ASTA announced Nov. 6 that alpha-stage testing for their new
business plan began Nov. 1, and is planned to conclude Jan. 31. The
new model provides an array of online services for Core members,
including peer assistance, an E-Library with responses to
frequently asked questions, a Broken Promises list of supplies that
don’t honor agent commitments and an industry business number.
Agencies that choose to become Premium members will be able to
take advantage of working with an account management team,
customized research, extensive networking opportunities and a
higher level of involvement in federal and state government
relations, among other benefits.
“With the alpha test, we are engaging agencies to determine
their exact needs and communication preferences,” said ASTA
President and CEO Kathy W. Sudeikis, CTC. “These travel agencies
are the focal point of the new concept for the industry’s
association, so it is crucial that we have the clearest
understanding of their needs and wants.”
Participating agencies will be asked to review written materials
and respond to surveys in an effort to get an understanding of how
to tailor the new plan to meet travel agency needs.
Ships Return to Cozumel
Passenger cruise ships returned to Cozumel in mid-November, a
sign that the island is recovering from the pounding it suffered
from Hurricane Wilma. During the week of Nov. 14-19, 14 ships
called at Cozumel, including Carnival Triumph, Carnival Miracle and
Carnival Conquest; Celebrity’s Galaxy and Zenith; Norwegian Dream,
Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Majesty; Star Princess and Coral
Princess; and Jewel of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and
Enchantment of the Seas.
The returning ships were greeted with the Festival del Mar
Caribe, a fiesta that featured music and dance performances, local
artisans, mariachi bands and street vendors. Cruise passengers also
received a personal welcome letter from Cozumel mayor Gustavo
Cozumel is the top cruise port in Mexico and the western
Caribbean, and tourism officials were especially eager to get
cruise-passenger travel back on line. Officials report that
deep-water reefs, popular caverns and the Mayan ruins at San
Gervasio were undamaged. Ninety-five percent of the shops and
restaurants have reopened. Fiesta Holidays is open for snorkeling
tours and car rentals. Cozumel Country Club’s nine-hole golf course
and the Atlantis Submarine attraction are both scheduled to reopen
in December. Punta Sur ecological park is currently open for jeep
tours, and reconstruction is under way at Chankanaab National Park,
with the tentative opening date scheduled for Dec. 20. Ana
Agent of the Year
Susan Tanzman, owner and president of Martin’s Travel and Tours
Inc., in Los Angeles, was the recipient of ASTA’s 2005 Travel Agent
of the Year Award at ASTA’s 75th World Travel Congress in
“Susan Tanzman has been at the forefront of promoting the travel
agent throughout her career. She has worked endless hours in the
political arena in California and chaired ASTA’s 2002 World Travel
Congress in Honolulu,” said Kathy W. Sudeikis, CTC, ASTA president
Tanzman has been active in ASTA, serving as chairperson of
ASTA’s 2002 World Travel Congress and co-chair of ASTA’s Western
Regional in 1992. From 1990-1992 she served on ASTA’s Board of
Directors, from 1992 to 1994 she was ASTA’s national vice
president, and in 1994 became vice president and secretary.
Google Testing Travel Service
Google is experimenting with travel search and comparison
shopping of sorts.
The model appears to resemble Travelzoo’s SuperSearch and
Smarter Living’s Booking Buddy, both of which prompt users to
select advertisers’ flight-search engines one at a time instead of
running simultaneous comparisons as one does through Yahoo
FareChase, SideStep or Kayak.com.
Google’s flight-search product works in the standard Google
If you enter two airport codes or cities into the Google search
box, the results include two boxes to manipulate desired flight
dates. Below them are search engines side by side from Expedia.com,
Hotwire and Orbitz.
Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt said the Google beta fits in with
Orbitz’s overall e-marketing efforts.
Bigger and Better in Texas
The Lakeway Inn Conference Resort of Austin, Tex., held
groundbreaking ceremonies on Nov. 15 for their expansion and
renovation. During the ceremony, plans were unveiled to transform
the current property into a full-service, four-star resort and spa.
Completion is set for May 2006.
“The new resort will not only grow our conference clientele, but
will also attract families and vacationers like no other
destination in Central Texas,” said Andy Dolce, CEO and founder of
Dolce International, at the event.
Lakeway Inn has recently been re-flagged as a Dolce
Upgrades are designed to include a grand lobby entrance, the
creation of 16 spa guestrooms, construction of a 5,200-square-foot
glass-windowed ballroom jetting out over Lake Travis, an improved
Travis Restaurant and a 5,500-square-foot spa and fitness
ESPN X Games Dubai 2005
ESPN X Games Dubai 2005 presented by Mountain Dew will make its
Middle East debut Dec. 7-9. The event, which attracts world-class
athletes in skateboarding, in-line skating, BMX and Moto X, will
take place in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai Creek Park, the
second largest park in Dubai, will serve as the venue. Admission to
the ESPN X Games Dubai is free.
Highest Traveler Numbers
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that 86
million air passengers were cleared into the U.S. during the 2005
fiscal year, making it the highest number in history. This also
marks the first year that the number of air passengers exceeds
pre-Sept. 11 figures. CBP also cleared over 26 million passengers
and crew from seagoing vessels, mostly passengers onboard cruise