beaten track? 
When I worked for another agency, one of my customer's, James Dodd Brown, a brilliant architect, took me to lunch. He had just purchased this old warehouse building and was in the process of converting it to a loft space. He invited me to launch my own agency and be a tenant there. I resisted. Jim had been terminally ill, and a year later he died. I then heard that the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitor's Bureau was going to move their offices into the building. I was getting antsy to move on at my existing job, so I contacted Jim's business partner and she met me at the building. It was so hip and beautiful! I rented the last space right-then-and-there, and gave her $100 as a deposit. I knew I needed to make the office really different from other travel agencies, so I flew to New York and went on a shopping spree at Conran's which at that time was in the Citcorp building (today it's The Conran Shop at ABC Warehouse), buying furniture and objets and had the stuff shipped to Lansing. It turned out to be really worth it. 

Why did you decide to become involved in the travel industry and were you in a different industry prior?
 I was an "office boy" at a well-known travel agency during my senior year in high school. I ended up being accepted at Michigan State University in my hometown, Lansing/East Lansing. So, my boss encouraged me to become a travel agent, and go to school at the same time. So I juggled work and school and supported myself until I graduated from college. It took a lot longer because I was also doing an amazing amount of foreign travel at the same time. The agency I worked for was "leisure oriented" and believed the agents should be well-traveled and knowledgeable because it would ultimately translate to "sales". So, I was in a lucky space. When I finally graduated from MSU, I really wanted to leave Lansing, but realized that over the years I had developed a healthy, loyal clientele. At about that time, the company I worked for was sold to a corporate agency from Ann Arbor who had a different philosphy about travel. They were 100% corporate. It wasn't my cup of tea, so I knew I had to skidaddle! And that's when I decided to venture out on my own. When I opened my doors on November 1st, 1991, I could not believe the flood of calls, and the customers that had intentionally waited for me to open (I had sent announcements, but as per "non-compete clause" protocol I was unable to "invite" them to my agency) so they could book their trips! It was so exciting. And of course that will never happen again!

What is the best marketing technique that you use to reach your clients and how do you get them to become repeat clients? 
You have to give "uber, lengendary, outstanding, amazing, remarkable, impressive" customer service! This is what brings them back most of the time. And right now customers are so mind-boggled with all the garbage on the internet that it's not that hard to hook them. I also send out weekly e-mail blasts that advertise the gamut of travel from bargains in Cancun to trips to Outer Space. The outer space trip cost $1.2 million dollars and I sent it out last year when the market was so pitiful. I anticipated that I'd receive some angry protest, but instead I received feedback from customers suggesting that at best they were "vicarious" travelers and loved the info, or enjoyed discussing it at cocktail parties! The point is, it creates imagery that brings people to you, that makes them remember. Half the time when I advertise, I receive responses from people asking about entirely different trips, but because that ad appeared in their e-mail box at the right time, it reminded them to contact me! 

What do you enjoy the most about this industry and what is your best advice for travel agents just beginning their career? 
Even after all these years (34 of them!) I find that I am still drawn to the mystique of travel. And I still think about places I'd like to go. When I'm selling a destination confidently, it's second-nature to become enthused, and help the customer become enthused. And when they return more-than-satisfied, it's a reminder that I still play a very legitimate role in the process. My advice to new agents is to try to travel as much as they possibly can. Nothing makes an agent more valuable than the first-hand knowlege gained from a real (not virtual) experience. People are still human, and travel still conjures up "fear of the inknown". They'll always respond to a "knowlegeable" agent. 

Thank you Craig for that great interview!



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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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