MAC Chat: An interview with Chris Rossi, Virgin Atlantic

by Jessica 8/24/2009 5:40:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Chris Rossi, Senior Vice President, North America of Virgin Atlantic Airways.

 

Chris Rossi
Senior Vice President, North America
Virgin Atlantic Airways

For more information visit:
VirginAtlantic.com

Jessica: Welcome to MAC Chat, Thank you for joining us! Congratulations, Virgin Atlantic Airways was nominated in the 2009 MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) Awards. 
Chris: 
We’re honored to be nominated for MailPound Agent’s Choice Awards – the travel agent’s opinion certainly means a lot to us since they are the eyes and ears of so many of our customers!

 

Jessica:  What is it that makes the Virgin Atlantic Airways experience so unique?
Chris: 
Virgin Atlantic is known for exceptional service and value, and innovative product development. We were the first airline to offer individual televisions to business class passengers, and today every seatback has its own entertainment system.

Each of our cabins offer amenities that make traveling with us that much more enjoyable. These brilliant basics and magic touches as we like to call them include amenity kits with socks, toothbrush and toothpaste and a sleep mask, complimentary food and beverage and in-seat power outlets. 

 

Jessica: Can you share with us about the Upper Class experience? I understand that Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite has one of the longest beds in Business Class. 
Chris: Upper Class is a first class service at a business class price. It’s an end-to-end travel experience that includes complimentary car service (on both sides of the Atlantic), Drive Thru Check In and a Private Security Channel at Heathrow, and our Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses located around the world enable passengers to work or relax before takeoff - and this is only on the ground. In the air, every seat has aisle access resulting in more hours of uninterrupted sleep in one of the biggest lie-flat beds in the sky. If travelers prefer to work, they can plug in their laptop, pull out the table, sit back in their leather recliner and rest their feet on the ottoman. The Onboard Bar is open for cocktails and perfect for stretching the legs. 

 

Jessica: The Heathrow Clubhouse has everything a traveler could want. Can you share with us what the client will experience?
Chris: 
The Heathrow Clubhouse is the ultimate preflight experience with salon and spa services from Bumble & bumble and Cowshed, numerous dining facilities, a spa pool, library and plenty of seating areas for business meetings and chatting with friends. 

It’s a lot like a five-star resort where guests can relax with a glass of champagne or a delicious entrée in between massages and manicures.

Jessica:  Congratulations on celebrating 25 years! What do you contribute as the main factors to your continued success?
Chris: 
Since our launch in June 1984, over 65 million passengers have traveled with Virgin Atlantic. We have achieved this milestone by always listening to the customers needs and by developing innovative products that make travel a valuable and enjoyable experience. 

Thank you Chris for taking time to share more about Virgin Atlantic Airways with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day! 

 

MAC Chat: An interview with Martin B. Deutsch, Original Home Based Travel Agent Show & Conference

by Jessica 8/21/2009 4:01:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Martin B. Deutsch, Conference Chairman
 of Original Home Based Travel Agent Show & Conference
.

 

Martin B. Deutsch
Conference Chairman
Original Home Based Travel Agent Show & Conference

For more information visit:
actravelshow.com

Jessica: Martin, you have over 50 years experience in the travel industry. We were so honored when you graciously accepted to be part of our Nomination committee. What was it about these awards that made you decide to join the committee?
Martin: Anything that helps the travel agent distribution system get closer to its suppliers is a positive at anytime, but especially in difficult economic times.  I believe that programs like this are extremely valuable in educating both travel agents and venders in what’s going on and what is coming up around the corner in terms of new services and products.  MailPound deserves a good deal of credit for creating such a program and I am not surprised by the successful response from the many travel agents who have cast their votes.

Jessica:  What are the key elements that distinguish The Original Home Based Travel Agent Show and Conference?
Martin:  Well, this 3-day program at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, October 7 – 9 is designed to train and educate travel agents in the latest developments in the supplier community that will help them increase sales and, ultimately, their profits.

Jessica: What are some of the highlights of your program that will enable travel agent delegates to accomplish some of their objectives?
Martin:  We’ve got a terrific line-up of high-level key-note speakers, addressing the latest issues facing travel agents, and how to cope with these challenges.  Further, we’ve got a tremendous line-up of seminars and panels targeted to training and educating travel agent delegates.  If your readers want to learn more about the show, just go to our website, actravelshow.com where they can find a full event schedule.

 

Jessica: How about the accredited training sessions being offered?  How do these sessions benefit the agents?
Martin:  There is accredited training being offered by CLIA, NCMA, and OSSN.  Seminars and panels will allow travel agent participants to bring home the bacon in terms of knowledge, newly-acquired expertise and in some instances higher commission levels.

Jessica:  What induced you folks at Travel Industry Shows to concentrate on the home based travel agent community? 
Martin:  We felt that this rapidly-expanding segment of the travel agent family was basically overlooked by existing trade shows.  This is a reality, now reinforced by the fact that we are the only such home based trade show in the travel industry.  As technology dictates the ability for agents to work from home, this market is only going to grow and strengthen in size and relevance.  And, remember that these events usually draw travel agents from more than 40 states and Canada.

Jessica: Do you have any special offers for MailPound subscribers who are thinking of joining you in Atlantic City?
Martin:  We sure do. The current rack-rate is now $69 for the total package, but beginning today and through Sept 8 MailPound travel agents will be able to sign up for the original Early Bird cost of $39. Click here to register NOW! And the special hotel rate of $89 at the Taj Mahal is available by clicking here and entering group code: BHOMEB9. Travel agents should keep in mind that Atlantic City is easily accessible by major highway systems, as well as by air and train.  Several airlines now fly directly into this entertainment and gaming capital on the South Jersey shore, or they can fly in from anywhere on the continent by way of Philadelphia and/or Newark, N.J. Amtrak provides convenient access from up and down the East Coast, and there is a new service available Friday’s – Sunday’s called ACES, that connects New York and Newark non-stop to Atlantic City.

Thank you Martin for taking time to share more about The Original Home Based Travel Agent Show and Conference with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day! 

 

MAC Chat an interview with Noel DeChambeau, Windstar Cruises

by Jessica 8/19/2009 2:36:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Noel DeChambeau, Director Product Marketing and Sales of Windstar Cruises.

 

Noel DeChambeau
Director Product Marketing and Sales

For more information visit:
windstarcruises.com

Jessica: Hi Noel, Congratulations! Windstar Cruises is nominated for MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) awards.
Noel:  We are honored. The Nomination Committee is a very distinguished group of travel professionals. To be considered by them is a great compliment to Windstar Cruises. On behalf of Diane Moore our President and all of the incredible team at Windstar Cruises, we are very grateful for the recognition.

Jessica:  Tell me a little bit about the Windstar "180º From Ordinary" luxury cruise experience.
Noel:  Windstar Cruises operates three sailing yachts known for their pampering without pretense. The  ships are also known for their ability to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations.  Carrying just 148 to 312 guests, the luxurious ships of Windstar cruise to nearly 50 nations, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. 

Jessica:  You were nominated for "Best Small Cruise Ship Fleet."  Share with us what makes Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf so unique.
Noel:  I believe it is several things. We have been a leader in defining the small ship luxury cruise experience for the last 20 years. And yet Windstar has won the allegiance of a new generation of contemporary travelers who appreciate the line’s casual attire, alternative dining venues, rich mix of shore excursions, complimentary water sports program, deluxe spa facilities and luxurious accommodations.

And our ships are unique; teak-lined decks, towering sails. A vacation on Windstar is the ultimate affair for those who love the sea. On board, you'll discover a unique combination of romance with state-of-the-art luxury and convenience. Yet we feel Windstar is small enough to indulge the every whim of 148-312 guests.

On a Windstar ship you're free to do as you please, on your own schedule. There's no dress code. Five-star dining is informal and casually elegant (leave the ties and formal gowns at home). We offer cuisine that will delight your senses and complemented by a wide selection of fine wines. Our spontaneous and gracious service offers one of the highest crew-to-passenger ratios. Cabin amenities include BOSE(r) SoundDock(TM) systems, sleek flat-screen LCD TVs and plush new Sealy Euro Pillow Top beds 

I am proud to report that Windstar recently completed product enhancements which include new dining and spa offerings. Guests will be able to dine on five-star cuisine enjoying exquisite sunsets and the magic of the sea in new outdoor venues—Candles on all three ships and Le Marché on Wind Surf.  For those looking for the ultimate in relaxation, (and who isn’t?)  Windstar has partnered with The OnboardSpa Company for decadent, certified organic O SPA London spa and salon services in WindSpa. Some of the services guests can indulge in include facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, aromatherapy, body treatments, acupuncture, precision hair cuts and styling.

Windstar is truly an adventure in sailing, with a style all its own.

Jessica: One of the advantages of small ship sailing is the incredible ports of call.  Tell us a little about your favorite ports of call.
Noel:  Because they're smaller than most, our ships can stop at the more exclusive ports and beaches, accessible only by yacht. Windstar's sleek sailing cruise ships offer an extraordinary way to explore the Caribbean, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Greek Isles and the Mediterranean.

I would have to say that one of my favorite ports of call is Rhodes. We visit this on our popular Greek Isle Cruises.  I particularly love this port at is because our ships have the ability to enter into a harbor that once had the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven ancient wonders straddling the entrance. Our ships tie right next to the ancient wall allowing access for guests to the cobblestone streets, medieval cathedrals and charming cafes.

I also love our Costa Rica sailings. I really don’t have any particular port in this part of the world. I simply love the fact that ships have the ability to get so close to the islands and coves that make Costa Rica an incredible ecological adventure.  

Jessica:  Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents?
Noel:  Right now if a travel professional books their guests on a 2010 Cruise before September 30, 2009 we are offering a $250 per person shipboard credit.

Windstar is also offering a gratuity package to guests who pay their 2010 or 2011 sailings in full 6 months or more in advance.  The gratuity package covers the daily $12 per guest hotel service charge with a value of $84 per guest on a 7-day cruise and $168 per guest on a 14-day cruise.  Final payment is normally due 90 days prior to cruise departure date, so this gives guests a great value for just paying 3 months earlier than when final payment is due.

For more information including brochures, rates and itineraries call Windstar at 1-800-258-7245.  Visit Windstar Cruises online at windstarcruises.com.

Thank you Noel for taking time to share more about Windstar Cruises with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below.

 

MAC Chat an interview with Dan Mahar, Tauck

by Jessica 8/17/2009 6:06:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck.

 

Dan Mahar
CEO

For more information visit:
Tauck.com

Jessica: Congratulations on your MAC award nomination!
Dan: Thanks so much Jessica.  We’re thrilled to be nominated for a MAC award!  Tauck will be celebrating our 85th anniversary next year, and when I reflect on Tauck’s history, I’m reminded that our partnership with the agent community is one of the key factors that’s helped us to be so successful for so long.  The possibility of winning a MAC award, where agents do the voting, is really an exciting prospect for us.

Jessica: Dan, how do you define luxury?
Dan:  We’ve actually gone back-and-forth about the word luxury over the years because we think it can have different meanings for different people.  For some people, luxury means a certain standard of quality, service, indulgence and authenticity – and we have no issues at all with that sort of definition.  However, others seem to associate “luxury” with being over-the-top or ostentatious, without any regard to practicality or value.  That sense of the word luxury has always troubled us, and it’s never been an accurate way to describe our products.

At Tauck we work very hard to deliver an exceptional travel experience to our guests, backed by superior service and representing an outstanding value.  That means our itineraries typically feature, among other things, five-star accommodations in the best city-center locations, fine dining, insider access to special experiences, and the industry’s finest tour leaders.  Tauck trips are also among the most inclusive you’ll find. 

We price our products accordingly, yet they still represent an incredible value; an independent traveler who tried to duplicate a Tauck trip would pay as much as 40% more than they would by traveling with us. Nothing about a Tauck trip is superfluous or showy for the sake of being showy.  We deliver an exceptional experience at a fair price, backed by superior service at a great value.  Hopefully that message gets communicated clearly to our agents and to consumers, whether we label our products as luxury, premium, upscale or whatever.

Jessica: Can you please share with us some of the benefits of traveling with Tauck?
Dan:  Well, our guests tell us there are several!  Before the trip, we save our guests from having to do all of the research and planning that they’d otherwise have to do in order to make the most of their vacation.  “What are the best hotels?”  “Where should we have dinner?”  “What sites should we see – and which are a waste of time?”  We have extensive experience in 60+ countries, so we know the answers to these questions and more, so our guests don’t have to worry about them.

Once they’re on a Tauck trip, our guests can really relax and get the most out of the experience.  We handle their luggage for them, we make their dinner reservations, we get them from place-to-place with no worries about navigating in a strange destination…  There’s also the convenience and peace of mind that comes from knowing that virtually everything on the trip is paid for in advance, so there’s never any worry about out-of-pocket expenses or mounting on-tour costs to detract from the experience.

Finally, our guests get a deeper, richer and more authentic experience within the destination by traveling with Tauck.  We take guests off-the-beaten-path to discover unique experiences that are either unknown or unavailable to most travelers – like enjoying a private tour of a Loire Valley chateau and a cocktail reception with the baron whose family has lived there since the 1700s.  We also arrange special insider access at popular attractions, like being able to experience the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel up-close and without crowds during a private after-hours tour.  And our guests benefit from the incredible knowledge and experience of our tour directors – we actually call them “Tauck Directors” – who average over 10 years with our company. 

Jessica: What is the best advice you can give agents who want to focus more on luxury travel?
Dan: There’s been something of a backlash against the concept of luxury products as a result of the current economy, and agents need to use the word luxury with great care.  As I mentioned earlier, for some people “luxury” implies a sort of lavish, overpriced impracticality – think a $600 bottle of scotch, for example – and that conspicuous consumption is what people have turned away from.

At Tauck, our experience during this downturn tells us that people are still willing to spend more for a premium product, if they know they’re getting a commensurately high level of quality that represents a good value.  We’ve seen that our agents can certainly still sell high-end experiences, but they need to be prepared to demonstrate how their clients will benefit by spending the extra money.  What services does the more costly hotel offer that aren’t available at a less expensive option?  What’s better about a premium quality cruise, versus a mass-market cruise at a lesser price? 

A bit closer to home for Tauck, agents need to be ready to explain what an upscale or premium tour provides to justify the higher cost.  With Tauck some of the easiest things to point to are the high number of inclusions (particularly meals), the quality of the hotels we use, the experience and expertise of our Tauck Directors, and the overall quality of the entire experience.  Over half of our travelers each year are repeat Tauck guests, and they wouldn’t be returning if they felt their vacation experiences weren’t worth the price.

Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents?
Dan:  Absolutely.  We know that travelers today are looking for incentives and promotions, so we’ve arranged several to help our agents sell Tauck to their clients. 

For example, we’re offering companion air for just $199 on two of our Asia itineraries, “China, the Yangtze River & Hong Kong” and “Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand.”  We also have companion air for just $499 on selected African safaris and itineraries in India, Japan and Australia.  Or, guests can save $2,000 per couple on business class air on these trips instead.

We’ve also worked closely with our hoteliers and other suppliers in Europe and western Canada to negotiate savings that we’re passing along to Tauck guests.  Couples traveling on any of our Yellow Roads of Europe land journeys will save $380, while guests traveling with us in western Canada will save up to $580 per couple.  These savings are for 2009 departures only, and details on these and other offers can be found at Tauck.com/special-savings.

Thank you Dan for taking time to share more about Tauck with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. 

 

MAC Chat: An interview with Paul Allen, Holland America Line

by Jessica 8/12/2009 8:35:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Paul Allen, Vice President of Sales of Holland America Line.

 

Paul Allen
Vice President of Sales

For more information visit:
HollandAmerica.com

Jessica: Welcome to MAC Chat Paul! Holland America Line is nominated for 2 categories in this year's MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) awards. Congratulations! How many ships are there currently in the Holland America fleet and can you tell us a little bit about your most popular itineraries?  
Paul: It is hard to believe that in 2010 we will bring on our fifteenth ship,  the Nieuw Amsterdam.  When I started with Holland America in 1981, we had four ships and 3,400 berths.  The new ship will take us over 23,000 beds, all on mid-sized ships ranging from 800-2100 beds.  As most new ships for other lines are arriving with 3,000 to 5,000 beds, our ships can maintain their distinctive premium service levels serving fewer guests.  Holland America has always had one of the most extensive selections of itineraries.  We sail to all seven continents.  We have Grand Voyages from 35 to 114 days that really celebrate cruising in high style.  We have distinctive itineraries of 20 to 35 days that provide some great exotic vacations with roundtrip travel from US ports.  Our cruises to Europe, South America, and Asia make every major cruise destination accessible.  And our North America cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Alaska and Eastern Canada offer incredible value at a time when vacation dollars are being stretched.  We have something for everyone in cruise travel.


Jessica:  One of your nominations is for "Best Cruise Line for Families" which has 6 cruise lines nominated. What do you think makes the Holland America cruise experience stand out as an ideal choice for families?  
Paul:  Family reunions have become a big travel trend since 9/11.  While your first inclination is to worry about the kids, reunion planners eventually realize that these trips are more important for the seniors, who will cherish them, than the kids, who will forget them.  No one takes care of the whole range of guest ages like Holland America.  In fact, teens love our private Oasis, with its waterfall, hammocks, Astroturf, and privacy.  We even have a group program designed to accommodate a Family reunion.  It’s a great way to gather together where no one has to cook or clean!

Jessica: You were also nominated for "Best Large Cruise Ship Fleet." Speaking of which, I heard about the Signature of Excellence Enhancements program. Can you share with us some details about this program?  
Paul:  While new ships are always exciting, the investments we have made with our current ships have been just as interesting.  In the first phase, we introduced the Culinary Arts Center sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine, the Explorations Café powered by the New York Times, The Greenhouse Spa, and the Pinnacle Grill.  In the latest phase, we are adding the Digital Workshop powered by Windows, a very popular learning program.  We have new facilities like the three beverage areas of Mix, upscale jewelry shopping at Merabella, the all-hours hand-made pizza at Slice, the new pool concept of the Retreat, Spa staterooms, and Lanai staterooms.  We keep improving our accommodations, the onboard experiences, and the service.  It’s a very exciting time.

 

Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents?  
Paul:  Our biggest news is the Double GAP program we have for most of our 2010 cruises.  Register your group space using POLAR Online by 8/31/09 and get DOUBLE GAP POINTS for your group promotion.  All 2010 products are available for registration.  Make sure you take advantage of this program..  Call your sales representative if you need any help selecting cruises or registering online.

Thank you Paul for taking time to share more about Holland America Line with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

MAC Chat an interview with John Hanratty, Travel Impressions

by Jessica 8/7/2009 2:29:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with John Hanratty, Chief Marketing Officer of Travel Impressions.

 

John Hanratty
Chief Marketing Officer

For more information visit:
TravelImpressions.com

Jessica:  Welcome to MAC Chat, John. Thank you for joining us. Congratulations on Travel Impressions' nomination for the MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) Awards. 
John: Thanks, Jessica.  We were delighted to hear about the nomination, especially because it relates directly to our core business, which is supporting the travel agent community.  This is our first year to work with MailPound, so we are very pleased to be part of your awards program.

Jessica: You were nominated for "Most Agent Friendly Tour Operator." What are some of Travel Impressions' features you think appeal most to the travel agent community?
John:  Travel Impressions’ day-in, day-out philosophy is to delight our customers.  We achieve this not only through award-winning customer service, but also with outstanding technology, an industry-leading travel protection plan, strong supplier support, committed partnerships with our agent customers, and dedicated long-tenured employees who truly care.  Travel Impressions also offers the support and stability of its ownership by one of the world’s most respected companies – American Express.  We continue to ensure that our existing strategy, sales message and culture are relevant to keeping the company in a position of strength for future growth.

We have adopted a strategy of “consultative selling,” which assists agents in understanding their businesses, provides advice and tools to market to an identified customer base, advises on effective marketing and sales strategies, and provide product knowledge by niche market rather than just by destination.  We have just introduced an online Travel Agent Resource Center as part of our website which serves as a one-stop shop for everything travel agents might need from Travel Impressions, including marketing tools, customizable marketing materials, online brochures, news and information, online forms, our booking engine, payment capability, and sign ups for Twitter and Facebook.  And, through our heavy reliance on MailPound, we are able to deliver promotions to agents more quickly and concisely – something that has proved to be especially important this year with the incredible number of excellent promotions we’re seeing from our suppliers.

As I mentioned earlier, travel agents are our core business and what makes Travel Impressions successful, so we value agents as true business partners.  We provide commissions to agencies based on volume and offer a wide range of promotional incentives throughout each year.  We provide onsite and webinar training on the latest technology, new properties and destinations, and we sponsor a series of informative trade shows and appreciation dinners for agents at various locations nationwide.  We also recognize our top producing agencies at our “Best of the Best” annual event hosted at a major resort destination and featuring industry information, tours and entertainment.  Most importantly, we continually listen to our travel agent customers and survey them quarterly to identify ways to better serve them.

Jessica: I noticed on your website that Travel Impressions provides a Managed Brands program. Can you tell us more about it and the Vacation Brands that are currently managed by Travel Impressions?
John:  We manage and operate American Express Vacations (AEV), which is a private-label brand sold exclusively through the American Express Consumer Travel Network which includes wholly owned and representative travel offices and Platinum and Centurion Card call centers.  AEV features broad-based, quality products with premium brand positioning, focusing on the upscale, luxury traveler.  The AEV destinations are the same as those offered by Travel Impressions.  We also manage United Vacations – Latin America, providing attractive vacation packages with special United Airlines leisure fares to key destinations in Central and South America.  And, Almond Vacations is another one of our managed brands, providing vacation packages to all-inclusive Almond Resort properties in Barbados and St. Lucia.

Jessica:  What is the best advice you can give new agents just starting out in the business?
John: Focus on differentiation and selling on expertise and value.  Be clear on what sets you apart.  Identify a niche market and establish yourself as a credible expert in the field.  Provide a customized best-value vacation, rather than joining the ranks of the “order taker,” merely validating that price is king. 

Take advantage of using a limited number of preferred suppliers to maximize compensation and support.  Focus on product that provides the most commission, while creating value for the customer – such as all-inclusive properties and optional tours.

Be visible!  Communicate – not only with your clients, but also with your preferred partners.  And make sure that you are communicating in the right way to the right people to drive them into your store or to your website.  That means being as up to date as possible on all the latest online communication tools and social networking opportunities.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for the business.  Be available.  Look at every shopper as a buyer and every buyer as a long-term customer.  And, if you feel that you need assistance, call your Business Development Manager at Travel Impressions – we’re ready to help!  

Jessica:  Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents? 
John: There are so many terrific promotions across all our destinations, it is difficult to single out any specific ones right now, so I would encourage everyone to continue to watch MailPound and definitely check our website at TravelImpressions.com for the latest and greatest!  We’re soon entering the season of early booking bonuses, so stay tuned.  I will mention one current promotion that is running during the month of August with our partner, Palace Resorts that benefits agents and their clients.  Travelers can receive up to $400 in air credits per booking at Palace Resorts properties in Mexico and can also take advantage of the Palace Passport with great added values.  And, agents booking these packages can earn a $25 American Express® Gift Cheque, plus bonus commissions from Palace Resorts up to $250!  We encourage everyone to check for details on our website or call 800-284-0044.  Lastly, I want agents to remember that when they book online with Quest for Agents, they receive an additional 1% commission bonus.  

Thank you John for taking time to share more about Travel Impressions with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

MAC Chat: An interview with Edie Bornstein, Carnival Cruise Lines

by Jessica 8/6/2009 2:26:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Edie Bornstein, VP of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Carnival Cruise Lines.

 

Edie Bornstein
VP Business Development
and Strategic Partnerships

 

For more information visit:
Carnival.com

Jessica:  Carnival Cruise Lines received 2 nominations for the MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) awards.  Congratulations!
Edie: Carnival is honored to be nominated in Mailpound’s Agents Choice Awards.   The two categories for which we are nominated - Best Cruise Line for Families and Best Large Cruise Ship fleet – are areas that our company places a great deal of emphasis and to receive these nominations is a wonderful validation of these efforts. 

Jessica:  You were nominated for "Best Cruise Line for Families."  Why is Carnival such an ideal choice for families interested in a cruise vacation?
Edie: Families are an important part of our marketing mix.  In fact, Carnival Cruise Lines is the leader in family cruising, carrying some 625,000 kids a year. Families love cruising on the "Fun Ships" because we offer a wide variety of fun-filled activies for kids of all ages- all at one, all-inclusive price.  Carnival's ships offer something for kids of all agets- Camp Carnival for 2-11, Circle "C" for 12-14-year-olds and Club O2 for older teens-with expansive, modern facilities and enthusiastic counselors for each group.  Carnival's unmistakable brand of fun also extends to our top deck areas with our signature Twister Water Slides, deck games, sports activities and more.  We also offer a number of kid-friendly dining options-and don't forget about the 24-hour ice cream!  Combine all that with Carnival's value-oriented pricing, the greatest variety of short cruises in the industry and a wide range of embarkation ports and it's no secret why Carnival is number one with families. We'll build upon this reputation this fall when we launch our newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, will offer the most elaborate children's facilities with more than 19,000 square feet of dedicated space for families.      

Jessica: You've also launched a new "Behind the Fun" tour that offers a unique look at the shipboard operations of Carnival Cruise Lines.  Can you tell us more about it?
Edie:  There are many guests who are interested in finding out exactly how the “Fun Ships” operate.  And for those who want to get an insider’s look at the inner-workings of a Carnival “Fun Ship,” we’ve created Behind the Fun, a guided tour that provides guests with a unique insight into our shipboard operations.  Behind the Fun is currently available on the Carnival Valor and Carnival Conquest and will be rolled out to all 12 ships that operate voyages of seven days or longer by September.  The tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at shipboard venues that are normally off limits to guests, including backstage at the show room, the laundry room, galley, engine control room and bridge, and various crew areas.  Also, key personnel, including the captain, chief engineer, chef de cuisine and other department heads, are on hand to share their knowledge in their particular area of expertise. Participants receive commemorative gifts such as a Behind the Fun baseball cap and lanyard, a Team Carnival Picture Perfect and complimentary photos with the captain on the bridge.  The tour cost $95 per person.  

Jessica: Carnival Cruise Lines was nominated for "Best Large Cruise Ship Fleet."  The new Carnival Dream will embark on it's first voyage soon.  What are some of the great features we can expect to see on your newest ship?
Edie:  Carnival Dream promises to be a spectacular addition to the “Fun Ship” fleet.  At 130,000 tons with a double occupancy capacity of 3,646 guests, Carnival Dream will be the largest Carnival Cruise Lines ship ever constructed.  Ushering in an exciting new era in “Fun Ship” cruising, Carnival Dream will offer a host of innovations, including Ocean Plaza, a magnificent indoor/outdoor café and live music venue; a half-mile wrap-around promenade; cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the sides of the ship; a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa – Carnival’s largest - and new five-berth, two-bathroom staterooms that should have particular appeal to families. Its top-deck amenities will include a sprawling Carnival WaterWorks aqua park – the most elaborate facility of its kind at sea featuring a 303-foot-long water slide, the longest in the cruise industry. 
Combine all this with Carnival’s attentive and friendly service and unmistakable brand of on-board “fun,” makes a cruise aboard the Carnival Dream the ultimate vacation experience. Following a series of inaugural 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Rome (Civitavecchia), Carnival Dream will reposition to New York for two eight-day Caribbean cruises followed by a special nine-day Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, Fla.  The ship launches year-round seven-day Caribbean service from Port Canaveral Dec. 12.  

Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents? 
Edie: IT PAYS TO PLAN AHEAD-
Introducing Carnival's Early Saver Program.  It pays to plan ahead- Carnival's Early Saver program is about making sure you get the lowest rate.  Book a three-to five-day cruise three months in advance, or a six-day or longer cruise five months in advance, and you are assured the lowest rate.  In the unlikely event you do find a lower Carnival-advertised rate after you book the cruise, Carnival will provide a shipboard credit equal to the difference.

Thank you Edie for taking time to share more about Carnival Cruise Lines with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

 

MAC Chat: An interview with Marilyn Cairo, Ask Me About Destination Weddings

by Jessica 8/5/2009 4:55:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Marilyn Cairo, Vice President of Marketing at Ask Me About Destination Weddings.

 

Marilyn Cairo
Vice President, Marketing

For more information visit:
AskMeAboutDestinationWeddings.com

Jessica: Hi Marilyn, I am so excited about the MAC Awards. Thank you so much for being a part of them. Ask Me About Destination Weddings is sponsoring a great prize for participating travel agents. Can you tell me a little bit about it? I hear it's at the Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa!
Marilyn: 
We as well are very excited to support the 1st Annual MAC Awards.  Our prize giveaway will take the winning agent to our featured hotel partner, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa in simply beautiful, St. Lucia.  This resort happens to be one of our most pro-active hotel partners and I must say, they understand and value the importance of a travel agent - which is why it was a 'no brainer' for them to say YES to the prize giveaway.  This casually Caribbean and incredibly all-inclusive beachfront resort is set on the southern coast of St. Lucia - literally just 5-minutes from the Hewanorra Intl Airport and offers all-inclusive amenities and facilities for singles, couples and families - truly a value that can't be beat for the island of St. Lucia.


Jessica:  Destination Weddings are becoming more and more popular. What do you think attributes to the increased popularity of destination weddings?
Marilyn:
We believe it has to do with the current generation of Eco Boomers,which represent the largest demographic for destination weddings.  The median age stands at 26 for today's bride and 27 for grooms.  And, between 2007- 2012, the number of people turning 27 will grow by a third as the Eco Boomers become of age.  This demographic will comprise two out of every three brides by 2012.  What makes this younger generation of Eco Boomers so unique is their sheer numbers and demand for the out-of-the-ordinary experience.  This younger generation wants all the benefits of a traditional ceremony, yet with the adventure aspect added to the experience.  Hence the main reason why destination weddings is on the up and up.  And of course, we all know destination weddings are much more cost effective than a wedding back home -so couples can still tie the knot and have some funds left over to start a new life together when they return from their honeymoon.

Jessica: 
Tell me a little bit about Ask Me About Destination Weddings and how travel agents can join?
Marilyn: 
Ask Me was founded on its dedication to the destination wedding & honeymoon market - a $10 Billion niche market.  We recognize that the strongest distribution channel > any hotelier or travel supplier can have, is the support of the travel agent community - and that is our main focus - to help travel agents grow their business in this lucrative niche.  Our strategy is as simple as 1-2-3;
1 - To provide travel agents with MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES to grow their business;
2 - To provide travel agents with PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE and ammunition to close a sale; and
3 - To provide travel agents with a RESERVATION CENTER for all of their romance travel needs
Simply put - we want travel agents to work smarter, not harder!


Jessica: 
Which destinations can I choose from for my wedding?   
Marilyn:  While a bride/groom can choose to tie the knot anywhere in the world, we focus primarily on the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.

Jessica:  Are there any current special offers you would like to share with travel agents?
Marilyn:  Coconut Bay is currently running some great promotions - for example; clients can save up to 55%, plus earn a resort credit for each night of their stay, which they can use while on property towards the spa, gift shop or tour desk.  They also have the 'more the merrier' promotion where you buy 3 rooms get the 4th one free and there's even a promotion for grandparents to travel FREE.  For more information, simply call 877-352-8898.  Also, Ask Me is hosting several Live & Learn (FAM) trips this summer to Coconut Bay/St. Lucia, as well as to Mexico and Jamaica in the fall.  We are looking for 10 pro-active agents to join us on what will surely be an educational, informative and fun experience.  Agents interested in participating can call our office at 877-44-ASK ME for further details.

Thank you Marilyn for taking time to share more about Ask Me About Destination Weddings with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

Tags:

MAC Awards

MAC Chat: An interview with Mark Kazlauskas, Insight Vacations

by Jessica 8/4/2009 2:36:00 AM

Today's featured MAC Chat interview is with Mark Kazlauskas, President of Insight Vacations.

 

Mark Kazlauskas
President

For more information visit:
InsightVacation.com

Jessica: Thank you for participating in MAC Chat and congratulations! Insight Vacations is nominated for the MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) awards. Insight Vacations just celebrated their 30th anniversary last year. That's a great accomplishment! What is the best advice you can give new agents just starting out in the business? 
Mark:
It’s all about relationships and making your clients feel important. Always be in contact with them and always make it a personal experience. Customer relations management (CRM) is KEY! I also feel that do one thing and to do it well. Specialize and focus. There is nothing wrong with being a top seller of tours or cruises. 

Jessica: You received a nomination for "Most Agent Friendly Tour Operator." What is it about Insight Vacations that attracts so many travel agents? 
Mark: I have to say, to be nominated in this category is truly a special honor. Our business model is essentially based on travel agent sales. We want to be the agents very best partner. Our goal is to drive traffic into their office first and having the agent sell Insight. We will do whatever it takes to build our business together. Insight offers top commissions, in office and web based training, an online expert certificate program, and we always reference the selling agent of record (when we have the information on file) when communicating with a consumer.

Jessica: What does escorted tour travel mean to you? 
Mark: Well it doesn’t mean, it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium! Escorted touring has evolved quite a bit in the past decade. To me escorted touring embodies value, convenience and choice. A traveler will always save money when purchasing a packaged tour. Purchase as much as you can in advance to make that dollar really stretch. Escorted touring is the most convenient way of traveling. You have someone doing all of the work for you. Our tour directors are like a traveling concierge. Insight offers six types of touring styles that appeal to a wide range of travelers including Discovery Tours, Regional Tours, Country Roads Tours, Easy Pace Tours, Elegance Tours and Cruise & Tours. 

Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents? 
Mark: YES! We just launched our last of our “Red Hot Deals” of the 2009 season. These select departures are available at a 10% or more person discount and our guaranteed to depart. These departures will be available for sale until August 15th. Please visit insightvacations.com to view the list of applicable tours. We also just extended our Winter Brochure air promotion. Book two clients traveling together on an air inclusive Insight Vacations Winter brochure departure and the second passenger flies for just $99. This is available until August 31st. Please visit insightvacations.com for more details.

Thank you Mark for taking time to share more about Insight Vacations with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

MAC Chat: An interview with Jennifer Halboth, Globus Family of Brands

by Jessica 8/3/2009 3:19:00 AM

Today's featured interview is with Jennifer Halboth, Director of Marketing for the Globus family of brands.

 


Jennifer Halboth
Director of Marketing,
Globus Family of Brands

For more information visit:
GlobusFamily.com

Jessica: Thank you for joining us, Jen. Congratulations! Globus is nominated for this year's MailPound Agents' Choice (MAC) awards. 
Jennifer:
Anytime the Globus family of brands is recognized by agents we are honored. With how much today’s agents needs to sift through in their daily lives, it is amazing they find time to recognize suppliers. We are thrilled that the efforts we put forth to support the agent community are appreciated.

Jessica: What advice would you give to someone who has never experienced your travel tours and would like to try it?
Jennifer:
Go! You’ll wonder why you didn’t travel like this before. A tour is the perfect blend of a relaxed vacation and a journey that lets you truly experience a destination you’ve never been to before. Vacation time is precious and a tour makes the best possible use of your time away. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how the camaraderie of the tour makes your experience that much more fulfilling. From the knowledge of the Tour Directors to perfectly planned sightseeing to the time you get to explore on your own, a tour adds up to the perfect getaway.

Jessica: Globus is a provider of faith-based travel. Can you share with us some details on these unique itineraries?
Jennifer:
Globus has been providing faith-based vacations since 2005, formally. But we’ve been taking travelers to some of the world’s most sacred sites since the beginning. These vacations are the perfect blend of faith and fun. Travelers can walk in the footsteps of the people that have made such indelible marks on the evolution of their faith. Rich stories combined with the experience of being physically present at a site of significance – such as being in St. Mary’s Church where Martin Luther preached or visiting the shrine where St. Michael the Archangel appeared – leave travelers with a sense of having experienced their faith firsthand. And then traditional sightseeing plus leisure time, allows those traveling together to bond and learn about new cultures.

We are offering 12 unique itineraries for the 2010 travel year, including three tours that include the Oberammergau Passion Play. Agents can learn more about our faith-based program at globusfaith.com

Jessica: As a nominee in the "Most Agent Friendly Tour Operator" category, what aspect of the Globus family of brands do you think appeals most to the travel agent community?
Jennifer:
Our longevity combined with our accessibility. Agents know they can not only trust us, we’ve been around for more than 80 years, but they can also count on us to support them in their day-to-day business. We don’t make it hard to do business with us and in fact we strive every day to make that experience easier for the agents. 

We were one of the first tour operators to develop an online reservation system and now more than 30% of our bookings from the agent community come through that system. Our team of 40 sales professionals is visible and engaged. At a time when other companies might have been scaling back their sales team numbers or reach, we have been out there as we have always been. 

From self serve tools like free customized printed marketing materials to extensive training opportunities to unique content (such as our Avalon ship virtual tours) that agents can use to promote tours, independent packages and river cruises to their clients, we pride ourselves on giving agents a wide range of tools that they can use when they want.

We’re a large company that has a personalized touch.


Jessica: Do you have any current promotions you would like to share with our travel agents? 
Jennifer: 
 

2009 Special Offers
50% off* Air on 2009 Avalon Waterways (or Globus) Europe River Cruise Vacations
Receive half off your airfare with purchase of a qualifying air-inclusive European River Cruise Vacation (learn more)

Save $200 per couple on 2009/2010 Globus European Winter vacations*
Book a 2009/2010 European Winter vacation before August 4, 2009, and you will save $200 per couple on the air-inclusive price.
(learn more)



2010 Special Offers
Save up to $1,000 per stateroom on 2010 river cruises & small-ship cruises*
Book a 2010 river cruise or small-ship cruise before September 1, 2009, and you will save up to $1,000 per stateroom.
(learn more)


$100 off per person on 2010 Globus Oberammergau vacations*
Book a 2010 Globus Oberammergau vacation before October 13, 2009, and you will save up to $100 per person.
(learn more)

Certain restrictions may apply so visit globusjourneys.com/Tour-Globus/Special-Offers/ for more details. 
 

Thank you Jen for sharing such great information with us.   

Please feel free to submit comments below. Have an excellent day!

 

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