Tag Archives: travel agency

Got Vacation?

Posada Margherita, Tulum.  Photo by Claudia SantinoThe US Labor Department recently released findings that one out of every seven workers does NOT take paid vacation.

If you think that’s crazy, that’s because it is.

There was a time when vacation was the silver lining of working for the man but, apparently, no more. This once sacred cow of an employee’s time has morphed into busyness as a badge of honor. Like a scene out of Network, I keep excepting people to throw open windows and scream, “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.” but the silence is deafening.

Network, the film whose famous line could be a rallying call for folks to take their paid time off.

Network, the film whose famous line could be a rallying call for folks to take their paid time off.

Say what you will but this all started with laptops and cellphones. The insidious lamb to the slaughter takeover of our lives from “smart” devices and constantly being plugged in got in the way of real living. It obliterated the separation between church and state. We’re in a wired world where we are constantly “on.” Once out of the office, some folks have a hard time disconnecting and some managers and office cultures expect a live line at all hours.  These days it’s not uncommon to hear coworkers who do go on vacation tell the office that they’ll have their phone with them.

What the sound of the ocean isn’t entertaining enough for you, you must have your cell phone?

The Employee Confidence Survey, conducted by the transparent career community site Glassdoor, is a window into why employees are leaving paid vacation time on the table. Anyone interested in all the details can read the report but here’s a bird’s eye view on their results:VacationBreakdown-Q1-14

Why would employees entitled to paid time off not take it?

For some, it’s a case clear case of climbing the corporate ladder, company dedication, being a good worker bee, and getting the gold star.  Some are so freaked out by the amount of work they have that the thought of taking vacation is stressful.  For others it’s guilt (about what I have not idea), or fear of losing their job, or being afraid of the boss.

Speaking of bosses, is there nothing worse than a boss who calls you while he or she is on vacation? Vacation for you is vacation for me. The operative part of that word is “vacate.” It’s like the boss who goes on maternity leave but doesn’t leave—it’s sheer craziness.

And here’s the really sad part. A 2013 survey by Oxford Economics found that 13% of managers are more likely to promote workers who don’t take vacation days. That’s real nice.  Another side effect of not taking vacation: heart problems, poor morale, and most likely not that fun to live with or be with.

Not surprisingly, the study found that employees who do use their vacation time are more productive and less stressed out. So why would you want to promote someone who is overworked and stressed out? The benefits of taking vacation benefits everyone.

And here’s where the travel agency and industry has a shot. Everyone knows the Got Milk ad campaign. Why not…Got Vacation? There won’t be white moustaches but the creativity around that tagline is endless and could wrap itself around the planet several times over.

When it comes to people who can’t disengage from work, a friend of mine says, “No one ever spent their last breath saying, ‘I should have spent more time at the office’.” On that note, no one should end up on a hospital bed saying, “I should have taken my vacation days,” but that’s what’s going to happen because it’s turned into the American way. Can’t we take a page out Europe’s book on this one?

It’s August and if you haven’t used any of your vacation or holiday time yet, do yourself a favor and take it. Summer’s not going anywhere but hopefully you are. And that goes for the rest of the year. Use it or lose it because that’s probably your company’s policy anyway.

If you need any more encouragement, this might give you the push needed to call a travel agent, take a staycation, get out the roadmap, or get off the grid.  Whether or not he’s your cup of tea, his humorous take on taking vacation is spot on.  Click here and fast forward past New Rules to the closing monologue.

Enjoy your vacation!

 

 

 

 

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Return of the Travel Agent.

Ienno-Guio-Dia, friend of travelers. (Photo credit: Nicholas Roerich)

Ienno-Guio-Dia, friend of travelers. (Photo credit: Nicholas Roerich)

Last week’s wintery weather got a lot of play in the news and across the blogosphere. As mentioned in the last post, while the weather wreaked a lot of havoc, travel agents also grabbed some limelight as they came to the rescue of customers stranded in the deep freeze at airports or in places they were trying to make their way to or home from.

On the heels of their success in dealing with the upset caused by the weather disruptions, travel agents are getting another boost. It seems like self-booking online is beginning to drop like those cold temperatures, which has travelers looking towards travel agents for their expertise. For more details around this, check out Travel Agents Back In Demand.

For some folks, getting away from booking online is like weaning yourself off caffeine. We’ve become so addicted to living life through online channels, it’s a hard attachment to walk away from…but it can be done. The same way you bonded to your smartphone, you can bond with a travel agent.

If you’re accustomed to navigating your life through online activity, you probably cringe at the idea of someone else handling your travel. I get it, you like the self-drive aspect. It’s a control thing, especially if you’re good at it.

Most people flock to the web with the goal of finding affordable travel, forgetting that time is money. And while it’s unlikely that millennials will start using travel agents anytime soon, for anyone who has ever been burned by an online travel “deal” or whose online booking has been derailed, there’s security in knowing there’s someone who’s got your back, who’ll go to bat for you, and who acts as a lifeline of sorts. Plus, they’re real and won’t run out of batteries.

After taking a hit from all of the online competition, it’s good to see travel agents on the rise. There’s plenty of great travel booking options to suit every need, let’s not forget that they’re one of them.

You Had Me At Margaritas On The Rocks With Salt.

Sphinx and pyramid. (Photo by author.)

Sphinx and pyramid. (Photo by author.)

Last Saturday a friend invited me over for a Mexican dinner.  Our meal would start on the stoop with margaritas on the rocks with salt, along with fresh guacamole and chips.  Yum…she didn’t have to ask me twice!  She makes a mean margarita and a killer bowl of guac.   I could make those things myself but why should I when those are two of her specialties. I had no doubt that the main course would also be superior.  What does this have to do with writing and travel?  A few things…

So you travel agents out there…do you have specialty? If so, do you write about it?  Before creating this blog, I shared its main objective with an acquaintance that asked, “Travel agents still exist?”  “Yes, they exist,” I answered.  “Who uses them?” was his next question.  It was easy to understand his perplexity.   Most folks book their travel online, it’s where they think they’ll get the best deals.  Sometimes they do and other times they get a raw deal.  Most people use the Internet for a majority of their transactions these days.   True, it can result in huge cost savings.  It can also result in a lot of time spent in front of a computer, especially when it comes to booking travel.  They don’t call it the “web” for nothing and even if you know where you want to travel, chances are you’ll get stuck, for at least an hour but probably a lot longer, trying to figure it out.   Everything you need these days is just a click away but price doesn’t always equal value or a great experience.

Chalkley Treehouse experience at Lion Sands in South Africa. (Photo credit: Lion Sands.)

Chalkley Treehouse experience at Lion Sands in South Africa. (Photo credit: Lion Sands.)

Whether it’s eco-tourism, safaris, cruises, hiking, surfing, cooking, or whatever country you can pinpoint on the map, if there’s a destination or travel experience out there that the customer wants, as a travel agent you’re in a prime position to bring them to it.  So how do you get them to connect with you instead of spending hours at their computer looking for the best deal?  Specializing gives you an edge.  Use that edge and write about the destination or experience that you’re passionate about.  Entice them.  Show them what they’re missing and how you can bring that experience to life for them.  Writing helps readers establish a relationship with you.  It’s a way to communicate your knowledge and value up front.  It’s about building trust through your expertise.  It’s about letting them know that you’re still out there rocking in the free world of commerce.  Show them your version of a mean margarita and a killer bowl of guacamole.

Tango dancers in La Boca, Buenos Aires. (Photo by author.)

Tango dancers in La Boca, Buenos Aires. (Photo by author.)

“Two weeks ago I met a travel agent.  I thought they were all gone. Shows you how crazy I am—I’m sure there are others like me out there,” said John Walsh, CEO & President, SightSpan Inc.  He’s right—there are lots of others out there like him.  Walsh travels extensively and books online, directly with the airline.  Asked why he doesn’t use an agent he said, I don’t use a travel agent due to lack of a relationship and it seems faster for me to book business trips and vacations myself.”

Understanding this point of view needn’t be a reason for travel agents to throw in the towel, but rather an opportunity for them to understand why it’s important to leverage their expertise and assets and market themselves through writing.  Agents who specialize have a head start to differentiate themselves within the competitive marketplace to influence travelers and communicate their value.  For readers who latch on to a specialist’s insights, they won’t have to think twice about how to book their travel the next time they want to explore options about a particular destination.

Ballynahinch Castle, Galway, Ireland.  (Photo by author.)

Ballynahinch Castle, Galway, Ireland. (Photo by author.)

When I asked Walsh if he’d consider using a travel agent he said, “I would, if their services were presented with a clear value proposition and cost benefit offering.  Agents need to better state that they’re still out there and articulate their value.  They need to reeducate people of why it’s best to have a human working with you when something goes wrong—and it always does.”

Bedouin riders at Petra, Jordan. (Photo by author.)

Bedouin riders at Petra, Jordan. (Photo by author.)

The best reason for using a knowledgeable agent is that they’re there for you when the unexpected happens and you have to cancel or change your plans because an ash-cloud exploded over Europe or because you fell off your scooter in Bermuda and landed in the hospital. I hope you never have to experience having to suddenly return home from a foreign land when you booked everything on the Internet.  Any travel agent worth their salt will be able to turn you on to the best experience for your money or save you from having that “trip from hell” where perhaps your room isn’t reserved or your hotel is located in the wrong part of town.  Agents who are truly connected to a destination or travel experience can dive deep for you.  If you have any doubts, take a look at Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialists Collection or Travel + Leisure’s A-List: Top 100 Agents and you’ll see what I mean.  After reading through a few of these specialists, you’ll be itching to escape somewhere.

So if you’re a travel agent or counselor who specializes, share your expertise.  If you’re a traveler, think about visiting your local travel agency and get to know the experts.

Margaritas on the rocks with salt. (Photo by author.)

Margaritas on the rocks with salt. (Photo by author.)

By the way, my friend’s margaritas and guacamole were excellent.  But then again, I had no doubt they would be…it’s her specialty.