ASTA Member Testifies Before Congress

*Cruise West Founder Dies
*Suntrips' Commission Delayed

ASTA Member Testifies Before Congress

Rae Ann Ryan, president and owner of Travel Affiliates (Gulfport, Miss.), testified Oct. 7 before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Businesses at the hearing, “Small Businesses and Hurricane Katrina: Rebuilding the Economy.”

Ryan shared the effects that Katrina had on her business as well as others across Gulfport, which included extensive damage to infrastructure, a decreasing workforce and many agencies forced to go out of business.

She also cited a need for travel agencies to have access to working capital to sustain their businesses while the area rebuilds. This includes access to disaster loans, deferred payment on principal payments on new and existing disaster loans and consolidation and refinancing opportunities for small businesses.

Aside from the government, the tourism industry is the largest employer in the city of New Orleans, with more than 80,000 jobs and a $5 billion annual impact on the economy. Travel- and tourism-specific jobs account for approximately 18 percent of the total employment for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Thyda Duong

Charles B. West, Founder of Cruise West, Dies at Age 90

Charles “Chuck” B. West, Alaska Tourism pioneer and former president of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) died Oct. 4, of natural causes at the age of 90 with his family by his side in his cabin in Haines, Alaska.

Known as “Mr. Alaska,” West established Alaska’s first tour company, Arctic Alaska Tours, after initially organizing, selling and piloting the first all-tourist air excursions to Nome on the Bering Sea and Kotzebue on Alaska’s Arctic coast.

He went on to establish Alaska’s first all-tourist hotel chain, motorcoach network and Inside Passage cruise line all of which were devoted exclusively to tourist travel. In 1957, he consolidated these ventures into one umbrella company, Westours, which became Alaska’s dominant operator. In 1973, he sold the company to Holland America and founded another Alaska travel company, Cruise West. Now directed by his son, Richard G. West, Cruise West is North America’s largest small-ship cruise line, with ships in Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, Central America, Japan and the South Pacific.

During the 1980s, West experimented with multi-night, daylight-only yacht cruises in Alaska’s Inside Passage, leading to a program that still operates today. In addition to a career focused on the development of Alaskan tourism, West served two years (1969-1970) as president of ASTA.

“He transformed a polite society into an industry force that has a powerful influence on the relationships between travel agents, tour operators, the traveling public and the transportation industry,” said George L. Fichtenbaum, a former ASTA executive.

West has received many awards for his achievements throughout the years, including membership in ASTA’s Travel Hall of Fame; the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement; membership in the Alaska Business Hall of Fame; the Alaska Visitor’s Association North Star Award for lifetime achievement; and the United States Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.


Suntrips’ Commission ‘Delayed’

According to reports from several travel agents received at TravelAge West last week, tour operator SunTrips has delayed payments on agent commissions.

A spokesperson for the company acknowledged the delay, however Scott MacDougall, the company’s general manager released a brief statement stating that the delay is only temporary.

“SunTrips has experienced a minor delay in processing our commission payments,” he said. “Commissions are scheduled to be processed the week ending Oct. 21.”

The agents claimed they were originally told by company representatives that the commission payments would be delayed “indefinitely.” In its statement, however, SunTrips dismisses that notion.

Business as Usual

In response to TransMeridian Airlines’ announcement that they have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and have ceased all flight operations, Funjet Vacations will be offering alternatives for vacation travel.

For Funjet Vacations, the TransMeridian Airlines’ shutdown primarily affects passengers departing from Cleveland, Chicago O’Hare and San Antonio, Texas.

Fortunately, the TransMeridian Airlines’ decision only impacts limited Funjet Vacations’ flights through the end of this year, as other airlines had already been secured for 2006 air service.

The company plans to operate business as usual and is working to secure service from other carriers.


ATTA’s New Webinars

Association of Travel Agents of America (ATAA) will be offering a series of live online “Webinar” classes presented by Nolan Burris and Carol Fullmer of Visionistics. The cost is $50 per session for ATAA members and $75 for non-members.

ATAA Fall Webinar Series will include:

“The Wonder of Wow: Travel Agency Sales Webinar” held on Oct. 18 from 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. or Oct. 19 from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (PST).

“The Wow of Consulting in Sales: Selling Information Webinar” held on Nov. 1, from 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. or Nov. 2, from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (PST).

“When Opportunity Knocks: Turning Shoppers Into Customers Webinar” held on Nov. 29 from 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. or Nov. 30 from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (PST).

“Wow Resources and Delivery: Identifying Your Skills and Potential” held on Dec. 6, from 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. or Dec. 7 from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (PST).

“Managing a Wow Strategy: How to Get Everyone Onboard” held on Dec. 13 from 8:30 a.m.-10 a.m. or Dec. 14 from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (PST).


Greece Discovery Fam

Sterling Vacations is offering Greece Discovery, a seven-day, six-night tour and cruise of Athens.

The package, which is $599 per agent based on double occupancy, and $749 for companions and others based on double occupancy, includes a welcome cocktail reception; all transfers (airport/ hotel/ship); four-days, three-nights Athens First Class inclusive land package with sightseeing; all meals and snacks while cruising; and Sterling industry and marketing seminars.

Travelers also have the option of spending a full day in Delphi, including lunch for an extra $79.

Departures are scheduled for Mar. 30, April. 13 and 20, May 4 and June 1.


Protecting Commission

Travel Impressions, one of the country’s largest tour operators, is offering a fully commissionable “Cancel for Any Reason” Travel Protection insurance plan that is available for any package.

Travel agents who book the Travel Protection plan receive their usual commission for each plan sold, 10-15 percent. Additionally, travel agents’ commissions are protected up to $100 per booking on all cancelled reservations that are paid in full.

The plan includes 24-hour worldwide access to the Travel Impressions hotline should clients require emergency traveler’s assistance during their vacation.

The travel insurance can be purchased on all reservations made with Travel Impressions and its managed brands, including Aeromexico Vacations. Starting prices for the insurance are $89 per adult and $45 per child 12 and under.

Travel Impressions is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Express.


Rewarding Jurni

Jurni Network recently announced the Jurni Rewards Program, offering member agents a variety of ways to earn valuable points.

Points can be redeemed for rewards such as scholarships for The Travel Institute Certified Travel Associate and Certified Travel Counselor accreditations; Lifestyle Specialist and/or Destination Specialist courses; supplier fam trips; and gift cards at Target, Crate&Barrel and

Jurni Rewards Program members can earn points by participating in supplier and product training sessions, booking travel products for their customers with monthly highlighted suppliers and/or using featured Jurni products and tools.

Participants in the rewards program can now log on to a special Web site to track accumulated points and recent redemptions.
Jurni Network is a brand of Sabre Travel Network.

A Gift of Pearls

Through the end of the year, travel agents who book a seven-night or longer vacation through Creative Leisure International will receive a Tahitian pearl.

The black pearl will be mounted on 18-karat gold for agents to keep or give to clients as a gift. The pearl will be sent 14 days after departure.

“Tahiti, the pearl of the South Pacific, calls to couples, families and honeymooners to experience a vacation of a lifetime in one of our stunning properties,” said Michelle Erbs, marketing manager.

Creative Leisure International is a privately held company headquartered in Petaluma, Calif., and specializes in customized vacations to Tahiti, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean.